The end…for now

DAY 10 – TULSA TO OKC

Our last full day on this adventure.

A lot of what we drove to/through was taken from the Route 66 phone app. The darn thing no longer wants to open, so it’s off to the Internet for details.

First site out of the gate today was the “Buck’s on Route 66 Meteor Man.” Yet another of those Muffler Man statues gone off to new adventures.

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A little way down the road (within walking distance) were two more items of interest:
The Meadow Gold sign…
https://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/26920

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…and the mural next to it.
You Said We Couldn’t Do It, But We Did

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We had started out our day at a coffee shop, which had some really lovely pictures displayed of some Art Deco buildings. We loved them—so sleek looking!

Were we surprised when we came across them in reality! We saw the top of this one, which is a UMC church property, from quite a distance. We were immediately drawn to it.

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You’ll notice there’s not a lot of traffic. That’s because the locals were starting to batten down the hatches under a tornado watch. We, of course, were clueless. Where we’re from, there are always storm warnings, and most of them fizzle out. I had seen the tornado warnings on TV, but had shrugged them off.

Anyway, once we were through with this monolith, we found some more not much further on.

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We got every angle we could shoot, then kept driving—straight on to the Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza.

Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza, Tulsa, Oklahoma

There was a lot to see here. Paul went across the bridge and down to the park proper. My legs didn’t want to deal with the downgoing and the back-up-coming, so I just experienced it from a distance.

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You can see where Old Route 66 used to be.

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And here is a clue as to what was upcoming, weather-wise. I think this was where I started to take those warnings seriously.

This was a hoot—Crybaby Hill.

And, yes, there’s a story—and more—behind it.
https://www.yelp.com/biz/cry-baby-hill-tulsa

Onwards and southwards.

This train was part of the Route 66 Historical Village in Tulsa (in the area known as Red Fork).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Fork,_Oklahoma
http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMMWX0_Frisco_4500_Steam_Engine_Tulsa_Oklahoma_USA

The rain was making itself known at this point, so we did a drive-by camera shot here and kept going.

Time to eat something! Breakfast was definitely needed by this time.

We stopped off at Ollie’s Station Restaurant, which was a train lover’s heaven. All kinds of train paraphernalia, signs, and models. There were even model trains running on tracks close to the ceiling. It was fun to sit there and watch them.
https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/oklahoma/ollies-train-restaurant-ok/

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We had a window seat, which meant being able to take a few pictures of the buildings across the street. Kind of abandoned-looking in this area.

Quick note: There are 106 miles between Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Incredible the amount of interesting places to see between here and there.

Next town: Sapulpa

And the World’s Largest Gas Pump.

Not an original Route 66 thing, but quirky enough to be included.
https://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/59598

There was a Trolley and Train Museum in town. We didn’t stay long.

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And the Rock Creek Bridge…
https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/route66/bridge18_Rock_Creek_Sapulpa.html

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Bristow was next, and the only thing we found there was an old Chrysler-Plymouth sign. As with all else, there is some history behind it:
https://www.theroute-66.com/bristow.html#motor

I’m thinking this was a drive-in. It was between Bristow and Stroud.

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And to go along with Rock Creek Bridge, we have Rock Café in Stroud. Not to be confused with Hard Rock Café, which is a whole different world.

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Here’s a really cool original Route 66 sign:

There were a number of fun things in Davenport.

 

Like the Early Bird Café–which looked as if the birds, early and late, had flown a long time ago.

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Here’s a gas station that’s been turned into an antique store. Seems appropriate.

This was something I wish we’d been able to stop and explore. But those clouds were getting more serious by the minute.

On we went—next town was Chandler, where we saw the Lincoln Motel. Still in business—yay! Bet that sign looks great at night.

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And another one of those teeny-tiny cute gas stations. This one was built in the 1930s.

When riding the Route, it’s always good to reference as many sources as possible. I completely forgot about the sites in Warwick—good thing we had our phone app.

Actually, the two sites were on the same property. We stopped for the 1920s-era outhouse,

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and stayed on to check out the Seaba Motorcycle Museum.

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https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/route66/seaba_station_warwick.html
(I do have to admit, my main draw to the museum was its updated bathroom.)

This place deserved a quick pic—the Boundary Inn in Luther, OK.

Interesting info about it: http://www.theboundaryon66.com/

Arcadia, OK, was next. Some really fun stuff here.
The Hillbilly Bed and Breakfast was photo-worthy, but info on it was difficult to find. Still in business.


The 1898 Round Barn was stuffed full of memorabilia. I found the empty attic area the most fascinating though.

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Then we came upon the World’s Largest Soda Bottle.

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I was hoping it would be a real soda bottle, but it turned out to be an art thingy of sorts. Still, it’s pretty impressive.

The adjacent store, Pops, was fun to go into. Nothing but bottles of soda. I was hoping to find guarana, but no luck there. That’s a Brazilian soda, and hard to find in the US.

There were probably things to see on the rest of the way to Oklahoma City, but the weather was just getting more and more threatening. Time to make haste!

Edmond was our last town before we reached OKC. We stopped just long enough to take a picture of the 1889 Territorial School and a shot of the Redkey’s Flour tower. The latter’s relationship to Route 66? No idea. It just looked to be in the correct era.

We finally reached Oklahoma City in the early afternoon. Our first stop was the State Capitol, which was actually very difficult to get to. Not because of the traffic, but because the roads around it are so convoluted.

Very empty. All personnel had been excused so they could find a safe place to hunker down until the tornado threat was over. We were reminded of that by a friendly passerby as we were walking towards the Capitol building.

