Souvenir Dispatches from the RV brought to you by Souvenir Finder’s mom, who sold her house and worldly possessions for a life of retirement traveling the United States full-time in an RV.
US Route 66, the “Main Street of America” was one of the original highways in the United States (though it has since been removed from highway status). Route 66 covers eight states, from California to Chicago and once ran 2400 miles. Today, only portions of the original Route 66 remain. Fortunately, in the late 1980’s, states started designating US Route 66 as an historic route, and preservation groups sought to save the old hotels and neon signs along the road.
The preservation of Route 66 drove interest in tourism by nostalgic road trippers. Souvenir shops, both old and new, litter Route 66 as tourists see to bring the experience and if they’re old enough, memories from those almost forgotten days, back home.
You don’t have to drive the entire Route 66 to get a flavor of the experience. My mom recently did a short run in her RV in Arizona– here is her report.
My Mom’s Route 66 Experience
I had been fascinated by Route 66 ever since watching the old tv show with George Maharis and Martin Milner. When I noticed a portion of Route 66 in Arizona was easily accessible from the Grand Canyon, I made sure to add it to my itinerary. My first stop was the town of Seligman, Arizona, which seemed totally untouched from the 1960’s– except for the tour buses. In Seligman, I made sure to get the photos of Route 66 painted on the road, along with those famous Burma Shave signs on the side of the road.
Next up, I visited the popular ice cream shop, the Sno Cap, and enjoyed a refreshing malted milk shake on a steamy morning.
I continued to follow Route 66 through Kingman, and then drove the RV through a harrowing narrow winding mountain pass. I don’t recommend this route for the faint of heart!
The mountain pass ends at the little mining town of Oatman, a quirky and charming little place that feels like it is in the middle of nowhere. I wasn’t alone while driving through this lonely little town– along side of me I was joined by a line of Camaros and mustangs also driving the historic route (classic car shows are popular in Oatman).
In town, it was a fun surprise to see free roaming wild burros meandering around town. The burros are descendants of those brought by the miners in the 1800’s, but nowadays they just stroll the town and wait for tourists to feed them.
The Best Souvenirs of Route 66
As you might have gathered, the number one most wanted souvenir from Route 66 is highway memorabilia. An actual Route 66 road sign is the holy grail, but of course it’s illegal to steal them (thought that doesn’t stop vandals). Some areas, tired of replacing stolen signs, have done away with them altogether and instead painted the actual road with the iconic Route 66 marker. If you have your heart set on a Route 66 road sign, there is no need to risk arrest– look for vintage shops selling old signs or pick up a replica in pretty much any souvenir shop.
Since Route 66 is all about nostalgia and the kitsch of the era, it kind of makes sense to just go with it and pick up an extra kitschy souvenir. As long as the souvenir says Route 66 on it, you can’t get too tacky. Refrigerator magnets, signs, puzzles, key chains, t-shirts, gas station attendant shirts– you will find it all here, likely in most any shop you stop in.