Julie and John Lindsay, and their daughter Violet (17).
Last July, the Lindsays drove from Chicago, US to Santa Monica in California along the original Route 66. Over two weeks, they traveled through eight different states and covered roughly 4,180km (2,600 miles). The family booked their accommodations through Expedia (www.expedia.com), and stayed in inexpensive hotels and motels. They also stayed in two different Kampgrounds of America cabins. KOA is an American campground chain with nearly 470 locations throughout North America.
Roundtrip airfare cost approximately RMB 6,500 per person; the family flew from Beijing to Chicago, then returned to Beijing from San Francisco. Accommodations averaged around RMB 800 per night. The rental car cost around RMB 9,500 for 15 days, plus a one-way drop off charge of RMB 3,200. Meals were relatively cheap; the Lindsays ate good quality food in family restaurants along the way.
The Best Part
The trip allowed the Lindsays to experience a geographical, social, historical, and musical cross-section of the US as symbolized by Route 66. Highlights included:
• Stopping at historical locations along the way and getting a sense of what life was like in the 1950s and 1960s
• Visiting museums, such as the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City, the American Quarter Horse Heritage Center and Museum in Amarillo, and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque
• Seeing the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico, which was surrounded with beautiful red rocks and multicolored landscapes
• Taking a side trip to Oatman, Arizona, a former gold mining town that now features roaming donkeys, ice cream shops, and cold beer at the bar
The Worst Part
The Lindsays had a smooth trip for the most part. The most demanding part was the final leg from San Bernardino to Santa Monica, which meant driving on busy freeways. The section contrasted with the wide expanses of landscape that they had experienced up to that point.
The family got to meet the real-life person who inspired the character of Mater the broken-down pickup truck from Pixar’s Cars. This happened at a former 1930’s Phillips 66 gas station in Kansas (now the Baxter Springs Visitor Center).
Because Route 66 is a tourist attraction, children were well cared for along the entire route. Restaurants had kid-friendly options and souvenir shops had extensive children’s sections. The motels had swimming pools and the KOA campgrounds had great facilities for families, including pools, laundry services, small shops for food and souvenirs, and playgrounds.
• It’s really worth doing the full trip, as the scenery changes dramatically across the eight states.
• Even though the Lindsays stayed in a self-catering cabin with a fridge and a microwave, the limited cutlery, plates, and cooking utensils made it difficult for them to actually make their own meals. KOA campgrounds also tend to be in more isolated places, which can be both an advantage and a disadvantage.
• The family relied on a MiFi wireless router to connect to the Internet for GP S navigation and to research upcoming towns or restaurants.
• To read more, visit Violet’s blog at http://lindsay66.posterous.com. She wrote a detailed project about Route 66 for one of her classes at Beijing BISS International School.