If you asked people what their travel dream was, we bet Route 66 would be quite high on that list. Well, we’re in the business of making dreams become reality, so we chatted to Portsmouth-based alternative wedding photographer Jason Williams on his Route 66 honeymoon with his lovely wife, Jen.
So, whereabouts did you go on your honeymoon?
We went to the US for our honeymoon to drive Route 66 from start to finish. It wasn’t our initial honeymoon plan at all – we’d booked to go on safari to Kenya, but unfortunately there was a major shooting in a shopping centre in the capital Nairobi. As a result, our tour operator (and pretty every other one) cancelled all trips to Kenya. This was 4 weeks before we were due to fly and my wife Jen could not change her holiday dates, so we were committed to going somewhere for just over a fortnight, but we had no clue where.
What was it that you wanted from your honeymoon? Were you looking for adventure, or relaxation?
We knew from the outset, way before we’d even talked marriage, that we were more suited to adventure rather than swimming pools and beaches. And so it was that as soon as our plans went sideways, we had to work out a new adventure plan. Initially we (or rather I, as Jen was completely devastated at the cancellation and simply couldn’t bring herself to think about it too much) tried to find another safari destination, but all of them worked out waaaaay over budget.
We’d chatted briefly in the past of a driving trip in the States, so I did a bit of research, and with around 2 weeks to go before our honeymoon date, I booked a flight to Chicago, a flight home from LA, and a car with the intention of driving Route 66 from start to finish. Then I had to find places to sleep, things to see, what to do, that kinda thing. How hard could that be?
How did you go about planning your epic Route 66 trip?
Jen thought I was nuts, but planning the rest of the trip was actually fairly easy. There was an abundance of websites and forums dedicated to Route 66, and the fact that it is basically a long road (chopped up a bit, but still), finding where to stay was easy. I worked out rough mileage we could cover each day, worked out our “must see” places, and then fit it all together. I booked around 50% of our accommodation in advance, these were the motels that we simply had to see; the real iconic ones – like The Blue Swallow, Wagon Wheel Ranch, Boots Court etc. The rest we would book on route, or simply stumble across as we went.
What were your honeymoon highlights?
On the Route, it’s those little gems that we remember most, rather than the big, obvious ones. The people. The oddities. Too many to mention. But just pulling into a gas station and an elderly gentleman who runs it makes time for you, you sit on his porch, he lets you help yourself to his soda fridge, and he spends an hour telling you his life story; those are the highlights.
The little towns in the middle of nowhere. The neon signs. The food at Missouri Hick BBQ (actual restaurant name) served on the actual plastic trays they use in prison. The getting hopelessly lost and ending up by a river under a bridge on a dirt road somewhere in Oklahoma and stumbling on a house right out of Deliverance and being certain we’ll be murdered, only for the politest man ever to pop out of his house and give us full directions and even draw us a map.
There isn’t one highlight, it’s simply all a highlight. I think you plan the Route, but what actually happens, and what you see and notice will be different for every person who drives it. We spoke to people on the Route who’d driven it 20 times and found something new every time. I believe them.
Top 5 places to visit on Route66
If you pinned me down for my top 5 places to visit they’d be (in order of driving from East to West as we did).
Pizza and Pancakes in Chicago. You can’t go to Chicago and not have a deep dish pizza (or pizza pie as they call it). Lou Malnati’s pizzeria on N Wells St is the bomb! A short walk from there, opposite the Millennium Park is Wildberry Pancakes and cafe. A real introduction to American portions. Basically our first highlight was food. Ha!
Gary’s Gay Parita about 25 miles west of Springfield Missouri (you find out along the way there’s an AWFUL lot of Springfields in the US). This is simply a small gas station run by Gary Turner, where you can sit and chat to an absolute legend of the Route. An hour very well spent.
Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico. Simply an icon of the Route. Anyone who drives the route and doesn’t stay here, are you even for real?? (Side note, the owners even drove us to Mexican food joint and then picked us up after. Nice.)
The Turquoise Trail, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Not technically on the Route, but I could have simply put “New Mexico” as it’s just the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. But, this little gem encapsulates it. Part of Route 66’s charm is that it’s been chopped up and moved all over that there isn’t one long continuous road, so you’re forced to detour and hop around to find the route itself (often you simply come to a dead end, or no road at all).
Anyway, part of this chopping up is the “Santa Fe loop” which detours north from the “new” route just past Albuquerque and follows the “old” route up to Santa Fe. To get back to the route you can either go on the old route itself, or take what’s called “The Turquoise Trail”. A small, non-descript road back to the new route, but what it takes you through is insane – a tiny little hamlet called Madrid. Madrid is in effect an artist colony, where hippies, artists, sculptors, and all manner of creative souls have simply set up a small village where you can wader freely and peruse their wares to your hearts content. All the buildings are colourful and vibrant and just creativity drips from the place.
Well worth the 4 hour detour north. The Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. Again, not “technically” on the Route, but I’m a massive space geek, so to go the actual place where Pluto was discovered (and it IS a planet and I will die on this hill for it) and get to play with the telescopes and see Jupiter and Saturn with your own eyes was just sooooo geekily cool.
If you’re looking to have your own honeymoon on Route 66 use a Patchwork template.