It had been a long-standing dream of mine to drive Route 66 from its beginning in Chicago to its end in California, and in September of 2017 my wife Carolyn and I set out on that wonderful adventure from our home in Cortland, Illinois. However, we began our journey in “stages” prior to hitting the trail for the long haul.
Because we reside relatively close to Chicago, we found that it was simple to break the Illinois portion of the trip into three segments, picking up each time where we’d stopped on the previous drive. (Day 1-Chicago to Dwight; Day 2-Dwight to Bloomington-Normal; Day 3-Bloomington-Normal to Staunton.) We were accompanied by John Weiss’s New, Historic Route 66 of Illinois (8th Edition), an easy-to-follow guide which made each of our segments in Illinois interesting, fun, and on track.
By doing it this way, we could make a “day” out of each segment, enjoying—unhurriedly—the many places and historic spots along the old highway. And so when we were ready to get out on the Mother Road and drive it the rest of the way to Santa Monica in September, our starting point was in Staunton, a short distance to the Chain of Rocks Bridge and the Mississippi River.
I had been eager to visit the Chain of Rocks Bridge, having never done so before, and I was particularly interested in seeing the odd sharp turn it makes near the Missouri side. Unfortunately, because the access to the bridge was closed to access, we could only see the bridge from a distance as we crossed over the I-270 bridge, westbound to St. Louis and beyond.
I was disappointed but knew that sometime down the road I’d be able to get to the Chain of Rocks Bridge, which we did in June of 2021, where we actually got to drive over and back on the bridge with our group, The Route 66 Association of Illinois, during its annual Motor Tour weekend.
Once we crossed the river, I had a feeling that our journey was now “officially” in play! So many miles and unfamiliar territory lay ahead. It was a wonderful feeling of freedom on the open road with so many little towns and nooks and crannies for us to see and enjoy on The Mother Road!
The one-story school building had that “summer-cleaned-ready-to-start” look and smell, which I quickly picked up on the moment I scurried inside out of the downpour.
It was nighttime now, and the interior of the place was dark, with the exception of the small office directly ahead of me, and the library a couple of doors down. It wasn’t hard to figure out that this would be where the board meeting would be held, and the sound of voices from there confirmed this for me.
I didn’t have time to stand around and assess the situation, as a short, slightly balding man approached me from the school office. He smiled and introduced himself and said that he was glad I’d made it all the way from “up North.” He told me to make myself comfortable in his office until they were ready for me, and he’d come get me when they were.
Like waiting in a doctor’s office, a million thoughts coursed through my mind as the minutes seemed to plod on like molasses. Finally, the principal came and got me, and we headed the short distance to the library where the superintendent and the entire board of education were seated around a couple of long tables in the center of the room. In front of them was a single chair, no doubt for me to sit in and perform to the best of my ability, if I wanted to secure a teaching position—my first—in their school. And as I managed to put on a “happy” face and look relaxed (I was anything but), I eased myself into the chair and took a couple of deep breaths, all the while noticing that each member seemed to be studying me very closely. A few friendly nods of heads were extended my way, but most were stoic, serious demeanors.
I don’t recall after all these years exactly how long the interview lasted, but it seemed as though it was much longer than it really was. Throughout the whole ordeal, I could hear the rain pounding unmercifully on the roof, which made hearing difficult. When the interview had come to a close, and I was still a functioning human, I had a pretty positive feeling about it all. I seemed to have handled all of their questions–unexpected ones as well as the “usual” type. If nothing else, I had gained a valuable bit of experience in the interviewing process—and with the whole school board, superintendent, and principal, to boot!
Afterwards, the principal told me that he thought I’d done well and that the board seemed to be impressed. Of course there were other candidates to interview in the days ahead, but I could expect to hear from him—one way or another—by the first of the next week. He wished me luck and reminded me to travel back home safely that night.
