MIAMI— The lure of the legendary stretch of highway from Chicago to Los Angeles is bringing foreign motorcyclists and other tourists and their money to Miami businesses.
Route 66 is not only a favorite of American baby boomers driving their convertible Mustangs, but also of foreign tourists.
"This year the overseas tourists are taking advantage of a weak U.S. dollar,” said Amanda Davis, Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau program director. "It’s a huge deal.”
Foreign tourists are fascinated by cowboys, American Indians and Oklahoma, she said.
Davis said a big draw to Oklahoma for Route 66 lovers is the 426 drivable miles of the highway.
Popular Oklahoma stops along Route 66 include the Blue Whale in Catoosa, the Coleman Theatre and Waylan’s Ku-Ku Hamburgers in Miami, the Totem Pole in Foyil and POPS in Arcadia.
Davis said motorcycle tour groups spend between 30 and 45 days driving Route 66, including 15 nights in Oklahoma. Those groups spend money in every community in which they stop, she said.
"In Miami, we had 35 groups stop by last year, and that’s not counting the groups that stop real early in the morning or late in the afternoon,” Davis said.
Most groups’ average 40 riders and may spend as much as $8,000 during an overnight stay, she said.
"They go crazy for the 50-cent Route 66 key chains,” Davis said.
"It’s like you gave them the world. They eat up the nostalgia stuff.”
In Miami, groups often visit the Vintage Iron Motorcycle Museum, which displays a collection of Steve McQueen’s racing motorcycles, racing trophies and memorabilia.
"We’ve had people all over the world … come into our store,” said Cheri Balais, Chicago Harley-Davidson representative. “They fly in to Chicago from Germany, Belgium, Poland, Italy and Russia – rent their motorcycles from us and take off.”
Chicago Harley Davidson has been selling and renting motorcycles since 1978. An average price to rent a motorcycle is $99 a day, $130 a day over the weekend of $649 for a week, she said.
Balais said Chicago Harley Davidson is an official stop for motorcycle tours.
Sheila Stogsdill can be reached at (918) 787-9581 or by email at email@example.com