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Mel from Dream Doors Head Office is taking the trip of a life time…
Follow Mel and Nige as they venture on their USA trip down the world famous Route 66 – 3,945km all the way from Chicago to Los Angeles.
Get a taste of America as they share with us their experiences, USA’s food, tourist attractions and the iconic scenic views down Route 66.
We arrived in Chicago O’Hare airport at 2:30pm local time (6 hours behind the UK) after a long 8 hour flight. At Alamo our hire car turned out to be a tiny hatchback with about enough room for 1 suitcase! After some serious negotiating and paying an extra $100 we came out with this…a huge, monster bus/truck/car of a Dodge Durango…aka ‘Nigel’s Baby!.’
After quickly mastering the huge automatic Dodge (and driving on the wrong side for the road!) we got to Walmart to pick up a few bits and bobs and had Subway for dinner in the Dodge. Nige’s months of Sat Nav planning and programming finally paid off and we found our first port of call, Bishops Hall B&B without any problem.
Bishops Halls is like an English country house and the proprietors Charles and Sam adopted the style after visiting England in the 90’s. After unwinding over tea in the library we were ready for bed by 7.30 (which was 1.30am for us).
We saw Sam the next morning when we went down for to breakfast. Sam served us freshly squeezed juice, homemade spinach and feta quiche with crispy bacon, raison cinnamon toast and warm apple puffs. The quiche was to die for – the best thing we have ever tasted – thin pastry and moist, tasty filling!
So…after ten months of detailed planning and a long 8 hour flight we are finally here at the beginning of our Route 66 Trip! We made our way to the official start of Route 66 in the middle of Chicago on our first day and had the obligatory photo taken for posterity.
We jumped in the Dodge Durango and set off on our first leg to Springfield Illinois.
Springfield, Illinois….for dinner we got a cab to Obed & Isaacs microbrewery which was really busy. We sat at the bar for about 90 minutes tasting the beers while waiting for a table. My favourite was the ‘strawberry blonde,’ a wheat beer with strawberries. For dinner I had chicken kebabs (or kebobs as they are called here!). Nige had – what else in Springfield? Mmm – pork chops!
We filled our travel mugs and off we set for Memphis.
We arrived at the Madison Hotel in Downtown Memphis. We went out to find somewhere for dinner which proved harder than expected. We finally ended up in the Peabody Hotel – where they walk the ducks through every day – and we had sliders and wings with fries, which was delicious.
We packed up and headed for Graceland… Graceland was awesome. It was magical as I was expecting it to be, it was emotionally charged place knowing Elvis walked where you were walking is amazing. The garden of meditation is surreal, which is where Elvis is buried along with his parents and grandmother and a memorial to his still-born twin brother.
His private plane the ‘Lisa-Marie’ is unbelievable. It is so opulent it is hard to remember you are on a plane not in a house. Yes the gift shops are tacky but the property itself is incredible and very moving.
After leaving Graceland we drove down to Nashville to Linden Manor B&B and Peigi. The house itself was lovely. Very comfortable with water and cookies left in our room each day, the cookies were freshly made by Peigi who is wonderful cook and hostess. After she had shown us our room, Peigi called us a cab and less than 30 minutes after arriving we were on our way to Downtown Nashville to have dinner at BB Kings.
Our waitress was lovely and we tried fried green tomatoes for the first time which were sliced and coated in breadcrumbs with a dip and they were delicious as were the spicy chicken wings. The live band was excellent but I couldn’t understand why they passed around a bucket to collect money until someone explained that the artists play for tips. After steak and more beers we finally got a taxi back.
We took a cab to Orpy Mills and Nige bought his cowboy boots and picked up our tickets for the Opry from the box office. After a cab back to the B&B we changed into our cowboy boots and drove back to the Grand Ole Opry. The auditorium was more like a church than a theatre as the seats are church pews. The show was brilliant with the highlight being Charlie Daniels Band playing ‘Devil went down to Georgia!’ After the performance we drove back stopping at Mattozas pizza place/bar… they served the best pizza!