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So—yeah. At this point we started to take this weather thing a little more seriously.
But—so much to see! And when would we be back? So we did what we could while we could do it.

Hey! Another Tower Theatre! Such a popular name!

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And a bar called “Bunker Club”—how appropriate, given the weather.

Then a real quick drive by the Milk Bottle Grocery.

A little bit of a drive more, and we came across the Gold Dome.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_Dome

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Mutt’s Hot dogs was our final stop—remember how we started this trip? Dog to Dog.

We made haste toward the hotel we had booked, but our progress slowed way down when we noticed the area that we had to pass through to get there. Let’s just say that the wearing of brass knuckles was probably mandatory. When we got to the place, we quickly cancelled our reservation and turned tail.

Luckily there was a hotel near the airport that had a vacancy—the same one we’d stayed at on our last trip.

My cousin and aunt felt it best to stay at home, so we didn’t get to see them this time around. Can’t blame them–I hope we can make amends in better weather.

Because of the threat of hail, we decided to take the car back to the rental agency that night. Best to leave it in the hands of the owners in the case of really nasty hailstones.

Back at our hotel, we kept a sharp eye on the weather forecasts—which wasn’t hard, considering every TV channel had been overridden by this situation. I didn’t know if I should change into my PJs or just stay dressed.

Once the alarm went down by a couple of notches, we relaxed a bit and were able to get to sleep.

 

LAST DAY—OKC to Dallas to home

Our last day was decidedly different from what we had expected.

We headed for the airport in the morning, where we found out that our flight to Dallas had been cancelled.

However—and this was the best part of the day—we heard the desk agent further down the counter advise her customers (who were in the same boat as us) to rent a car and drive to Dallas. It was only a couple of hours’ drive away.

And we had expected a huge layover in Dallas anyway.

So we did just that—and after a bit of a drive and more pleasant scenery, we got to DFW in plenty of time for our flight. No weather problems at all—although I did see a huge billboard downed in a field. By weather or by time, I have no idea.

There was one sign that made me cringe—an advertisement for Uranus Fudge Factory. And this is a Route 66 thing. “The best fudge comes from…” you get the idea. Ugh!

It was doubly wonderful to get home, away from wind and hail.

***

And that’s it.
You probably won’t hear of another incredible trip on here until the first quarter of next year. That’s when we’ll be hitting Australia and New Zealand.
Until then—happy trails!

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One day, three states

DAY 9 – MAY 19 – SPRINGFIELD MO TO TULSA OK

With some reluctance on my part, we left that cute motel for parts south and west.
The only thing that I would not miss was a leak through the wall that soaked the carpet in front of the bathroom. We could have done without that. But when it rains in the Midwest, it really rains. And an old motel has a lot of leaky places.

Springfield, MO – a town like many others. Except for the multi-police-car chase that sped past us going the other way. That was certainly different.

We went past the Tower Theater (1948 – 1997) – it has one of those classic art-deco style façades. Too bad it no longer operates; I would have loved to see inside.


And the Shamrock Court Motel was just too cute to pass up.

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Interesting info I stumbled onto when looking up more about the place – it was built in 1931, and constructed entirely of hand-placed Ozark stone. There’s something about the architecture being “complete with ‘Sunburst” and ‘Diamond’ patterns,” but the description (from a realty company) was poorly written, and it’s hard to tell what they meant.

And on to Paris Springs, and Gay Parita Station.
Wow, was this place fun! So much to see!

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The manager/proprietor, who took over from the now-deceased couple who put this place together, was a real character. Chatty as a magpie! He was really eager to share his knowledge—luckily, we were pretty much his sole audience.
He recommended three places that could not be passed up—even wrote them down for us. So, we took his advice and visited them. I don’t even know if they’re in the Route 66 books. They are, however, indelibly etched in my memory.


This truss bridge was built in 1926, and is still in pretty good shape. It led us straight into Item #1 on his list–Spencer, MO.

This info is from The Illustrated Route 66 Historical Atlas, by Jim Hinckley:
Having learned of plans for a new highway, Sidney Casey bought the entire town of Spencer, which consisted of a vacant store and two acres of land, for a reported $400.00 in 1925. With the flow of traffic on Route 66, Casey’s enterprise, consisting of a service station, café, barbershop, and garage flourished. However, the realignment of US 66 in 1961 to bypass the (truss) bridge wholly eliminated business. The Francis Ryan family acquired the property in 2011 and refurbished the façades to their 1930s appearance.

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All well and good, but we must push on.

The next thing on our Gay Parita host’s list was Red Rock II, which was absolutely fascinating.
Here’s a bit of info about this place, taken from the Route 66 Adventure Handbook by Drew Knowles:
…This town…(was) created by a local artist northeast of Carthage. Red Oak II is a village—partly the original Red Oak—that was brought over from its original location more than twenty miles away and installed here, presumably to attract nostalgia-minded travelers—and it keeps growing. It features a multitude of vintage structures, including…filling stations, and several residences, both occupied and otherwise. There’s even a mock cemetery.

Red Oak II, Missouri – A Stroll Through the Past

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We got to talking with a lady who lives there. She was an absolute delight—told us more about the site than we could possibly remember. She had her own place there, where she lived with her rescue dogs.
She told us that people tended to drop their unwanted dogs near the town, and she had adopted three of them. These pups looked pretty happy with where they had ended up.

Terrible that people would just treat their pets as throwaway objects.

Lowell Davis, the mastermind behind this town, also created the “Crap Duster” sculpture in Carthage.

This is a replica of a flying manure spreader. Now THERE’S a job with a lot of potential–yech!

The Route 66 Drive-In here in town is still in business. We couldn’t get any closer, as it’s private property and it wasn’t open at the time.


