Route 66 Road Trip: Here's What You Need To See
Road trips are a rite of summer.
There’s no better way to enjoy the warm temperatures, the time off work and need for a little adventure than with the top down on the open road. And if you’re in the mood for a classic American vacation, then you might as well travel along a classic American road.
Long before the Interstate Highway System connected every major city in the country – and minor too, for that matter – there was Route 66, the original highway. Established in 1928, it was the first road to link the 2,448 miles between Chicago and Los Angeles.
You may have heard that Route 66 deteriorated when the interstates arrived in the 1950s, leaving nothing but a dusty trail of schlock-filled tourist traps. That’s partly true. What you may not know is that, interstates aside, the current Route 66 has plenty to offer motorists who travel its path.
Here’s a look at five places that are still must-see stops along the route and the five convertibles you should see them in.
MSRP: $49,600 - $111,600
Invoice: $45,136 - $104,346
Fuel economy: 16 city/26 highway
The Corvette is a two-seat sports car available as a targa-roof coupe, convertible, or the high-performance Z06 and ZR1 hardtop coupes. The coupe and convertible come with a 430-hp LS3 6.2-liter V8 engine and six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic with steering wheel paddle shifters is available. An optional dual-mode exhaust increases horsepower to 436-hp.
The Grand Sport trim adds a performance package to the coupe and convertible with a sportier suspension, wider wheels, tires, and fenders, and high performance brakes.
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Start your drive in Chicago, drive four hours south, enjoy a glimpse of the Gateway Arch as you pass through St. Louis and continue for another hour-and-a-half until reaching Carthage, Missouri.
In 1941, there were 52 drive-in theaters in operation nationwide. The number surged to 4,500 by 1956, according to the National Park Service. Today? The number’s more like it was in 1941.
The 66 Drive-In is one of the few that remains fully operational. This week, you can get a fix of nostalgia at the drive-in theater and see current features like Snow White and The Huntsman and Men In Black 3.
More info: 66-Drive-In-Route 66
Audi S5 Cabriolet
Fuel economy: NA
It’s grace. It’s elegance. It’s performance that leaves your eyes tearing up from either the wind in your face or you inability to believe a convertible this nice can perform so perfectly on the road: The Audi S5 Cabriolet.
Powered by a either a 3-liter supercharged V6 or a 4.2-liter direct injection V8, the S5 is that perfect mix of power and performance. It’s classic exterior and well-laid out four-person interior make even the most mundane crosstown chore an adventure.
By the time you leave Carthage and travel another 214 miles south, you might be ready for something to eat. After seeing two days worth of nostalgia, check out something decidedly futuristic.
That would be Pops Restaurant, just northeast of Oklahoma City in Arcadia. The food itself is your typical burger-and-fries fare. But you won’t find another selection of sodas like this, more than 600 overall imported from around the world. Sample everything from Guarana Brazilla to Waialua Pineapple soda here.
That should give you more than enough caffeine to fuel the next leg of the journey.
More info: Pops Restaurant
BMW 650i Convertible
Fuel Economy: 15 city/22 highway
The new BMW 650i creates 400 horsepower with its 4.4-liter V8 and comes with a variety of high-tech features that help make mince meat out of mountain carving.
All-new for the 2012 model year, this drop-top Bimmer includes a sports tuned suspension, a six-speed manual transmission or eight-speed automatic and options such as adaptive cruise control and night vision.
It’s science and technology at the forefront that can make any driver look as good as a professional.
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Here’s one for the car lovers. The Cadillac Ranch, a public art project and sculpture is located in Amarillo, Texas and is a breathtaking look at, among other things, the evolution of mid-20th century Cadillacs that lie half-burned in the ground.
Visitors are allowed to contribute to the art piece by painting on the vehicles, which were immortalized in Bruce Springsteen’s “Cadillac Ranch,” a macabre story of death and dying told through this Route 66 landmark.
More info: Cadillac Ranch
MSRP: $48,100 - $65,200
Fuel Economy: 19 city/27 highway
It’s the mid-engine roadster under $50,000. And it’s a Porsche in every sense of the word. What more could a driver ask for?
Powered by Porsche’s 2.9-liter flat six-cylinder engine in the base model, the Boxster still has plenty of punch on the highway. If 255 horsepower isn’t enough for you, there’s always the 310 horsepower 3.4-liter flat six in the Boxster S.
In either case, this lightweight racer makes any road trip a thrill ride. Add to it Porsche’s PDK automatic transmission and a driver won’t have a care in the world except where to put his luggage. But act now, the 2012 Boxster is being replaced by an all-new redesigned 2013 model.
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Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
More than 20 years after her death, the museum that bears Georgia O’Keeffe’s name remains one of the most popular attractions in the state of New Mexico. It is, according to the museum’s website, the only museum in the world dedicated to an internationally known American female artist.
Although she first gained fame in New York, the New Mexico landscape that populates much of the Route 66 drive is “instantly recognizable” in her work. At one time, she said the state expressed “the wideness and wonder of the world as I live in it.”
The museum, in Santa Fe, N.M., holds more than 3,000 O’Keeffe original works.
More info: Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
Aston Martin DB9 Volante
Fuel Economy: 13 city/20 highway
As one might expect, this particular model, which includes a crystal key fob, comes with every luxury a person could expect and performance no one should underestimate. Under its hood is a 6-liter V-12 that creates 470 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque. There’s also a 1,000 watt Bang & Olufsen BeoSound system also available.
With a 0 to 60 mph time well under five seconds, the DB9 convertible is the ultimate in speed and fun. Of course, paying for it may be another story.
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Petrified Forest National Park
After a few days in the car, it’s time to park for a while and enjoy one of the more underrated national parks in the country. Hear near Holbrook, Ariz., there are hiking trails for every level of experience across 50,260 acres of the park’s boundary, including many that can be done in one day or less.
The desert climate is a perfect place to find dinosaur fossils, check out wood petrified in the Late Triassic period, some 225 million years ago, and perhaps even come across a scorpion or two. Much like your car, make sure to top off your fluid levels before embarking on this trip.
More info: Petrified Forest National Park