Another good night’s sleep and another lovely Peigi breakfast of scrambled egg in a crepe, baked cinnamon apple and corn biscuit (scone).
We then started our journey to St. Louis and the Fleur-de-Lys. We were recommended a pub around the corner so we went there for dinner. It was ‘The Shaved Duck,’ and was a tiny bar and attached room with about half a dozen tables. We both had a local craft beer and perused the menu. Starter was crab cakes and corn sauce and I had smoked chicken wings. The meal was delicious and there was no room left for dessert!
We started with juice, Nige had a mango and I had blueberry and pomegranate, it was delicious. We started with pear pouched in pale syrup, barley and natural yogurt, followed by baked eggs Florentine and toast and jam to finish.
We then visited St Louis the arch, 630ft high. Nige went to the top of the arch and I stayed in the museum with a coffee as it was claustrophobic to go up in a small capsule or ‘pod.’
We planned to visit the Jesse James museum…but it was closed! Looked good from the outside but couldn’t see anything inside….shame!
Just happened to stumble across the World’s Largest Gift Store and couldn’t resist stopping for some retail therapy. Next door was the candy factory so it would have been rude not to visit…obviously came out with loads from there…about 10lbs of fudge in varying flavours…mmmm!
Finally got underway to St James, a tiny place and our B&B ‘The Painted Lady,’ was unique! The outside was painted in pink and blue like a doll’s house and our room ‘The Prissy Room,’ was even more bizarre! The whole house was covered in wallpaper, including the ceilings, bathroom and kitchen.
After settling in among the scary dolls in the room and changing, we drove out to Sybill’s dinner. A lovely place, really busy, very ‘fine dining,’ but very reasonably priced. Nige had the special seafood pasta dish and I had the fillet minion which was very tender and beautifully cooked. Nige had dessert of apple cobbler with cream and ice-cream which I dipped into and it was really good.
Went down to breakfast and met Wanda and Sandy. Wanda is a feisty, petite blonde who does hair as well as the B&B and Sandy is laid back, quiet, easy going man who is constantly being contradicted by Wanda and who seems to subscribe to the ‘yes dear,’ school of thought. Wanda served us orange juice, bacon (streaky bacon cooked to a crisp as always over here), scrambled eggs and biscuits (scones) and jam. Wanda left for work and Sandy checked us out, and we left for the second Springfield, Missouri.
Springfield, Missouri and the next leg of our journey at the Walnut Inn. We stayed in the ‘Garage House,’ read dressed up garage! It had a sloping roof, skylights, fake plants, garlands, and birdcages hanging everywhere but the most bizarre thing was the wheel barrow in the bathroom.
We called a taxi and went for dinner at the Springfield Brewery. It was very nice and we had a short wait at the bar, Nige had a ‘sampler,’ 6 small glasses of their own craft beers and I had a ‘Parisian Sunset,’ cocktail, very nice but very sweet. I had a pizza and Nige had a steak. It seems all the girls had to wear the smallest, tightest shorts possible to work! Nige bought a Springfield Brewery fleece.
After a bad night’s sleep we went over to the main house for breakfast which was at a communal table. Breakfast was awful, orange juice, quiche with hash brown crust and toast.
We headed on to Tulsa and the Cedar Rock Inn.
There’s no place like home! …we even took out ruby reds with us for the occasion. Argument over who should be Dorothy…Nige won! Fleeting through Kansas in and out!
We arrived at Cedar Rock around 4pm and were greeted by Elaine, one of the ‘Inn-Keepers.’ The owners employ ‘Inn Keepers’ to run or manage their guest house who usually leave early evening and the guests are then left unattended until breakfast the following morning. After settling in we went out to find somewhere for dinner. We were going to go for a Chinese which Nige found on the Internet but it was gone so we found an Italian eatery called ‘Mazzios’ which is like a Harvester but with Italian food. It was lovely and really inexpensive. When we got back we watched some TV - a Spiderman move – and had a game of Scrabble. Nige won … again!