We passed by the DeSoto Plymouth Building,

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either before or after the Boots Motel in Carthage—the third item on our Paris Spring’s friend’s list.

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What’s cool is that this place is back in business! I would have loved to see the inside. Such a funky exterior!

And on to Joplin, where we saw…almost nothing. There were sites noted in the books we read, but they weren’t readily found, and we were feeling the time pinch.

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We saw, but didn’t go into, Wilder’s Steakhouse. Have to say, the place had a great sign.

Then, Toto, we found ourselves in Kansas. Just when we crossed the state line, I do not know. But there we were, rolling into Galena.
This is where we found “Cars on the Route”

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http://www.kansastravel.org/4womenontheroute.htm
and the “Murder Bordello.”

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Galena’s Murder Bordello

I would have loved to explore more of both, but neither was open.

Now, what’s really handy about many of the places along the Route is that they have restrooms open to the public. This way we can take care of two items of interest at the same time.
This was true of Nelson’s Old Riverton Store in Riverton, KS. The building was built in 1925 and is still going strong. (I think the bathroom had pretty much the original plumbing. But beggars can’t be choosers.)

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Also in Riverton was the Rainbow Bridge Loop, which we almost missed. Luckily we were able to backtrack and get into a good parking spot for pictures.

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This sign says it all:

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Baxter Springs was our last stop before we entered Oklahoma. Just a couple of drive-by shutter-shots—a tank on the grounds of the Fort Blair Historical Site, and a 1930s-era Phillips 66 station.

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Um…Toto? Guess what. We’re not in Kansas anymore…again.

On to Quapaw, OK. The name of the town is not pronounced the way it looks, which is something I didn’t know. The city-limits sign made sure that visitors knew this. A quick look-up on the interwebs refreshed my memory—it is pronounced “O-Gah-Pah.” The town is named for the tribe, which is a member of the Sioux nation.

The things you learn…
https://route66mc.com/town.php?ID=353

We made a quick stop to take pictures of Dallas’ Dairyette, which is now closed. I couldn’t find any info or history about the place; we had found it on our Route 66 phone app, but I can’t access it now.

Next stop—Commerce, OK. The two sites we wanted to see were pretty much away from any, er, “commerce.” They had nothing around them to support the tourists they were trying to attract.

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Which turned to our advantage—no cars or people to get in the way of our picture-taking.

The Dairy King

was right across the street from the cutest, tiniest gas station I have ever seen.

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Our next town was Miami, OK, where we had a very brief picture-stop at Waylan’s KuKu Burger.

The Coleman Theater in Miami was a place we couldn’t pass up—yet we did. Luckily, we were able swing back around and find parking on a side street. We came out with the cameras snapping.

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http://www.colemantheatre.org/opening-weekend
Such beautiful architecture! Bet it’s haunted too. So cool!

And now—on to Afton.
We got out to take pics of the Packard Showroom,

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but the building across the street from it was even more interesting.

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The Rest Haven Motel was a challenge to find, since the address was not easily available from any sources. Another one of those loop-back-and-try-again sites. (It’s at 1st St. and Mulberry, if anyone’s interested.)

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The Avon Motel, or what is left of it, was fascinating.

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I would have loved to explore inside the rooms, but there were a lot of rusty nails lying about, with the nastier bits straight up and waiting for feet to puncture, so I had to give it a pass.
The most memorable part of this site was not the motel. We were there with another couple who was taking pictures also, and it turns out that the woman’s grandparents had spent their honeymoon there! I hope it had less tires in the rooms back then.

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(I could make a really bad joke about motels and “being tired,” but I’ll refrain…)
http://www.route66times.com/l/ok/afton-avon-motel.htm

Clanton’s Café, in Vinita, seemed like not much, but it had a surprising bit of history on its property.

And another old motel—the Chelsea in, well, Chelsea—was a short stop…

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And Claremore had an old motel and a cool bridge…

Now, Catoosa has a very recognizable Route 66 icon—the Catoosa Whale. I’m sure you’ve seen this in photo shots here and there.
But it was nothing like I thought it would be.
The park it was in was much smaller than I was expecting. But it was just as quirky as the whale within it.

Even the bathroom was a bit on the odd side.


Fishing was allowed, but only catch-and-release. The pond was so small, though, that I’m sure there was only a handful of scarred, punctured fish swimming around in there. I visualize a sub-surface Gothfish culture thriving, with all the fish vying for “street cred” in the form of lip holes and hook scars.

More history:

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We stayed long enough to get in some good shots, then it was on the road again.

The Arrowood Trading Post was worth a drive-by shot.

It was a bit of a drive further to Tulsa,

and our overnight digs at the Campbell Hotel.
This was a pretty cool-looking place, and we took a good number of pics.

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To tell the truth, I was hoping to catch a ghost or two. Oh well…

We went to the Hard Rock Casino for dinner, where I bought another shirt.

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Then we did some neon-hunting on the way back to the hotel. There were some really terrific examples—Paul worked hard at getting good shots of them.

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And that brings this day to a close.

The next day would be our last full day on this trip, and was the most memorable one—for reasons we never expected.

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The “Show Me” State shows us a lot!

DAY 8 – Fenton MO to Springfield MO

We traveled backwards a little, so that we could catch a few of the places we had to pass up in the waning light of the day before.

First on the list was Grant’s Farm. This is Ulysses S. Grant’s actual property, which he’d called “Hardscrabble Farm.” We thought it would be one of those places where you could walk around and get a feel for the history of the place.

Umm…

My feeling is that, wherever dead presidents go to hang out, poor old Ulysses S. is getting ribbed in perpetuity.