And so, I returned to the car where dad was waiting, and the rain had eased up a bit. I gave a quick rundown of all that had taken place and how I felt about things. I knew I’d spend many miles on the ride ahead, rolling things over in my mind of how I could have done better, and I was awfully glad that my dad was with me on that dark and stormy night.
But now, we needed to get ourselves northbound, as it would be very late when we got home to Western Springs. Without further delay, we pulled out of the school parking lot and turned back to the interstate to head a short distance eastward to Vandalia where we’d connect with another old and famous highway to begin our travel north.
After a more deliberate drive around the small town of Mulberry Grove that didn’t seem to have much life to it, we did come upon the junior/senior high school, a low buff brick building that appeared to be well tended to and very pleasant looking. Just seeing this nice-looking school, I felt so much better and slowly began to look forward to my upcoming interview there in a few hours from now.
Dad and I found our way back out to the main intersection where the small gas station/restaurant was located. We discovered that we could get something to eat here, but since there was still plenty of time to “kill” before I had to be at the school for the board meeting that evening, we decided to see if there was anything outside of Mulberry Grove where we might eat and do a little exploring.
An elderly gent behind the counter of the service station told us we could either go west about five miles to Greenville or back east about the same distance to Vandalia. We decided to see what Greenville had to offer.
As I wrote previously, this was totally foreign territory to me, so it would be good to get a feel for the lay of the land. Greenville, a much larger town than Mulberry Grove, had a college and a lovely town square with various businesses on all sides. We leisurely drove through many residential neighborhoods, always ending up back at the town square.
In a while we came upon a restaurant that specialized in chicken dinners, and we could go inside to relax and eat. We both agreed that it was good to be out of the car for a while.I can still recall the hot chicken dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy and corn and cold iced tea that Dad and I enjoyed on that long-ago afternoon.
The day had certainly been long and tiring, and we both felt rejuvenated after the southern Illinois-style meal. We must have spent well over an hour and a half in the restaurant, eating, chatting, and pondering what might lie ahead that day and night. Dad, in his special way, managed to encourage and calm me in preparation for the upcoming interview. Once again, I realized just how glad I was that he was along with me.
Before we realized it, the sun had given way to heavy and dark clouds that hung low overhead. The typical summer humidity in southern Illinois seemed to intensify. The rain that had been in the area early in the day seemed to be bent on returning. Distant thunder rolled off in the west. Without a doubt, a storm was imminent for that evening.
I had one special task yet to do before heading to the school that evening. I needed to change back into my shirt and tie and sport coat that I’d worn to the morning’s interview in Munster. Thankfully, I’d been able to change out of that outfit at a rest area facility on our way south. We returned to the gas station/restaurant on Mulberry Grove’s outskirts and I used the tiny men’s room there and finagled my way into my “interview outfit” once again. Fortunately, I’d brought my shaving kit along and was able to have a quick shave and also to brush my teeth.
After changing clothes and freshening up, I was ready to wend my way to the school. Of course, my stomach was turning circles and my nerves were working overtime as I anticipated the various questions that would be thrown my way later. And to add to the mystery of things, the imminent storm had arrived and a steady and unrelenting rain hammered down.
Dad and I sat in the school parking lot for an interminable length of time, relaxing as the rain poured relentlessly. Once again, I hoped that this gloomy monsoon was not a harbinger of things to come, since I would be going inside shortly, and I closed my eyes and thought a million thoughts, waiting for any kind of easement of the storm so I could go inside. Dad would wait for me in the car, and he wished me luck one more time, and I quickly opened the door and made a mad dash through the rain and on into an unfamiliar school!
I don’t really recall where I first became intrigued with all things “Route 66,” but I’m thinking that it probably came about during the many times I actually drove lots of miles on a great portion of the Illinois segment beginning back in the 70s. Of course, at the time I really didn’t realize the significance of the highway’s history between Chicago and St. Louis.
Upon graduating from Kent State in the summer of 1973, I was ready to head home to the suburbs of Chicago and while away the days until I heard from the superintendent of schools in an Indiana town in which I was certain I’d be teaching in one of the middle schools.