When we came in for breakfast there was couple who we got talking to. They were away their anniversary and were from Oklahoma City which was our next stop so they told us where to shop for some good antiques and chatted about them visiting England. Breakfast was juice with whole baked apple with barley and maple syrup followed by frittata. It was very nice but I’m not keen on whole baked apples and I had egg overload… didn’t want to see another egg!
Stopped in Arcadia for gas with the giant bottle it lights up multi-coloured rings at night but we didn’t have time to wait for it to get dark. The front of the gas station was full floor to ceiling windows which had rows and rows of different flavoured root beers, hundreds of bottles lined up, every customer was coming out with a pack of root beer and Nige was no exception…out he came with a six pack…of different flavoured root beers!
Next stop was the Motor Museum in Seaba, OK. This was more Nige’s bag as it was a motor-bike museum. This was obviously a mecca for bikers, evident from the row of Harley Davidsons lined up outside. While Nige was busy looking in the museum I bagged myself a new boyfriend…what a looker!
After breakfast we left for our next port of call, Rusty Gables in Oklahoma City. We arrived earlier than expected but Don was outside when we arrived. Don showed us around the house. Either side of the massive fireplace were trophies and saddles galore – they were prizes he and Sam had won from showing the horses they raise on the ranch. On top of that they have an art gallery with paintings for sale in their lounge.
As we were early we went straight back out for lunch to a Wendy’s and had a milkshake and a bowl of fries – mine with chilli and cheese and Nige’s with pulled pork and sweet BBQ sauce. They were really tasty and more than enough for lunch.
We went on to the Cowboy Museum which was opened by John Wayne and houses an eclectic mix of art, sculpture, film shows, costumed and artefacts relating to Cowboys and Indians.
Later we booked a taxi to The Melting Pot in Bricktown for dinner. The Melting Pot is a fondue restaurant so essentially every course is fondue starters was cheese fondue with apple, vegetables and bread to dip, followed by a plate of salad.
The main course is a plate of raw meat chunks/shrimps and vegetables which you stick on your fondue forks and cook in the fondue bowl until cooked enough to eat. Then there was the chocolate fondue for dessert, can’t go wrong with that, melted chocolate and pieces of brownie, cake, fruit, and marshmallow dippers.
For breakfast we had fresh fruit salad, with raspberry wine vinegar, a baked farmer’s piece (read quiche in a dish, no pastry) and biscuits (scones) and jam. After packing up we had a wonder around the ranch and we went to see the horses and the foal. After looking around we left Oklahoma City for Amarillo and yes we did sing ‘Is this the way to Amarillo’ in the car on the way!
After a long drive we arrived at Adaberry Inn after 5pm. Our room, the Missoula which was a cowboy theme room with a mural across one wall, wooden bed-head with a Cowboy hat hanging on it and Indian blanket style curtains.
After a nap we headed out for dinner to the ‘Big Texan Steak Ranch,’ the home of the 72oz steak dinner challenge – a 72oz steak, bread roll and butter, 3 shrimp, bowl salad and baked potato. When we arrived it was really busy so we were given a buzzer and had a look around the gift shop while we waited. After about 30 minutes we were shown to our booth are our waitress Ava took our orders and neither of us were brave enough to attempt the 72 Oz challenge! I had a 12oz ribeye and Nige had the 18oz. They were cooked to perfection and really tender, the best steak so far, really tasty.
After finishing our breakfast of bacon, pancakes, maple syrup and fresh fruit with yogurt we made our way put to the 6th Avenue, the Route 66 antique strip armed with our list. After a couple of hours we had only done 3 antique shops and made several purchases; a cushion, copper kettle, licence plate and 3 copper jelly moulds.