Here’s what I mean:
Washington’s Mt. Vernon has rolling hills and a grand house, and one feels a quiet dignity while strolling through the grounds.
And Monticello—well, Jefferson’s home is also a grand spectacle.
We’d seen where Lincoln had lived and worked—all of these places are treated with respect.

Unfortunately for Grant’s Farm, it was bought by a certain beer corporation, and is thus a tiny section of a grand beer garden and kiddie petting zoo.
To see what we’d come for, we had to board a tram. As we passed the farm,

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there was no slowing down. Just a quick two-minute narrative, and then we were through a pair of gates and surrounded by wild animals. Well, kinda wild. Free-range examples of a variety of ruminants, mostly.

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The tram let us off at a combo zoo and bier garten, and there was no way back to the Farm. Believe me, we tried.
So we skedaddled. And the only way out was through the bier garten, and onto another tram back to the parking lot.
Poor ol’ US Grant…

A couple more sights in St. Louis – Ted Drewes’ Frozen Custard, a fixture here since 1941 (that dish seems to be a big thing in the Midwest), and the Donut Drive-In. I’m sure there was a reason for stopping here, but I can’t find anything in my books. It was a cool-looking place though.

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East of Eureka, inside the Route 66 State Park, is the partly-demolished Meramec River Bridge. (Funds are currently being gathered together to rebuild it.) An original bit of the Route comes right up to the edge. There’s a visitor center there too, which we skimmed through, and then we were off again.

Got stuck behind about 100 Jeeps – I am not exaggerating here. We passed them going the other way, and then when we left the park, we found ourselves at the end of a very long line of them. No idea what was going on there.

As I look at all the pictures we took this day, I wonder how we found enough time to hit all of the places we got to. Especially with events such as the above. And getting turned around because of that GPS monster.

Next—Pacific, MO, and the Red Cedar Inn. It’s now closed, but at one time (circa 1934), it had a bustling clientele.

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The Diamond Inn Motel and the Gardenway Motel, both in Villa Ridge, shared a common highway sign, which makes it seem that they weren’t competitors.

In fact, there’s a sign in the reception area visible from the window:

Both of these places are dead and gone. In fact, we didn’t even find the Diamond Inn.
The Gardenway gave me the creeps. I decided to get up close and look into the windows—and was I surprised! The rooms still have furnishings! Granted, they’re piled up and thrown around a bit—but there’s still stuff there. Even TVs! I had to wonder what happened to make the staff leave all this behind. The business closed in 2014, from what I could find on the interwebs. The building itself has been there since the 1930s.

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Also in Villa Ridge is the remains of The Diamonds Restaurant. It was originally built in 1927, and rebuilt after a fire in 1948. I don’t know how long it’s been closed, but there was stuff inside that building too.

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Our last picture stop in Villa Ridge was at the Sunset Motel. This one was built in 1945 and, although no longer in use, still seems to be in better shape than the previous ones we saw. I read that the sign’s neon has been restored—too bad we weren’t there at night to see it.

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This motel was just outside Villa Ridge, on the way to Stanton. Now this was one of those “is it an authentic Route 66 thing or just a dump?” kind of places. We didn’t stop long enough to find out.

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Then there were the Hot and Cold Water Towers in St. Clair. Paul found this one on the Route 66 phone app, and I’m not finding much info about its history. What I did find claims that the towers were a municipal practical joke. All the other towns had one water tower, so St. Clair put up two and labeled them. Ya gotta love the Midwest!

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Another motel—the Delta Motel in Stanton MO, was another place that still had furnishings. Some of the doors were gone, and you could see right inside at beds and such. No broken windows to peer through. The pool fascinated me—I don’t know why. I guess it’s because the concrete around it could still be seen in some places.

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This water tank got me dreaming—and thirsty:

It’s in Bourbon, MO, which is a very terrific name for a town. There are rumors as to how the town got its name, but I didn’t find any that could prove its claim.

We passed by the Circle Inn, which was opened in 1932 and is still in business. The food has changed down through the years, but it must still be good. It looked like it was closed when we went through though.

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Paul was getting a bit sleepy by this time—I think the previous night was his turn to have insomnia. Fortunately we found our next stop, the Missouri Hick Restaurant in Cuba, in short time.

He had a short nap in the car as I roamed around taking pictures.

Right next door was the Wagon Wheel Motel. It’s been restored to its original look, and I read that it’s a great place for Route 66ers to stay.

We had several hours of sightseeing to do, so that didn’t fit in with our itinerary. Maybe next time…

The Four-Way Restaurant in Cuba used to be a filling station. Sure is a cute building.

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We had to go quite a ways out of our way to find our next stop—Bob’s Gasoline Alley—but it was well worth the trip.
Gluseum.com states that this museum has the largest collection of Route 66 gasoline memorabilia in the Midwest. It was started by Bob and Darlene Mullen in 1995, and takes up a lot of their property. We didn’t see anyone else around while we there, which meant we could take as many pictures as we wanted and no one would get in the way. We probably spent more time there than we should have—but it had so much to look at!

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We got back to the Route and continued on to Fanning, where we stopped for pics of the World’s Second Largest Rocking Chair.
https://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/17781
Where’s the largest one, you ask? Here:
https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/largest-rocking-chair
I’m just glad that thing doesn’t actually move. If it rocked on your foot, you would never forget it!

The next item on our list was the Route 66 Motors in Dillon. My sources speak highly of this place, but it must have seen quite the decline since then. There was nothing there that spoke of tourist-friendly. It had a cool sign though.

