Willie Nelson sings on Soundtrack to Route 66 Movie, “The Mother Road”

When filmmaker Lauren Cardillo and her mother set out on a trip on legendary Route 66, they decided to do it the way people used to — with stops by the roadside and at places that are often overlooked.    

The result is “The Mother Road,” a documentary about their trip from Chicago to Santa Monica, Calif., in a then-new yellow Mustang convertible. They covered more than 2,400 miles over three weeks.

Cardillo, an Alexandria resident and head of her own Running Down Dreams Productions LLC, wrote, directed and produced the piece. Two friends, not seen on camera, shot the footage and did audio work.

“It’s a spin on the usual road trip,” Cardillo said. “This was different because it was a mother-daughter trip — and the daughter was in charge.”

They made the journey about 10 years ago when Cardillo was 38 and her mother, Irene, was 68. The tapes sat in Cardillo’s closet as she worked on other productions, but the project was never far from her mind.

This past year, she put “The Mother Road” together. It has aired on several PBS stations since August, but the hour-long documentary will be shown locally for the first time on Monday.

Among places the Cardillos visit are the Red Cedar Inn in Missouri, the Coleman Theatre in Oklahoma and the Jack Rabbit Trading Post in Arizona.

Cardillo’s favorite place was the Cadillac Ranch in Texas, where she and her mother talk with the ranch owner.

“He was such a character. It always cracks me up,” Cardillo said.

The hospitality of the people along the road impressed Cardillo most.

“The people were so friendly and open in these little towns,” she said. “They want to preserve the road and the experience. They don’t have to be that nice; they were lovely.”

She also gives kudos to her mother: “She’s a total trouper. Her ability to talk to people really added to the adventure.”

During the trip, Cardillo and her mother talked a lot, sometimes bantering, sometimes affectionately bickering. Cardillo had discovered her mother was the same age as the road and occasionally uses that point to discuss aging, a subject her mother sometimes deflects but other times discusses candidly.

Cardillo characterizes the documentary as part travelogue, part human interest and part rock-and-roll trip. The soundtrack includes Bruce Springsteen’s “Cadillac Ranch,” the Eagles’ “Take It Easy” and Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again.”

And, of course, several versions of “Get Your Kicks on Route 66.”

— Judith S. Gillies

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