“Well it goes to St. Louis
Down to Missouri
Oklahoma City looks oh so pretty
You’ll see Amarillo
Gallup, New Mexico
Don’t forget Winona
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino”
“(Get your kicks on) Route 66” – Bobby Troup
If every biker has a dream, then riding a Harley-Davidson along Route 66 must feature in a lot of them
As a leather-jacketed youth of the “Easy Rider“ generation, Route 66 had long figured in my dreams and had a permanent presence in the back of my mind. Of course, if you ever start to examine things closely, you soon find out that Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper never went near the “Mother Road” at all. The whole “Easy Rider“ movie was shot on Route 10 in Alabama and Louisiana. It is hard to believe now, but when I was 17, there was no internet. There were not even mobile telephones. Information in those days was harder to come by.
In 2006, a serious American road trip was something that, despite having ridden, at that time, over 1,116,000 miles, I had never undertaken.
In the mid 1990s, I suffered a slipped disc in my back and part of the so-called “cure” was an enforced retirement from motorcycling. Despite the medical advice, I had still ridden a few rental machines at holiday locations, since that time and and had suffered no ill effects with my back.
In 2005 an aged aunt of mine passed away. She had been born in the early 1900s and had spent her whole life living in country villages. Even London, less than 35 miles from where she lived, was only ever visited twice. She lived her whole life in a circle of about fifty miles in diameter and did all her travelling vicariously through her nephew and godson. That was me. When she died, she left me a small amount of money and every postcard I had ever sent her. When I sat on my aunt’s bed, with that stack of postcards in my hand, I more or less decided on the spot to throw caution to the wind and to blow my inheritance with a ride down Route 66. And, indeed, I did and, thanks to a weak dollar, I did not even blow it all !
In the end, not only Route 66 and the eight States it passes through, but also another 10,000 or so miles of American asphalt and another thirty States disappeared under the wheels of a rented Harley-Davidson FatBoy.
I think I need to say at the outset that, in 2006 when I did this trip, the internet was still in its “public” infancy. It existed, of course, but it was still more of an aid to academics than the bottomless pit of information, both real and false, that it is today. It was certainly not common many businesses, let alone for “normal” people to have websites. I never dreamed in those far off days that I would ever be “putting all of this out there”.
As a consequence, this particular history has been compiled from the surviving notes I took at the time (a lot became pulp during some of the worst rain I have ever experienced on two wheels on the penultimate day of the trip) and the relatively few photos I took because Memory Cards then were comparatively small. In short, I did the trip and wrote about it very much as an afterthought. I did not do it only to write about it. For all these reasons, I often missed things I should have seen and failed to photograph a lot of the things that I would definitely capture now. I believe it is accurate although there were long stretches, particularly after Santa Monica, where I made few notes and, for reasons of sloth or stupidity, took no photos.
I have tried, in retrospect, to use Google Maps to show where I went. Sadly, there is no way that that program can be persuaded to illustrate it accurately. The daily start and finish points are accurate – but on the big maps, more illustrative than completely accurate. In the more localised ones, particularly between Oklahoma and California, they are more accurate, but please do not take them as gospel. If you decide to go yourself, do what I really failed to do myself, some prior research !!
As to the writing, it was compiled from my scribbled notes, many of which were ruined by rain. If it seems sketchy or incomplete in places, I apologise. I was an ingénue in those days.