The Mule Trading Post, with its giant hillbilly (which was put there not so long ago), has all the markings of a closed and abandoned establishment—until you drive up to it. It’s still doing a thriving business selling Ozark souvenirs.

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We saw some folks out back that we hadn’t seen in many a year—the A&W Family. That sure took us back. I remember the few times my family went out to eat—and A&W was usually the place. It had the staff that came out to take your order, then brought it out on a tray and hooked it over your car door. Oh, those root beers! I remember them well.

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Something definitely not part if the Route 66 history, but certainly fitting when it comes to unusual, is the half-scale replica of Stonehenge, which was carved with high-speed water jets. This is located on the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla. We didn’t know if we would find parking, so our first pictures were a drive-by. Fortunately we found a parking lot above it and were able to get a few good pictures.

Also in Rolla was the Totem Pole Trading Post, still in operation. We took a few pictures, then left. As you can probably tell, we don’t collect curios or souvenirs. Just pictures. They don’t take up any shelf space, and we never have to dust them. I like that.

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Now for REALLY old fixer-uppers, you can’t miss with John’s Modern Cabins and Vernelle’s Motel, side-by-side in Doolittle. These were a remodeler’s dream. Or nightmare. You decide.
I was thinking that the grass-choked concrete in front of it was Route 66—but it wasn’t. It’s a bypassed bit of Highway 44, which had replaced Route 66. Even the new gets chucked out—wow.

As we got into Devils’ Elbow (named for a bend in the river that caused logjams), the skies opened up on us. We got a couple of pictures of the Elbow Inn and the Vintage Bridge, and decided enough was enough.

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We got into Springfield MO in the early evening, and easily found the Rail Haven Motel, which is where we stayed that night. By then the rain had stopped, and I took a ton of pictures while Paul checked us in. This was my favorite motel on this entire trip.

We had dinner at Doe’s Eat Place, a restaurant we chose for the unique name. Turns out it had Route 66 history too!
http://doeseatplace.com/history.html

By the time we finished dinner, it was dark out, and the area didn’t seem like a good place to hunt neon. So we headed back to the motel and were soon tucked in and sound asleep.


The next day would find us trundling through three states, and ending up in a casino in Oklahoma.

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Good-bye Illinois. Hello Missouri!

DAY 7 – SPRINGFIELD IL TO FENTON MO

Today was going to be a very busy one, with plenty of time set by to visit the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.


The first town out of Springfield was Girard, where we found Doc’s Soda Fountain. It was built in the 1880s, and is now a pharmacy museum (closed when we were there).

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On the way to Nilwood, along an ancient and narrow section of Route 66, we were easily able to spot the Turkey Tracks. When the original road was laid, a turkey took a walk across it, and thus made itself famous.

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Some sources say that there are dog tracks a little further on, but I didn’t see any evidence of them.

Or did !???

On to the next town, and whatever sites it may have for us.

Carlinville was that next town, and we were out of the car and snapping pictures once again. This time it was the Macoupin County Courthouse, at one time the largest in the country. Well, it was built in the 1860s, so there probably weren’t a lot of contenders in the running. It’s still being used, so there was no entry for tourists.

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The jailhouse, built at the same time, was the building I was most interested in. The book I read stated that there were “leftover cannonballs embedded in the walls.” I was expecting to see them sticking out of the brickwork somewhere. We looked all over—the building’s not that big—and saw nothing that looked like cannonballs.

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“Entry fee is six dollars, or any kinda bread you might have on ya. Hurry up or I’ll peck yer eyes out.”

 

 

 

 

So Paul looked it up on his phone—turns out that the builders used the cannonballs inside the plastering to make the walls impervious to breakouts. Cool info, but I was still disappointed. (Looks like it would be pretty easy to add a few—there’s a cannon just across the street…)

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From here we drove on to Staunton, where we found Henry’s Rabbit Ranch.

Not only did Henry have the real ones (furry, twitchy noses, hop around a lot…)

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but there were also at least a dozen VW Rabbits all over the property. There were even some sunk into the ground, a la Cadillac Ranch.

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To one side of the gift shop/museum was a larger-than-life rabbit statue, somewhat like the one at the Jackrabbit Trading Post in Joseph City, Arizona.

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We had a nice time visiting with Henry, a very affable man. This Route 66 stuff was his hobby, and it occupied the same land as his home.

At one time he had about 40 rescue rabbits, but it all got too much and he stopped adding to the population. All but four have gone to that Great Carrot Patch in the sky, after a long, comfortable life. He has them buried under their own headstones in his yard. This one especially caught my eye:


We bade good-bye to Henry and his rabbits, and set off to the next town. One of our sites to see was Weezy’s, a restaurant in Hamel, and we got there at just about the same time our innards said it was time for a refresher. Lunchtime!

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Then it was off to Edwardsville, where it wasn’t too difficult to spot the World’s Largest Ketchup Bottle.

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The skyline of St. Louis was unmistakable. Nowhere else are you going to see such a huge arch looming over everything else.


Our main objective was to go up to the top of this Arch, and thank heavens we were here at a later part of the day and before the start of the tourist season. I can’t imagine having to wait longer than we did.

First of all, the walk to the Arch from the parking lot was uphill in the heat. Then, you have to start your visit below ground, where there’s a museum/interactive display that stretches all the way to where the tickets to the lift are sold.


My relief to be out of the sun and in air-conditioning was short-circuited by the sight of sixty or so middle-school kids, all wearing green shirts. I was really hoping that they were on their way out to catch their bus back to prison—er, school.

Nope. The green horde showed up at the other end while we were waiting for the tram to the top. Oh well—lots of space in the museum where they could be…elsewhere.

