Bigger and better.
That’s the takeaway from Drew Knowles’ fifth edition of his “Route 66 Adventure Handbook.” Knowles keeps adding new things to new editions of his book, which comes out every five years or so.
Knowles’ first “Route 66 Adventure Handbook” in 2001 contained 240 pages. Subsequent editions swelled to 272, 384 and 431 pages. The newest volume now contains 480 pages. That’s not quite doorstop thickness, but at the rate he’s going, Knowles might get there by Route 66’s 100th anniversary in 2026.
For those unfamiliar with it, “Route 66 Adventure Handbook” is a compilation of history, attractions, museums, natural wonders and a few vintage motels and cafes along the Mother Road, plus some noteworthy side trips. The book starts in Chicago and works its way west, Chapters are divided by states, but almost every town on Route 66 earns a subheading and a mention.
The book also is prefaced by informative chapters for the Route 66 novice, including “What Is Route 66 Anyway?” “Why Travel Route 66?” “Get the Most from Your Route 66 Adventure,” “How to Use This Handbook” and “How to Find Route 66.”
If you own an earlier edition of the “Route 66 Adventure Handbook,” here are the additions that may entice you to buy an upgrade:
— A lot more photographs. I counted more than 300 images. A few images of vintage postcards are sprinkled in the pages, but the majority of photographs from Route 66 were taken by Knowles himself. And the photographs lead to another selling point for the book, which is …
— GPS coordinates. Under each photograph taken by Knowles, he lists global-positioning system coordinates. These come in handy when trying to find out-of-the-way locations such as Jericho, Texas (an early, dirt-road alignment of Route 66) or partially hidden landmarks such as the old Route 66 bridge in Chelsea, Oklahoma.
— Small maps of towns and cities. Knowles doesn’t include maps of all towns on Route 66, but mostly those with multiple alignments of Route 66. These maps will prove useful in sprawling cities such as St. Louis, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, where Route 66 signage can get a bit erratic. Even in smaller burgs, such as Galena, Kansas, the maps will reassure a traveler that he or she is on the right track.
Knowles’ writing conveys a nice mix of authority and an amicable tone. A good example is this excerpt from the segment about the tiny town of Lela, Texas:
Just west of Lela, and on the way to McLean, you can see some trees in the median which are the remnants of the windbreaks referred to by Jack Rittenhouse as he came through here in 1946. It’s clear from the shape of the trees that there’s a prevailing wind in these parts. It was near here on one of my own Texas 66 forays that I nearly ran over a five-foot snake trying to cross the road.
You might notice during your time in the Texas panhandle that people are rather “neighborly” around here. That is, if you make eye contact with passing drivers, you’ll find them giving you “The Wave.” The hand that’s on top of the steering wheel will suddenly have its fingers springing upward into a sort of peacock spread that means “howdy.” Please learn to duplicate this maneuver so as not to appear out of place.
There are a couple of oversights. The book continues to list the Summit Inn restaurant in Oak Hills, California. It burned to the ground during a wildfire in August, and its prospects remain uncertain. And instead of the Sandhills Curiosity Shop in Erick, Oklahoma, the book says Crow’s Resale occupies the building. Owner Harley Russell took a hiatus when his wife Annabelle contracted the cancer that ultimately killed her, but he continues to entertain visitors as a Mediocre Music Maker there.
But this ultimately is a useful guide. Following the path of old Route 66 is fun, but tracking down not-so-obvious places a little off the beaten path can make your journey even more fun.
Highly recommended, especially to rookie travelers of Route 66.