A ride through the rain, a beer at The Night Owl, & a start…

Through the dark and the rain, we started our trip north at the intersection of I-70 and US Highway 51. Again, I’d never had any occasion to have ever been on any portion of this road, so I had no concept of its significance at that time. Suffice it to say, it’s another long and historic route between Louisiana and the far reaches of Ironwood, Michigan. It basically cuts right up through the middle of Illinois, with several well-known—and many not-so-well-known—towns along the way: Carbondale, Centralia, Patoka, Vandalia, Ramsey, Oconee, Pana, Macon, Decatur, Bloomington-Normal…OK, you get the idea.

But as we traveled through the rainstorm, over unfamiliar highway, Dad and I had some pretty good conversation. All these years later, I can’t really remember much of what we said, but I have very good feelings of that trip that was just Dad and me! I may have forgotten a lot of what we talked about as we worked our way northward on US-51 through the stormy night, but I haven’t forgotten Dad saying that it was time for a beer and a burger when we approached the Night Owl Tavern on the outskirts of Macon an hour or so into our trip.

The warm and welcoming roadhouse had stood there on the bend on US-51 for many, many years, and this would be my first of many stops whenever I would travel home from southern Illinois. That first time, however, was just Dad and me. It was so good to relax and savor the greasy burger and fries and the icy long neck beer—I think it was a Schlitz—and begin to believe that everything would work out for my fledgling career. With so many miles yet to travel, regrettably, we couldn’t stay there too long, and we paid our bill and got back on the highway for home. Regardless of the quick stop at the Night Owl in Macon, Illinois, it will forever be a reminder of a special time shared between my dad and me—no one else!

The remainder of our drive took us on up to Bloomington-Normal, where we joined up with Route 66 on which we’d travel for many miles, paralleling the under-construction Interstate 55. I honestly don’t remember much of any of this portion of the return trip home as I’d finally given into the world of sleep. After all, it had been a long day, and even more than the physical state of tiredness, I was mentally drained.

When Dad gently shook me awake in our driveway at some ungodly hour, I woke up and thanked him for driving all that way and getting us home through the dark and stormy night. I will always hold his love and special care in my heart for that exceedingly long day traveling with me. Plus, he had to go to work at the usual early hour in just a short time. My love for my dad will never be diminished, and that event in my life was a prime reason.

As things in life tend to occur, this day turned out to be well worth all of the hours and miles that my dad and I spent driving to “get me that first teaching job.” A few days after arriving back home, and caught up with my sleep, I received a call from the Mulberry Grove principal who said that the Board of Education and Superintendent had been impressed with me and what I would bring to their school and offered me a job. At that very moment, I knew that everything was good and that I couldn’t wait to share the exciting news with my dad when he got home from his job. 

There was so much ahead of me now, but I’d at least gotten my foot in the door. My teaching career had some direction toward the starting line now, having travelled those famous highways.

Moment of truth: The interview…

And so it began!

The one-story school building had that “summer-cleaned-ready-to-start” look and smell, which I quickly picked up on the moment I scurried inside out of the downpour.

It was nighttime now, and the interior of the place was dark, with the exception of the small office directly ahead of me, and the library a couple of doors down. It wasn’t hard to figure out that this would be where the board meeting would be held, and the sound of voices from there confirmed this for me.

I didn’t have time to stand around and assess the situation, as a short, slightly balding man approached me from the school office. He smiled and introduced himself and said that he was glad I’d made it all the way from “up North.” He told me to make myself comfortable in his office until they were ready for me, and he’d come get me when they were.

Like waiting in a doctor’s office, a million thoughts coursed through my mind as the minutes seemed to plod on like molasses. Finally, the principal came and got me, and we headed the short distance to the library where the superintendent and the entire board of education were seated around a couple of long tables in the center of the room. In front of them was a single chair, no doubt for me to sit in and perform to the best of my ability, if I wanted to secure a teaching position—my first—in their school. And as I managed to put on a “happy” face and look relaxed (I was anything but), I eased myself into the chair and took a couple of deep breaths, all the while noticing that each member seemed to be studying me very closely. A few friendly nods of heads were extended my way, but most were stoic, serious demeanors.

