Photos by Larry Edsall
When you can’t see
May get you a glimpse
Weather did its best to ruin the inaugural Route 66 Motor Tour, which drove through a few days of rain in Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma before encountering tornado-like conditions in the Texas panhandle.
Some folks turned around and went home. Others never joined up as planned. But those who persevered were rewarded with wonderful roads, gorgeous scenery, some spectacular sunsets and warm greetings from the locals as they made their way west across New Mexico, Arizona and California, where the tour ended last night at the Santa Monica Pier.
ClassicCars.com blog correspondent Larry Nutson was at Joliet, Illinois, for the start of the tour and we drove up from Phoenix late last week to spend a day and the following morning motoring west with the group along the Mother Road from Williams to just before Oatman in northern Arizona.
Bobby Troup sang about getting your kicks on Route 66 and wrote about some of the cities along the way. But what we found to be the real kick were the people we encountered on the tour, from tour director Craig Parrish to the various participants, some of whom were doing the entire route, and some who, like us, were joining in for a day or two.
Parrish plans to make the Mother Road tour an annual event, just like the drive up the middle of Michigan that he organizes every year.
Several of the Route 66 participants are regulars on that Old Route 27 drive, including Jan Miller, a widow who has had her 1947 Oldsmobile convertible for 35 years and who used to do the Michigan drive with her late husband. On the Route 66 trip, a group of other Route 27 veterans stayed close to Miller’s Olds just in case there were any mechanical issues with which she might need help.
We only heard of two such issues, and both involved the bright-red 1966 Pontiac Bonneville convertibles that were on the trip. Both Bonnies suffered brake problems in Gallup, New Mexico — one with its front brakes and one with its rears. Both forced an extra night’s stay, but both cars caught up with the tour after the brakes were repaired.
And that was one of the beauties of Parrish’s plan. You paid $40 to register, to get your T-shirt and your vehicle’s window sticker and you were free to drive as much or as little of the tour as you chose.
Want to leave the route to spend a day watching the shows at Branson, Missouri, and then rejoin the tour somewhere down the road? No problem. Want to drive up to the Grand Canyon and meet up at Williams? Again, no problem.
Another difference between this and so many other driving tours was that you picked your own places to stay and to eat along the way. Parrish had arranged for discounts at various motels, but if you wanted to try that old-fashioned, mom-and-pop place, you were free to do so.
And even if you missed the 8 a.m. driver’s meeting, well, that was OK, too, though if you did you might have missed out on such things as knowing that everyone should meet at 4:30 p.m. at the Hackberry General Store to drive in caravan into Kingman for a big meet-and-greet car show with the local classic and custom car clubs.
And the speed offender