The highway calls…

One of the things I’m most counting on to “get back to normal” as soon as possible, is the opportunity to get out on the highway and roll onward—whenever and wherever—I please. At this writing, in early January, surrounded by snow-covered lawns and icy sidewalks, I long for the pleasant days ahead that are just perfect for road tripping! Even though I’m still awaiting “official” word regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, and when I can receive it, I’m mentally making plans for dates and destinations once so many restrictions are lifted.

The Mother Road–Route 66…Somewhere in Arizona…2017

If I listen carefully, I can hear Route 66 calling…shouting… out to me—and so many other travelers—that it’s been way too long away! As old friends, the road and I will eventually enjoy a wonderful and rewarding reunion.

No, I won’t be making the entire trip from Chicago to Santa Monica, California, this time. We did that in September of 2017 and still cherish the many memories of the people, places, and character of The Mother Road. Because of time constraints, there was much we missed on that trip, a prime reason for my intention to make the whole drive again—sometime, just not yet.

Living outside of Chicago, the legendary eastern point of the legendary highway, I’m in a perfect location. First, as soon as I’m able, I will drive the whole of Illinois’s portion of 66, ending at the famous old Chain of Rocks Bridge near St. Louis. Because access to the bridge site was closed during our 2017 trip, we weren’t able to get out to it to walk across it, since it has been closed to car and truck traffic for several years. The thought of being able to get back there, when the days are warm and sunny, helps me put up with this cold and snow and ice.

Besides renewed adventures on Route 66, there are other miles to click off, on other roads and highways, such as US-6, the route I enjoy driving from Illinois, through Indiana, ending at my mother’s in Ohio. It’s been nearly a year since I’ve been able to make that drive, and much has changed for all of us in that time. I know, the Turnpikes and Interstates are quicker, but they’re nothing more than a necessary evil in my way of thinking! Because of my absence from all of these old, familiar roads, I believe I’ll see and experience the “things” along the way in a whole new perspective! I’m eager—even anxious—to do so!

Until next time…
The winter outside…from our toasty sunroom!

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!

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

 

 

 

 

 

Easter with friends & “Bucket List” talk…

Illinois
Illinois (Photo credit: Pete Zarria)

It was the first really nice, warm spring day we’ve had so far, and our two-hour drive out to spend the afternoon with good friends at their rural lake house in western Illinois was very enjoyable. Having spent time with both of our kids’ families this past week, we would be alone for Easter Sunday. Instead, we were invited to join Barb and Bill and their son and his wife and two boys for dinner and an enjoyable day of doing nothing!

 

Following the early Easter church service and delicious breakfast, we came home, changed clothes, and set off for a leisurely drive through the rich northern Illinois farm land. And after the long, hard winter months, everything about the fields and yards we passed seemed to cry out in relief, as if to say: “Finally, we’re ready. Let’s start the growing cycle all over again.”

 

As we rolled along the old highway, my window partially down to let the good fresh air in, we saw how green things were actually becoming, a sure sign that new life and growth was definitely taking place. No polar vortex was going to interfere with any of that! It was a good feeling to realize that very thing.

 

Shortly after we arrived at Bill and Barb’s, we sat down to a tasty Easter dinner. Thick pork chops

A charcoal barbecue, with six pork chops. Dord...
A charcoal barbecue, with six pork chops. Dordogne, France. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

off the grill—cooked perfectly!—Michigan asparagus we’d brought along, sweet potatoes, various salads and chilled  jello with fruit made for a sumptuous and delectable meal. Carolyn’s traditional Easter angel food cake, decorated with jelly beans and those yellow Peeps, was the perfect ending.

 

The remainder of the afternoon, we spent outside on their deck in comfortable chairs, enjoying the wonderful sunshine and terrific refreshing breezes. Our conversation turned to dreams and wishes we still might wish to have actually come true—sort of a “bucket list” type of discussion, even though I don’t care much for that term!

 

I hadn’t really given any of that much thought lately, but it didn’t take me too long to answer. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to drive the entire length of the famed Mother Road, Route 66. I always said that upon retirement that would be one of the first things we would do. Of course, I’ve been retired since 2007 and have yet to take that journey, but yesterday’s brief chat session kind of rekindled—got the juices flowing once again—the idea and desire to set off from downtown Chicago and hit the road that is

An abandoned early Route 66 alignment in south...
An abandoned early Route 66 alignment in southern Illinois in 2006. (Photo courtesy of Shawn Mariani of shawnmariani.com) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

such an iconic piece of American legend and lore.

 

I’ve traveled much of the Illinois portion of the Mother Road, but I long to cross the big river and explore ever westward. I think Carolyn and I will have to seriously consider working that in to our plans before too many more years fly off the calendar! At any rate, it made for a pleasant and whimsical conversation on a beautiful, sunny, warm Easter afternoon with a couple of very good friends….CortlandWriter

 

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