After all, I’d met with him a couple of times, and there had seemed to be a mutually good feeling between the two of us, and, more importantly, that he seemed eager to offer me the position—sooner than later—as soon as I had all of my requirements and a degree all secured. Now, everything had finally come together. It would only be a short time before I received the call with all of the details, the contract would be in the mail for my formal signature, etc., etc.
I’m still waiting!
The famous line, “The best laid plans of mice and men, oft’ go astray,” was about to be perfectly illustrated as the summer wore on. I didn’t worry too much through the rest of June, but when the 4th of July came and went, I began to have that queasy feeling that things weren’t quite right. What was going on?
Realizing that teaching positions were probably being filledpretty quickly in preparation for the new school year, I had to step up and find out exactly what was going on. I placed the long distance call from my parents’ home in Illinois to the superintendent back in Indiana.
When I reached him, I didn’t want to sound overly concerned—although I was all of that—so I simply told him that since I hadn’t heard anything pertaining to the teaching position we’d discussed earlier, that I was calling to find out where I stood in being offered the job.
The silence on the other end seemed to extend for a long, long time. In reality, it was only a few seconds before the superintendent replied that the position was being given to another candidate, and I wouldn’t be offered one.
Even though my stomach now had churned itself into a total maelstrom of sickening nausea, I managed to eke out a question as to why I had been passed over, especially since I had been led to believe that I would be getting the job during our previous two, positive meetings.
His answer was something about my student teaching evaluation (another story for another time, by the way!) and that I wasn’t right for the English teacher position after all. He didn’t care to go any further to clarify for me any of this, and when he wished me luck in my future endeavors, I was left confused,shocked, and worried.
This late in the summer, would I be able to find something, especially since I was pretty much unfamiliar with any of the school systems in the state of Illinois? I only had lived there during summers after we’d moved from out of state after high school graduation. Whatever lay ahead, I knew I best get cracking and begin a search for SOMETHING.
And so that’s kind of where my travels on Illinois’ stretch of Route 66 comes into the picture. I vividly remember thatfirst time out there, in unfamiliar territory, driving the five-hour trip back from southern Illinois through a steady rain storm with my dad, following a job interview with the principal, superintendent, and the entire Board of Education earlier that evening.
At the time, I didn’t pay any attention to the road or what it eventually would come to mean to me. I was only focused on landing a job. Would the one I’d interviewed for that night, the one so far from familiar surroundings, be where I’d begin my career?
After what had happened with the Indiana job falling through, I wasn’t willing to speculate one way or another as we clicked off the miles through the rain on Route 66 to get back to Chicagoland.
In the next post, I’ll explain how that distant job interview came about and how things eventually came together and just how The Mother Road would weave itself through it all.
As usual, I have been absent from posting here since writing about my impending “graduation” from cardiac rehab on December 14. To be sure, that all happened as scheduled, and I was ready to hit the next Phase. I took advantage of the three sessions offered at the hospital’s Health and Wellness Center for no charge, and liked it so much, I took a membership for the new year. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve enjoyed going there and getting an hour’s worth of cardio workout on various machines as well as strength and balance with weights and bands. As I tell anyone who asks, “It’s all good!” So my recovery is moving along swimmingly.
Like everyone else, I’m glad that 2021 finally arrived. With all of the sad election outcomes and the turmoil in our country over the COVID nonsense, we can only hope that a new year will include new answers to old problems. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll all come out of all of this so that we can get back to some sense of “regular” living.
I was thinking the other day just how glad I am that one of my true loves is reading, especially since I watch very little of what is on TV. There are certain shows that we both enjoy, but I could certainly live without them, as I have for unusually long time periods because of the delays in production, etc. And what’s truly amazing is just how many books there are, sitting on my shelves that have yet to be read. It’s almost as though when I bought–or was given–a book, and I placed it on a shelf, that I knew I’d eventually get to it. This past, strange year has really offered me many opportunities to finally get into those that were unread. It’s been, as it always has been, my favorite way to pass time. So many people can’t see how I can sit still for such stretches to read as I do. By the same token, I can’t understand how someone could enjoy painting a house, or puttering around under a car. I suppose that’s the spice of life that makes us all unique.
