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Route 66 Adventure Handbook: Turbocharged Fourth Edition

Drew Knowles

(Santa Monica Press; US: Aug 2011)

Since publishing the first edition of Route 66 Adventure Handbook nearly ten years ago, author Drew Knowles has continually added to, and modified, this indispensable volume. The book begins with a great essay about traveling America’s most famous road. Knowles suggests that the best way to do it is to go with the flow, letting the journey itself dictate the itinerary.


The new, “turbocharged” fourth edition of this guide includes entries for all of the roadside attractions, classic diners, mid-20th-century motels and natural wonders winding westward from Route 66’s origin in Chicago to its termination in Santa Monica. Of course, not all of the attractions are still there for the adventurous explorer to see, but Knowles’s descriptions provide all the mystique and lore you’d expect for the long-gone places, and his practical tips and techniques for getting to the destinations that are still there to see are excellent.


This edition is 48 pages longer than the previous edition, has plenty of new and updated information, and is filled with lots of great black-and-white photographs. The simple, easy-to-read layout is made for reading aloud from the passenger seat or roadside picnic table, but it’s also perfect for perusing on the couch.  More than just an en route travel guide, the Route 66 Adventure Handbook is an engaging look at America’s rich cultural history.  Whether you read it cover to cover, or flip to a random page, there’s a wealth of interesting facts and fun anecdotes to be found.


For example, though most people know that the two endpoints of Route 66 are in Illinois and California, I was unaware that there are official, specific starting-and-ending spots, in addition to the more symbolic beginning and terminations. In Chicago, the traditional spot is Lakeshore Drive along Lake Michigan, but the official starting point is at the Art Institute of Chicago on the corner of Adams Street and Michigan Avenue. In Los Angeles, the storied starting point and/or finish line is the Santa Monica Pier, however, officially, it’s a few blocks away at the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and Ocean Avenue.


In the entries for towns along the route (the book follows the traditional westward progression), Knowles describes the people, places and things for which that stop is famous. There are extensive entries for cities of note, but also for cultural icons (The Billy the Kid Museum is in Ft. Sumner, New Mexico, complete with a replica of Billy’s grave. If you want to find the real grave site, however, you’ll need to drive about seven miles out of town.), architectural wonders (you can tour a home built by Frank Lloyd Wright in Kirkwood, Missouri), and general points of interest (like Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo, Texas or Totem Pole Park outside Foyil, Oklahoma).  Historical tales like that of the curious corpse of Elmer McCurdy in Guthrie, Oklahoma, and the naming of Joliet, Illinois, are entertaining, while the give even greater depth and color to the stops along the way.


Route 66 Adventure Handbook includes more than 70 maps, it has sections on how to read old road signs, and it employs an icon in the shape of a classic Corvette to draw attention to tips and tricks for finding Route 66’s lesser-known parts. (For example: “West of Vinita, you’ll need to ignore the turnoff for U.S. 69 and continue straight ahead. Then begin following the Oklahoma State Highway 66.”) As a bonus to all of the entries for cities and stops along Route 66, Knowles provides descriptions of other historical routes—such as the Trail of Tears and the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail—and a listing of tourist information centers for each state, at the back of the book.


As is inevitably the case with locations of historical significance, some of Knowles’s information is out of date, even in this newest, “turbocharged” edition, but the spirit of the road is still there, and anyone who feels it will enjoy Route 66 Adventure Handbook

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Christel Loar is a freelance writer and editor, a part-time music publicist, and a full-time music fan. She is often an overreactor and sometimes an overachiever. When not dodging raindrops or devising escape plans, Christel is usually found down front and slightly left of center stage reveling in a performance by yet another new favorite band.


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