Route 66 – America’s Main Street
DELSEY PARIS and THE UNSEASONAL have teamed
up to take a fresh look at travel destinations that go beyond expectations.
Traveling west on the venerable roadway Route 66 with his wife, Cynthia, in their 1941 Buick, the jazz pianist and songwriter Bobby Troup composed the song “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66,”whichthe Nat King Cole Trio recorded in 1946.The song almost immediately became a worldwide hit, and it has become the signature tune for America’s historic Main Street.
Stretching almost 2,500 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles, Route 66 initially met the growing need for new roadways, as U.S.car ownership nearly tripled in the 1920s.
Its starting point is still marked by a signpost on East Adams Street in Chicago. Not far from it, you’ll find the beautiful Pendry Hotel, an iconic 1929 art deco building in Chicago’s Loop neighborhood. An homage to the past and present with modern yet comfortable interiors, the hotel encompasses the spirit of Chicago.
Passing through St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Sedona, Route 66 quickly earned its name for being the most scenic road to California, because despite the long journey, the trip was full of adventures and roadside attractions.
For many of the smaller towns on the way,the famous route served as the backbone of their economy.
Diners, motels, gas stations, and vacation spots depended on the steady stream of tourists and adventure seekers. However, as multilane highways have replaced the old route in many places, some communities have turned into ghost towns full of historic but dusty landmarks; others have become eerie movie locations. Natural Born Killers, the 1994 satirical film starring Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis as serial killers on a murder spree, was filmed in a variety of locations along Route 66, from Illinois to New Mexico and further into Arizona.
In No Country for Old Men — the 2007 film directed by Joel and Ethan Coen and based on Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name — the Desert Sands Motel scene, like many others, was filmed in the Route 66 city Albuquerque. With a variety of scenes shot under the beautiful skies of New Mexico, the Coen brothers had an unusual problem: The fake blood they used contained sugar, which caused bugs and animals to swarm around the actors. The hot desert landscape in the 1993 road movie Kalifornia, starring Brad Pitt and David Duchovny, was also filmed along Route 66.
The landscape that surroundsthe routeremains breathtakinglybeautiful. Take Petrified Forest National Park, which is the only national park to have a preserved section of the old Route 66. Deep in the remote countryside of northeast Arizona,Petrified Forest encompasses an ecosystem that’s 225 million years old. Next to the petrified logs,which glitter and sparkle like a thousand crystals in the sunlight,you’ll find ancient petroglyphs, Triassic fossils, and colorful buttes and mesas throughout the surreal landscape of the Painted Desert. The Tawa Trail is one of the most beautiful trails in the spring, when the grasslands are dotted with delicate wildflowers.Another beautiful hike is the Blue Mesa Trail, which immerses hikers in a world of color. The descent into the badlands is steep but well worth the otherworldly experience.
Riding America’s Mother Road, just like the two outlaws whom Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper depicted in the 1969 cult film Easy Rider, is a goal for many bikers. Although the legendary Route 66 was decommissioned in 1985, there are countless guided and self-guided tours in packages that range from a week to 15 days. One of the highlights are the miles of untouched road in Arizona, which stretch from Seligman to Kingman and further to the mining town of Oatmanon hairpin curves that cut through the majestic Black Mountains. It’s a freeing adventure to be exposed to the elements, cross multiple states with widely varying climates, and drive through pulsing cities and the vast countryside.
Two road trip attractions are the Colorado River and Lake Havasu City, south of Topock,which has more than 300 days of sunshine per year. The white sand beaches of the human-made lakeattract visitors who enjoy such outdoor activities as kayaking, paddling, fishing, swimming, and boating. As a year-round destination for outdoor enthusiasts, Lake Havasu City also offers premier skiing destinations near the south end of the lake. Just north of Copper Canyon, Skier’s Island and Skiers’ Cloves are two popular ski areas. Skier’s Island is only accessible by boat, and that makes it an outstanding experience in itself.
The last stretch of the road trip, before reaching the golden coasts of California, is through the Mojave Desert’s miles and miles of mesquite brush and beige sand. In this remote landscape, the only companions seem to be the endless trains full of containers and oil tanks that travel past.
After driving through Los Angeles, the end of the route leads to beautiful Santa Monica and the Pacific coast. Shutters on the Beach is a luxury beachfront hotel with a serene spa and a pool overlooking the Pacific. The hotel’s cottages are just a few steps from the iconic Santa Monica Pier, which opened to the public in 1909. The pier’s historic Hippodrome building, with its vintage merry-go-round, was designated a Los Angeles County historical landmark in 1975. The pier and its huge Ferris wheel are two of the most photographed landmarks in the world. In the 1994 movie Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks’ title character sees the famous pier while long-distance running. He stops for a moment but decides to resume running and leaves the pier behind. The street performers, joyful rides, carnival games, and delicious food — like the pier’s creamy milkshakes — make the Santa Monica Pier a memorable final destination of an adventurous journey from Chicago to Los Angeles.
Images: Ger Ger Words: Tina Ger
The Unseasonal is a purpose-driven special projects magazine and alternative take on the world – a magazine about passion, travel, beauty, the change in seasons, the unusual, and the human condition. It features timeless pictorials, thoughtful stories, and unique collaborations. The Unseasonal embodies the feeling of a getaway, of slowing down, of exotic places, optimism, breathtaking dreams, unique architecture, and a lightness of being, traced with elements
from the past, the future, Romanticism, and impulses for making the world a better place.