There is no ride at Disneyland to equal this ride, at least as far as waiting to get on it goes. A two-plus hour wait for a four-minute ride to the top.

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And no fun stuff to look at while you stand in line. There’s a video thing of the history that groups see right before they get on the tram, but not much else.

People who love close proximity to others, tight, enclosed spaces, and heights will love this ride. Others, not so much. I didn’t mind—but I did think of various people I knew who would probably flip out and run screaming the other way if they were presented with the idea of riding this tram.

I have to say, it is the weirdest transport I’ve ever been on. Before the tram gets there, people are sorted into groups, then they wait along the steps in front of the tram doors according to the number on plastic tags that they’re given. (For example, if your tag had a 6 on it, you stood in front of Door 6.)


Once the tram arrived to unload people, others would get on from the groups in front of the doors. The riders clear out, and the new passengers are presented with a really weird sight.

See the source image
Five seats are arranged in a semi-circle, attached to the inner walls of what I can only describe as a large golf ball. The whole thing looks like it came out of a 60s sci-fi movie. Anyone over 5’ tall had no prayer of being able to sit up straight. And once the tram got going, the passengers were treated to the view of the inside of the Arch—fascinating for me, but maybe not so much for others. Riders could see stairs, wiring, pipes, power boxes, etc. A look downwards through the door also allowed us to see the floor we were so rapidly leaving. A truly religious experience.

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The view was all worth it once we got to the top. It was a stunner! And we were sharing it with a good number of adults, who knew when to move off to let someone else have a look out of the little windows.

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But then the Green Menace appeared—all 320 of them. Yes, I’m exaggerating–but just imagine if you suddenly had a bunch of screaming middle-schoolers at recess in your bedroom closet. Yep, it was like that.

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Going down…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We beat a hasty retreat back down, before the little darlings could drive us bonkers, and spent a quiet half-hour or so taking pictures outside.

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(These were actually close to the parking lot, not near the Arch.)

 

 

 

 

 

It was getting late, and we had to get to our destination for the night. This meant putting the kaibosh on the next few items on our list. Our new plan was to see what we could the next day, and then get back on the road.

Before we got to our motel, however, we were treated to one last goodie for the day: the Bevo Mill. This edifice was built in 1916, and served non-alcoholic drinks during Prohibition. It’s now a special-events venue. Tonight it was unoccupied, which meant we got some really nice, unimpeded shots of the place,

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including some interesting garden statuary.


That was it—the sun was down a little after we started out again. When we got to our motel, we had dinner across the parking lot at a really good restaurant, then headed back and turned in for the night.


Tomorrow—more of Missouri!

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Of Presidents and Pink Elephants–Day 6 of our Route 66 adventure

Day 6 – Pontiac to Springfield IL

This day was big. Since this is the Land of Lincoln, you can bet it was pretty much centered on Old Abe.

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Pontiac is one of those towns that has really gotten into the Route 66 thing.

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We had a delightful, though humid, half-hour or so of wandering around the Courthouse Square, taking pictures of just about everything—from business-sponsored car miniatures

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to murals

and then there was this way-cool bus. Bob Wildmire’s Road Yacht…see below for more info:

Waldmire Road Yacht

There was a life-size statue of Lincoln, so of course we had to buddy him up with a fan of his.

The monument to fallen Civil War soldiers was very impressive. It was not the first one we’d seen, nor would it be the last. But we thought it merited at least six photographs by both of us.

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Once we’d exhausted the Kodak-moment possibilities of the Square, we drove out and headed to the Old Log Cabin Inn.

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What’s cool about this place is that, when Route 66 came through, the Inn found itself facing the wrong way. Bad for business to show one’s building-rump to the passing clientele, so the owners simply picked the building up and turned it around.

I believe this is the way it used to face:

We almost missed the turn-off to Memory Lane near Lexington. Wasn’t much of a thing, but the signs posted along the way were fun to see.

(Burma-Shave sign)

Further along the Route, we found this really cool abandoned-looking restaurant. There was a 21st-century vehicle there, so I couldn’t be sure if it was vacant or simply uncared-for.
A few quick pictures, and we were outta there.

And on our way to Bloomington. Humidity was getting nasty, but that didn’t stop us from hitting every site we could.

It took some work to find Sprague’s Super Service in Normal, IL, but it was worth the time. This business started in 1931, and is now operating as a café. I loved the architecture—put me in mind of Tudor-style.

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And what I really loved was the little take/leave book stand. You don’t see that just anywhere; true, they’re getting to be more popular, but in front of an iconic landmark? That was a delightful find.

We stopped for lunch at the Parkview Inn in Bloomington, a restaurant that was established along the Route in 1928. There was a fire there in 2016, so it looks like we were in on a brand-new look for the Inn.

Our next stop was the railroad depot in Funks Grove. It was one of those places that simply breathed isolation. I couldn’t help but think that we had plenty of ghostly company. Not in a bad way, though.

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The next town of any importance was Atlanta, IL. Very convenient for four of the Route sites that we wanted to see—they were all within a half-mile of each other.

There’s the Palms Grill Café

across from the Bunyon (not a misspelling) Giant

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which is on the same block as a Route 66 park.

Across the street from that and kiddy-corner from the Café is the Public Library, which is octagonal-shaped. Beside it is a 40-foot clock tower. This clock, a Seth Thomas design built in 1909, is wound by hand every eight days.

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Within a stone’s throw is the J. H. Hawes Grain Elevator, built in 1903. We didn’t go in—just took pics around the outside.

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On the way into Lincoln, IL, we spotted the World’s Largest Covered Wagon. (From what I understand, it tends to move around, depending on who wants to have it on their property at any given time.) I got a kick out of the expression on Abe’s face—yeah, law books make me look like that too.