We stopped for lunch at the cafe ‘Cowboy Gelato,’ which was obviously very good as there were plenty of people eating there. Nige had the hot-dog we had been waiting for with Bovril flavour curly fries, I had two sliders with mac and cheese. It was all delicious.
After lunch we drove to the Texas Plains,’ museum, which was a bit of everything to do with Texas history.
Later for dinner we chose to go for Mexican and Abuelo’s Embassy was recommend. Our server Paige couldn’t of been more friendly or helpful and bought us free sample dips and chips. We both had enchiladas and they were nice but we wouldn’t rush out for a Mexican again. We had triple leche cake between us for desert which was delicious.
For breakfast we had bacon, fresh fruit yogurt and French toast with maple syrup. Then off we set for Tucumcari and the iconic ‘Blue Swallow Motel.’
On our way out of Amarillo on our way to Oklamhoma City we detoured to the Catholic Ranch; a line of old Cadillac cars which had been upended and stuck into the dirt.
Tourists from all over the world visit to leave their mark on the cars and we were no exception. Armed with our can of bilious yellow spray paint we made our way to the giant artwork and left our tag on the cars what we lacked in artistic ability we made up in enthusiasm!
After stopping for lunch (bagel panini with chicken, avocado and salad, crisps and a cookie, not as good as the lunch from Rusty Gables) we made it to the Blue Swallow Motel at 3.40pm. The loibby was closed and we couldn’t understand why no one was around…until we realised we had forgotten we crossed a time zone, and it was actually 2.40pm!
Once we could check in we went to have a look around the strip[ through Tucumcari – it still looks like it is out of the 50’s.We did our laundry and watched telly before going to Del’s Diner for dinner. The mains come with self-service soup and salad cart and I had chicken strips and fries with peppercorn sauce and Nige had Teriyaki Chicken and fries. It was OK, not the best but filled a gap.
Mid point of Route 66 in Adrian, exactly half-way through our epic road trip.
The only thing there is a sign and the Midpoint Café and Gift Shop (done out as a 50s diner). As we were stopping for a photo opportunity anyway we took advantage of the cafes hospitality and enjoyed ugly pies which are unique to the café. They were delicious and basically home-made pies with sweet fillings such as apple, cherry and pecan.
We stopped at a Route 66 Auto Museum which was really good with around 30 vintage cars on show, worth the stop. We drove on to Sante Fe and stopped for lunch at Wendy’s. We visited a glass bowling studio and watched the artist make a vase (and didn’t buy a piece I loved and which I still regret not buying!) before continuing to Alburquerque and the Parc Central Hotel.
After upgrading our room, we were driven to the Standard Diner for dinner, it was a typical upmarket American Diner (which had featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives) and we sat in a booth by the bar and were served by Matt (a young Kevin Bacon type) and Nige had a craft beer and 14oz pork chop and I had a cherry almond milkshake, with rib beef sandwich and white truffle parmesan fries. Delicious meal! Nige had a second beer and I struggled to finish my milkshake. We bought a Standard Diner T-Shirt from Matt then headed back to the hotel.
Gallup. Not much to say really as not much there, basically just a stop-over. On the way out of the town we stopped at an Indian Trading Post in the middle of no-where with random animals on the roof and placed on the mountain ridge around it.
I fancied a ceramic gecko and a couple of dragonflies for the garden but I think I upset the Indian running the store by trying to haggle over the price with him as he wasn’t having any of it so I bought them anyway…breaking stain of a kit-kat! Nige on the other hand tried haggling over a bow and arrow he wanted but decided to leave it when the chap got upset over the haggling.
On to Holbrook where we stayed in a wigwam. It was the best night’s sleep of the entire trip!
So when in Winslow, Arizona do as the Eagles do… standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona so we did!
We then visited the meteor crater…that’ll be a big hole in the ground then! Most people seemed to be really impressed but I think it was lost on us. Wouldn’t of been so bad but it was in the middle of nowhere and took about 30 minutes along a dirt track to reach it. Did have the best laugh of the trip on the way back though, couldn’t stop laughing and my stomach was aching by the time we got back.
