The Route 66 journey continues…

mark .jpgGreetings, friends! Due to preparing for our Alaska cruise and my procrastination (Mainly my procrastination!) I have fallen behind in updates of our Route 66 drive we began back in July. (https://cortlandwriter.wordpress.com/2017/07/12/our-route-66-adventure-has-begun/)

About the Route 66 road trip: Our plan is to leave our home here in northern Illinois and drive down to the St. Louis area and pick up where we left off from our Illinois Route 66 “day trips,” the subjects of these current posts. Now that we’re home from our magnificent journey to Alaska—and catching our breath—we’re in the midst of readying ourselves for the full drive along America’s Mother Road, beginning on September 13. I promise to be more consistent with posts along the way!

And so, without further ado, what follows is the continuation of our trek through the Illinois segment of Historic Route 66. Good to have you along for the ride!

July 17

Up and out on the road early, we made it back to where we left off  on our journey of the Illinois portion of Historic Route 66, in Dwight, a 90-minute drive from our home near DeKalb, we were back on the Mother Road by 10 a.m.

ambler becker gas.jpgOur first stop (after a potty break and coffee at McDonald’s!) was the Ambler-Becker Texaco gas station that dated back to 1932. The very kind and friendly lady who greeted us was very helpful in explaining the history of the station and its role in the Route 66 lore.

Down the road about six miles or so, we came into the town of Odell. The first thing that caused us to stop was the site of the old subway that is no longer in use. But back in the early days of the busy traffic on this route, it was necessary to build this tunnel under the road for the safety of all pedestrians.susbway in Odell.jpg

A short distance away was the 1932 Standard Oil Filling Station. It was a perfect example of a “throwback” piece of standard oil station odell.jpgRoute 66’s earlier days. It’s a “must-see” stop for anyone traveling the route.

 

Just down the road, and off to our right, was an old barn advertising Meramec Caverns. How often we saw these barns in years past with this advertising.merimac cavern barn.jpg

Soon, we were getting hungry. To our good fortune, we were nearing Pontiac, the site of the Old Log Cabin Restaurant.old log cabin pontiac.jpg

Originally opened in 1926 as a roadside lunchroom and gas station called the Log Cabin Inn, the rustic Old Log Cabin Restaurant hasn’t changed much over the years. Mother Road memorabilia covers the interior walls, which still have the original siding. I had a patty melt that I’d make the trip back for!Carolyn at log cabin pontiac.jpg

From there, we drove the short way into Pontiac and found the Route 66 Hall of Fame Museum. It is located in an old fire house and is attached to the old courthouse.

pontiac mural.jpgThe museum is worth spending quite a bit of time in to enjoy the wonderful displays of words, artifacts, and photos to convey the story of the Mother Road.

And the wall murals all around the area are outstanding! Bob Waldmire’s iconic VW van is on display as well as his Ultimate Hippie RV Land IMG_2580.jpgYacht. Anyone traveling Route 66 will surely learn about Bob and IMG_2586.jpghis role in the preservation of the Mother Road.

IMG_4911.jpgFrom there, we drove through towns of China, Lexington, and Toward, and were treated to sections of actual Route 66 pavement as we neared the Bloomington-Normal area, most of which wound through business and residential and downtown streets.

Once we made it to the south side of Bloomington, we left the route and made our way back to the interstate and drove the bloomington-normal region sign.jpgthree hours back home.

We would pick up from Bloomington on our next day-trip. For now, though, we were tired and ready to call it a successful journey.

Next time: Bloomington to Staunton

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Our Route 66 adventure has begun!

IMG_2474Our Route 66 odyssey is underway, although we won’t be grinding out the continuous miles and hours until mid-September. But the journey has started all the same. Here’s why…and how.

Since we live in northern Illinois, sixty miles from downtown Chicago, we have decided to take advantage of that and cover the Illinois portion of the trip before our planned September departure for Santa Monica, California. When that day arrives, we’ll leave home and make a beeline to St. Louis via the Interstates and resume our driving on Historic Route 66, saving us a few days that would have otherwise been spent doing Illinois.