In closing, I am happy to report that just before I sat down to write, the mail truck pulled up, and I quickly scurried out to the box to see what she’d left for us. Besides the standard junk mail and other waste, there was my Winter Edition of The 66 News, the newsletter for members of the Route 66 Association of Illinois. Skimming through it, fired me up to make plans to be able to once again “hit the road,” something that was out of the question this past year. But I am seeing a glimmer of hope for the road ahead—in so many respects—and that can’t be all bad! I hope your new year is off to a good start and stays that way!
It’s a new year. In the immortal words of the immortal Charlie Brown: “Good grief!”
Hard to imagine it being this far along on the old time spectrum, but I guess I should count my many blessings that I’m upright and taking fluids to enjoy it all. And I could be like so many others and lament this past year, but I happen to believe that it wasn’t such a bad one at all—for so many reasons.
Perhaps our year could best be summed up by calling it Going Places. Looking back now, on this very frigid second day of 2018, it’s pleasing to remember those places.
In February we hooked up with a tour group for a week’s trip to New Orleans, another place I’d never been previously. It was the week heading into Mardi Gras, so we avoided all of the craziness we would have relished in our younger and foolisher days!
But by week’s end, we were both ready to move along to Florida to visit friends in the incredible place known as The Villages and then on to Ft. Myers to spend a week with our daughter. As always, we enjoyed the lure of the road as we did our best to avoid interstate highway travel whenever possible.
August rolled around, and with it, our trip to Alaska. Flying to Vancouver, we began our adventure with fifteen other friends. Boarding the ms Noordam two days later, we set out for the Inside Passage with stops in Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway. Glacier Bay was next, followed by our leaving the ship in Seward for a ten-hour bus ride up to Denali National Park, where we had a brief “sample” of the total beauty of the place.
Perhaps the highlight of the trip was the train trip to Anchorage on the McKinley Explorer, with the VistaDome cars and outstanding luxurious accommodations. We saw Mount Denali for mile after mile, clear and pristine off in
A couple of days in Anchorage, and then it was time to get on the plane to return to Chicago, tired and filled with memories made with good friends and new traveling companions to treasure for a lifetime.
Not long afterwards, September was special as well, because we finally made the journey west on Historic Route 66—The Mother Road, a long-held dream of mine.
It was just the two of us as we pulled out of our little northern Illinois town on a foggy and chilly September morning and wound our way through so many small and often-
forgotten towns. The old road remnants, the faded signage of roadside motels and eateries that once served travelers of the great road, and the ever-changing landscape were what made our auto trip a three-week adventure never to be forgotten.
December found us once again “on the road” with a bus trip to Branson, Missouri, for a week. It was wonderful to be a passenger and not have to do any driving on this journey, and we shared many laughs and good times with our fellow travelers.
And so the year just past was pretty darned good for us. As we look ahead, our annual drive to Florida is fast approaching the first week of February. Later, in July, we are going to set out on the Oregon Trail for a three-day, wagon trip along the original road. I guess you just can’t keep us from experiencing all the historic American highways!
Here’s to many happy moments—and travels—to all of you in the year ahead, wherever your roads may take you!
Lunch and gas in Springfield, Missouri. (Not a very pleasant sounding combination, if taken in the wrong context!) Nevertheless, we took care of both “necessaries” and worked our way through the city that held quite a bit of early Route 66 history.
And soon we were once again out on the old highway and traveling through lovely bucolic surroundings.
This delightful stretch of road offered old barns and remnants of various businesses of yesteryear. The “Modern Cabins” neon sign caught our attention at Greystone Heights, where we pulled into the lot and said hello to the nice lady who told us to take as many photos as we’d care to.
