Getting Our Kicks

Story by Jeff Davison// Photos by Jeff Davison
February 20 2024

Exploring Route 66 across the American heartland.

The heat was killer. Even as the sun sank behind a treed horizon, the thick air clung like a wet quilt. Wilting and spent, the three riders circled up around their intended wild campsite, looked at their feet, and someone — the sane one — spoke up: screw frugality, we’re looking at heat exhaustion, time for an air-conditioned motel. It was immediately unanimous, and a cheap room (split three ways) never felt so good.

For me, this was part of a long-term test ride of the new Suzuki V-Strom 800DE, an inspired and spirited adventure bike that, with a wink of understatement, we’d named Suzette. I was excited both for the mode and the road. Each of us — Cliff on his 2008 BMW F650GS, Gary on his 2011 Suzuki V-Strom 650, and I — were beginning our separate adventures together. They were headed for the national parks of Utah and Colorado while I was aiming for Route 66 and the Pacific Coast. As it turned out, our first few days covered the same tarmac so, together, we enjoyed an introduction to The Mother Road.


Completed in 1926 and running from Chicago to L.A., Route 66 connected — and often ran right through — mid- and southwestern downtowns. It was quite literally “America’s Main Street.” By the 1950s, the road had become an attraction in and of itself, serving as a setting in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, inspiration for numerous hit songs, and a livelihood for countless small business owners. But when the interstate system bypassed much of the old route, the heyday faded, business dried up, and the old establishments were abandoned. Eventually, the all-American road was almost entirely chopped up and decommissioned.

The good news is that, today, up to 85 per cent of the route remains and preservation programs have been actively at work. Because it has been disconnected and signs removed, however, historic Route 66 can be hard to follow: You don’t just get on it and drive.


For help, I found The Ultimate Route 66 Guide, a free app that listed major (and minor) points of interest along its 3,940 kilometres. Promising turn-by-turn directions, it seemed perfect. In practice, however, it presented a learning curve and at first, we were blowing past various sites while a woman’s voice announced in my helmet, “Point of Interest,” “Turn Here,” “Congratulations, your passport has been stamped.”

Amid the confusion, we rolled right by the Blues Brothers dancing atop a neighbourhood bar, a big red guitar attached to the Illinois Rock & Roll Museum, and never did find the Old Joliet Prison.

The logjam of trucks pounding across I-94 had already convinced us to avoid downtown Chicago — and forego the small street sign announcing the “Beginning of Route 66.” My…


Copyright ©2002-2024 Motorcycle Mojo | Privacy Policy | Built by Gooder Marketing