A spur-of-the-moment adventure up the Mother Road…

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.

Cover of "Route 66: The Mother Road"
Cover of Route 66: The Mother Road

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.

English: Historic Route 66 in Joliet & Route 5...
English: Historic Route 66 in Joliet & Route 53 IL south of Theodore Street on April 23, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

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14 thoughts on “A spur-of-the-moment adventure up the Mother Road…

  1. Mark a little while ago we watched Billy Connolly’s series on Route 66 – just fascinating – especially the little towns most of whom are suffering because few people actually stopover. We love roadtrips and Route 66 is on our list. Great post 🙂

    1. Yolanda, I haven’t seen that series, but I will hope to see it in the future. Yes, it’s those little towns that are all but dead, yet many of them are trying to keep things going in whatever ways they can. Like you, I love hitting the road, and I always manage to take something away from the people and communities I run into.

    1. Jill: It was the perfect morning to take the “detour,” and I loved everything about it. I turned the radio off and just drove along, thinking about the adventure and possible stories that could come from my decision to get off the beaten path and onto the Mother Road. Can’t wait to do it again in more depth!

  2. Good for you for taking the time. I often drive to New Hampshire. On the way through New England there are so many cute shops and scenic points. I always tell myself that someday I need to stop and check them out, and I never do. I get too fixated on making good drive time. So I really need to just take the time to explore.

    1. Carrie: I can imagine driving to New Hampshire during this time of the year. Beautiful! I spent a summer in Vermont as a camp counselor a long time ago, and I loved everything about that part of the country. I agree with you that we all need to “stop and check out” those points of interest along the way. It’s taken me quite awhile to learn to slow down and not be in such a hurry to get there, but to “explore.” Try it, you’ll like it! 🙂

  3. I am enjoying this drive you made down the part of Route 66! I think there probably were a lot of exciting adventures along that road, I liked that you included ‘heartaches,’ too. Mark, great job on this post, I am leaving the library smiling about your longer ride home.

    1. Glad to have you along for the ride, Robin! About those “heartaches,” I’m sure there were way too many of them as folks set out to find a new way of life somewhere on the great stretch of highway, and more often than not, their dreams were shattered, for one reason or another. These kinds of thoughts rolled through my head yesterday as I drove along that old pavement, past remnants of towns, silos, grain elevators, and vague signs of what once was. Glad I could bring a smile to your face as well. 🙂

    1. Hi, Elizabeth! I know exactly what you mean about having a longtime dream of making the drive. I’d love to see that documentary. Do you recall the title? Thanks for stopping by. Mark 🙂

      1. Mark, the one I saw was :Route 66: Return to the Road with Martin Milner”. I’m sure there are others. When I saw this I thought it would just be a rehash of the tv show, but it’s definitely about the road. I enjoyed it. I believe you can buy it on Amazon for around 30 bucks. 🙂

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