A few miles from here, we came upon Gay Parita Sinclair Station at Paris Springs. This stop was another of the many like it where we met the folks in charge and were appreciative of their generosity and overall kindness. Carolyn enjoyed cold watermelon, while I refreshed with cold ice water. The photos here show what a wonderful piece of Route 66 it is. A must visit for travelers!
Our first detour came a little later as a bridge was completely out, routing us several miles south. Nothing to do but follow the orange detour signs and enjoy the ride.
We worked our way back north and rejoined Route 66 just outside of Carthage at a Flying W Store and gas station. We stopped here to snap photos of the unique piece of art on the corner of the lot: the “Crap Duster,” a flying manure spreader! We learned that this unique artwork had been done by artist Lowell Davis, a local guy known for creating wonderful things!
The entire area seemed to be full of terrific Route 66 “stuff.” Old motel signs, remains of motels themselves, gas stations, etc. And we couldn’t wait to see what was ahead in the town of Carthage.
And sure enough, we were soon face to face with a classic Route 66 motel, Boots Court, famous for its neon and architecture. We could see that it was open for business and even gave a thought to get a room there for the night, but we still had plans to make it to Joplin before stopping.
We rolled on, and were in Joplin by the time we’d designated our daily stopping time: 4:30. By this time, we were both a bit road “weary” and ready to stop and unwind and update our writing. Carolyn was sending daily “update” e-mails to a large group of friends from home, and I was scribbling in my little orange notebook. (Which rests beside me as I put these blog posts together.)
After some reconnoitering to get our bearings in another new city, we found a nice place to spend the night. The Econolodge offered just what we needed. Clean room, swimming pool, complimentary breakfast, and good location to where we’d pick up Route 66 in the morning. After a wonderful steak dinner at the nearby Longhorn Steakhouse, we returned to our motel. Carolyn wrote her update; I swam.
Realizing that we were really and finally doing this trip, I felt a sense of adventure as to what lay ahead, while at the same time thinking back to the wonderful places, people, and things we’d come across these first two days. What a wonderful trip it is—and will be!
Checked out of the delightful Wagon Wheel Motel at 8:30. Another splendid comfortably pleasant sunny morning! We were in for a very wonderful day discovering the roadside treasures along the winding and rolling Missouri route.
Our destination for the day was Joplin, near the western end of the state. We had no lodging reservations, but we trusted that there’d be something once we got there.
After breakfast of our usual egg and muffin and coffee breakfast, we were once more westbound. Soon, we were treated to a giant rocking chair near Fanning. It was way too big to climb up and “sit a spell,” but we did capture some fine pictures of the big creation.
As was the case in Illinois, the interstate super slab was never too far away from old Route 66. Fortunately, there would be very few occasions on this day for us to be on I-44. Instead, most of our miles involved traveling along the “outer” roads, what “frontage” roads are called in Missouri. And so onward we wound.
As the road and landscape around and ahead of us opened up, we came upon more “big stuff.” A giant dripping neon faucet near St. James, and across the way at the Mule Trading Post was the Big Hillbilly.
When we came into Rolla and the Missouri University of Science and Technology, we learned that it is the home of the first nuclear reactor in Missouri. Nearby, we passed a small replica of Stonehenge that had been carved with high-speed water jets. Those techies are quite proficient with their skills!
After a short—but necessary—drive on the interstate, we once again exited and drove through some of my favorite stretch of Route 66 roadway. This 4-lane 66 through Hooker was the very first on Route 66 in Missouri. “Hooker Cut” had been built in 1941-45 for wartime traffic to Ft. Leonard Wood. It was a delight to see and drive this stretch and enjoy the gorgeous hilly landscape.
Before long, we’d come to “Devils Elbow,” named for the bend in the river that caused frequent logjams. Tucked way down below very tall tree-lined bluffs, Devils Elbow featured a neat looking BBQ and Bar, a narrow steel bridge, a small market, and post office. Up the hill lay an old Route 66 pullout where we enjoyed the scenic view to the river valley below before continuing up this original piece of Route 66.
