Looking for the "indomitable human spirit."

Ask Michael Angelo to sum up his experience so far along Route 66, and it would be the spirit of the people he has met throughout his journey.

"Route 66 is the artery that connects the heart of all humanity," Angelo said. "The highlight of this trip has been meeting all of the people from both America and around the world."

For the past three weeks, Angelo and his friend, Judy Nellis, have traveled along Route 66 exploring its culture and meeting new people.

The pair, friends for four years, are traveling in a 2007 Toyota Solara convertible, wrapped in iconic images of "America's Main Street."

Angelo calls it a "rolling history lesson of the Mother Road." Front and center on the wrap, is a image of Oklahoma's Will Rogers. 

For most of the trip, the pair have stuck with Route 66. Once they reached Oklahoma, however, Angelo said there were a few stops he wanted to make "off the beaten path."

Those included a visit to Sallisaw, to find the grave of Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd, a stop near Bernice to tour of Darryl Starbird's National Rod and Custom Hall of Fame Museum, and a jaunt into rural Welch, to find the grave of Ma Barker and her sons.

It also included a swing through Grove, for an overnight stay and a chance to try some regional regional restaurants.

"There's so much to see in this state," Angelo said.

For Angelo, a former Alzheimer's charge nurse, and Nellis, a retired bookkeeper, the trip which is expected to extend at least another three weeks, is a "spiritual journey" of sorts, dedicated to all of the people who live and work, or who have traveled along Route 66.

The pair began their journey at Joliet, Illinois - since they previously visited the beginning of the road in Chicago.

Highlights of the journey, he said, include meeting Starbird during the visit to his museum on Tuesday. They also had a chance to attend a sold-out Firefall concert in Illinois.

"There's a sense of community tradition [in these towns]," Angelo said. "It feels like we're all family.

"From waitresses, store owners, artists of all kinds. There are so many people working hard to keep Route 66 alive."

Angelo said he hasn't found a place he "wouldn't want to move to yet" along the journey.

"There's a sense of unity and solidarity," Angelo said. "I've always heard the country was like that, but I never saw it embodied until I traveled on Route 66."

Ultimately, Angelo would like to write a book, like his favorite author Michael Wallis.

Wallis, an American journalist, has written several defining books about Route 66. He also served as a consultant about the road's history for the movie Disney/Pixar movie Cars.

"I'd like to meet Mike and thank him," Angelo said. "I would also like to give him a run for his money and write a beautiful book as an ode to the people."

It's the people, he said, who make the trip special.

"We're all connected. Our differences are less than our similarities," Angelo said. "My dream is to find a little town [along Route 66], find a shop and live above it, so I can become part of the community.

"I'd like to become an ambassador of the road."

Angelo said this is truly a trip of a lifetime.

"If I were dying, this is what I would want to be doing," Angelo said. "Traveling on Route 66 is how I would want to spend my last days.

"This is a journey of discovery and healing."

More Information

This is Judy Nellis' second trip along Route 66.

Four years ago, Nellis and several of her sisters traveled the Mother Road so her sister Nancy could turn "66 on 66.

The group traveled from Springfield, Missouri to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

"We winged it, just like we're doing now," Nellis said, using Jerry McCalliahan's book "Route 66: EZ66 GUIDE For Travelers."

Nellis said she had so much fun on that trip, she was ready for travel the road again.

"This is an adventure," she said. "You get out, to see the country. Ever since I learned about it, I've been wanting to make the trip."

Nellis said the trip has also encouraged her to get out, and support the small, local businesses along the way.