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Mother Road Trip: Route 66 Motor Tour hopes to generate funds for restoration projects


The Mother Road: Route 66 | Larry Edsall photos
The Mother Road: Route 66 | Larry Edsall photos

After helping turn Michigan’s Old U.S. 27 into “the other Route 66,” Craig Parrish is turning his attention to the real Mother Road. From October 8 through 19, Parrish and a group of Route 66 experts will lead a cross-country driving tour to raise money to fund a variety of small-town preservation efforts along the historic roadway.

The inaugural Route 66 Motor Tour will start in Joliet, Illinois, just a few miles southwest of the Mother Road’s actual starting point (and avoiding congestion in downtown Chicago), and will continue southwest all the way to the end of the route in Santa Monica, Califorina.

Participants can sign up to do the entire drive, or just join in for a day or two or more.

“How many are going to show up?” Parrish mused as we spoke. He immediately answered his own question:

“I don’t really care. It takes time to get these things off the ground,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if 40 show up or 400 show up. I’ve told the towns to welcome them and thank them for coming. They could be somewhere else spending their money.”


I’m getting calls and emails from people all over the country and even all over the world,”

— Craig Parrish


[/pullquote]He’s also reminded those along that way that the participants “are going to go home and telling their friends and club members they had a great time or that it sucked. If we can get them to say it was a great trip, the next year and the next year more will be coming.”

Parrish retired early after a 35-year career in auto sales to become an organizer of car shows and classic car tours. In eight years, his annual tour up Michigan’s Old U.S. 27 from Coldwater to Cheboygan grew from 137 cars to nearly 800 this summer.

Parrish called Old 27 the “other Route 66, the north-south version” because it runs through Michigan and on down to Miami. He once talked about doing a tour of the full route, which he’s driven four times, but said too many of the cities along that route have grown too large and busy to work for such a driving tour.

Although Parrish has driven the full Route 66 route some two dozen times, he’s enlisted the help of experts along the way to help identify not only the route but things to do and places to see along the way.

The tour will do overnight stays in Joliet and Litchfield, Illinois; Lebanon, Missouri; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Shamrock, Texas; Gallup, New Mexico; Winslow, Williams and Kingman, Arizona; and in Barstow and Santa Monica, California. Each of those communities will host a late afternoon/early evening car show for the tour.

Parrish has arranged for discounted overnight lodging in each of the designated cities. He said the October dates help in that regard because the primary tourist season is over, and because participants won’t have to endure triple-digit temperatures in the desert.

Each morning there will be an 8 a.m. driver’s meeting.66sign

“We’ll turn them loose at 8:30,” Parrish said. “They’re free to go where they want to go.”

For example, he said, if someone wants to detour from Lebanon, Missouri, down to Branson for a couple of days and then rejoin the tour, say, in Tucumcari, New Mexico, “That’s fine.”

Or perhaps classic car enthusiasts living in the Phoenix area might want to participate only in the Arizona portion of the tour. That’s also fine.

Registration for the tour is only $40 and includes an event T-shirt and window sticker to identify the car as part of the group.

Parrish and his team are not being paid. Instead, proceeds will be used to fund restoration efforts along the route, he said.

For example, he said, a town may have a building that volunteers want to fix up and restore, perhaps as a Route 66 museum or other tourist destination, “But they don’t have the budget to do a complete project. They can apply to us and we can help.”

“I’m getting calls and emails from people all over the country and even all over the world, saying they can’t make the event but want to donate $40 and get a T-shirt,” Parrish said. “I’m very pleased with the interest.”

Tour schedule includes a visit to Cadillac Ranch

He also said people are asking if they need to have a classic car to do the drive.

“Some don’t want to put the miles on their old cars,” he said. “I’ve told them to bring what you want to drive and just be part of it. We’ll park as a tour group in each town. Bring what you want.”

Parrish said interest in the event has been strong among people from the Midwest.

“For us,” he said, “this is sort of a last hurrah before we have to park our cars in the garage for five months.”

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
  1. this sounds terrific. i grew up in Dwight IL and traveled route 66 from Chicago all the way through Illinois and Missouri. where do i sign up? i live in TX now and would have alot of fun doing this.

  2. I traveled 66 back East in 1965. At that time, Rt.66 ended in Chicago. But now it is out here in Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia. What can I do out here to assist you in raising funds to preserve that wonderful road of which I have so many memories? Bob Clark

  3. how do i go about donating and receiveing a route 66 tee shirt. i hope to join the group next year. bob wright

  4. Mate , this is great. I am from New Zealand and did my first LA to chicago ride on my harley in 2003 with a group of kiwis. Great place , would have been happy to just turn round and ride back. This should be supported by anybody that has ever travelled this great road

  5. Garry Wolf says: Albuquerque is a great representative of OLD ROUTE 66. Every summer in June, downtown in Nob Hill district, in association with Summerfest; we put on the NEON CRUISE on a Saturday in late June. Approximately 200 cars participate and arrive about noon and we judge classes of cars and give trophies out, then dinner about 6 PM, then when it starts to get dark and then NEON lights come on and we have a parade west on Route 66 all the way thru town often with crowds of 30,000 spectators or more(What a Kick!) and we arrive at a destination camp ground and hoist a big outdoor screen and have a 50’s drive in movie! What a kick! We would love to have you all participate with us and would love to meet with you after you come thru Tucumcari and Santa Rosa and then Albuquerque.
    How do I get in touch with the organizers of this group???

    Excited about this!!!

  6. Sir we need more guy’s like you and I will try next year(2015) to star save ( $ ) for my birthday 2016 (66) to go to”Route66″ with my wife and two litter girls plus maybe i will take my (VW Beetle-Classic1962) and driving arount the town;well done

  7. I never forget a beutiful time that take my live to the best time with all my fren’s,and I still living that time;Music;Car’s;Motorcycle,like:Triump68;Bsa 750Cc;Vw Beelte66; and more;more,I wish I have ($) and buy a SS Chevy1970,well only I can’t have time to said everything but I have time to said,”Than’k You to all of you and special thank to “Classic Car.com to have this wed-side that we can remember the past with so many memories one aigain t.you,Sincerely:Jose'(Fan for ever;ever)

  8. Sounds like a great trip. I live up in Western Canada,but
    I’ve always loved the history and stories about Route 66..
    Ever since I watched the old TV series in the early 60’s,I’ve
    been faszc inated, by it…Can’t make it in time for 2014, but
    do my best to make it in a 2015.

  9. Thank You Larry and Classic Cars for the article and support of this event…
    People interested in attending this event or have an interest can join the event on Facebook
    “Route 66 Motor Tour Joliet Illinois to Santa Monica California” is the page name…
    Click on “Like”…You’re there….We Think this will be a major event soon Nationwide…
    Again…Thank You….

    Craig Parrish
    Event Director
    National Route 66 Motor Tour

  10. I hope to make it next year, I live on Long Island, NY. I have a ’57 Olds 88 and a ’62 Olds Convertible, don’t know if I’d take either one on this 6000 mile round trip,but will with something!

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