I don’t recall after all these years exactly how long the interview lasted, but it seemed as though it was much longer than it really was. Throughout the whole ordeal, I could hear the rain pounding unmercifully on the roof, which made hearing difficult. When the interview had come to a close, and I was still a functioning human, I had a pretty positive feeling about it all. I seemed to have handled all of their questions–unexpected ones as well as the “usual” type. If nothing else, I had gained a valuable bit of experience in the interviewing process—and with the whole school board, superintendent, and principal, to boot! 

Afterwards, the principal told me that he thought I’d done well and that the board seemed to be impressed. Of course there were other candidates to interview in the days ahead, but I could expect to hear from him—one way or another—by the first of the next week. He wished me luck and reminded me to travel back home safely that night. 

And so, I returned to the car where dad was waiting, and the rain had eased up a bit. I gave a quick rundown of all that had taken place and how I felt about things. I knew I’d spend many miles on the ride ahead, rolling things over in my mind of how I could have done better, and I was awfully glad that my dad was with me on that dark and stormy night.

But now, we needed to get ourselves northbound, as it would be very late when we got home to Western Springs. Without further delay, we pulled out of the school parking lot and turned back to the interstate to head a short distance eastward to Vandalia where we’d connect with another old and famous highway to begin our travel north.

Until next time…

Getting our bearings & finding the school

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mgschools.com

After a more deliberate drive around the small town of Mulberry Grove that didn’t seem to have much life to it, we did come upon the junior/senior high school, a low buff brick building that appeared to be well tended to and very pleasant looking. Just seeing this nice-looking school, I felt so much better and slowly began to look forward to my upcoming interview there in a few hours from now.

Dad and I found our way back out to the main intersection where the small gas station/restaurant was located. We discovered that we could get something to eat here, but since there was still plenty of time to “kill” before I had to be at the school for the board meeting that evening, we decided to see if there was anything outside of Mulberry Grove where we might eat and do a little exploring.

An elderly gent behind the counter of the service station told us we could either go west about five miles to Greenville or back east about the same distance to Vandalia. We decided to see what Greenville had to offer.

As I wrote previously, this was totally foreign territory to me, so it would be good to get a feel for the lay of the land. Greenville, a much larger town than Mulberry Grove, had a college and a lovely town square with various businesses on all sides. We leisurely drove through many residential neighborhoods, always ending up back at the town square.

In a while we came upon a restaurant that specialized in chicken dinners, and we could go inside to relax and eat. We both agreed that it was good to be out of the car for a while. I can still recall the hot chicken dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy and corn and cold iced tea that Dad and I enjoyed on that long-ago afternoon.

The day had certainly been long and tiring, and we both felt rejuvenated after the southern Illinois-style meal. We must have spent well over an hour and a half in the restaurant, eating, chatting, and pondering what might lie ahead that day and night. Dad, in his special way, managed to encourage and calm me in preparation for the upcoming interview. Once again, I realized just how glad I was that he was along with me.

Before we realized it, the sun had given way to heavy and dark clouds that hung low overhead. The typical summer humidity in southern Illinois seemed to intensify. The rain that had been in the area early in the day seemed to be bent on returning. Distant thunder rolled off in the west. Without a doubt, a storm was imminent for that evening.

I had one special task yet to do before heading to the school that evening. I needed to change back into my shirt and tie and sport coat that I’d worn to the morning’s interview in Munster. Thankfully, I’d been able to change out of that outfit at a rest area facility on our way south. We returned to the gas station/restaurant on Mulberry Grove’s outskirts and I used the tiny men’s room there and finagled my way into my “interview outfit” once again. Fortunately, I’d brought my shaving kit along and was able to have a quick shave and also to brush my teeth. 