Besides, we have a big Alaska cruise coming up in August, so we’ll obviously be busy with all of that and gone for several days. But what a fun day it was yesterday actually getting the Route 66 trip started!

By late morning, we’d driven to Michigan Avenue and immediately turned onto westbound Adams Street, directly in front of the famed Art Institute. Carolyn was the IMG_2475driver for the day so I could read the Route 66 tour books and snap pictures along the way at various highlights and roadside attractions.

The first such photo-op occurred as soon as we made the turn onto Adams. (See my selfie with sign in background!)

From that point, we followed the suggestions given in the two excellent guides I’d purchased a while back: EZ 66 Guide for Travelers by Jerry McClanahahan, published by the National Historic Route 66 Federation, and Traveling the New, Historic Route 66 of Illinois, by John Weiss, published by Historic 66, P.O. Box 66, Wilmington, Illinois.

 

IMG_2477.jpgWe found the famous Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant, a place that has beenIMG_2484.jpg there since 1923, and The Berghoff Restaurant before motoring on Adams, west out of Chicago, following present-day Ogden Avenue.

We next came to Cicero, where we passed the classic Henry’s Drive-In. The sign with a large hotdog with fries was easy to spot.
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Next we passed through Berwyn, Lyons, McCook, Hodgkins, Countryside, and Indian Head Park. Most of this stretch was commercial or industrial, but we got a pretty good sense of what it must have been like for this road to be the main route serving the entire area all those years ago. I found the quirky turns and angles along the way to be of great interest.

By now, we were both ready for lunch, and our timing couldn’t have been better as we came into Willowbrook, a place with which I am extremely familiar. Most of my teachingIMG_2492 career was spent there and just a stone’s throw from one of Route 66’s iconic places: Del Rheas Chicken Basket.

Carolyn had never eaten there, so it was a real treat for her and our first Route 66 meal on the epic journey now beginning!

We satisfied our hunger with the delicious lunch buffet of the best roast or fried chicken around, and enjoyed the various pieces of Route 66 memorabilia and artwork on display throughout the quaint restaurant.IMG_2498

Refueled, we were once more ready to get on the road and continue our journey. The route took us in a southwest direction now, through the town of Romeoville, where infamous Stateville Prison sits ominously  off to the right-hand side of the road.

Then it was on into Joliet where we IMG_2501wound our way to the Route 66 Visitor and Information Center. A quick visit, followed by a stop in the Gift Shop, and we were back in the car continuing on.

We passed Chicagoland Speedway and the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery. The whole area here was noted for the Joliet Arsenal begun in 1942, which made ammunition during World War II. Now, the area has been turned into the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Happy to report that the whole area has a happier, brighter, look and attitude about itself.

As we rolled into Wilmington shortly thereafter, we were greeted by the Gemini Giant and, a few minutes later, by Dino the Sinclair Dinosaur sitting atop an old service station-tire shop in town. Neat stuff, and part of the Route 66 lore!

Before long, we came to the Polk-a-Dot Drive-In in Braidwood and waved at Elvis, IMG_2514.jpgMarilyn Monroe, and James Dean as we passed by on our way to Gardner.

In Gardner we immediately came upon a bright Route 66 building that was adorned with Coca-Cola signs and logos.

The place turned out to be Perkins Wood & Glass Shop, whose proprietor is a friendly fellow named Tom Perkins. He and his “guard” dog Rufus came out to greet us as soon as we pulled up, and Tom filled us in on the local history of the place and his part in it. Then he took a couple of photos for us and gave us a quick tour of his small shop.

It was an enjoyable break from the road, but the afternoon was wearing on, and we were going to bring this first segment of our Illinois-66 travels to a halt and head for home soon.

Fortunately, home would be just a little over an hour’s drive north, so we bid farewell to Tom and Rufus, paid a quick visit to the Two Cell Jail and restored street car/diner across the way, and drove the short distance to the next town on the alignment, Dwight, where Route 47 intersected with the Historic 66 on which we were traveling.

