Route 66 is a 2448 mile trip without taking in to account small detours or larger side-trips. That’s an awful lot of driving!
Considering how much time you’re going to spend behind the wheel it’s imperative that you try to make the journey as comfortable (and therefore safer) as possible. Here are my 5 tips to keep comfortable when driving Route 66…
1. Stretch your legs
It’s the most often-repeated advice to any driver regardless of whether they’re on Route 66 or not – but taking breaks is essential to keeping comfortable and safe. Current advice is to not drive for longer than 2 hours without taking at least a 15 minute break. With that in mind, it’s actually unlikely or very rare that you’d find yourself driving for this long on Route 66 without stopping to take it all in anyway.
So be sure to take regular breaks – but not just for the safety aspect – because that’s what the Route 66 experience is all about. Stop at cafe’s, diners, museums, roadside art, photo ops… Have a coffee or soda, buy a fridge magnet or postcard from a small business, chat to the locals… Basically, do your best to support the local businesses that embody the spirit of Route 66. Without custom of Route 66 tourism many businesses just wouldn’t survive. Perhaps decide on a collection before your trip – maybe a postcard or fridge magnet from each town or attraction you stop at. When I returned from my trip I was able to plot my journey on the side of my fridge using a huge array of magnets – it became quite a talking point!
2. Choose a soundtrack
It’s just not a road-trip without a great set of tunes to set the mood! There are numerous radio stations along Route 66 to soundtrack your road-trip. If you’re after the traditional American road-trip sound then the following stations will provide you with a mix of classic rock, country and rockabilly:
- WXRT (93.1FM) – Chicago, Illinois
- KDHX (88.1FM) – St Louis, Missouri
- KKNG (93.3FM) – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
- KACV (89.9FM) – Amarillo, Texas
- KTNN (96.1FM) – Navajo Nation (near Gallup), New Mexico
- Route 66 Oldies (103.3FM) – Williams, Arizona
- KCRW (89.9FM) – Santa Monica, California
But keep exploring the airwaves – there are numerous stations along the route just waiting to be discovered. I like to make a note of some of the best tracks I stumble across so I can make a playlist when I return home.
3. Snacks and drinks
You’ll spend a lot of time in the car so make sure you have a small selection of snacks to nibble on and keep the energy up. When you stop of at one of the small towns maybe pick up a bag of pretzels or some boiled sweets. If you’re going to opt for something healthier then be prepared and carry a cool bag with you to keep things fresh. Just be sure that whatever you choose it’s something that is safe and easy to eat on the road.
Another great tip is to always have a load of bottled water in the car. Before leaving Chicago I made sure that I visited a mini-mart and picked up a crate of bottles so that we would always have a steady supply of drinks. Of course, in this more eco-aware time it would actually be better to carry a refillable bottle to reduce plastic waste. Either way you’ll be glad to have a fresh drink with you to keep you hydrated and the energy levels high.
4. Take turns
If you’re driving with a partner try and take turns behind the wheel. Not only will it prevent one person becoming worn out and tired on the road, but the process of driving Route 66 is just as enjoyable for the passenger as it is for the driver. Taking a rest from behind the wheel will give you an opportunity to soak up the scenery, maybe film some footage and take photos, or simply take control of the radio!
If you’ve traveled to the US from overseas you may find yourself driving with a passenger that is reluctant to take the wheel. Maybe they’re anxious about driving on a different side of the road, or they’ve not used an automatic transmission, or they are simply not confident drivers. If this is the case then you may very well find that once you’ve moved away from the built up areas, and you hit the quieter, more open roads, that your passenger becomes a little less reluctant to give it a go. My wife had no intention of driving on our trip, but once she realized that large portions of Route 66 are driven on clear roads she decided to give it go. She loved it of course and then for the remainder of the trip we shared duties, with me taking over when we approached built-up areas.
5. Know your vehicle
If you’re driving in a rental car then it’ll almost certainly be equipped with plenty of features to keep you comfortable. Air conditioning is an essential feature when driving during the warmer months, particularly in the mid-western states. Temperatures can get extremely high during the summer and you’ll want to be familiar with the AC settings of your car. Some cars have dual AC controls so that the driver and passenger can set individual temperatures for their side of the vehicle.
Also, you may have a vehicle equipped with cruise control which really helps during the long, straight stretches. It allows you to relax your legs a little during extended, uninterrupted periods. Again, if you’re not familiar with cruise control then simply check the glove box where you should hopefully find the manual. If this is not he case then it might be something you’ll want to ask about when picking up your car.
Adjusting the seats and head rest appropriately can not only keep you comfortable but actually help prevent accidents and improve safety should an accident occur. For example, you should be able to rest the heels of your hand on the top of the steering wheel without leaning forwards in order to improve your reaction time. Being seated in a relaxed position means that you won’t tire as quickly. Sitting in the wrong position will increase the chances of neck, shoulder or back pain.