This left us wanting to know more about the Mother Road, so we turned to an expert. Ron Warnick created Route66News.com in 2005 and has become an expert on the historic route. Read what he had to say about his history with the famous Route 66, and some of his picks for the top restaurants and attractions.
Travel Channel: What made you start the Route 66 News site?
Ron Warnick: I began Route 66 News in October 2005 because I saw a need for an online source of timely news about the Mother Road. The only publications that dealt with Route 66 news were published only quarterly. A Route 66 forum existed on Yahoo!, but it's accessible only to its members. At the time, no publication or website gave you timely information. With my extensive background in journalism and lots of contacts on the road, I thought my talents would be well-suited for such an online venture. I had not planned using a blog platform, but realized its archive system and multimedia capabilities made it the best fit for Route 66 News. And I give due credit to other media sources that break stories.
Travel Channel: What’s your best Route 66 memory?
Ron Warnick: This may sound odd, but one indelible memory was when I drove a little-traveled section of four-lane Route 66 west of Erick, OK. Going into the setting sun, I saw something in the roadway a half-mile or so ahead. I thought perhaps it was a large dog or a cow. But as I approached, I realized it was a flock of wild turkeys -- probably two dozen -- leisurely strolling across the road. The turkeys didn't seem overly concerned about us, and they looked quite fat and happy after dining on grasshoppers in the fields. It was then I realized you could see just about anything while traveling the Mother Road.
Travel Channel: What would your picks be for the top five restaurants?
Ron Warnick: Tough to narrow down, but I would say Clanton's Cafe in Vinita, OK, Ted Drewes Frozen Custard in St. Louis, MO, Cafe on the Route in Baxter Springs, KS, Snow-Cap Drive-In in Seligman, AZ, and Bobcat Bite in Santa Fe, NM for unforgettable atmosphere and overall good food. My picks may change daily.
Travel Channel: What about top five attractions? Most bizarre attractions?
Ron Warnick: Best attractions are Santa Monica Pier, Petrified Forest National Park, Grand Canyon, Route 66 Museum in Clinton, OK, and the magnificent skies and terrain of New Mexico. I realize I didn't include many man-made attractions, but the natural stuff leaves me in awe. Most bizarre would probably have to be the World's Largest Rocking Chair at Fanning Outpost in Fanning, MO; the wild burros of Oatman, AZ.; and the Cadillac Ranch of Amarillo, TX which acquires visitors on a scale almost as if it's a religious pilgrimage.
Travel Channel: Any best kept secrets of Route 66 you can share?
Ron Warnick: There aren't many secrets on 66. But the 17-mile gravel stretch of Route 66 from Glenrio, TX, to San Jon, NM, remains an obscure treasure. La Bajada Hill halfway between Santa Fe and Albuquerque was a 1920s alignment of 66 that can only be hiked today. The last time we were there, a white dog named Blanco followed us up to the top of the mesa. And there's a semi-obscure brick section of 66 near Auburn, IL, that's off a 1926-32 alignment of 66. And I certainly recommend a hike into Amboy Crater, a dormant volcano in the Mojave Desert, if temperatures and physical endurance allow.
Travel Channel: Anything else people should know about the Mother Road?
Ron Warnick: Route 66 is an alternative way of seeing America -- the good, bad and ugly of it, and the obscure land and people that have been abandoned or forgotten by interstate travelers. It changed my life when I traveled it for the first time more than 10 years ago; it probably will change yours.