On recommendation we visited the exclusive famous historic La Pasada hotel for lunch in the Turquoise Room. It had a faded elegant Hispanic charm which is very classy. We had several glasses of delicious homemade lemonade and a delicious lunch
Flagstaff took an age for us to find a parking space. Had a good look around the town it was roasting, so hot we were melting. Some nice architecture and poped into a sports bar for a drink and a cool down by the A/C.
For dinner we booked the cottage Place, a fine dining restaurant where we had the 7 course tasting menu and matching wines. It was not cheap but it was delicious and Nige bought me their cookbook before we left.
Breakfast at the Little America hotel was lovely. Sat in front of a picture window looking out over the wood with squirrels scampering about outside in the trees. The menu was a la carte and I had eggs Benedict and then decided I fancied a pancake so ordered a short stack, but the pancakes came in a huge stack…ooops!
Seligman and the Rockkill Café and their tag line you kill it, we’ll grill it. Menu was a little off putting as Nige had Tire Tread Buff which was a buffalo burger which when said was delicious., and I settled for a jam jar of pick lemonade and a pick at Nige’s chips. While waiting for food, we had a look around their gift museum which was a series of display cases housing a range of taxidermy which could have been sore of the unfortunates on the menu. It was a strange place but we bought matching t-shirts…so sad!
Stop-over in Kingman. Not much here to see so took the opportunity to do laundry. We went to Pizza Hut for dinner. OMG it was the worst Pizza Hut we have been to. It was nothing like the Pizza Huts we have over here. It was one of the worst meals we have had all trip and the pizzas were dry bit of tasteless cardboard we couldn’t even eat.
We decided to visit a drive in while in Barstow so went to see the Box-trolls , a kids film but the alternative of horror film Annabelle was not an option however we nearly ended up watching that as we initially parked in the wrong place!
We were one of the first cars parked up and Nige went and got hot dogs and a drink, which didn’t even touch the sides and were delicious, so Nige went back for seconds. .. all before the film even started.
As it started to get dark more cars turned up, many of them pick-up trucks and parked with the back of the vehicle facing the screen. We couldn’t understand this until we saw them setting up chairs in the back of the trucks and on the ground around tables and chairs having picnics and drinks.
Not the best film but it was a really good experience going to a drive-in.
After seeing Elmers bottle ranch on Billy Connolly’s Route 66 programme we decided we would take a bottle and visit Elmer ourselves. We found him out working on his bottle sculptures with no-one else around. He was a lovely man, really and happy to tell us all about his ranch and how it came about.
Stayed at the Art Deco 1920’s Georgian Hotel on the beachfront in Santa Monica (and yes we did sing Sheryl Crowe as we walked down Santa Monica Boulevard!). A stunning hotel.
We had breakfast on the terrace before walking down to Santa Monica Pier. We walked all the way to the end of the pier and past loads of people singing and painting / making pictures and then stopped at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co where Nige stepped in Forrest’s shoes and then we bought hoodies from the gift shop (again matching!).
Went to a really popular restaurant opposite the pier for dinner where people were queuing for a table. We managed to be seated quite quickly and enjoyed a delicious meal – ribs recommended by a fellow diner.
We wandered around Santa Monica window shopping and that evening went for dinner to Shutters on Muscle Beach with David Finn and his wife Lauren. We had a lovely evening catching up, as I hadn’t seen David for over 10 years; a great last night in Santa Monica.
Our last day; our flight was a 9pm so we went up to the Griffith Observatory to see the Hollywood sign and takes some photos before making our way to the LA Gun Club to try our hand at target practise. I was really looking forward to having a go and saw myself as Lara Croft, being a natural crack-shot. Unfortunately the reality was far from that.
We reached the official end of Route 66 on the pier in Santa Monica. It was unexpectedly emotional to reach the end of incredible road trip; our first but most definitely not our last.