On we traveled, through Buckhorn, where another roadside treasure greeted us: The giant bowling pin, right next to the sign for the ADULT SUPERSTORE! A good morning chuckle for the both of us.
A good portion of the rest of the morning was given over to simply enjoying the countryside and the numerous twist, turns, and hills we came to. On into Lebanon and some wonderful old businesses and signage. The Munger Moss Motel (1946) is an outstanding example of what old Route 66 was—and is—with its wonderful vintage sign and motor court behind. Would love to spend a night here next time through.
And so on we went, passing a couple of old Meramec Caverns Barns and a 1926 railroad overpass, through Phillipsburg, Conway, and Niangua. Soon, we entered Marshfield, home of Dr. Edwin Hubble, Astronomer, and famous for the Hubble Space Telescope.
A quick tour around the town square to see the model replica of the telescope, we decided it was time to find a place for lunch, and Springfield wasn’t that far ahead and would certainly have much to choose from. It would be a good place to stop for a while, have lunch, and fill the tank up once again.
Finally, the day arrived—September 13, 2017—that we would make the actual drive across eight states on Historic Route 66. All of the planning and “day trips” here in Illinois were finished. Now it was time.
We left our home here in northern Illinois at exactly 6:22 a.m. in 62 degree weather. The first hour of the drive was through a pretty thick fog, but it cleared away the farther south we traveled.
We were “officially” off to drive Historic Route 66! We would finish off the lower portion of Illinois, where we’d left off just above St. Louis, and then get into “uncharted” territory in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.
For now, though, it was a pretty familiar landscape as we traveled to get to our “starting” point near Farmersville for our first Route 66 icon of the day, Art’s Motel. Great old sign! And not far from there was “Our Lady of the Highways” shrine that has blessed the road since 1959. A
series of signs heading south from the shrine recites the “Hail Mary.”
A short time later, we entered Litchfield, a Route 66 town famous for the SkyView Drive-in Theatre and the Ariston Cafe (1924). Across the street, we enjoyed spending some time in the rather new Route 66 Welcome Center. There, I learned that one of my favorite “old time” ballplayers, Ray Schalk, who played catcher for my Chicago White Sox was from Litchfield. Funny what you learn when you’re not even trying!
Time to leave and continue southwest to Hamel and Edwardsville and into Mitchell, where I hoped to see the old Chain of Rocks Bridge connecting Illinois and Missouri. Just before we entered the small town of Hamel, we passed the St. Paul Lutheran Church, a beautiful old brick structure, with a large neon cross way up above the ground, guiding nighttime travelers on Route 66 for well over 60 years.
A few more miles, and on through Edwardsville, we were in Mitchell and about finished with Illinois. What I had been anticipating for so long was just ahead—The Chain of Rocks Bridge, with the strange sharp bend. The bridge is no longer used, but at one time, it was the main bridge over the Mississippi River on Route 66 between Illinois and Missouri.
To my dismay, once we got to the bridge, we encountered a “Road Closed” sign, and there was no way to actually get to the old bridge or even see it, except from the highway once we crossed over to Missouri on the I-270 bridge nearby. We did manage a few quick long shots on the Missouri side, but nothing like what I’d expected. So it goes!
A bit disappointed, yes, but I knew there was so much more awaiting us in the days ahead. And so we drove on, skirting around to the north and west of St. Louis where we would join I-44 and the old Route 66 continuing west.
Near Eureka, Missouri, we stopped at the Route 66 State Park/Welcome Center and enjoyed many wonderful displays of remnants of old motel signs and various pieces of road lore and legend.
Through miles of rolling countryside no longer pancake flat like Illinois, we enjoyed this “new” territory and passed several rustic and natural landscapes through Gray Summit, Sullivan, Bourbon, all towns with water towers and calm and peaceful scenery out on the old road.
