Book Review: Route 66 Adventure Handbook

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Review of Route 66 Adventure Handbook
Review of the book Route 66 Adventure Handbook: Full Throttle Sixth Edition by Drew Knowles

There is a mystique and romanticism associated with travelling Route 66. It is a road trip that evokes nostalgia along a highway that has come to symbolize the American Dream. Route 66 Adventure Handbook Full Throttle Sixth Edition by Drew Knowles, published in July 2023 by Santa Monica Press, is a guide to exploring the legendary road and the attractions along it.

Route 66 Adventure Handbook book cover

The book begins with information about what Route 66 is. In 1926, the U.S. highway numbering system began. Numbers ending in 0 were reserved for major coast-to-coast routes. Highway 66 between Chicago, Illinois and Los Angeles, California was deemed to be of lesser importance and given the number 66. It started its ascension into America’s cultural lore when John Steinbeck mentioned it in his 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath and gave it the nickname Mother Road. Shortly after World War II, Bobby Troup penned the song Route 66 (where you could “get your kicks”). At about the same time, Jack Rittenhouse published A Guidebook to Route 66.

Many people had personal experience with the highway over the next few decades. The late 1950s saw the start of the Interstate system. Route 66 was functionally replaced with a series of five different modern highways. Although Route 66 no longer officially exists, much of the road remains, often renumbered by the state or county it belongs to. Sometimes the road runs parallel to the Interstate. Sometimes it serves as an access road.

If you’ve purposefully travelled portions of Route 66, you’ll know it can sometimes be difficult to find parts of the route. While the book does not tell you exactly every turn to make to stay on the route, Knowles provides a lot of good general and specific guidance. The book contains numerous maps throughout the chapters, particularly about navigating around more challenging towns. There are also navigational boxes with specific instructions. These are very useful features of the book.

Bodies of old Cadillac car son end with one end partially buried and the remaining portion spray painted many colours at Cadillac Ranch
Cadillac Ranch

Cadillac Ranch, pictured above, is one of the offbeat attractions along Route 66. It was created in 1974, well after Route 66 ceased to officially exist. The Cadillac models featured in the art installation date from years 1948 to 1963. Cars of that vintage may indeed have travelled the Mother Road. I wrote more about Cadillac Ranch here.

The book contains an extensive list of attractions to see along the way. The attractions include quirky roadside attractions, unique museums, great architecture, shops, vintage motels and cafés, monuments, bridges, and more. The book is organized into chapters by state, going east to west: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Within each chapter, towns are also listed in east to west order. Most towns contain a small bit of information about the town itself followed by a list of attractions in and around the town. QR codes for a few locations lead you to more online information. Sometimes, suggested side trips take you a little bit away from Route 66 to see something of interest. Chapters also contain fun pieces of trivia.

Faded old neon sign of motel and café along Route 66

Black and white photographs of various attractions, with GPS coordinates listed, pepper the chapters. In the centre of the book, you’ll find a collection of colour photos. One of those photos is of Roy’s Motel & Café neon sign. It is much better condition than the above photo, which I took in 2009. At that time the neon was no longer functioning. The sign was restored in 2019.

Although some places like Roy’s Motel & Café show new signs of life, Knowles has witnessed the decay, demolition, and disappearance of roadside features over the years. He encourages you to explore Route 66 as soon as possible. He provides guidance for doing that. He urges you not to plan your trip too precisely, but to instead go with the flow and “plan for the Adventure on Route 66 to take charge of you.” The information in the book can help you choose what to see. An index at the back lists all the attractions.

Although a few eateries and vintage motels of note are included in the attractions, this book does not include places to stay and eat along the way. It is all about the route and its attractions. You build your trip around that.

Stone front of vintage hotel with white columns and white trim

The historic El Rancho Hotel along Route 66 in Gallup, Mexico is still very much operational. Read my post about the hotel here.

I’ve only seen bits of Route 66 to date and have wanted to experience more of it. Route 66 Adventure Handbook rekindled that interest. It is a great resource to have with you whether you are intentionally exploring all or portions of the route or whether you just happen to be in the vicinity of a Route 66 area for another reason. I read the digital version of the book. I think I’d get the physical, hardcopy book to have with me in my car on a Route 66 road trip, but that is a personal preference. Either of the digital version or the hardcopy makes a fantastic companion and guide for the trip.

Note: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for a honest review. Opinions and observations about the book are my own.

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Route 66 Adventure Handbook Book Review - Review of the Route 66 Adventure Handbook Full Throttle Sixth Edition by Drew Knowles. Guide to navigation, attractions, and more.

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One Comment

  1. Living on the east coast I’ve never road tripped the west. I was on a short stretch of Route 66 in New Mexico once. I remember eating at the Route 66 diner. Wonder if that’s in Knowles’ book.