Some of the best things I’ve done have been on the spur of the moment. Of course, there are also many other things I’ve done in that way that haven’t turned out quite so well and aren’t worth writing about. But sometimes doing something “on the fly” seems to turn out much better than expected.
Point in case was yesterday while I was on my way home from a weekend at my longtime friend and former teaching colleague’s place in Sparta, Illinois, way down in southern Illinois. Much of the trip is on Interstate-55, the road that replaced the Mother Road, Route 66. I have been traveling I-55 for years and even a good portion of Route 66 in the early 70s before the interstate was totally finished. But I never really examined it very closely as I’ve always been in a hurry to get to where I’m going.
Even so, I have had a persistent interest in all things related to Route 66, especially since reading Michael Wallis’s book Route 66 the Mother Road (St. Martin’s Press, 1990) several years ago. And I still have the desire to drive the entire length of the famous road, from its start in Chicago to its end in San Bernardino, California.
So yesterday’s return trip from a fun and relaxing weekend with my old friend turned into one of those impulsive decisions that I’m glad I made. Because I needed a “pit stop” for breakfast and restroom facilities, I pulled off I-55 and into a McDonald’s in Litchfield, Illinois.
Leaving the parking lot a short time later, hot coffee in hand, I noticed the sign that pointed the way to the Route 66 Historic route. Since I was in no real hurry to get back home at any certain time, and since I was traveling alone on a gorgeous October morning, I swung my car in that direction and followed the sign that pointed the way north on that section of the old road.
For a good part of the way, the old road (basically a Frontage Road) paralleled the busy interstate. Yet, even though the cars and trucks were cruising along a mere one hundred feet from me, I felt as though I was back in time and motoring the road that millions before me had.
Driving along, I thought of all of the dreams and heart breaks that the highway must have produced through the years, of people setting out to head west or pointing their vehicles northeast to Chicago. Whatever their destinations must have been, they had many miles to think and plan and dream about their lives and what lay ahead of them.
The little towns of the old road are still there, for better or worse, as are the ancient gas stations, restaurants, roadhouses, and motels that provided snug havens and safe harbor to those Route 66 pilgrims of long ago. Though most have been long out of business, there still simmers a spirit that any true lover of the old road can surely feel while passing by.
My little spur-of-the-moment adventure caused me to arrive back home a few hours later than normal, but it was worth every minute of it. An otherwise boring drive up the interstate was transformed into one of fun and discovery as I followed the Historic Route along, imagining another time and all it had to offer.
In so doing, I told myself that I would take some time in the future and complete the rest of the Illinois portion of Route 66 and, eventually, keep heading west on the entire Mother Road!…CortlandWriter