Posts Tagged ‘Route 66


April Adventure Part Two – Route 66 and the Great River Road

April 13-15, 2018

The threat of an impending ice storm made me load up the dogs shortly after returning to my parents’ house after backpacking. Thankfully, it was clear sailing for the entire 3 hour drive home.

Early next morning, I woke to a dreary, grey, drizzly day. Since I still had two days left of my four day weekend, I decided to chance potentially bad roads and hea out on a “short” adventure. Because of Yukon’s bad leg, we couldn’t hike and I had been hankering for a Capriotti’s sub so Davenport, IA it would be! Since we’d be going past some bits and pieces of Route 66 that I hadn’t been on, I decided to check the ‘Roadside America’ app and see what interesting places we could visit on the 5 hour drive to Iowa.

Me: There’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark out, and we’re wearing sunglasses. Mira:  Hit it!

First stop, Route 66 Food N Fuel to see the Bluesmobile on a Stick after snapping a couple of quick photos, we moved on to Rich & Creamy for some ice cream on the Mother Road. Looking at routes as an alternative to taking I-80 as I have on what seems like a million occasions, I decided to get off the expressway and on to two lanes, crossing the Mississippi River at Clinton, IA.

Bluesmobile on a Stick at Route 66 Food N Fuel

Rich and Creamy in Joliet – the pups loved their little doggie treat

Yukon, you have no thumbs, you can’t pump gas!

A frigid, wet wind whipped at the dogs and me as we walked down toward the mighty river for a photo. Yukon, despite a bum leg, was throwing a tantrum because he was close to a body of water and I wouldn’t let him go swimming and Mira was tired of the wind and made several attempts to escape to the warm Jeep.

The Mighty Mississippi at Clinton, IA – Yukon wanted to swim, Mira was trying to escape to the Jeep

Heading south on 30, I noticed a scenic route sign imprinted with a riverboat wheel. My interest piqued, I looked it up to find we were on a lesser known scenic route known as the Great River Road. At that point, I decided I’d do my best to trace the entire route in sections. As we were in the area, we stopped at American Pickers headquarters (Antique Archaeology) in Le Claire. Mira begrudgingly sat to have her photo taken in front of the iconic car in front (bribed with treats from the nice ladies inside the gift shop of course). It was a short drive to Capriotti’s and my delicious “Bobbie” sub followed by a stop for some of Toppling Goliath Brewing’s Pseudo Sue, a beer I’d been wanting to try for a while simply because they feature a T-Rex on the can.

A quick stop at Antique Archaeology (American Pickers) in Le Claire, IA


The Bobbie and a 4 pack of a Pseudo Sue – the perfect combination!



I’ve mentioned before, when on the road with the dogs, I tend to stay at Motel 6. They definitely are spartan but they’re usually pretty decent and dogs stay free. Motel 6 in Davenport was no different, definitely not fancy but clean and comfortable. Unfortunately, they put us in a room on the 2nd floor, not awesome with a 65 pound dog that is struggling to walk. I carried my giant black dog upstairs and placed him on the bed where he instantly made himself at home. Snuggled into bed with the dogs, we fell asleep to the Discovery Channel.

The dogs know how to make themselves at home after a decade of road trips!

After following a short section of the Great River Road from Clinton, IA to Davenport, I was intrigued. A lesser known scenic route similar to the vibe of Route 66 that runs along the Mississippi River from its source at Itasca State Park in Minnesota to the Gulf in Louisiana. After reading up on this road that was previously unknown to me, I decided day two of our road trip would be to follow it from south of Davenport to Alexandria, MO before heading home via back roads connecting to Route 66.

Yukon, my four-legged divining rod was beside himself with excitement as we drove along the shore of the big muddy Mississippi through Buffalo, Montpelier and Muscatine on our way to a quick stop at Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge.

Navigator Yukon at your service

Sergeant John F. Baker Jr. Bridge – I-280 over the Mississippi River

I pulled into the first parking area for the Wildlife Refuge, the parking lot being excessively muddy, I left the dogs in the car to do some exploring along the shore. I saw hundreds of fish, dead on the bank like there was a massive die off and they washed up. The smell was something special! My boots caked with a couple of inches of mud, I returned to the Jeep, today would be a driving day instead of a hiking day.

Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge and a few photos of the fish die off

White Pelicans taking flight from Muscatine Slough


As we made our way south, we sometimes lost sight of the river, but were rewarded with rolling Midwestern farmland in exchange.  It started snowing as we drove a tunnel of trees, two lane back portion of the Great River Road into Keokuk, Iowa which was named after the great Sauk leader Keokuk.  I continued on, crossing the Missouri state line, filled my gas tank in Alexandria and started to head east toward Route 66.

I live for rural two lanes!


A statue of Sauk leader, Keokuk, the town’s namesake


Nearby carved eagle statue


Made it to Missouri!


Looking for life on two lanes on our way to Atlanta, Illinois


We made our way east, traveling on more rural back roads in pursuit of another of Illinois’ Muffler Men (Mira and I visited Gemini Giant the previous fall) in Atlanta, Illinois.  I left Yukon in the car, leashed Mira up and started toward the imposing figure of “Tall Paul”, a muffler man formerly resided in front of Cicero’s hot dog stand in the Chicago suburbs.  I sat Mira in front of him with the intent of getting her photo, she was freaked out and dashed toward me for protection from the scary figure.

Mira says, “I’m outta here!”


Loaded back into the Jeep, we made our way back home.  After 35 hours, 5 states and a little over 1,000 miles we were back in our driveway, a fun little adventure under our belts.  I’ll always cherish this trip as it was Yukon’s last road trip, three weeks later I had to have him put to sleep.  His leg that was a presumed CCL tear was actually a very large tumor in his hip with metastasis to the lungs that there was no recovering from.

