4,000 Number of feet I stood nervously above the ground on the Grand Canyon Skywalk 2,558 Number of miles traveled by car
25 Number of times I talked to my stuffed cow, "Moo" as if he were real
10 Number of unforgettable sites I visited
9 Number of forgettable fast food meals I consumed (Don't even say the word Sonic to me!)
8 Number of states traveled through
6 Number of days traveled
5 Number of pounds gained
3 Number of times I cried
2 Number of giant legs I posed with
1 Number of shirtless men who kissed me on the cheek & called me Lisa Stainkull
0 Number of Starbucks
My song about driving across the "Mother Road" would go a little something like this: There's a lot of ways to get your kicks at 36...but one of them has got to be driving route 66!
You might be wondering why Matt and I took this trip. Well, I'm "shmoving"--sort of moving--to Chicago. For now, I choose not to use the word, "moving" because I'm still going to have my condo in Long Beach with my car in the garage and several pairs of four inch heels in my closet. There's a lot more to come on the L.A. girl goes Midwest story. But for now, let's just say most of the time, you'll find me in a quaint suburb outside of Chicago starting what I like to call "the rest of my life".
We packed up the rented SUV with my must-have, can't live with outs (shoes, books and one stuffed cow, "Moo") and hit route 66 in reverse from Santa Monica to Chicago. And after a long journey across the USA, here are my route 66 travel tips:
#1 DON'T MAKE THE SAME GRAND (CANYON) MISTAKE I DID
Note to self: Never stay out until 3a.m. just hours before you're going to visit one of the seven wonders of the world.
Um, because, it's just. Plain. Stupid.
I was a HOT MESS as we weaved our way for two hours through miles of gravel roads and construction to what we thought was the location of The Grand Canyon Skywalk, only to be informed that we'd have to board a shuttle that would take us out to the site. (And we were lucky enough to get a peppy driver named Paco who had the entire bus sing, "Who Let the Dogs Out" woof, woof, woof...)
Leading up to the skywalk, you can walk right over to the open canyon. I'll admit, I was very jumpy that day (something about being able to plummet to your death with one misstep) and had watched one too many people deliberately stand too close to the edge pretending to fall off. (Ha fu**ing ha!) So, when Matt wanted to step down into a crevice and sit on a two-inch crack where you could see a sliver of the canyon floor below (almost a mile down!), I started to cry and begged him not to. It didn't matter that a 75-year old woman had just had her photo taken there!
Once out on the Skywalk, it was the strangest sensation to be able to see the ground below and feel like I could fall through (even though five different Skywalk employees patiently explained to me that it could hold the weight of 70 fully loaded 747's). And to the Skywalk photogs who thought you were soooo funny when you ran up behind people like me and scared us, you'd better watch your back or I'll sick my new friend, Harley on you. (See #4.)
#2 DON'T EXPECT YOUR TEEPEE TO HAVE WIFI!
After the Grand Canyon, we made our way to our stopping point for the night, another Route 66 landmark, Wigwam Village in Holbrook, AZ, and slept in a concrete teepee for two. It's probably the only teepee in history to have cable TV and turn down service, but no wifi. Didn't the wigwams understand that I desperately needed to change my Facebook profile picture? As I lay in my tiny bed watching Conan O'Brien, I silently cursed myself for not buying that air card for the journey.
#3 MAKE FRIENDS WITH BILL AT THE BLUE SWALLOW MOTEL
The next morning we ended up meeting a bunch of really nice Norwegians (also on a route 66 tour) at another famous Route 66 diner, Joe and Aggie's Cafe, and took pictures with them.
Later, after traveling through New Mexico (beautiful-even at 90 MPH!), we arrived at the The Blue Swallow Motel. And that's where we met the owner, Bill Kinder, who instantly became our route 66 concierge.
