Book review: “100 Things to Do on Route 66 Before You Die” (second edition)

If you think there are a lot of “100 Things to Do” books on the market, you wouldn’t be wrong.

A perusal of the Reedy Press website reveals more than 80 of them, detailing U.S. destinations from Amarillo to the Wisconsin Dells.

And that doesn’t even count the copycat books or clickbait articles.

Reedy Press published the first edition of “100 Things” for Route 66 in 2017. Nearly seven years later, Reedy and longtime roadie Jim Hinckley have released an updated second edition of “100 Things to Do on Route 66 Before You Die” (Amazon link).

Hinckley states in the press release he didn’t envision the book as a tour guide.

“It was written to enhance a Route 66 odyssey,” he states. “From its inception, it was envisioned as a companion to guides such as the popular ‘EZ 66 Guide for Travelers’ written by acclaimed artist Jerry McClanahan or the Route 66 Navigation app.

“The foundation for Jim Hinckley’s America is a passion for sharing America’s story, and for inspiring road trips by telling people where to go. And this is what this book is: 100 of my favorite places on Route 66 where the line between America’s past, present, and future is blurred, and where the best of Route 66 can be experienced.”

Hinckley breaks up the book into sections for museums, restaurants, motels, photo-ops and must-see attractions — with a liberal sprinkling of travel tips or nearby destinations.

Each “100 Things” entry is brief — no more than three paragraphs. But Hinckley packs in good and vivid information.

He describes Grif’s Steakhouse in Shamrock, Texas: “The menu, the ice-cold Lone Star beer, the weathered cowboy in the sweat-stained Stetson, and the dusty trucks with horse trailers in the parking lot leave no doubt about this being the real deal, not just a place that caters to tourists.”

Though the book came out only a few weeks ago, it contains a bit of outdated information. Hinckley suggests contacting David Clark’s site to hire a guide for Route 66 through Chicago. Alas, Clark died more than two years ago, and his site apparently has been hijacked by gambling and marijuana purveyors.

The book mentions the Elbow Inn in Devil’s Elbow, Missouri, as a barbecue-and-beer stop. But it closed several years ago, and ongoing renovations have no finish line in sight.

Such are the hazards of book deadlines.

The book, as you might expect, contains such Route 66 stalwarts as the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico, and The Berghoff restaurant in Chicago.

But I appreciated lesser-known destinations such as the Los Angeles Police Museum, the Oklahoma Czech Festival in Yukon or the recently opened Scoops on 66 ice cream shop in Kingman, Arizona.

Unexpected delights are listings for Garden of Paradise (a Greek-American restaurant in Bloomington, Illinois) and especially Heidar Baba in Pasadena, California, a Persian cafe where Hinkley recommends the gleimeh bademjoon and doogh. It brought back memories of the gone-but-not-forgotten Saleem’s in St. Louis.

It shows Hinckley isn’t stuck on 1950s-style diners for his Route 66 meals. He’s adventurous, which is the best attitude to have when exploring the ol’ Mother Road.


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