Explore America's Campgrounds
Getting Your Kicks on America's Greatest Road Trip
Route 66 has that all-star quality that other roadways must envy. Tell the kids you're driving from Chicago to Santa Monica, and they might yawn. If you announce that you are trekking the legendary “Main Street of America,” they are likely to perk up their ears.
How can you make sure that the kicks you get from the trip are the kind you want? Here are some tips to keep the whole family engaged as you travel the Mother Road.
Map Your Route
Route 66 stretches from Chicago to Los Angeles, some 2,278 miles. You can drive the whole trek, some of it old road, some interstate highways, or you can select a segment. At 50 miles an hour, you could mark it off your bucket list in 46 hours. But, obviously, that isn't the plan.
Driving Route 66 has to include "kicks," and you have so many choices. Factor in the time you and the kids have; then pick a few "top stop" cities or parks along the way. Remember, the iconic road passes through eight states, so you can't stop everywhere. For example, you'll get close to the Grand Canyon and actually pass through the Petrified Forest National Park. You might want to focus on one of them and plan a night or two in the area.
Once you decide how long you'll be on the road and which section of Route 66 your family will drive, it's time to hand out assignments to the kids. Assign each child a segment of the trip to investigate; then let him report back to the family on the cool things to see and do.
Don't totally bow out of the planning process though. Check out the Route 66 landmarks in each state and make a few executive decisions about exciting places to stop. Here are a few deliciously odd attractions you won't want to miss:
- Cadillac Ranch (12601 W. Interstate 40, Amarillo, TX) where 10 Caddies are planted in single file
- Chain of Rocks Bridge (Riverview Dr., St. Louis, MO) spans the Mississippi,
linking Illinois and Missouri
- The World's Largest Rocking Chair (110 E. Main St., Casey, IL), over 56 feet tall
- San Miguel Mission (401 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM), the oldest church in the U.S.
With so many cool, kitschy motels along Route 66, you may be tempted. But camping out is a great way to keep kids interested and engaged in the trip. One good plan is to camp in a couple of the numerous parks you'll pass along the way. With its towering rock formations, the Red Rock State Park (4050 Red Rock Loop Rd., Sedona, AZ) is particularly appealing.
Timing Your Road Trip
When you decide to take off is just as important to the success of your trip than where you go. Don't drive historic Route 66 in winter. It could be snowing a good part of the way, the roads may be dangerous, and the kids will be too cold to do much outdoors. December through February is the low season for good reason.
High season for driving Route 66 is June, July and August, when the children are out of school. Prices are highest during this period too. If possible, take off in May or September for lower prices and fewer crowds, but perfectly acceptable weather.
From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. World traveler, professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.