PJ Gallagher's 'Route 66 Challenge for Temple St' Diary - Part One
PJ Gallagher is on the Route 66 Challenge for Temple St Children's Hospital and this is the first part of his diary as he journeys across America on one of the most iconic routes on the planet.
PJ (pic below) flew out to Chicago on Sunday to begin the challenge and next Friday, JOE's own Eric Lalor joins the group as he flies into Albuquerque to do the rest of the route and take over the reins of the diary. Without further ado, here is PJ...
Having been to the US a few times before I thought I knew what to expect, but Route 66 and the riders on this trip have turned everything I thought I knew about the place on it’s head. First of all I was corrected by an American Border official on how to pronounce it. Apparently it’s “Rowt 66” and not “Root 66” as I said. Say whatever you want but I’ll take a good root over a rowt anytime.
This is the America you thought didn't exist anymore, Blueberry pie, black coffee, smiling faces and ghost towns. Every single corner you turn into you think is going to land you into an old episode of 'Happy Days'. In the space of a few hours we saw a three car pile up with no angry people, a giant statue of an astronaut from the sixties (pic below) and a petrol station called “Freedom” with the biggest American Flag I have ever seen. Even bigger than the tri-colour on the Sutton SuperValue and that’s saying something.
This is the America of chinos and trucks with pro gun stickers and the friendliest restaurant staff on the face of the earth. This is the also the America where a vegetarian like me might just struggle to find a dinner tonight. In most of these states I think you can actually legally eat a vegetarian as long as you catch him yourself...
This is the America where people say “Have a nice day” and actually mean it. Where they seem genuinely interested in where you are from and where people that drive cars actually wave at bikers instead of whine about them. It all started very Irish last night watching the All-Ireland Final in a GAA club in Chicago and now 12 hours later I’m in Springfield Illinois, a town so clean and clinical it looks like it was built just for us.
In fairness though, today was pretty spectacular. Big bikes and big personalities all around me make me about as happy as can be, and the fact that these guys have come together and made this all possible for the sole reason of helping a children's hospital makes it a really special trip. So many different age groups and probably someone from every county in Ireland, except for Leitrim cause you never meet them.
From the fun of being in the sun, laughing over lunch and riding west, to the somber moment of seeing a memorial for fifty Irish people who died out here trying to survive just after the famine, today has been a bit of a roller coaster.
Tomorrow we hit the road early again and go to Missouri. I have no idea what a Missouri is or what goes on there but I can’t wait to find out.
As we pulled up today the first thing I said was “that was great” and one of my fellow riders responded: “and we’re only getting started”. He’s right too. This is just chapter one on what should be an epic trip. Loving every mile and smile so far.