Road Trip USA: The Final Fling – Route 66 to Las Vegas

All good things must come to an end, and so it was with our Road Trip USA. After seeing some of the most spectacular scenery that the USA has to offer, plus some surprisingly interesting cities, it was now just a matter of driving the final couple of hundred miles or so from the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas.

The Rusty Bolt Gift Shop on Route
The Rusty Bolt Gift Shop at Seligman on Route 66

However, we intended our final fling to be in style. Enough of seemingly endless Interstate dual carriageways; this time we were going to take a leisurely drive along the Historic Route 66. And then we’d blow all our remaining dollars in Las Vegas!

Route 66

Route 66 only existed as a US Highway from 1926 till 1985, but this Chicago to Los Angeles road acquired exceptional fame from the Route 66 song and TV show.

Only a few parts of the original highway remain, including the 67 miles we drove along in Arizona from Seligman to Kingman. It is now signposted as the ‘Historic Route 66’.

Railroad Running Parallel to Route 66
Railroad Running Parallel to Route 66

At Seligman, coachloads of sightseers were being disgorged near decorative old diners and gift shops. But once we’d driven a few miles up the road from this tourist hotspot, a nostalgic calm descended, broken only by the sounds of the occasional lonesome Harley-Davidson and long railroad trains running parallel with the road.

Las Vegas

When I’d visited Las Vegas five years previously, I’d written: “I loved visiting it for a couple of days, but would hate to return!” Well I had returned, as it was a convenient place to drop off the rental car and catch a flight.

Hackberry General Store on Route 66
Hackberry General Store on Route 66

Las Vegas had hardly changed over the intervening five years. The lights and buildings were still as bright and brash, the 200,000 or so slot machines were still as noisy and uninviting, and Donny & Marie Osmond were still topping the bill!

A couple of nights rest and recuperation were quite enough before flying out from McCarran Airport.

Road Trip USA – Overall Impressions

So after three weeks, 3,600 miles of driving, $320 in gasoline (less than half the price of the UK), eight states, ten hotels, three canyons and ten national and state parks, was it all worth it? Yes, of course it was.

Las Vegas - Still as Bright and Brash
Las Vegas – Still as Bright and Brash

You can plan as much as you like, but in the end the special highlights of such a trip are the places that you didn’t expect would be that thrilling, but which turned out to be totally unforgettable.

On this trip I would include in that category: New Orleans, San Antonio, Saguaro National Park and Sedona.  But there were lots and lots of other memorable highlights, as mentioned in the previous posts in this series.

Some visitors to the USA complain about difficulties at airport arrivals and departure, others seem to have problems with hotel and restaurant staff. However everyone we met was friendly and helpful. In fact our ‘cute’ English accents seemed to soften even the hardest Southern hearts and provided us on occasions with free drinks and speedy seating in restaurants!

The Strip Las Vegas
The Strip Las Vegas

Was this long road trip really a good idea for senior travellers? Yes, definitely!

There is little problem for seniors in hiring cars in the US; all that matters is that you have a valid driving licence. We found the roads in general to be quieter than in Europe, with plenty of places to stop for refreshment along the way, almost all with excellent brewed coffee.

Many visitor attractions give senior discounts, as did most of the Intercontinental Group Hotels where we stayed.

Of course all travellers need to take basic safety precautions, with a few extra ones for seniors. See: Safety Trips for Senior Travellers. We were also aware that travelling during the winter months can bring additional hazards and had therefore made contingency plans in case the high Arizona plateau-lands became snow bound. In the event we were very lucky, with warm, sunny weather almost all the way.

Keeping our Remaining Dollars for Freezing New York
Snow and Freezing Conditions in New York

And did we blow our final dollars in Las Vegas? Well, we did spend a fair amount on food and drink as we wandered up and down The Strip – prices seem to have risen a lot since I was last there.

But our travel plans allowed a few days in New York on the way home, so we kept our remaining dollars to savour the delights of the ‘Big Apple’. And that’s when we finally met snow and freezing conditions. But that’s another story….

Road Trip USA articles:

1. Memphis to Las Vegas via Houston – Planning This includes a route map.
2. Memphis the Rock & Roll City
3. New Orleans and Mardi Gras
4. Houston, Gulf Coast and San Antonio
5. Across Texas to El Paso and Tucson
6. Sedona, Petrified Forest, Canyon de Chelley
7. Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon
8. The Final Fling – Route 66 to Las Vegas

Posted 19th March 2015 by Steve Hanson