At that point, we broke away from Historic 66 and headed up Route 47 to home. We’ll head back down to Dwight next Monday to pick up there and continue on down the line. And I’m sure there will be more photos and commentary to follow.IMG_2525.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Long time, no write! Another birthday and road trip plans…

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Cheers! Celebrating turning another year older and wiser (?)

I realize it’s been a long time since I wrote and posted anything—April 25th to be exact—and I’m guilty of preferring early-morning reading over writing as of late. I know that doesn’t help with finishing the Work-in-Progress, but there just hasn’t been that drive or sense of urgency to regain that much-needed discipline. Be that as it may, I have been busy with other things as well.

We’ve been piling up the miles since spring, with trips to Omaha, Nebraska, Rice Lake, Wisconsin, and Canton, Ohio. In Wisconsin and Ohio we successfully indulged in genealogy research in libraries and historical societies and visited some obscure cemeteries to locate and say hello to some ancestors.

Plus, June is the month when I turn another year older on the 11th. Happy to say that I had a wonderful and relaxing time quietly “celebrating” that annual occurrence last weekend at my sister and brother-in-law’s home in Marblehead, Ohio, on the shores of Lake Erie. My mom even had a cherry pie—my favorite! And it seemed altogether appropriate to spend my birthday with her. Happy to report that she’s doing quite well for an 88-year-old lady.

As for those highway miles, we’re just getting warmed up! In mid-September, we’re going to “head out on the highway” (Route 66, that is!) from home here in Illinois and drive to the other end of the Mother Road that is Santa Monica, California. We’re allowing over two weeks for the drive that has been on my “wish list” for a long, long time. The return trip will find us skirting up to Colorado for a few days and then on to Omaha once again for the annual Walk for the Cure cancer walk in early October.

But, before all of that, we’re going on an Alaska cruise in August. Flying from O’Hare, we’ll head to Vancouver for a two-day/night stay before boarding the MS Noordam that will take us through the Inside Passage, Ketchican, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, and on to the Denali National Park via rail. Then we’ll fly back home from Anchorage. This will, no doubt, be a memorable adventure for the ages. As the summer begins to roll along, I’m getting thoroughly excited about what lies ahead.

To say the very least, I certainly won’t be stumped for things to write about as this summer and fall get going. My plan is to thoroughly enjoy every minute of our trips and capture as many wonderful memories as possible and to share as many as I possibly can. Perhaps there will even be further inspiration for getting back to serious writing to complete that obstinate Work-in-Progress!

 

Last day in NOLA-Day 5

DAY 5

Thursday, February 23

As always happens when a wonderful time is being had by all, the time to pack up and leave arrived before we realized it! But, yes, today would be our last on the New Orleans tour with our bus friends.

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An ancient live oak on the plantation (photo: visionoftravel.org)

We started the day with a short bus ride to Destrehan Plantation, where we toured the main house and many of the outbuildings of the scenic surroundings just a stone’s throw from the Mississippi River across the way.

 

Following that, we made our way back to the French Quarter for free time on our own and lunch somewhere therein. Carolyn and I decided to pay one last visit to Bourbon Street, in the quieter time of the day there, and enjoyed leisurely browsing up and down the various streets leading to Bourbon Street.

Along the way, we came upon another parade, this time featuring the young children of the area, eagerly handing out beads as they smiled and passed along through the crowded French Quarter, down Orleans Street.

Eventually, hungry and thirsty, we found ourselves back on Bourbon Street in search of a good place for a good lunch.

It wasn’t long before we decided on Johnny White’s Pub & IMG_2001.jpgGrill, with an old New Orleans balcony that would be perfect to people watch while we had lunch.

Surprisingly, the place wasn’t crowded, and we secured a table outside on the balcony. I sampled a local brew, and Carolyn imbibed a “modified” Hurricane, the signature drink of the New Orleans scene!

