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Route 66

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By James Stone

I'd really had enough of Colin's adventures. If it wasn't bird watching in South America it was vampire spotting in Transylvania. One man's patience can only stretch so far. So for my next trip abroad I decided to find some new friends and strike out along the remnants of the famous Route 66 in the US. Luckily, I'd recently fallen in with a couple of free spirits down at the local tennis club: Neil and Brian. They were keen to join me on my weeklong escapade and were only too pleased to share some of the driving chores.

Much of the old Route 66, which ran from Chicago to Los Angles, a full 2,448 miles, is no longer in existence. Once the US brought in its extensive system of Interstate Highways, many of the smaller original Highways were built over. Although decommissioned in 1985, recent years have seen the mention of Historic Route 66 return to a part of the old route in parts of New Mexico and Arizona, the states that would provide the main bulk of our journey.

We couldn't do it all, we simply didn't have time, so we flew in to Oklahoma City, hired a decidedly cramped Ford vehicle of some description and headed west. God, it was a desolate journey.

While I am no particular fan of city driving, at least the other cars around you and the occasional obstacle keeps you alert. Along Route 66 there was miles of farmland followed by many miles more. The tedium of the journey did not set in for the first few days, however. I can well remember the excitement as we headed out from the airport and made the turn on to the road that would be our companion for the next few days. In fact, there was loud cheering as we saw the first Route 66 sign, closely followed by the sound of the first can of beer being opened. The scenery was quite unlike anything I'd ever witnessed. Either hundreds of acres of fields or thousands of acres of just barren dirt - it was unreal and extremely exciting.

It was only on the third day, after we had spent 11 hours of the previous one making our way from Oklahoma, through Texas to New Mexico, that the boredom set in and I remember longing for us to arrive at our evening's stop off point of Albuquerque. The evenings were always fun. American diners were an eye opening experience, we received a wonderfully friendly welcome wherever we went, and the bars were full of people who had never met a real Englishman before.

Tempers were becoming frayed by the time we crossed the border in to Arizona and the sight of the desert only managed to keep the aggravation down for about five minutes. I even found myself longing to be back with Colin, who was probably that minute turtle watching in the Galapagos Islands.

As we rolled in to Kingman, Arizona, out last port of call, our mood lifted and we looked back on our weeklong journey through four states with a sense of achievement, but with the knowledge that we would never, ever, do it again.


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