ROUTE 66

Amarillo, Texas: Cadillac Ranch

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Although you’ll likely hear varied stories as to the origin of Cadillac Ranch, ranging from an eclectic millionaire’s way of disposing of his cars to setting up the ranch to lure vandals who could be caught and forced to work the property, the truth is, the ranch was a planned art installation completed in 1974. It consists of a line of ten cadillacs, buried halfway, front end100_2328-300x224 first into the dirt. The installation is meant as a tribute to the golden age of American automobiles. Graffiti cans (along with other, less useable trash) are scattered around the site as it has become somewhat of a tradition for visitors to leave their own mark on this ever-evolving art installation.

Santa Fe, New Mexico: Loretto Chapel & The Miraculous Staircase

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The centerpiece of this historic site is the spiral staircase located in the back of the chapel. Upon the completion of the chapel’s construction in 1878, it became apparent that there was no way to access the choir loft. As the story goes, several carpenters were called on to address the problem and they all had concluded that a ladder was the only option as building a staircase would interfere with the interior of the chapel. The sisters of the chapel would not accept this and made a novena to St. Joseph the patron saint of carpenters when, on the ninth and final day of prayer, a man appeared at the chapel and offered to take on the project. It was built and the man disappeared without any notice and without receiving any pay or thanks. The sisters launched a search to find him, but when he never turned up, it was decided that it must have been St. Joseph himself coming to the chapel’s rescue. The staircase has two 360 degree turns and no visible means of support. The legend suggests that only wooden pegs were used to secure the structure.

Valle, Arizona: Flinstone’s Bedrock

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Bedrock City was never on the Route 66 itinerary, yet there is was, rising out of the otherwise barren landscape on the way out of the Grand Canyon. Once you come upon a gigantic cut-out of Fred Flinstone amid an empty lot of full-size dinosaur skeletons you will know you have arrived in Bedrock. The theme park is a complete re-creation of the Bedrock we all know and love, from life-size figures of the entire Flintstones crew, to Barney & Fred’s houses, their vehicles, and numerous types of dinosaurs. In true roadside attraction fashion, Bedrock is a mix of nostalgia and absolute randomness. All of the characters and places are familiar but the reality of this early 1970’s gem will leave you with memories of what is best labeled as a Franken-Bedrock, where the people are built large and disproportionate and live among haphazardly constructed concrete props.

Tijuana! A slight diversion from Rte. 66

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Well, it is very obvious that Tijuana, Mexico is not on Route 66, but the reality is that most people making the all-American road trip are likely to take some side trips once they’ve reached the West Coast. After a quick drive from Los Angeles to San Diego, you can board the San Diego Trolley (Blue Line to San Ysidro; about $2) to be taken to the Mexican border at Tijuana. Easily do-able as a day trip, which coincidentally is probably just about as much time as anyone would want to stay there, Tijuana offers up some interesting sight-seeing and shopping. Assuming you are not attempting to pick up otherwise illegal pharmaceuticals, the best shopping acquisitions you can make come in the form of local handicrafts. Marionette dolls in traditional Mexican garb whose heads have been replaced with popular cartoon characters such as Marge Simpson or the dwarves from Disney’s Snow White, all things having to do with Mexican wrestling as well as Day of the Dead figurines and vignettes would make good gifts for your friends back home. Also, be sure to check out the fascinating yet totally bizarre wax museum (Museo de Cera de Tijuana), wherein you can find displays ranging from Aztec sacrificial killings to random configurations of celebrities like Julia Roberts, Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana seen pictured here.

Texola, Oklahoma: Ghost Town & Related Misadventures

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By definition, a ghost town is an abandoned settlement, so I guess Texola, formerly known as both Texokla and Texoma (due to the territory belonging to both Texas and Oklahoma over the years), fits within the description. Being a ghost town, there is not much to see beyond the abandoned buildings, but if you wander into the town far enough you will come across the former jail. A one room building, simply named “JAIL/Bandit Museum” by a homemade sign posted outside the door, the jail was built in 1910. Although the town is rumored to still have a few remaining residents, you probably won’t cross paths with any while passing through. However, a few lucky ones will meet Ms. Janet Dee, local artist (more likely than not responsible for the JAIL/Bandit Museum sign)/prophet/town sheriff who lives across from and “maintains” the jail/museum. Those of you who do meet her, well, I’m sure she will leave you with as good of a travel story as they come…