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Lunch on the balcony of Johnny White’s Pub & Grill overlooking Bourbon Street

After our lunch of fish and cold drinks, we made our way back up in the direction of where the bus would pick us up once more, stopping into various shops along the way.

 

I found and purchased a book about the history of the French Quarter and called my shopping finished. Carolyn did so as well soon thereafter, and we strolled back in the beautiful warm afternoon to board the bus to head back to the hotel to change for dinner.

Dinner this evening would be at the Boomtown Casino & Hotel. Provided by the tour company, this affair would be a culminating experience where we’d enjoy our last night there with entertainment and dinner with a couple of other bus tour groups besides ours. Our group planned to do it up big by donning Mardi Gras attire and making a grand entrance upon our arrival.

Unfortunately, our arrival that evening was delayed nearly an hour due to traffic snarls and backups due to a serious accident.

So, by the time our group had arrived at the

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Dinner in festive Mardi Gras garb at the Boomtown Casino

casino, very few of the other groups were there to witness our grand entrance, having already headed out themselves. In spite of this, we still had a fun time and enjoyed the group photo and the entertainment of good music. Soon, it was time to get back to the hotel to pack and ready ourselves for the morning’s departure. Carolyn and I had a long drive ahead of us, and the bus folks had a long bus ride facing them.

 

Before turning in, we said our goodbyes to all of the other bus friends, as we’d be out and away the next morning before any of them would be up and about.

Early Friday morning, we grabbed one last breakfast and coffee-to-go at the Ramada and were in the gassed-up Equinox and working our way out of New Orleans. The next stage of our winter trip was underway: Florida!

City tour, French Market, WWII Museum & Druids parade fun-Day 4

DAY 4

Wednesday, February 22

There’s nothing quite like a good night’s sleep to get one revved up once more for another day of fun and good times, and so it was as we started Wednesday with a guided tour around various sections of New Orleans. Having a tour guide join the bus group made for an educational experience and a greater appreciation for the history of New Orleans.

At the conclusion of the two-hour tour, we arrived at the French Market and had lots of time to walk about and browse and purchase from so many different vendors with the Unknown.jpegvarious kinds of items prominently on display. Carolyn and I took a break for lunch at one of the sandwich/muffuletta storefronts, and enjoyed eating in the open air among the busy market place.

Of course, my major purchase at the market was a New Orleans French Quarter ball cap. Ball caps are pretty much the standard items I buy when visiting a new place. (Before this road trip would end, I would have several more added to my burgeoning collection of hats!)

By 1:30, we’d had our fill of the French Market, and it was time to return to the bus waiting nearby for our next stop at the National World War II Museum, of which I’d heard endless positive comments previously. I couldn’t wait to get there, despite the limited amount of time we were faced with.

Once checked in, we walked through at our own pace to the various “theaters” of the War, and I realized that one truly needed an entire day (probably more) to see and appreciate everything the museum has to offer. We sort of had to keep an eye on the images.jpegclock, also, for our appointment in the Solomon Victory Theater to see the museum’s production of the documentary Beyond All Boundaries. This moving and excellent production was well worth the wait, and anyone visiting New Orleans should be sure to pay this museum a visit to view it.

Our dinner afterwards was in the museum itself, in a large auditorium, the Stage Door Canteen. In fact, many historic photos of celebrities from the WWII Era were prominently displayed on the walls.

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(photo: Frischhertz.com)

During dinner, plans were being bandied about regarding hanging around downtown during the evening to view one of the many pre-Mardi Gras parades. Tonight’s parade was going to be the Druid Parade. I wasn’t sure what that was all about, but suffice it to say that it all means something in the culture of Mardi Gras.

As it turned out, a great viewing point nearby at General Lee Circle seemed to be our best option. Plus, the bus driver agreed to find somewhere nearby to park and wait until things were over with later in the evening, so the quickly laid plans were moving forward.

16832186_384291258595723_5066108288731869924_n.jpgWe walked a couple of blocks and were early enough to grab a place right by the traffic barriers surrounding the circular area—an excellent spot for watching the floats and bands as they passed by tossing beads and coins to the eager folks of all ages!

