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Sunday
May082011

The Bucket List

We all dream of things we'd like to do before we exit this world.  Contrary to what some people think, the term bucket list existed long before the movie of the same name (2007's The Bucket Lista good movie by the way).  I remember my parents talking about their bucket list.  For the most part, I think they lived their dreams.  They were realistic and didn't dream too big.  But that didn't make their dreams any less significant.  They liked to travel, so—in their retirement years—they sold their house and purchased a motor home.  They joined a couple of camping associations which gave them dozens of places around the country where they could hook up their motor home to enjoy its creature comforts yet still be parked next to a lake or other scenic spot.  They traveled the length and breadth of the USA and made new friends along the way.  They were having fun!

Having fun is one of the most important things you can do in life.  Having fun is better for your heart and soul than any health food or vitamin pill.  If you don't believe me, just Google it.

Fun is not an option, it is important!

Although you may have priorities in life, it is essential that you make room for at least some of the activities that you enjoy.

Fun is essential.  In our complicated lives, finding the right balance can be challenging.  But we simply must strive for that balance.  Fun and a bucket list go hand-in-hand.  It is fun to dream but it is even more fun to live those dreams.

Route 66 is More than the Road

As I mentioned in my review of the EZ66 Guide For Travelers, Cathy and I "discovered" Route 66 in 2007.  Before the end of that May 2007 trip, the dream of traveling the entire length of Route 66 was on our bucket list. To start in Chicago and take at least a couple of weeks to get to Los Angeles.  Stay at old motor court motels wherever possible.  Eat at restaurants that have been visited by Guy Fieri (Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives).  Drive top-down in the Miata through the dozens of small towns that are missed if you are on the super slab.  Meet the people and wave hello to fellow Route 66 travelers going in the other direction.  Maybe be joined by some Miata friends that have the same dream.  It all sounded like a lot of fun to us.

We've flirted with Route 66 a few more times since 2007, but the dream remains unfulfilled.  That's about to change.  In less than two weeks we will begin our ultimate road trip adventure.  Chicago to L.A in the company of like-minded friends.  I predict there will be an immeasurable amount of fun and laughter.  Our friendships and our love and appreciation for each other—as well as for our beautiful country—will grow stronger.  Our hearts and our souls will be nourished.

And a check mark will be added to our bucket list.

The Mother Road Awaits

Friday
Apr222011

EZ66 Guide For Travelers

Discovering Route 66

In May of 2007, Cathy and I were driving home in our Miata following a road trip to the midwest to visit family.  One of our overnight stops was a hotel in the little town of Grants, New Mexico.  That evening, tired of fast food on the road, we decided to look for a nice restaurant.   We headed away from the interstate and into the heart of Grants.  That put us on Santa Fe Avenue, which parallels I-40.  As we drove along, we noticed business after business that was either closed or looking like they were barely in business.  That's when we noticed our first Route 66 sign.  Having seen the movie Cars the year before, we suddenly realized we were driving through the center of the real-world equivalent of Radiator Springs.

Route 66 in Grants, NM (click image to expand)

At the west end of town, we found a Mexican restaurant (one of the few non-fast food businesses open) and sat down to eat.  But our minds weren't on the food.  All we talked about was that we were sitting in a business that had probably been dozens of different businesses over the years, and that it was located on Route 66.

Bitten by the Route 66 Bug

Back at the hotel, I used my trusty MacBook to search the web for more information about Route 66 in and around the area of Grants.  I found several Route 66 sites that featured turn-by-turn directions and explained how to drive as much of the original Route 66 as possible.  I looked at dozens of photos and read numerous stories about getting your kicks on Route 66.  I was at it for hours.  By the time I turned the MacBook off to get some sleep, I was hooked!  For the remainder of our drive back to Southern California, Cathy and I explored as much of the original Mother Road as we could, given our time constraints and lack of proper printed directions (if only the Apple iPhone had been released a couple of months earlier).  By the time we got home, we knew we'd be visiting Route 66 again, and soon.

