We drove from Laughlin to Santa Fe, some on Route 66 and some on the parallel I40 motorway. We came to the conclusion that a lot of people want R66 to be something special, but it isn't really working. The main problem is that in between the 'interesting' stuff there's an awful lot of road. So if you don't mind driving for an hour to get a picture of yourself outside a quirky building, then another hour for a coffee at a kitsch cafe, then another hour... you get the idea.
That's not to say that it's all bad. There are some very cool things to see and do - feeding the donkeys in Oatman, drinking a Coke outside Hackberry General Store, chatting with Navajo in Gallup, standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona.
The towns that R66 passes through range from cute (Oatman) and friendly (Holbrook) through unattractive (Winslow) to depressing (Grants). And if you stick rigidly to R66, you're going to miss the photogenic magic of Sedona and the beguiling laid-back charm of Camp Verde.
So here are our top 6 tips-
1) Don't hesitate to deviate from the route. Some of the best places aren't actually on R66.
2) Don't book a motel near the railway line if noise bothers you. These aren't whispering electric commuter trains, these are half-mile-long monsters with gut-rumbling horns and clanging level-crossing alarms. Especially relevant if you're thinking of staying in Holbrook - beware the Wigwam Motel. If you visit Grants you'll see a number of closed-down and boarded-up motels, and they're all a few yards from the tracks. It's not a coincidence.
3) Think carefully about where you eat. For hamburgers and Mexican food you will be spoilt for choice; if you want anything at all different or niche (vegetarian, nut-free, kosher, halal, etc) you should do some research before you go.
4) Don't feel the need to see everything. Some of the distances are huge, and you could find yourself spending most of your holiday in the car.
5) Be prepared for long miles of nothing very much.
6) Think twice before bringing kids along. There are some very child-friendly experiences on R66 but they are such a long way apart that you will be subjecting kids to hour after hour of back-seat boredom. And a lot of the attractions hold little appeal for kids - the Petrified Forest, for instance. We lost count of the number of harassed parents and bored kids we saw.
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