Late afternoon had arrived, and it was time to stop for the night. We had made a reservation for this first night at The Wagon Wheel Motel, a restored old Route 66 motor court, in Cuba, Missouri. We checked in there and were immediately transported back to an earlier time because of the wonderful atmosphere of the grounds and original rooms. We enjoyed sitting out on the little patio in the courtyard following a nice barbecue dinner right next door at the Missouri Hick Bar BQ.
After our first day, and many miles under our belt, we were ready to call it an early evening. So many more wonderful miles lay ahead, and we couldn’t wait to continue in the morning.
A beautful sunny day greeted us as we were up and out and on I-39 by 8 a.m. to make the two-and-a-half hour drive down to the south end of Bloomington, where our previous Illinois “segment” of driving Historic 66 left off.
So far, in our previous two “day trips,” we’ve enjoyed many portions of the “old highway,” various remnants of motels and businesses, and we would definitely encounter much more of the same on today’s drive. So by 10:30, we were back to the point where we’d
broken off the drive a few weeks before.
South of Bloomington-Normal is one of Route 66’s most iconic stops: Funk’s Grove, famous for selling maple “sirup” for generations. We’ve driven I-55 past this spot so many times without ever actually getting off and checking it out.
Today, however, our drive on the original road goes right past the place, and we pulled in and visited the little store and the pleasant lady behind the counter. Of course, we couldn’t escape without purchasing a small jug of their famous maple “sirup.” (Yep, that’s the way they spell it!)
After that, we continued on down a short distance to McLean, home of the Dixie Travel Plaza. After a “pit stop” there, we drove to nearby Atlanta, a town that has really gotten into the spirit of preserving Historic Route 66. A clock tower, a giant “muffler man,” and the Palms Cafe are all worth visits.
Rolling on, we found our way into Lincoln on the 1930-1940 Route 66 alignment. Following a quick drive around the town square, we re-joined the route past The Mill on 66. For years it was a popular restaurant, but now has been restored and serves as an information center/gift shop. It was closed on this day, but we managed to capture some good photos before continuing south through Broadwell, Elkhart, Williamsville, and Sherman.
Just outside of Sherman is an original Route 66 Rest Area, complete with the original pavement. “Rest Areas” during the Route 66 heyday were much different than the modern-day facilities we’re used to. Mostly, these areas were picnic areas or for walking the dog or for just getting off the road for awhile.
Just past Sherman is Springfield, obviously full of wonderful Abraham Lincoln attractions (which we’ve done many times), and our focus was on the remnants of old businesses and hotels along the road through the state capital.
At this point, we both were hungry, and we just so happened to be close to another Route 66 icon, the Cozy Dog Drive In (1949). It’s famous for inventing the corn dog. So it was inside to the air conditioned comfort and a Cozy Dog and a cold Route 66 root beer for each of us. The memorabilia on display was well worth the time we spent looking it over.
After our Cozy Dog repast, we headed off toward the next part of today’s trip south on 66’s 1926-30 alignment. (We would pick up the “other” alignment when we set out on September 13 for the long drive.)
Following the brown Historic 66 signs, we found several very worthwhile remnants to enjoy, such as the brick road that was hand laid in 1932, covering the original Portland cement of the old road. We enjoyed a slow drive over this 1.4 mile strip of old 66, and then it was on through Auburn, Thayer, Virden, and Girard–mostly country roads and farmland. Very peaceful and pleasant!
Then, we came upon another stretch of original road, which included wild turkey tracks embedded in the road, dating back to the 1920s when the road was poured.
From there, our southbound trek took us through the neat towns of Carlinville, Gillespie, Benld, Sawyerville, and Staunton, and the small area near Worden. This was to be our stopping point for today before we got on the nearby interstate to return home.
And that’s exactly what we did, turning north back up I-55 and I-39 to home. Like all of our other day sojourns, today had been a good day once again, experiencing the Mother Road in south central Illinois. With only a tiny section of Illinois Route 66 now remaining, we were ready for the upcoming journey all the way out to Route 66’s end in California, beginning September 13. We’re ready!