After changing clothes and freshening up, I was ready to wend my way to the school. Of course, my stomach was turning circles and my nerves were working overtime as I anticipated the various questions that would be thrown my way later. And to add to the mystery of things, the imminent storm had arrived and a steady and unrelenting rain hammered down.

Dad and I sat in the school parking lot for an interminable length of time, relaxing as the rain poured relentlessly. Once again, I hoped that this gloomy monsoon was not a harbinger of things to come, since I would be going inside shortly, and I closed my eyes and thought a million thoughts, waiting for any kind of easement of the storm so I could go inside. Dad would wait for me in the car, and he wished me luck one more time, and I quickly opened the door and made a mad dash through the rain and on into an unfamiliar school!

Discovering a highway & unexpected career direction. . .

I don’t really recall where I first became intrigued with all things “Route 66,” but I’m thinking that it probably came about during the many times I actually drove lots of miles on a great portion of the Illinois segment beginning back in the 70s. Of course, at the time I really didn’t realize the significance of the highway’s history between Chicago and St. Louis.

Upon graduating from Kent State in the summer of 1973, I was ready to head home to the suburbs of Chicago and while away the days until I heard from the superintendent of schools in an Indiana town in which I was certain I’d be teaching in one of the middle schools.

After all, I’d met with him a couple of times, and there had seemed to be a mutually good feeling between the two of us, and, more importantly, that he seemed eager to offer me the position—sooner than later—as soon as I had all of my requirements and a degree all secured. Now, everything had finally come together. It would only be a short time before I received the call with all of the details, the contract would be in the mail for my formal signature, etc., etc. 

I’m still waiting!

The famous line, “The best laid plans of mice and men, oft’ go astray,” was about to be perfectly illustrated as the summer wore on. I didn’t worry too much through the rest of June, but when the 4th of July came and went, I began to have that queasy feeling that things weren’t quite right. What was going on?

Realizing that teaching positions were probably being filled  pretty quickly in preparation for the new school year, I had to step up and find out exactly what was going on. I placed the long distance call from my parents’ home in Illinois to the superintendent back in Indiana.

When I reached him, I didn’t want to sound overly concerned—although I was all of that—so I simply told him that since I hadn’t heard anything pertaining to the teaching position we’d discussed earlier, that I was calling to find out where I stood in being offered the job.

The silence on the other end seemed to extend for a long, long time. In reality, it was only a few seconds before the superintendent replied that the position was being given to another candidate, and I wouldn’t be offered one.

Even though my stomach now had churned itself into a total maelstrom of sickening nausea, I managed to eke out a question as to why I had been passed over, especially since I had been led to believe that I would be getting the job during our previous two, positive meetings.

His answer was something about my student teaching evaluation (another story for another time, by the way!) and that I wasn’t right for the English teacher position after all. He didn’t care to go any further to clarify for me any of this, and when he wished me luck in my future endeavors, I was left confused,  shocked, and worried.

This late in the summer, would I be able to find something, especially since I was pretty much unfamiliar with any of the school systems in the state of Illinois? I only had lived there during summers after we’d moved from out of state after high school graduation. Whatever lay ahead, I knew I best get cracking and begin a search for SOMETHING.

And so that’s kind of where my travels on Illinois’ stretch of Route 66 comes into the picture. I vividly remember that  first time out there, in unfamiliar territory, driving the five-hour trip back from southern Illinois through a steady rain storm with my dad, following a job interview with the principal, superintendent, and the entire Board of Education earlier that evening. 

At the time, I didn’t pay any attention to the road or what it eventually would come to mean to me. I was only focused on landing a job. Would the one I’d interviewed for that night, the one so far from familiar surroundings, be where I’d begin my career?

After what had happened with the Indiana job falling through, I wasn’t willing to speculate one way or another as we clicked off the miles through the rain on Route 66 to get back to Chicagoland.

In the next post, I’ll explain how that distant job interview came about and how things eventually came together and just how The Mother Road would weave itself through it all.

