Getting your kicks on Route 66, at about the same age

Ian with Abraham Lincoln in Bloomington Illinois
Ian with Abraham Lincoln in Bloomington Illinois

Ian Langley, car fanatic and yearner for the wide-open road, has got back into New Zealand life after an epic journey across most of the United States, driving along the famous Route 66, at around the same age.

Originally from Mount Albert and now living at Settlers Lifestyle Village in Albany, Ian has always had an affinity for cars and boats, and from a young age, he’s been enamoured with Ford Mustangs.

A love of driving didn’t keep him a total landlubber and he’d often head out on the water with his late wife Maureen and four daughters.

“One day I decided it was time for a Mustang, so I bought one for myself, and one for Maureen,” Ian says.  When his wife passed away he sold his own but kept hers, and continued to take it to car shows, as well as putting in hours to keep it running smoothly and polished.

Paul in the Mustang
Paul in the Mustang

Ian’s road trip vision

Ian has always had a dream to do a big road trip and see as much as he could of the United States.  Being on his own just made the ambition stronger.

One day, he bumped into his wife’s cousin Paul Schollum and they chatted briefly about driving Route 66. Enthused by the prospect Ian went home and did some research before calling Paul to say “let’s go for it.”

Route 66 is an icon in the United States and has influenced roadie culture since being known as the Mother Road after it beckoned desperate migrants as they moved west in search of jobs in the 1930s.

Spanning 2,450 miles (3950 km) from Chicago to Los Angeles, it truly is the pinnacle of long distance driving. This historic route has been referred to in pop-culture from the likes of John Steinbeck to the song Route 66, which has been recorded by Nat King Cole, the Rolling Stones, Depeche Mode and several others.

Ian in Chicago at the start of Route 66
Ian in Chicago at the start of Route 66

Knowing they didn’t want to go on a guided tour, Ian and Paul did their research on the entire route and what they could see along the way.

“We didn’t have a set schedule for where we wanted to go; we just set aside the end of May and all of June so we could do whatever we liked.  It was really nice to be able to travel on our own and not be on a strict timetable,” says Ian.

“We had seven weeks of adventure ahead of us and together we reckoned we would be a pretty good team – two guys in a car with lots to see, what more could you want?”

While most travellers tend to drive Route 66 starting on the west coast and travelling east, Ian and Paul decided to flip the script and do it in reverse as they had read and heard great things about the highlights in the east.

Ian with Abraham Lincoln in Bloomington Illinois
Ian with Abraham Lincoln in Bloomington Illinois

The big departure

After 18 months of planning, packed and ready to go with an “EZ guide to Route 66”, Ian and Paul flew to America to embark on their 7-week expedition.

Of course, there was no option of driving in anything but a Ford Mustang. Flying into Chicago, Ian and Paul went to pick up a 2011 convertible that Paul had purchased especially.  He had been in touch with an old mate living in the States who had helped manage the process of buying the car so that everything was ready for when the two touched down.

Once in the driver’s seat, the adventurous duo were eager to get started on the epic journey and see all that Route 66 had to offer.

The open road beckoned accompanied by the roar of 5.0 ltr V8.

Ian and Paul’s road trip will be covered in the second part of this article next Saturday.