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We found The Mill Restaurant, which is being restored as a museum. Nobody around when we were there, so we took our time checking out the outside of the place.

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Route 66 then took us to the Postville Courthouse State Historic Site. Abe Lincoln practiced law here at one time. (The building was a reproduction, which is somewhat disappointing.) It was tricky trying to get a picture of the building without something 20th-century in the way.

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(Okay–brownie points for anyone who can tell me where this was. Darned if I can find it in any of my books!)

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The historical high point of the day was when we got to Springfield. Our first stop was into Lincoln’s tomb, which was a short walk through a small museum/mausoleum. Lincoln himself is buried far below, under concrete, due to the fact that someone tried to steal his body not long after he was interred.

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We spent a good amount of time at the State Capitol in the afternoon, a nice air-conditioned building with a fascinating staircase. At least I thought it was. Lots of history there—we took many pictures.

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I also got a picture of the spot where Lincoln gave a campaign speech.

I wouldn’t have known that if it weren’t for a wandering security guard who honored us with his company for a bit. He was very talkative, and happy to answer any and all questions.

We stopped for picture-taking at the Great Western Railroad Depot, where Lincoln gave his farewell speech before taking up the Presidency in 1861.

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Good timing—a train came through at just about the same as we got there. Added to the atmosphere, even though the train was Amtrak…

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Later on, we passed this:

https://illinoistimes.com/article-19270-pinky-and-his-martini-came-to-springfield-45-years-ago.html

Some of the strangest things have the most interesting past!

The car’s GPS failed us again as we looked for the Dana-Thomas House, a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. We parked in the lot that the GPS said was the right address, but the house was nothing like something Mr. Wright would have designed. This place was out of the late 1800s.

As we stood there looking puzzled, a woman came out of the house. She took one look at us and asked, “Dana-Thomas House?” When we nodded, she sort of rolled her eyes. “You aren’t the only ones who’ve stopped here. Those GPS people have it wrong.” She then pointed toward the end of the block. “It’s down the street at the corner.” We thanked her and went on our way. That GPS was definitely going to get turned off…

The house was definitely nothing like anything else in the neighborhood—and well worth finding. I’m not a big fan of FLH, but this place was a beautiful example of his creative mind.

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Haunted? Perhaps:
https://maps.roadtrippers.com/us/springfield-il/points-of-interest/dana-thomas-house
Of really cool historic value? Absolutely!

Home version 3

Our next, and last, stop for the day was the Cozy Dog Drive-In, where the first corn dog was served. In case you’re wondering, they’re still serving them today. I didn’t have one—I don’t do fried food too much—but they looked pretty good!

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Then it was a quick trip to the motel to check in and get some shut-eye. All in all, it was a busy, fun day.

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Chicago to Pontiac, and many points in between

DAY 5 – CHICAGO TO PONTIAC, IL.
Up early again—as always. Checked out of the hotel and rode the subway to O’Hare Airport (not my favorite place in the world). We had no idea if we were in the right part of the airport’s galaxy, so we hired some Sherpas, picked up a few wilderness packs, bought a couple of pack horses, and set off toward our goal.


Oops—wrong adventure. But it was pretty close to how I felt about the whole thing.
Eventually the excitement of scurrying after Paul, his sails billowing as he skimmed the ground, wore out. This is where I did something really outré—I stopped someone of an official-looking nature and ASKED FOR DIRECTIONS. This meant losing track of HMS Paul for a moment, but he found me soon enough.

We found out that we were indeed in the correct quadrant of the O’Hare universe, and not much later we were standing in front of our rental car: a 2019 Nissan Altima, brand-new, with only eight miles on the odometer! (We added some 800 miles on that by the time we hit OKC!)


The only problem we had with it was that the built-in GPS was almost entirely clueless when it came to directing us to the correct destination. So my phone was the navigator most of the time we were on the road.
I find it a funny coincidence that our Route 66 adventure both started and ended with a hot dog meal. Our first stop—Henry’s Drive-In in Cicero, IL—was within view of the Chicago skyline.

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I was only too glad to not have to drive back into the city to start our trip. We missed a lot between the two spots, which means we will have to take a long weekend to saturate the area.
I won’t go into details on every place we stopped. That would take up too much space. Just like the amount of time that we found we DIDN’T have every day. Best to explore it on your own.
Today we saw seven historic restaurants, six historic sites, three tire/gas stations, one motel of interest, the outside of one museum, and one Route 66-themed park. It would take forever to write their info down. So—highlights only. There’s a lot of info on Wikipedia and Route 66 sites where more can be found.
After Henry’s, we stopped at the Oldest White Castle Burger Restaurant, found in Berwyn.

Shortly beyond Berwyn was a tall castle-like tower. We’d passed it on the way to our first site—Henry’s—and at first I thought maybe it was the White Castle.

It turned out to be the Hofmann Tower in Lyons. It was built in 1908, and there is a nice parklike area around it. There was a dam on the nearby Des Plaines River over a hundred years ago, but pollution became too much and they had to take it out.

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Lyons is also the site of the Chicago Portage National Historic Site. This crossing was crucial to the development of Chicago and its surrounding areas. Again—consult reliable websites for more info.

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We stopped to take pictures of Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket, a restaurant that was started in 1946. Some cool history about this place! http://chickenbasket.com/

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Our next stop was White Fence Farm in Romeoville. This restaurant was established in the early 1920s, and has a good number of animals, real and manufactured, on the property. We were fortunate enough to get these pictures before it opened; it’s usually a challenge to get pics without people in the way.

