Patty Virgilio and the Sixty Sixtahs, a super group somewhat like Diana Ross and the Supremes but without the great voices and sequins, were checking their U.S. Route 66 map this week to score their next Blue Whale of Catoosa.
Patty and the Sixtahs are actually six women from Bradenton who are on a bucket list trip to see all the wacky and tacky Route 66 tourist spots in the Old West, and they’re having a blast.
The trip started out as a Virgilio bucket list item since she has Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
But as the trip moves along from its Shake Pit sendoff in Bradenton last Thursday to Chicago on Friday; St. Louis on Saturday; Chelea, Okla., on Sunday; Amarillo, Texas on Monday; Gallup, N.M., on Tuesday, and Arizona on Wednesday, it has shouldered its way onto all their bucket lists, said Trudi Diamant, who’s joined by Julie Rothfeld, Jane Trinci, Jean Gurucharri, Patti Tibbetts and Virgilio.
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“It started out with Patty asking me, ‘What are you doing in late July?’” Diamant said Tuesday morning before the group headed toward the Cadillac Ranch in Gallup, N.M. “But as it goes along, it feels Patty has done me the favor. I am gaining so much, feeling stronger and healthier myself from the love feelings. This trip has been a gift and will stay with me forever.”
The Sixtahs stayed at the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Ariz. on Wednesday night. On Thursday, the Sixtahs visit Arizona landmarks, including Winslow, Winona and the Grand Canyon.
Friday is Arizona to Needles, Calif. and Saturday is Needles to Santa Monica, where the trip ends with dipping their toes in the Pacific Ocean —and, they hope, an invitation to have lunch with Ellen DeGeneres and Melissa McCarthy. The Sixtahs fly home, from Los Angeles to Tampa, on Sunday.
“Being on Route 66 feels like you are thrown back in history,” Virgilio said. “Things move slower. You appreciate things more. That’s what it’s all about. The six of us in this Suburban is a riot. We tell stories, talk about high school. We are getting to know each other better. Time just flies.”
Virgilio called The Blue Whale of Catoosa a Route 66 “must see” and she checked it off her bucket list on Sunday.
As all Route 66 buffs know, the Blue Whale was built by the late Hugh Davis who lived near Catoosa, Okla., and made it as an anniversary gift for his wife who loved whales. The Sixtahs, of course, posed in front of it for a classic photo.
Virgilio said she felt tired Tuesday but she couldn’t sleep.
“It’s like that song from Aerosmith, ‘I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,’” Virgilio said. “I don’t want to close my eyes.”
Virgilio did sleep on the plane ride from Tampa to Route 66’s beginnings in Chicago, and when she awoke she found passengers and members of the plane crew had put messages on her lap, written on napkins.
“They were all messages of hope,” Virgilio said.
Being on Route 66 feels like you are thrown back in history. Things move slower. You appreciate things more. That’s what it’s all about. The six of us in this Suburban is a riot. We tell stories, talk about high school. We are getting to know each other better. Time just flies.
Patty Virgilio of Patty & The Sixtahs
On Saturday, the Sixtahs had breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant, where they give out donut holes and boxes of Milk Duds. Then they went to went to Cloud Gate, commonly known as The Bean, which is a sculpture at the AT&T Plaza at Millennium Park in the Loop section of Chicago.
Of course, they posed all touching The Bean.
After that it was St. Louis, and Virgilio was visited by lifelong friends Cathy Finch and Chris and Jan Yoder.
“Cathy has been tweeting our hotels, letting them know we headed their way,” Virgilio said. “Everywhere we have gone, the love we have received from hotel and restaurant staff and total strangers who see our Route 66 shirts and somehow hear about us, is amazing. It’s like a miracle. It’s a miracle of human kindness that is happening to me.”
It started out with Patty asking me, ‘What are you doing in late July?’ But as it goes along, it feels Patty has done me the favor. I am gaining so much, feeling stronger and healthier myself from the love feelings. This trip has been a gift and will stay with me forever.
The Hyatt St. Louis Gateway put candy in the Sixtahs’ rooms and gave them wine.
On Sunday, when the group drove to tiny Chelsea, Okla., they rented three of The Chelsea Motor Inn’s total of six rooms and later saw The Blue Whale and Will Rogers Museum. The motel owner’s mother gave the women quilted purses.
Three members of the Chelsea Official Greeting Committee took the group on a tour of the town.
A happy Virgilio had a message for her mother, Betty Callaghan, in Bradenton: “Check in on my husband and son and make sure my house is still standing.”