Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Get your Ford fix on Route 66

Father-son team put the new Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid car through its paces on America's famed highway

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Steve MacNaull, left, and his son Alex recreate the famous 1960 publicity photo (below) for the TV show Route 66.

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Steve MacNaull, left, and his son Alex recreate the famous 1960 publicity photo (below) for the TV show Route 66.

Even if we don't look like models, we feel like models

After all, my son and I are on America's most iconic road -- Route 66 -- posing with all our might to recreate the famous 1960 publicity photo from the CBS-TV series Route 66.

We're digging deep to get our pensive gazes just right, our lean on the car just so and our hands in the proper position.

The photographer even laughingly tells us to: "Work it. Work it."

Alex and I are going to all this trouble because we're driving the new Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid car from St. Louis to Tulsa on the Main Street of America and we're channelling everything Route 66.

While we posed in honour of George Matanis, who played Buz on the TV show, and Martin Milner, who played Tod, we wanted to updated the look.

Alex and I are in short-sleeves and sunglasses, not jackets and gloves, and we've replaced Buz and Tod's Chevrolet Corvette convertible with the Fusion Energi hybrid.

It's very fitting to do this 650-kilometre road trip in a Ford hybrid.

Both Route 66 and Ford are ultra-American and it's apropos to contrast the winding, 1926-era historic two-lane road to a 2013 hybrid with the very latest in fuel-saving and environmental technology.

While Route 66 meanders over 3,700 kilometres from Chicago to Los Angeles, Ford has picked the 650 kilometres from St. Louis to Tulsa for a group of writers to test the Fusion Energi.

Over the two days we will use the hybrid combination of plug-in electric power, regeneration electric and good old gasoline to arrive at our destination with leftover electric charge and a quarter tank of gas.

The actual range of the Fusion Energi is 1,000 kilometres combined electric-gas hybrid.

We motor off from St. Louis Airport in a ice-storm blue Fusion Energi with a full electric charge (takes 2 1/2 hours when plugged into a special 240-volt outlet or five hours from a standard 110-volt plug) and a full tank of gas.

Route 66 is certainly ingrained in the U.S. psyche, but also internationally as a tourist draw.

And, of course, everyone can sing along to the 1946 tune Get Your Kicks on Route 66, originally and most famously recorded by Nat King Cole and covered by numerous artists.

Our first stop is the landmark 192 metre Gateway Arch in downtown St. Louis, which is spectacular in its size and simplicity.

Then it's back in the car with the My Ford Touch screen navigation and control system set to get us to Ted Drewes Frozen Custard on the outskirts of town, a neon-lit fixture on Route 66 since 1929.

Alex has his custard (like yellow soft-serve ice cream, with I assume more egg yolks and the accompanying fat) mixed with Oreo cookies and I opt for the Ted's specialty melded with chocolate bits and fudge-marshmallow sauce.

Our tummies happy, we punch in the next destination on the touch screen: Meramec Caverns in Stanton, Mo., formerly the 1870s hideout of notorious bank and train robber Jesse James and now a tourist attraction.

After a quick glance at the caves we opt to do the Caveman Ziplines instead and have a blast flying back and forth over the Meramec River.

Back in the car its off to Fanning, Mo., the tiny town with the world's largest rocking chair.

It looms roadside and lives up to its name at 13 metres high, six metres across and 12,500 kilograms.

Ironically it doesn't rock.

It's meant to be a tourist stop, photo opportunity and to lure people into the adjacent 66 Outpost store that naturally sells every type of Route 66 souvenir along with cold beer.

Route 66 in the Midwest shows off America at it's quirky, kitschy and nostalgic best.

As evidence is our next stop, the Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, Mo., where we'll overnight in basic rooms behind a vintage neon sign.

Dinner next door at Missouri Hick BBQ is Ozark cuisine at its best -- slow-cooked pulled pork, beef brisket and ribs with sides like brown sugar baked beans and yams.

Total distance covered first day: 160 kilometres and our mileage in the Energi hybrid was the equivalent of 35 kilometres per litre using the entire electric charge, the regenerated charge from braking at all the stops and starts and a little bit of gas.

The car is plugged in to recharge and we go to bed knowing we have a long drive the next day that will use the hybrid completely differently.

In fact, with 300 miles to cover in one day we drive Route 66 and the adjacent freeway with less braking (thus less recharging of the battery while on the fly) and arrive in Tulsa with the screen telling us we'd achieved a hybrid equivalent of 40 miles a gallon.

So the Energi performs best in town with stop and start driving.

But it is no slouch on the highway either offering 195 horsepower and far better plug-in hybrid mileage than a standard gas-powered vehicle.

Day two did allow for a few stops -- a 1854 stage coach station that is now a museum in Waynesville, Mo.; gas-station-turned-souvenir-shop Gay Parita in Ash Grove, Mo., where 78-year-old owner Gary Turner, a self-proclaimed hillbilly, will sell you a T-shirt and tell you a tale; a jaunt through the very southeast corner of Kansas on Route 66's 13 miles in the state; and the Blue Whale Swimming Rock in Catoosa, Okla., before arriving at our final destination of the Campbell Hotel in Tulsa. and

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 22, 2013 A1


Updated on Saturday, June 22, 2013 at 3:16 PM CDT: Fixed spelling of name.

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