Until next time. . .

Greetings from our new home…with proper “Social Distance” maintained!

A perfect afternoon for writing, it is! Since we were supposed to be shoving off from San Diego this afternoon for a marvelous Circle Hawaii cruise, I had no idea that I’d have so many opportunities to get caught up on my writing.  We’re also busy unpacking and finding places to put things as they come out of the packing boxes. And although our new abode here in Aurora, Illinois, is far from being settled, it’s finally being lived in! As I stressed in my last post, it’s now home. The process of moving in has come in segments, since we’ve “done it ourselves,” with timely and wonderful help from our son, his wife, and our grandsons. 

As of last week, all that remained to be delivered here was the sixteen-foot storage POD that we had filled to the rim and had it hauled away to some warehouse distant. Well, since our cruise to Hawaii was cancelled because of this virus issue, we had it delivered last Saturday morning. Soon after its arrival on our driveway, our son and family showed up and had it all unloaded and under house or garage roof within an hour and a half.

I’m pleased to report that it was very good to get reacquainted with lots of the items that had been stowed away all these weeks since early December: My many boxes of books and our kingsize mattress and box springs, to mention two of the most important. By the same token, there were a few things I’d just as soon seen gone the way of the Edsel: Lawn tools that we no longer need, as one example. Since we’re paying a pretty stiff monthly Home Owners Association fee, all yard work, snow removal, and landscaping needs will be out of our hands. After so many years of doing all that around the houses we’ve lived in, I was ready to divest that role, one big reason why we settled on where we’ve now ended up.

Now, we’re slowly but surely getting to feel that this place is going to be a wonderful spot, and the more we get items into place, bookcases installed and filled again with my books, and all of the Christmas and holiday decoration containers up onto the storage lofts in the garage, we’ll be ready to sit back, catch our breaths, and toast our good fortune in finding this place, in this great location.

Now, if this coronavirus mess would work itself out so the world can get back to some sense of normalcy, it truly would be a wonderful world once again. Despite all of this, we’re keeping the faith and knowing that greater days are still ahead. Here’s hoping that you all are well and surviving and maintaining some semblance of living without panic or fear. 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

All done “up there”…

I’ve been away, but I’m back now, all finished at the cottage on the lake in Michigan.

Yep, I’ve managed to “power through” all of the business at hand over the past several weeks and  am settling in once again here at home in northern Illinois.

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Back home on the deck, under the stormy skies over northern Illinois farmland.

One week ago, our pontoon was hauled out of the water by some friends who are purchasing her and trailored a couple hundred miles back to a lake here in the western part of Illinois—not too far from our home, by the way. The old girl will be missed, but knowing she’s going to a good place, with good folks to enjoy her, eases the oft-muddled mind of this writer!

We spent the next day finishing up closing out the cottage and filling both of our cars with final loads. There are so many memories we gathered in that place “up there” that it was very hard to pinpoint which one stood out as the greatest or favorite over the several summers we called the place home.

Yes, we have decided to get out of the summer cottage/lake rental game and to pursue other endeavors. An Alaska cruise next August awaits, as does a trip to New Orleans and Florida in late February. And being right here at home more frequently is mighty appealing, too!

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Home!

this morning, when I finally decided that I’d been away from this blog (and other writing tasks) far too long, I took a deep breath and relished the feeling once more of plopping myself into my comfy desk chair, in front of my MacBook, and knocking the cobwebs off of Scrivener and gleefully letting the fingers do their thing, wandering over the keys to make the words to send along to any reader who’s still along with me. (Now that’s a sentence!)

So a chapter of my life closes and I’m eagerly anticipating what the next one will be about. I’ll look back—from time to time—and recall so many of those wonderful moments and memories made “up there,” and I’ll probably be hit with a touch of melancholy, but I will have moved along into that next chapter that is beginning right now.

Bring it on!
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At rest for one last day and night on Magician Lake.