Got Our Kicks

9 Aug

The one thing I left out of my summer wrap-up was a biggie: our long-awaited Route 66 road trip!

We bought our Airstream nine years ago. And for those years, it’s been used as a guest bedroom and, well, as a piece of driveway décor. We hadn’t ever taken it out as a travel trailer!

In 2019, Mike started planning for an epic Route 66 road trip to take place in summer 2020. We all know how that turned out. (Thanks, COVID.) So we made 2021 our year.

Mike worked really hard to get the Airstream ready. He worked on the power system and singlehandedly installed a new air conditioner so we’d be comfortable as we made our way across the southwest. He bought a special trailer hitch and system for stabilizing the whole rig. Mike also did a ton of planning, mapping out how many miles to go each day, having a general idea for where to stay, etc.

And then it was time to go. Mike and Michaela drove off on July 10, all 48 feet of them (26-ft.-long Airstream, the 3-ft-long hitch, and the 19-ft.-long truck). They covered about 175 miles each day, braving windstorms and thunderstorms and heat, and having a great time together. I flew to Tulsa, OK on July 15 and they picked me up at the airport (if you’ve never seen a big truck truck towing an Airstream pull up at the Arrivals gate, you’re missing out!). We then drove to Mike’s dad and stepmom’s house, where we spent a few days with them and Mike’s brothers and their families.

Our Route 66 trip began in earnest on July 19, when we headed northeast to Carthage, MO. Route 66 stretches from Chicago, IL to Santa Monica, CA, but we knew we weren’t going to do the whole thing. That being said, from where Mike’s dad lives in OK, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to Kansas and Missouri, which would let us cross two more Route 66 states off our list.

Route 66 was largely bypassed when I-40 was built, and the route was officially decommissioned decades ago, but there’s still a lot to see and do along the road. We went through small towns and a few big cities (Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Albuquerque to name a few). We met lovely, super friendly people. We stayed in RV campgrounds, which I ended up really liking even though I wasn’t sure at first that I would. And we had lots of great together time!

A few stories:

We (well, *I*) decided before our trip that we (*I) wanted to come up with a hashtag for the trip. We tossed around some ideas, but when Michaela declared she wanted to name the Airstream “The Buff,” the decision became very clear: #WatsonsInTheBuff. I explained “double entendre” to Michaela, who was mortified that I would consider making the name of our trip something that also means “naked” but I persisted.

Mike’s part of a Route 66 Facebook group and posted pix of our trip in the group as we made our way across the country. At one point, we pulled up across the street from the Milburn-Price Culture Museum in tiny Vega, TX (pop. 884). A man walked out as we stepped onto the museum grounds and says, “Are you Mike Watson and family?” “Yes,” we answered. “We are. How’d you know?” “I’ve been following your trip on Facebook. We figured you’d get here today.” We were then treated to a lovely conversation, full of facts about the museum’s holdings and also a recommendation for delicious pie at the Mid Point Café (located halfway along the route, as you’d expect from the name).

I love free maps and literature. Love them. So at the state line in New Mexico, I of course grabbed a “Route 66 New Mexico” book so I could learn about what was ahead of us. In the book, I read about Watsons Bar-B-Que in Tucumcari and knew we needed to stop. We’re Watsons! It’s bar-b-que! There were pix of signs with cheeky sayings on them! We did and in spite of the fact that they were closing for the day, the owner Jimmy Watson was just as kind as could be. He made us heaping plates of his delicious food, chatted us up about town and our adventures, and was just all around great. There was one other customer in the store, who I ended up talking to and who was trying to sell me on moving to Tucumcari (nice people, low cost of living, everyone knows everyone so very safe). So it was extra hilarious that we ran into him at the store an hour or so later when we stopped for ice for our cooler. “Hey, Watsons,” he exclaimed. Small down indeed.

When we got to Santa Fe, we spent a couple of days hanging out with Mike’s mom and stepdad, who drove down to meet us and take Michaela back to Colorado with them for a few days. Then Mike and I made our way back home, just the two of us, skipping a bit of the route we’d done before and couldn’t do because of size restrictions on trailers (and skipping the boring part between the AZ border and San Bernardino). It was a great way to ease back into work after three weeks off (Mike) and two weeks off (me).

We need to do the Chicago to Carthage, MO part of the Route, and the San Bernardino to Santa Monica part. Another adventure for another day!

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