Book review: “On Route 66 for the First Time”

If you live in Europe and are thinking of traveling Route 66, you might as well download the book “On Route 66 for the First Time.” You literally have nothing to lose.

That’s because Marian Pavel’s 221-page book is available for free here. It also comes versions of these languages — English, French, Latin, German, Spanish and Slovak. And it contains genuinely useful information for Route 66 novices.

Pavel remains best-known as the developer of the Route 66 Navigation app for Apple and Android devices — the first such app that offers turn-by-turn directions (Route 66 News review of the app is here). Pavel has traveled the length of the Mother Road four times and is passing along his hard-won wisdom so first-timers can more fully enjoy their experiences.

“On Route 66 for the First Time” contains chapters about preparations for the trip, myths about Route 66, how to take a Route 66 trip, favorite motels, best times of the year for the journey, suggested itinerary, car and motorcycle rental advice, customs paperwork, budgeting, etiquette and local driving customs.

As an example, Pavel offers this sound advice:

  • Don’t travel on Route 66 more than 300 kilometers (186 miles) a day.
  • Fifteen days is a “bare minimum” for a full Route 66 trip.
  • Booking flights to the United States more than six months in advance probably will save several hundred euros.
  • Obtaining an international driver’s license will avoid many hassles if an accident occurs.
  • September probably is the best time to travel 66 — fewer tourists, less hot weather and before winter begins in the high elevations.

Pavel also turns candid in his assessment of American food. It’s not a critique so much as a caution to European tourists on what to expect:

The differences are huge between American and European cuisine – while our chicken soup is cooked by simply putting chicken and root vegetables in a pot, seasoning it to taste with salt and black pepper, then slicing meat into pieces and serving with thin egg noodles, in the US you’ll get broth from chicken bouillon cubes, strongly seasoned to taste with “Vegeta” seasoning and so strongly thickened with starch, cream and boiled pasta that a spoon can stand in it. And there’s no chicken. Frankly, it’s very difficult to get used to it.
Even the first hotel continental breakfast was a huge shock to us – and we suffered another one when we realized that such a breakfast awaited us in the motels until the end of our stay.
What is an American continental breakfast? In the morning, you’ll find yourself in a motel mini kitchen, where you can find an orange juice tray, burnt or coffee warmed over 100 times in a thermos flask, hot water and flavored oatmeal in paper bags. Motels that are a little better will add over-sweetened muffins with a mild chemical taste of preservatives. Motels that are a little better still have over-sweetened bagels, salty butter, mini bottles of jam with cranberry flavor, a waffle dough tray and waffle maker. Just in one motel they had scrambled eggs made out of a semi-product and fried potato pancakes made of minced meat the receptionist had taken out of the freezer and had thawed in the microwave. And yeah, in one motel they had boiled eggs!

Because his palette diverges so much from American tastes, Pavel refrains from making  specific restaurant recommendations but gives generally sound advice about American fast food, steakhouses, barbecue, ice cream, pizza and breakfast.

A few people blanched at the $50 price of Pavel’s Route 66 Navigation app, but with this free download, getting both turns into a good value for those who live across the pond.


5 thoughts on “Book review: “On Route 66 for the First Time”

  1. The book is a great read but I do not agree with the statement about the international drivers license. I have been travelllng to the US regularly since late 1980’s and I have never had any need for this useless piece of paper. It is a waste of money, at least for Dutch people.

  2. Ron I am a huge fan of your site. I have been getting it every day since we took our trip in 2005. We used the hand drawn map series to navigate. The turn by turn navigation app mentioned here is a great addition to making Route 66 more user friendly. I still have my “Here It Is” map series minus Arizona. Do any of your readers know if someone is selling them separately. I would like to buy Arizona. I would like to have it to complete my collection. Thank you for keeping route 66 alive and well.

  3. Forgot to mention on the Route 66 travel apps, they are available in English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Slovak and Czech Republic. These are available on for Android mobiles. If You have an Apple, I am told you can purchase at the Apple Appstore. Thanks, Rich Henry

  4. I appreciate the effort gone onto making this free guide, hopefully it will encourage more people to make the trip along 66. However, I find you ‘get what you pay for’ when it comes to motels and breakfasts, I think the comments are quite harsh.

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