Surf’s Up on Route 66
by Andrew Pasquella
Surfing through eight states probably doesn’t come to mind when you think of the quintessential 2,448 mile trip from Santa Monica to Chicago; you may have noticed the lack of ocean in the middle of America. But, if there’s anything we do at Front Runner, it’s make the impossible adventure- possible. And that includes “Surfing 66”. What was once a major trucking artery in the 1920s became a migration path for thousands escaping the Dust Bowl in the 30s. They headed to California on “The Mother Road,” looking for a better life and, as war broke out, new opportunities opened as military spending skyrocketed in California. Route 66 hit its peak in the post-war 50s. With spirits high and optimism reigning, businesses sprang up along the highway. That same sense of progress, however, eventually led to larger, faster interstates and the “Main Street of America” became the road less travelled.
Luckily, stretches of Route 66 have earned governmental preservation status and an ever-lasting place within pop-culture. From songs, like the aptly titled "Route 66" by Bobby Troup, telling us where to get our kicks, and a television series named (you guessed it) Route 66, to being featured in the hugely popular Pixar film Cars, it’s safe to say this stretch of beloved American road won’t be fading into the sunset any time soon.
Route 66 passes through California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois. Each of those states has their own brand of natural beauty to be experienced. We’re talking the Pacific Ocean, Grand Canyon, petrified forests, lava fields, ancient caverns, an actual meteor crater (sorry, no off-roading allowed in the crater), and a Great Lake. You’ll need a high level of flexibility and preparedness. Remember to strap a couple of Water Tank With Mounting System / 42L on the rack, your spare tire, jack and Spade/Shovel with Axe Edge. Your Front Runner equipment gives you something most travelers won’t have: options.
Don’t forget your board! This is the perfect opportunity to use Front Runner’s new Vertical Surfboard Carrier. It mounts your board on the side of the Slimline II Rack, which leaves the top of the rack clear. Rack space is gold on this trip and now you’ll be able to fit another key piece of gear, your Roof Top Tent.
There might be a night or two you’ll want to stay in a “once in a lifetime” place like the Wigwam Motel in Rialto, CA with its stucco teepees or the haunted Hotel Monte Vista in Flagstaff; but there’s also an abundance of KOA and independent campgrounds along the way. For us, the quality of sleep under the stars is hard to beat, and our Spare Tire Mount Braai/BBQ Grate, Pro Stainless Steel Camp Table and the Expander Camping Chair will give you a respite from the fast food and greasy spoon diners.
So how do you get the bragging rights of “Surfing 66”? By getting creative and shredding that gnar! Santa Monica offers world-class surfing. Find lifeguard tower 28 and hop in. Normally you wouldn’t bring your board to Arizona, but this is not your average surf trip. You’ll pass through Tempe, where you can make a run into “Big Surf,” the first wave pool in the United States. It’s historic, dude.
When you pull into New Mexico, take a dip down to White Sands National Monument. These dunes are actually white from the crystal silica and they are totally surfable. We don’t have an official Front Runner sand sled (yet), so pop the fins off your board for instant fun.
The Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas has ten Cadillacs buried half way nose- down. Does anyone have old Defenders to donate to our backyard? Swing by the Big Texan Motel where there’s a pool in the shape of the big state. Throw your board in the pool, run, jump, surf, repeat. You’ve literally surfed across Texas.
The Blue Whale in Catoosa, Oklahoma offers a photo-op with, what else, a giant blue whale. Stand on top of the waterfront structure in your best surf pose and you can join the ranks of the select surfers to ever surf a whale.
Kansas has the shortest piece of Route 66, a mere 14 miles. Lucky for us Kansas City shares a state line with Missouri, so you can surf two states at one time in the Flow Rider surf simulator at The Bay Water Park. These simulators can be surprisingly challenging. If you face-plant on the foam, you’ll know what we mean.
And finally, you’ve made it to Illinois. Chicago sits on the edge of Lake Michigan that, depending on the wind, can kick up some absolutely surfable waves. Check out the break at Montrose and 57th Street. We even hear there are good waves in winter; wetsuits required.
You’ve done it! Think of this surf trip as a great way to get a primer of what lies within the USA and you’ll have the social media to prove it. You’ll see places and sights so beautiful you won’t want to leave. You’ll get that familiar feeling, that sense of awe from the peace and connectedness that only hitting the road and exploring the world on your own terms can provide. Forge on. You can always go back for another adventure. We’re ready. Are you?