EZ66 Guide For Travelers

Since May 2007, we've driven hundreds of miles of Route 66 between Oklahoma and California.  In a few weeks, we'll be joining with friends to drive every paved mile of Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles.  Navigating our way along those many miles of original Mother Road will be relatively easy, thanks to Jerry McClanahan's EZ66 Guide For Travelers.

EZ66 Guide For Travelers, 2nd Edition

McClanahan's book is considered the "bible" for Route 66 travel and exploration.  He really put a lot of thought into the design of this guide.  His love for The Mother Road is evident on every page.

EZ66 Guide For Travelers is spiral bound for easy reference while on the road.  Obviously, it's best to have a navigator to read the directions as you drive along.  But even a solo driver could manage to follow the route with some careful stopping to refer to the route directions as needed (though, things could get tricky in some cities where one turn quickly follows another).

Logical Layout

The first part of EZ66 Guide For Travelers features an introduction from McClanahan.  He then goes on to explain how to use the book, including explanations of the various terms and abbreviations used in the guide.  Finally we get to the meat of the book, the actual route directions, which are broken down into chapters by state, starting with Illinois.  (Route 66 passes through eight states in all, including the full widths of Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, California, plus the Texas panhandle and just 13 miles through the southeast corner of Kansas.)  Each state chapter is numbered independently in the book.  IL. page-10, MO. page-25, and so on.  Within each state chapter, there are numbered Section Maps that precede that section's driving directions and give you an overview of how you'll get from one city to the next.

EZ66 Guide For Travelers, Section Map (click image to expand)

On the maps, the boldest line represents the Official Tour Route.  This Official Tour Route is by no means the only route possible.  Route 66 had dozens of different alignments over the years.  McClanahan is simply recommending this Official Tour Route as the basic foundation on how to best drive The Mother Road from Chicago to L.A. (or vice versa).  In fact, McClanahan includes numerous optional routes throughout the book.  These optional routes are also marked on the maps with a slightly thinner line.  Each Section Map also includes a box showing city names relevant to that map, and the mileages between some of the cities.

Clever Formatting

McClanahan used clever formatting on the actual driving directions pages.  At the top of each directions page there is a box containing the westbound (WB) directions covered by that particular page.  The directions are easy to understand and follow.  Reading them in your easy chair at home may feel somewhat confusing, but once you actually start driving the route, or following along using a Google map of the area in question, the directions become abundantly clear.

EZ66 Guide For Travelers, Driving Directions (click image to expand)

At the bottom of each directions page there is a box containing the eastbound (EB) directions covered by that particular page.  This clever design allows the EZ66 Guide For Travelers to be used regardless of which direction you are traveling on Route 66.  The book is arranged from front to back starting with Chicago.  After all, as the song goes, "From Chicago to L.A."  If you're traveling eastbound, you simply start at the back of the book and follow the EB directions as you flip pages forward.

More Detail in the Middle

Between the westbound and eastbound direction on each page, McClanahan provides frequent Detail Maps that show a closer view of the appropriate route through cities.  Also included in this middle area of each directions page are details about points of interest, optional routes (different alignments), side trips, and other useful information.

EZ66 Guide For Travelers, Detail Map (click image to expand)

Website Updates

To his credit, McClanahan provides regular updates on his website, McJerry66.com.  This is an important plus for users of EZ66 Guide For Travelers because things like longterm road construction and bridge closures occur along the route.  McClanahan's thoughtful updates really help to ensure a smooth and enjoyable Route 66 adventure.

Map Series

I should also mention the Here it is! - Route 66 Map Series from Ghost Town Press.  Jerry McClanahan was co-author of the map set along with Jim Ross.  The Route 66 Map Series is an eight map set (one per state) and also includes turn-by-turn directions.  Each map folds out to approximately 22" x 17" in traditional map fashion.  They can be used alone to navigate The Mother Road (we've done it), but I feel the map set best serves as a companion to EZ66 Guide For Travelers.  If I were only buying one, I'd go with the book first, but it's not a bad idea to have both.

