Wednesday, September 25, 2013

US Route 66 - Chicago to Santa Monica.........Prologue

66 is epic. Its the mother road. It used to be the sole most important highway connecting two of the most important cities of US, Chicago and LA. From gangsters to cobblers, everybody used this road until the 70s when I-40 came along. A interstate highway running parallel to 66 for the most part but better constructed. 66 started getting ignored, its roadside businesses going out. However, it still retains the essence of US and has drawn road trip enthusiasts from across the globe. I cannot say that it sums up US but I'd say that it has its own charm and one will definitely get the feeling of what US is about.
The 2200mi stretch is in itself a bit of a challenge. Its not surprising that I've been fascinated by it. I've always had the eye for an exciting road trip and a cross country trip is the pinnacle. An ideal trip would have been NY-LA but CHI-LA isn't much less to me anyways.
So here I was coaxing my friends in Chicago to come aboard for 66. I live in Chicago so I've got the start covered. A continuous driving would finish in 2 days but I don't want to do that. Its of paramount importance that I enjoy the trip, spread it over a week or more, drive from dusk to dawn with long breaks for food, gas and route attractions. The most ideal choice is 6-8 days one way. This means my friends would have to take 2 weeks off from work which is difficult. Even it would be difficult for me to take 2 weeks off but since my manager was uber cool guy, I thought I could pull this off. Because we usually want to save our vacations for India trip once a year. This thinking applies to me too. So I know I'm asking too much from my friends but still now and then I'll just throw 66 on the lunch or dinner time with friends when we were deciding on our next long weekend plans. With constantly mentioning 66, my friends had gotten the idea that I really want to do 66. Anyways, long story short, we all knew 66 isn't going to happen anytime soon and with ease.
Time went by. Few months later, first week of Aug, my employment with BlackBerry ended. The company wasn't doing well for past 2 years, reporting losses after losses every quarter. It had been laying off people to reduce costs. Then came a time when managing remote offices in US became expensive (Blackberry HQ is in Canada) so in Aug the company decided to shut down its Chicago office. There, me and my team and other teams in Chciago, were told we are no longer required. They paid us severance and other special payments etc, which I must be honest, was decent.
Anyways, what to do when you are jobless, you find a new job. So I started applying to Microsoft, Amazon, Google etc and finally after 4 weeks, I had accepted an offer from vmware. Vmware is in Palo Alto, California, some 350mi north of LA. Accepting position in vmware means I now have to relocate from Chicago to Bay area. Then, it struck me, why not do the 66. I must do the 66. This opportunity is not to be missed. I don't have to worry about taking time off from work because I'm not working, plus I get to relocate thereby saving myself some money and enjoying 66. Its a win win idea.
Then I started planning for the trip. I decided to start 2 weeks earlier than my start date in vmware. That would give me enough time to finish 66 with plenty of time to stop and see attractions. Plus San Diego is only 2hr drive south of Santa Monica where Apurv lives. So I'd have plenty of time to visit him, stay at his place for couple of days, recharge my batteries, rest and relax, meet other San Diego friends and then finally drive 6hr north to Palo Alto.

This has a very philosophical touch to it. For long I've dreamed of doing 66 and right when it seemed like this isn't going to happen anytime soon, the whole universe conspired to make it happen. I must have wanted to do 66 from my heart and the wish was so pure that everything else fell into places to make it happen for me. A window automatically opened for me. Its funny that I'm an atheist.

So I started my route66 adventure. First thing was to draw a list of attractions that I fancied. I took notes from and made a list of sights I want to visit. I decided driving an average of 350-400mi per day should be enough. A google map plan I made is here.

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