We were traveling west, so along the way, we took the highway that’s best.
We joined up with Nat King Cole’s favorite road in America—Route 66—after our unfortunate mishap in Tulsa, Oklahoma (more on that later). Routed through Oklahoma City, the panhandle of Texas, several sites in New Mexico, and finally to Arizona and southern California, we took in the sights, eats, and heat along Route 66. We wanted small town America, and we got it. From the hidden gems of Arcadia, Oklahoma to the hotel that used to host John Wayne, Katharine Hepburn, and Ronald Reagan during the height of their Western film careers—we only saw a small portion of Route 66, but what we did was fantastic. Here’s a few 66 stops you can’t miss.
POPS | ARCADIA, OKLAHOMA
Pops is a store with classic diner vibes and a retro look. Housing over 700 different types of soda, it is not a place for the indecisive! It took me a good twenty minutes just to walk around and take in the variety. It’s no surprise that Pops is home to some great floats. Root beer, Cheerwine, orange creamsicle floats and much more can be had with several different flavors of ice cream. If bubbly isn’t your style, shakes and malts are made right in front of you. Not too runny, not too solid. I was taken with my peanutbutter-chocolate twisted shake, but had to steal a sip off my brother’s Coke float!
THE ROUND BARN | ARCADIA, OKLAHOMA
Down the road from Pop’s is the Round Barn, featuring the classic barn door red and a truly round shape. While the outside is striking, the inside is much better. The lower floor features tons of memorabilia, ranging from the barn’s first build in 1898 to when the foundations were laid alongside it for Route 66 in the 1920s. The true stunner is the domed roof, which was restored in 1992 after a partial collapse.
CADILLAC RANCH | AMARILLO, TEXAS
A by-road off the highway will take you to the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas. Ten 1949-1963 Cadillacs were shoved nose-first into the ground by the alternative art group Ant Farm in 1974. Purportedly showing the rise and fall of the Cadillac tailfin, the installation now shows a shocking amount of spray paint. A few hundred feet away a barbed wire fence states “STATE OF TEXAS PROPERTY: Graffiti painting anything on this side of fence is illegal.” The sign is a little graffiti’d too. Paint and climb at your own risk—and yell for your thirteen year old sister if you get stuck.
WATSON’S BAR-B-QUE | TUCUMARI, NEW MEXICO
You knew that somehow I’d work food into here, right? I don’t have too much to say about Watson’s. It was a good taste of New Mexico barbecue, but while Texas may have a shot at beating out North Carolina BBQ, New Mexico sure as hell does not.
THE BLUE HOLE | SANTA ROSA, NEW MEXICO
Wow. There were many things about The Blue Hole that were shocking. One was simply its existence. A bell-shaped hole in the earth with a depth of over 80 ft. and 3,000 gallons pumping into it every minute? Surprising. The 62°F (17°C) water? Downright breathtaking. I mean it. The first time I worked up the courage to jump in, I didn’t catch my breath until several minutes later—once I had climbed out and the balmy 96°F day had warmed my aching body again. Taking the leap was well worth it; after a few minutes acclimating to the water, you can easily free dive (or scuba). The water is clear, fresh, and awesome to swim about in, if you can stand it.
JERRY’S CAFE | GALLUP, NEW MEXICO
Alright, one last food stop. We stopped by Jerry’s for some Mexican while we were in New Mexico, and we picked a good one. The food was shockingly cheap, amazingly good, and don’t get me started on dessert. A Mexican Platter for one could easily feed three, with two tacos, two enchiladas, and ample rice and beans. The sopapillas were amongst the best I’ve ever had and I officially decided I couldn’t make up my mind between which country’s varietal on a dessert donut I loved best. It’s almost worth stopping by Gallup just for Jerry’s. You’re going through it anyways on your cross-country trip and who doesn’t love a good cheese-slathered meal?
It wouldn’t be a Route 66 appreciation post if you didn’t mention how absolutely glorious the vistas were along the way. You didn’t have to get off the highway to take in the views, which made it one of my favorite stretches along our cross-country trip. But if you did get off the highway, you’d come across the cutest towns, with old hotels, motels, and rarely a Holiday Inn. Chains don’t belong on Route 66, and given the heat, aridity, and the lack of a nearby metropolis, neither do I, but I definitely wouldn’t mind passing through again.
Keep up with my West Coast adventures by subscribing on WordPress or via email! Up next? Some misadventures and one of the largest natural landmarks on earth. XoXx Fernweh