It was a wonderful evening, and I enjoyed the event, but I was ready to call it a night when the parade finally concluded. There were, however, some folks who chose to keep the evening festivities going and would get back to the hotel via Uber. The rest of us would hike back to the bus parked in front of the museum and head back to the hotel.

Riding back in the quiet of the bus, I thought back on the past few days and nights we’d spent in New Orleans and couldn’t believe that the next day would be our last full day to enjoy it all. There were many things we’d done already, but tomorrow would be our last opportunity to “catch up” on anything we’d not done yet. Thinking of that, I looked forward to another good sleep to get revved up and recharged once more.IMG_2357.JPG

Beignets, a river boat cruise & Preservation Hall-Day 3

In a post back in January, I wrote about our upcoming road trip/vacation to New Orleans, followed by our continuing on to Florida for a few weeks, beginning on February 19. (Read it here). We returned home to Illinois on Monday, March 13, after logging over 4,000 miles. The next several posts are highlights and summaries of our adventures and experiences in the Crescent City and in the Sunshine State.
Day 3

Tuesday, February 21

This morning I found out what a beignet is! Seems as though ever since we signed up to go on this tour to New Orleans, that was what everyone familiar with the city and the culture there had talked about most often: “Can’t wait to have some beignets!” I had been told that there was quite a bit of powdered sugar involved, and I was curious to find out.

Anyway, after breakfast, once we all loaded up on the bus (yes, our car would remain parked at the hotel for the remainder of the New Orleans tour), we made our way into New Orleans, through morning traffic on unfamiliar highways and byways, past the Superdome and other city landmarks, en route to our daily drop-off spot on the corner of Front and Bienville streets, just outside the French Quarter and right alongside the Mississippi River.

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Photo: sweetsavant.com

The pleasant morning weather welcomed us as we strolled down Decatur Street toward the green and white striped awning where the famous Cafe DuMonde French Market Coffee Stand awaited, directly across from the famous Jackson Square. Even from a distance, we could tell that the place was packed and a line had formed outside the wrought iron fence surrounding the place.

Getting a table was first come, first serve, so we were immediately on alert. While we waited, we chatted with a friendly couple from San Diego and ended up sharing a table with them. As soon as we “claimed” an open table, a young girl cleared the mess of powdered sugar and splashed coffee from the previous customers and then took our order. A few minutes later the beignets and coffee arrived, and the four of us quickly tied-in to the fried dough squares under mounds of confectioner’s sugar! They were the perfect complement to the hot café au lait chicory flavored coffee served there.

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Photo: yelp.com

 

After twenty minutes or so of indulging in powdered sugar delights and tasty coffee, as well as good conversation with our San Diego companions, it was time to brush ourselves off of the powdered sugar and make way for other hungry folks waiting. We bid farewell to our table mates as they were on their way in another direction, and we set off to explore the French Quarter on our own.

We spent the next several hours walking about various streets of the French Quarter–in and out of the many shops– and ending up on the famed Bourbon Street. By this time, it was time to find somewhere to eat lunch, so we wandered back up to Decatur Street where we’d earlier passed a restaurant named Cafe Maspero, and we had thought it looked like a good place to eat.

Neither of us was disappointed in our choice, as we had a tasty seafood lunch. Afterwards, we walked over to the Natchez Steamboat Wharf to wait to board for our afternoon river cruise. This was an excellent time to “people watch” and sit in the shade and listen to the loud calliope located high atop the Natchez. The atmosphere was wonderful, helping us become immersed in New Orleans culture and lifestyle, especially as we set off down river for a two-hour cruise a short time later.Unknown-1.jpeg

Once back at the wharf, we walked the short distance back to Decatur Street to the Crescent City Brewhouse for our evening’s meal. Each meal with the tour group provided us with opportunities to get to know each other, and it was one of the great rewards of being on this trip

Once again, the service and the food were excellent! Carolyn and I both had a catfish selection, followed by a Cajun specialty: bread pudding. Yum!

images-2.jpegAfter the meal, everyone was free to spend more time in and about the French Quarter. Some of us decided to head toward St. Peter Street where Preservation Hall is located. Just as its name says, Preservation Hall was established in 1961 “to preserve, perpetuate, and protect traditional New Orleans Jazz.” (http://preservationhall.com/hall/) To get tickets for the 8 p.m. show, we had to wait in line beginning at 7. In the meantime, we had a couple of cold beverages in Pat O’Brien’s next door to Preservation Hall, and we enjoyed the “dueling” pianos while we awaited the 7 o’clock hour.