RIP Yukon – 7/2006-5/6/2018



Wild West

Woohoo,  finally the day I get to ride Route 66 from Kingman to Oatman, AZ!!  I had heard good things about the route prior to leaving for the trip and have always had a bit of a fascination for the mother road so it was quite exciting to be on my way.  After another quick continental breakfast, I was on the road heading toward the small mining town.

Route 66 West of Kingman

Route 66 cut through the desert making its way toward the Black Mountains, as always the desert awed me with its unique beauty.  Before entering the twisty section of the ride, I decided I should stop for a quick drink and rest, low and behold there sat Cool Springs Station an oasis that marks the entrance to the Black Mountains.  Originally built in the 1920’s, it was left to ruins in the 1960’s after Route 66 was bypassed.  In 2001, restoration began on Cool Springs with it reopening in 2004.

I grabbed a pop and a couple of Route 66 stickers for the bike and did some exploring around the store.  Part of the store houses a museum dedicated to the story of Route 66 and Cool Springs, there was a load of cool memorabilia (and most importantly old pictures).  Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera into the store so I didn’t get any pictures of the inside, but there are some nice ones on the website linked previously.

Outside, a group of riders had just pulled into the station’s parking lot and we struck up a conversation.  They were a group of guys from Kingman and Bullhead City (one was originally from Michigan) that got together on weekends for rides – they were also heading along Route 66 for a day in Oatman.

Couldn’t resist taking this picture, it screamed Route 66 to me!!

The next 13 miles into Oatman was definitely the most interesting and challenging part of the day’s route with switchback upon switchback and a very distracting (beautiful) beautiful landscape.  I had to chuckle when I came around a corner to see a “Burro Crossing” sign 🙂

Sitgreaves Pass

Beautiful Scenery along the route

As I pulled into the old town, I could see it was quite the attraction with a ton of people milling about in the streets.  Finally, I spotted several of the famous Oatman burros, wild burros that roam around the town begging carrots and the like from tourist.  From what I’ve read, they are descendents of the burros that miners left when abandoning the town.  They wander down into the town during the day and return to the mountains at nightfall.

The view down Oatman’s Main St.

A couple of Oatman’s burros

Random Oatman Pics

Cowboys of Oatman’s shootout

Since my destination for the evening was Tulara, CA, 7 hours from Oatman, I figured I should mosey on out of town and be on my way.  The remainder of the ride to Needles, CA was quite pretty, I was amazed at all the green fields as I got closer to the Colorado River.  At a cool 95 degrees, the heat radiating off the pavement was overwhelming, but at least it was a dry heat 🙂

After what seemed like endless miles of lonely rolling desert hills (and power lines) I finally reached civilization in the form of Barstow, CA where I would begin to make my way north.  The section of road from Barstow to the Tehachapi Mountains was, despite the traffic, one of the most lonely feeling roads I had been on thus far.  For some reason it just had a very eerie feeling, though I did get to see some very large Joshua Trees along the road and the town of Boron, CA where borax is mined (think 20 Mule Team Borax cleaner).  Through to the Tehachapi’s I saw endless miles of wind farms – I can understand why they were there, it was blowing hard!!

After after a couple more hours of green fields, fruit orchards and palm trees, I reached my final destination and checked in for the night.  A little KFC hit the spot before quickly falling asleep.


Where the Winds Come Sweeping Down the Plains

After a delicious breakfast of stale Fruit Loops and a nice chat with some fellow travelers, I was back on the road and headin’ west.

I had read that there was a nice section of existing Route 66 near Hydro/Weatherford, OK and thought I’d check it out.  Well, it’s a bit difficult to follow the mother road sometimes and I ended up on a dirt road in the middle of a wind farm.  I’m very glad I got lost because I met my first buddy of the trip, a sweet little donkey standing near a fence on the side of the road.

After a bit of coaxing, Ralph (yep, I named him) let me scratch his nose and ears – he even seemed to like it. 

What a sweet little donkey

Oklahoma definitely lived up to the song (so did Texas and New Mexico) from the time I left El Reno until I got to Albuquerque there was a constant 35 mph crosswind.  I will never ever complain about Michigan wind!!  Nothing like riding at an angle for 500 plus miles!!  It was also blazing hot, I’m guessing black motorcycle gear is not the best for the southwest 🙂

Grill at the Texas welcome center east of Amarillo…only in Texas!!

Ever see a sign like this in Michigan?!?!

Ever since I noticed the Cadillac Ranch outside Amarillo last time through, I wanted to get a closer look.  I’m glad I stopped, how cool!!  On my walk out, an older guy handed me a Sharpie marker and said it was tradition to pass it on so the next person can put their mark on the art.

Can you see my name in the wheel well…LOL?

My second, more stressful glitch of the trip happened west of Amarillo.  My bike started chugging like it was out of gas, I managed to coast into a gas station and fill up.  The weird thing…I still had more than a gallon of gas left.

After calling Andy for advice and riding around the gas station I decided it was OK to get back on the highway.  About an hour later as I hit Tucumcari, NM, it started doing it again, now I was beginning to worry.  Thankfully I was able to limp my way to Albuquerque by filling up every hour or so.

I arrived at my home for the night, Colleen from Two Wheel Females and her great kids made me feel right at home.  So far I had been existing on cheese sticks and beef jerk.  It was great to eat real food – tortillas with cheese, onions and green chiles, rice and beans topped off with a Sierra Nevada porter really hit the spot!!

After being alone for a couple of days, it sure was nice to be around people 🙂  We chatted for a bit and then exhaustion took over, time for me to get some sleep!!

Plans for the next morning…pick up SPOT from Fed Ex and siphon my gas off to check for water.


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