Bill Kinder (the most appropriate last name evuh as I've never met someone, well, kinder) showed us around our room. And I quote Bill, "We have REAL towels from Bed Bath and Beyond, not those awful motel towels and if you look real close, you'll see the toilet paper has The Blue Swallow emblem on it and we've got real oak toilet seats too!"
We were in the middle of a lightning storm which Bill said can destroy the neon signs out front. But, for us (and several people after) he turned the neon on so we could get a quick photo. (Just a bit of quick trivia because I'm in love with Bill: Bill's neon 100% Refrigerated Air sign is replicated in the movie, Cars.)
When we asked our new friend where to go for food, he didn't skip a beat. "There's only one place in town--The Lizard Lounge at the Pow Wow Inn. Tell 'em Bill from The Blue Swallow sent ya." When we walked in, it was like stepping into a scene out of the Urban Cowboy. A live band was singing, Looking for Love, people were two stepping and there were more mullets than I could count! (Trust me, I tried!)
When I got carded (yeah, you read that right, I got carded!) and didn't have my ID (because I'm 36 and in the middle of nowhere!) we almost had to leave until we told the bouncer that we knew Bill. And even though the kitchen was closed, we got to eat because, you guessed it, we knew Bill. We'll miss your connections back in the real world, Bill!
#4 YOU HAVE NOT LIVED UNTIL YOU'VE STOOD BETWEEN A HUGE PAIR OF LEGS Our trusted concierge told us we must have breakfast with his friends at The Midpoint Cafe in Adrian, TX located halfway between L.A. and Chicago (where I joked "there's no turning back now!") I'd like to give a shout out to Fran and Tommy who never complained while taking a thousand photos of us, with us, with Moo Cow... you name it, they took it! We loved your diner!
Next, we headed to the Cadillac Ranch where we were highly amused by ten old, graffiti covered caddys sticking out of the mud. Big thanks to our friend, Barbara, who loaned us a can of spray paint so we could spray the name we're now calling ourselves, The Stannenfeldts (Steinke + Dannenfeldt) on the ground next to the cars.
Then we headed to a site not technically part of Route 66 (although it should be!) and jumped a fence to see the HUGE PAIR OF LEGS in the middle of a cow pasture! We spent far too much time posing with them and making videos about them, but we didn't care. We thought they were AWESOME! (or maybe that was mostly me?)
And then....it was on to Erick, TX where we almost didn't stop because it was getting late...
When we walked into the Sandhills Curiosity Shop, the little bell on the door chimed as we entered. We rounded the corner with huge grins, excited to meet Annabelle and Harley who Bill raved about so much, I imagined them to be the Brad Pitt and Angelina of Oklahoma. But we stopped dead in our tracks when we came face to face with a crazy-eyed guy wearing overalls without a shirt, his nipple popping out the side, who screamed that he'd been expecting us...and our cow. We were immediately introduced to the other frightened looking people in the room--a couple from Denmark and two women from Chicago who didn't bat an eye at Moo Cow because they were traveling with a stuffed friend of their own, none other than Huggy Jesus! There are no words to describe our experience of meeting the man who called me Lisa Stainkull and really, really liked to touch Matt's chest, and his wife, Annabelle, so I'll just let you use your imaginations. They say pictures are worth 1,000 words...Or, you can watch this video of them on Youtube.
#5 DON'T FORGET THE KETCHUP!
Fries need it! What's a hot dog without it? And our route 66 trip definitely wouldn't have been complete without it. Our final stop was the World's largest Catsup Bottle in Collinsville, Illinois. Because you really haven't lived until you've seen a 170 foot tall bottle of ketchup! And from there, Matt, Moo Cow and I journeyed on until we reached our final destination, Libertyville, Illinois, otherwise known as home.
PS: Route 66 was full of some of the nicest people I've ever met. So, I'd also like to give a shout out to Don and Joy, the wonderful owners of The Leggett House in Carthage, MO. From the baked cookies and cold milk at check in to the delicious pancake breakfast the next morning, we absolutely loved your B&B and your hospitality!