Where to Buy

Whether you've been thinking about exploring small sections of Route 66, or jumping head-first into driving the entire route, I highly recommend EZ66 Guide For Travelers.  It truly is the "bible" for Route 66 aficionados and, in my opinion, pretty much a must-have for the best Route 66 driving experience.  The book is available at your favorite bookstore, or at numerous online retailers such as Amazon.com.  If you found this review helpful, please consider showing your support for Mark's Hangout by clicking the link below to purchase the guide through Amazon.com.  Thank you!

 

Tuesday
Apr192011

Sports cars are supposed to be red!

A story that my buddy VBob related to me back in the early '90s:  He was at the Monterey Historic Automobile Races and it was the first year that Mazda was making a big push to populate the infield with a bunch of their new sports car, the Miata.  It had been prearranged that all of the Miata owners would meet outside the gates to Laguna Seca Raceway, and then all drive to the infield in parade style.  VBob was standing on a hill inside the track as this long line of over 300 Miatas snaked into the infield.  Standing near VBob, also watching the long procession of jellybean-colored cars, were a couple of MG owners.  VBob overheard a bit of their conversation.  As best I remember VBob's telling, the conversation went something like this:  MG owner #1 said, "They supposedly don't leak oil or have electrical problems.  So what do you think the owners talk about?"  To which MG owner #2 replied, "The color of their car?"

Bingo!  Miata owners have been debating car color since the car was introduced.

Really, though, there's nothing to debate.  Sports cars are supposed to be red.  Sure, I'll take a Miata in almost any color versus some lesser car in red.  The Miata is too much fun to drive to let car color stop me from enjoying the experience.  But sports cars are supposed to be red.  This is a known fact.  Even those that choose to drive a yellow one or blue one are doing it just to be different.  They're making a statement that they are an individual.  That they make their own decisions, instead of following the herd.  But deep down inside, even they know sports cars are supposed to be red.  If they won the lottery tomorrow and found themselves shopping for a Ferrari, they'd buy a red one.

When Mazda introduced the Miata in 1989, it was available in just three colors.  Classic Red, Crystal White, and Mariner Blue.  For the first several years, over 70% of the Miatas sold were red. Granted, that had a lot to do with Mazda's production numbers.  Mazda made more red ones because they knew... sports cars are supposed to be red.   But Mazda's decision was also influenced by the demand.  The Miata-hungry public wanted red ones.  The public knew.

Fortunately, Mazda picked the correct shade of red from the start.  Classic Red is the perfect red for a sports car.  Not too purple and not too orange.  A nice, deep, paint-is-two-inches-thick red.  Then, in 2004, Mazda got it right again with the Velocity Red on the Mazdaspeed Miata.  Velocity Red is, basically, an ever-so-slightly deeper Classic Red plus metal flake.  It's a gorgeous color for a sports car.  Both Classic Red and Velocity Red are true sports car colors.  Sadly, even Mazda eventually screwed up sports car red.

For 2006, when Mazda released the redesigned Miata, they replaced Classic Red with True Red.  True Red is a sad example of sports car red.  True Red is too orange.  Next to Classic Red or Velocity Red, a True Red Miata looks like a pumpkin.  The True Red models apparently don''t sell all that well, either.  I see very few of them on the road.  The much darker Copper Red is more popular.  You'd think Mazda would figure it out and bring back Classic Red.

There are many owners of early Miatas that might be swayed to upgrade to a newer model if Mazda was offering a proper shade of red for their uber-popular sports car.  Some of these older models are getting long in the tooth.  It seems to me that Mazda is missing out on some sales.  Yet, Mazda keeps going completely in the wrong direction by offering different shades of blue.  That's certainly not the answer.  As we all know, sports cars are supposed to be red!