As the evening turned out, the seemingly long wait, and the $15 apiece for tickets, were well worth it. Even though we were crammed into a very small and well-worn “hall,” the music that the Preservation Jazz Band All-Stars provided was beyond wonderful. And, as in all good performances, time flew right on by and the show came to a close. images-1.jpeg

We found our way out and enjoyed a brisk walk several blocks back to where the bus awaited to haul our tired selves back to the hotel. Our first full day in NOLA had been packed with lots of good things, and we looked forward to what the next day would offer. I drifted off to sleep that night with songs such as Tailgate Ramble pleasantly rambling around in my head!

On to Metairie, Louisiana-Day 2

In a post back in January, I wrote about our upcoming road trip/vacation to New Orleans, followed by our continuing on to Florida for a few weeks, beginning on February 19. (Read it here). We returned home to Illinois on Monday, March 13, after logging over 4,000 miles. The next several posts are highlights and summaries of our adventures and experiences in the Crescent City and in the Sunshine State.
DAY 2

Monday, February 20

Refreshed from a good night’s sleep and a tasty breakfast, we were on the road once more shortly before 8 a.m. Our ultimate destination today would be our hotel in Metairie, Louisiana, but en route we would pass by many unfamiliar names of towns and cities. It’s always fun to venture through previously un-traveled areas, and this was, indeed, new territory for us!

AR19790551t100550.jpgMost of the morning we rolled through Arkansas and discovered a McDonald’s that provided free coffee. Can’t argue with that. Soon after, approaching Memphis, we crossed over the bridge on the Mississippi River into Tennessee, but only for a brief time as Mississippi loomed just ahead.

Cities with names like Jackson, Grenada, and McComb began to appear on the green Interstate signs as we continued south toward Louisiana. We figured that it would take us most of the afternoon to click off the Mississippi miles before arriving at the Louisiana Welcome Center where we planned to snap a picture of the Louisiana welcome sign.

What made things even better was the beautiful weather that had decided to settle in with us. I had donned shorts and a short-sleeve shirt, which would be my standard “uniform” for the duration of the trip. Long pants have never been my preferred choice of attire!

IMG_1997.jpgTrue to form, one mile after leaving Mississippi, we came to the I-55 Welcome Center near

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Photo: Louisiana Dept. of Culture Recreaton & Tourism

Kentwood. One of the nicest Welcome Centers we’ve experienced, this one provided a wonderful break from all of the miles driven and the ones still remaining. Plus, the good folks there offered free coffee!

After a walk around the beautifully landscaped area and a coffee break, we resumed our “push” southward to Metairie.

By late afternoon, we were getting close. The landscape had become swampy and rather desolate looking. I-55 ended by joining up with I-10 East, and we were now driving on a 23-mile long elevated stretch of highway that skirted around Lake Ponchratrain. It was a never-ending scene of water and vegetation, a perfect outdoorsmen’s paradise!

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Photo: DSchwen.com

This road led us right into Metairie and the Ramada, just off Exit 228. Carolyn and I checked in, again ahead of our fellow travelers who we’d meet up with at the restaurant in a while. For now, though, we were content to get settled into our room, walk around the hotel, and be out of the car for a while.

We looked forward to meeting the tour group at Piccadilly’s Restaurant, a short distance

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Piccadilly”s Restaurant

from our hotel, and to relax with a good meal.

Day 2 certainly had been a good one, and the “real” touring would begin in the morning as we’d pay our first visit to the Crescent City.