Back home and the song of the open road…

I’m writing this and looking out into a foggy world, punctuated by a heavy drizzle that seems to be trying to do its best to get rid of the existing snow that is leftover from the last two weeks’ storms. And it’s a bit depressing at the moment since we spent the last three weeks in warm and sunny climes such as Florida, New Orleans, and Memphis.

I know it’s only late February, and this weather is typical for northern Illinois this time of the year, but I was beginning to get awfully comfy and content with those temperatures that hovered in the 80s down there in Dixie!

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Siesta Key Beach
(24 hours later…)

Up early today to take our Malibu in to have the right-rear tire checked to see why it has been losing air. Since the tires aren’t that old, there probably is some slow leak or nail causing the problem.

Driving through thick fog for the second straight day made for a slow trip to Firestone, about 20 miles away from home. As it turned out, the good Firestone folks couldn’t find anything significantly wrong with the tire, so they cleaned and sealed (whatever that entails!) and aired everything up and told me to “keep an eye on it.”

OK. Not a problem. So I’m hoping that this is the extent of any further issues regarding the Malibu’s right rear tire. We shall see.

Now, at this writing, it’s 55 degrees, and the fog has  finally cleared. I can actually see way out past the water tower and on across the sodden and barren fields which lie there rather ugly with all of the snow gone.

About an hour ago, I strolled out back and filled the bird feeders. Afterwards, I had even thought about grabbing a chair and sitting out on the driveway for a while. Just then, the wind kicked up and a steady blast of rain started to beat down, squelching any further thoughts of having a “sit” outside in the mild temperatures. Perhaps tomorrow.

Things are slowly returning to normal after three weeks away from the norm. We’ve spent the past couple of days sorting through mail and taking care of those domestic chores that we were free from thinking about over the past few weeks. Even with accomplishing much these past two days, there’s still plenty to do in the days ahead.

And soon I’ll be doing my civic duty once more, serving as an election judge for the upcoming election in March. I’ll also be working a few days at the early-voting polling place beginning next week. That part of the experience will be something new, so another adventure lies ahead.

Our travels are finished for the time being, but I will be making a trip out to Ohio sometime in March to visit my mother. By that time, I’ll be ready to once more listen to the song of the open road!

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Sunset at Punta Gorda Pier-Harpoon Harry’s
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The Roads We Traveled…

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Sunset at Ft. Myers Beach

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!

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Bourbon Street-before the madness!

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.

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The good ship ms Noordam

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

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Mount Denali

the distance.

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-

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Signs of yesteryear

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!

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Santa Monica Pier-End of the Line on the Route 66 Journey

 

The frozen, waning days of 2017…

 

When last I posted, I had every intention of continuing on a regular course of discipline to bring my Route 66 adventures to a suitable conclusion. Well, that didn’t happen, and there are but a few remaining days of 2017 in which to do so. For better or worse, here goes!

On September 15, the third day on the road, our plan was to make Oklahoma City to spend a couple of days. Thus, we enjoyed a continuous array of roadside remnants and classic old neon signage from days gone by.

Here is a sampling of the day’s sights:

 

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!

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!