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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

Old Glory to the rescue to thwart the robin!

It’s been way too long since I’ve sat down and put together a blog post, so one of my goals IMG_2383.jpg
for today is to do just that. Now it’s time to catch back up with what’s happening here as spring is in full force once again.

And springtime means yard work and getting everything that we dismantled (deck and patio furniture, planters, decorative ornamental hangings, etc.) and put away back in late fall dusted off and back in their proper places.

Now, as the days and weeks wear on through April, things are shaping up nicely around here. The grass all around is healthy and relatively free from various weeds and those persistent dandelions. The first applications of crabgrass preventer and early spring weed-n-feed have been applied.

We’ve mowed five times already and have added mulch to our backyard “triangle” that IMG_2377.jpghas the tall evergreen in the center. The colors of the daffodils and the tulips (that survived the rabbit assaults!) have been spectacular for the last couple of weeks.
IMG_2379.jpgWhen all of the yard tasks are finished, I enjoy sitting on the deck in the late afternoon with a cold drink, or in the early morning with a hot coffee, and watch the birds come and go to our two feeders and our neighbor’s finch feeders.

Those mornings when the sunshine is magnificent (which it has been for the past several days), there’s simply an overall feeling of nature coming alive and all the vestiges of winter cold eradicated.

Which brings us to the saga of the industrious robins who, for the last couple of springs, have built a nest in the tall evergreen out back. It’s a perfect spot, offering protection from the weather and other nosey creatures.

I’ve watched the nest-building on those mornings when I’m on the deck, and I find it cool how organized the robin “nest builders” are. While one bird goes out and forages for nest materials (grass, mud, cloth, etc.), another one–some distance away, yet on alert–watches to chase away any intruding bird who might have ideas about disturbing the nest in some way.

IMG_2381.jpgOne morning a few days ago, I happened to notice one of those robins hanging around our deck several times. When I went out with coffee in hand, the bird flew out low over my head. I looked over to where it had come from and saw that it had been starting a nest on the top of our gas fireplace vent on the side of our house. The nest was pretty far along, too, so I knew I needed to get rid of it before Mama robin moved in to lay her eggs.

It is a perfect spot for a nest, I realized, as it’s surrounded on three sides and out of the way and protected from strong winds. The problem, however, is that we don’t want a bird building a nest so close to the deck where we’re going in and out. Also, we don’t want grass, mud, stones, and other nest materials clogging up the fireplace vent.

I figured I could remedy this quickly in its early stages by getting the broom and sweeping away the grass and mud that our industrious little friend had placed there. I even wedged an old shovel handle through the deck privacy wall in hopes that it would deter the robin from returning to build its nest.

IMG_2382.jpgAll seemed satisfactory until the next morning when I checked it out, and the bird had re-started the nest, having deposited a good amount of grass once again. So, I repeated my earlier sweeping and put the handle back over the vent top, thinking that this time I’d surely discouraged the little red-breasted birdie!

Not so!

The robin was persistent, though, doing the same thing as before the following morning. Something more had to be done to deter the robin from nesting on our fireplace vent, and my creative juices were in overdrive.

What I came up with is as follows: Inside a coffee can I placed a heavy stone for weight and then punched a hole in the IMG_2374.jpgplastic lid just enough to fit a miniature American flag through. I hoped that the waving of Old Glory would keep the eager robin away, and the lid and can would keep the top of the vent covered and inaccessible to the robin. So far it has worked.

Each time I go outside, I check to make sure that the little flag is waving and no grass has been placed in or around the can on the vent.

I still see robins out and about, bouncing and bobbing right along on the green, green grass of home, and I’m pretty sure that one is nesting in the big evergreen as before.

But wherever they are, I wish them and their babies well–Just not next to our deck and on our fireplace vent!

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Photo: learner.org

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!