Route 66 Spring Break

The four of us — two Sarahs, Ivy Sterling ’00 Lasley and Pascha Wenz ’00 Deam— initially bonded during a 12-hour road trip (in Dr. Mike Longinow’s white Ford Festiva with shining red letters proclaiming “Jesus Saves” on the tail) to a journalism conference in Virginia. Two years later, we were trying to study at the library but were distracted by a National Geographic article covering Route 66. Planning ensued right then and there.

After Friday’s classes, we loaded up and headed out toward America’s oldest highway. The car already had 110k miles on it, the trunk was packed to the brim, and up front we had a stash of groceries, mixed tapes and a bulky car phone. Our itinerary was as follows:

Day One: Drove toward St. Louis, the Gateway to the West, to spend the night with Pascha’s brother somewhere nearby. 1 a.m. found us calling the brother asking, “Where is Kirksville? Oh, three hours from St. Louis!” (slightly off course, but that’s okay).

Day Two: Drove to Tulsa, OK, and were put up by Sarah L.’s “Gammy Betty” who plumped us on guacamole, egg rolls, mango and cinnamon rolls. “Don’t forget your poker money, dear,” Gammy told Sarah, handing her a roll of coins as we again hit the road.

Day Three: Pit stop in Oklahoma City to visit Sarah B.’s Great Uncle Bill and Aunt Delores, who treated everyone to lunch at the Cherokee Post (mmm, buffalo burgers!). Detour. We decided last minute to bypass Albuquerque and head to Santa Fe and turned onto 25 N, cruising through moonlit desert and listening to Spanish music on the radio. Stayed in a Travelodge.

Day Four: Toured downtown Santa Fe – The Palace of Governors, The San Miguel Mission, and “The Oldest House in the Country.” Continued on to Arizona. Stopped in Holbrook to visit the Wigwam Motel (legendary Route 66 landmark) and toured one of the tee-pee shaped rooms. Kept trucking through the northern Arizona snow (on spring break?!) until a 32-car pile-up closed the interstate. Stayed at another Travelodge in Flagstaff.

Day Five: Woke up in the snowy mountains (I’m not sure if any of us had ever previously associated Arizona and snow skiing). Finally found a shop that carried a muffler to replace ours, which had fallen off back in Texas. Ate breakfast at the “Grand Canyon Café - American & Chop Suey,” a classic roadside diner. We were finally able to drive on Route 66, after only viewing old alignments of it from I-40. We followed it all the way to Santa Monica, stopping in Seligman to visit the famous Delgadillo’s Snow Cap burger joint (which was closed, much to our dismay), stopping to view the southern rim of the Grand Canyon, stopping in Oatman to pet the friendly mules that freely roam the streets, and stopping in Needles, CA to replace all four tires. We FINALLY made it Pascha’s other brother’s apartment near Cal Tech University, our home for the next three nights.

Days Six and Seven: Both days we went to the Santa Monica beach. The first day it took us two hours to find our way through L.A.’s highway network and was dark by the time we found the sand, so we ate treats on the boardwalk (cinnamon pretzels, corn dogs, nachos…) The second day we were accompanied by our hosts and it only took thirty minutes. We drove through In-n-Out burgers, an infamous southwestern burger place.

Day Eight: We left L.A. early in the morning and drove up I-5 toward San Francisco. Put up by Sarah B.’s friend Mike who also gave us a tour of UC Berkeley (his school), Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, Chinatown, Little Italy, and lastly, Ghirardelli Square where we all had a chocolate malt or mocha.

Day Nine: Began our three-day journey back to KY, driving east on I-80 through scenic northern Nevada. Spent the night in the small casino town of Wendover, on the border of Nevada and Utah at a seedy motel with not even a telephone in each room — the only vacancy for miles and miles.

Day Ten: We stopped in Saltair, Utah (amazed to simultaneously see sand on the ground and snow on the peaks) for a picnic lunch right by the Salt Lake. Our car chugged its way up the steadily-inclined mountains of Montana and on to Colorado, where we found a Days Inn in Sterling (Ivy’s surname), CO.

Day Eleven: Drove to Seward, Nebraska where “Pascha from Nebraska” spent the first half of her childhood, and stayed with her good friend, Kristi. Walked around the charming college town (Concordia) and ate at Runz’s.

Day Twelve: After an oil change we were en route to Asbury. Driving the BG Pkwy in the wee morning hours, we were run off the road by a semi-truck and steered safely into a ditch. We had not been so close to an accident in the past two thousand some miles.

Leafing through my scrapbook of pictures and memorabilia, I smile at how carefree we were. At the time, we were single girls about to graduate college and unsure of the future (although is was pretty clear Pascha would be married soon). Regrettably, the four “Usual Suspects” as Dr. Longinow used to call us, diminished to three when we lost contact with Sarah L. But for the other three of us, well…Ivy lives in Detroit, with Pascha just three hours north of her and Sarah three hours south – perfect for getting together a couple times a year. Also, we’re all married…with children. Maybe someday we will arrange a girls-only weekend out west to relax and remember those college days.

by Sarah Bond ’00 Wyche