Day 2 on the Mother Road…

IMG_5887Thursday, September 14, 2017

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!

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Gettin’ our kicks westward on ’66…

Continuing west…

Thursday, September 14

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.

IMG_5785After 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!

IMG_5820After 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.

IMG_5821Before 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.IMG_5858

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.

Next: Springfield to Joplin

 

Lighting out for the “territories!”

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How about those hats! The two “Road Warriors” about to embark on the drive of their lives.

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.

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Would loved to have stayed or eaten here in the old days! Art’s near Farmersville, Illinois

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

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“Our Lady of the Highway” near Raymond, Illinois

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.

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St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel, Illinois. Famous neon cross high up there!

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.

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The only shot of the Chain of Rocks Bridge-Missouri side

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.

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The Wagon Wheel Motel, Cuba, Missouri, a charming and delightful Route 66 motor lodge.

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.

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Time to eat! 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.

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The speedometer says it all!

 

Segment 3 of our Route 66 adventure through Illinois…

July 26
Bloomington to Worden, IL

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.

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IMG_2635.jpgSouth 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 IMG_2638.jpgPlaza. 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 IMG_2669.jpgdrive 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.IMG_2668.jpg

 

 

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.IMG_2687.jpg

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.

IMG_2701.jpgAt 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.IMG_2702.jpg

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.)

IMG_2706.jpgFollowing 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.IMG_2724.jpg We’re ready!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Made it!

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Yours truly on the end of the Santa Monica Pier
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Happy “Road Warriors” at journey’s end…

Yep, we made it all the way out here from start to finish on Historic Route 66, from Chicago to the end of the pier in Santa Monica, California. It’s been a wonderful couple of weeks on the road. Almost forgot what home looks like these days! Hot, I understand.

But there are so many stories about our road adventure that I’m going to be sharing in the days ahead. For now, though, let me just say that Carolyn and I have had a terrific time, are healthy, and haven’t clawed each other’s eyes out (up to this point, anyway!).

I have been keeping a daily journal of this trip as we move from town to town, state to state, motel to motel. Now, we’ve completed the whole thing and we’ll be turning around and heading back east in a few days. We’re spending the next couple of days here near Disneyland (not going there) because we got a really good rate at the hotel and we wanted to be out of the Los Angeles scene. Driving through there today was an adventure all in itself, particularly since it was my first time ever in the area. And what they say about traffic there is absolutely true!

As I type this, I’m still worn out from the long day of  wrong turns, missed streets, and not knowing where I was going! The cold beer I finally procured at the hotel bar earlier was soothing and calming.

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That cold beer never tasted better!

So tomorrow will be a non-travel day. The car will rest–as

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Carolyn enjoying a refreshing margarita!

will we–and we’ll take full advantage of the wonderful pool and other amenities this place has to offer. At that point, I’ll go back to the morning of September 13, when we left Illinois, and got on the road–The Mother Road–and write about those wonderful miles across this wonderful land of ours. What a journey it has been!

Right now, it’s time for rest and reflection. The bed beckons. See you all very soon on these pages.

 

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