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Joliet, IL, is really proud of its Blues Brothers. References to them are everywhere. They top the Rich & Creamy ice cream shop at the edge of the Route 66 Park in Joliet,

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and there is a replica of the Blues Bros police car at a corner in town.

Jake and Elwood make an appearance further down the road too—more on that later.

Next was one of those stops that, when you read about it, doesn’t seem like it would take that long to see. But the Joliet Iron Works ruins was not one of those places. It was a walk-through historic area that took some time to get through—especially with the humidity of that day.

First of all, we didn’t know what to look for.


Was it this?

 

 

 

 

 

 

That?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nope. It was a half-mile or so of this.

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Fascinating, but the whole time we were there, we were nagged by the fact that there were only ‘x” number of hours before we had to be at our last stop of the day.

Do you know the Muffler Man? You will find him all over. We even have him disguised as Harvey the Giant Rabbit not far from where we live.

We saw three iterations of him on this trip; however, we only stopped for two. We were going to get to #3, but we got caught up in other stuff and forgot.

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We passed an automobile/Route 66 museum. The car was cool, so we stopped to take pictures of it.

To be truthful, we didn’t go into too many museums—not enough time in a day.

The Sinclair Dino makes quite a few appearances along the route too. Here he is at G&D Tires in Wilmington.


The Polk-a-Dot Drive-In in Braidwood was a delight to photograph. Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and our Blues Brothers guys take up prominent space. Jake and Elwood, however, are not in as good a shape as the rest—the sun has not been kind to their original color.

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Again, a very empty parking lot. Hard to say in some of these cases if the place was still in business or simply restored for the shutter-obsessed tourist.

I noticed along the way that Route 66 towns seemed to fall into one of two categories: they either worked to restore or keep their iconic treasures in shape, or basked in the image of a Route 66 crumbling into obscurity. The former gave the observer the idea of what the places used to be, while the latter decided that the reality was the better way to go. Problem with that is—with no amenities nearby, those rotting venues will eventually be gone. Tourists will simply drive through, dependent only on the written word and the empty lots that were once something, and will experience nothing.

Now Gardner is a town that really respects its past. We had a nice picture-taking session around the two-cell jailhouse, the monuments to fallen local heroes, and the streetcar diner.

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There was only one problem—getting out of town on a true Route 66 road. This happened a LOT on our adventure.


Sometimes the freeway usurped Route 66, and sometimes the Route simply petered out into nothing. My phone and the Route 66 phone app saved the day more than once.

We had dinner at The Old Route 66 Family Restaurant in Dwight

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(there’s our guys again), then made a beeline to Pontiac, IL, for our night’s stay at the Best Western. This was a long day—the sun set at about the same time as our eyelids.

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But you’re still awake–how about some miscellaneous Route pictures?

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Enjoying these scribbles of mine? Please let me know. Ciao for now…

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Surprise! Chicago is not scary!!

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DAY 4 – TUESDAY, MAY 14

Up early—and that first cup of coffee was so very important!

So much to see, and only a day to see it in. Chicago looks to be another place that we will re-visit in future.
My biggest wish was to go to Millennium Park. I didn’t know much about it, except that’s where Route 66 begins…

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…and there was a giant jellybean in one area of the park. Well, it’s a silver color and it’s called “Cloud Gate”, but it looks like a jelly bean to me.

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There were a lot of sights to take pictures of, and of course we took the subway a lot. We also rode on the “L”. Can’t visit Chicago without doing that. Paul and I took a lot of pictures of it.

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Millennium Park is a beautiful green oasis in the midst of all those buildings, a buffer between the hubbub of Chicago and the quiet lapping of Lake Michigan against the shore.

https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/millennium_park_history.html

The Bean is not the only thing of interest here. There’s Buckingham Memorial Fountain,

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sculptured gardens,

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the view of the city, and other attractions for all ages.

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The tulips were in bloom, and they were gorgeous!

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After wandering around the Park for some time, we decided it was time for lunch, and a good place to have it was on the Navy Pier. It was further along the lakeshore, and it didn’t look all that far away,

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so we decided to hoof it over there on foot.

Easier said than done. A lot of the buildings along the Lake have private access to the water line. There were also road repairs being done on the public access routes, so the walk was going to take some time. It was either that or risk swimming the Chicago River to the Pier. I think that might have been frowned on by the Chicago authorities.

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We did get to see areas on our way that the regular tourist trade probably doesn’t see—which is our goal everywhere we travel.
There were little kids, not much older than three or four, playing in a small park we encountered along our way. By the time we’d found an elevator down to the park (yep, an outdoor elevator), they were returning to their school/daycare. They were all in one line, and they all held onto a rope as they walked together. When they reached a street they had to cross, they all sang the cutest song:
“Hands out, walking feet, look both ways before you cross the street.”
And that’s what they were doing, too—down to the youngest child. Little hands out in a “stop” gesture, heads swiveling one way and the other, little eyes all watching for traffic.
THEY WERE SO CUTE!
I HAVE TO HUG SOMETHING!! WHERE’S MY KITTY??

Okay, moving on…

After a few frustrated attempts to get to the Pier, we finally found the right street.

http://www.100yearsofpier.com/

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Our first point of interest was a place to get lunch. After walking most of the length of the Pier, we settled on Harry Carey’s. This was probably the last place on our trip that had a decent dark beer. Just sayin’.

We decided a boat tour would be fun, and chose one that centered on architecture. I don’t remember a lot of what our guide told us, but I do remember a few things:
• The Chicago River runs backwards, out of Lake Michigan. This is due to a canal that was dug way back when in order to take care of the sewage problem. At one time, the river actually caught fire, it was so polluted.
• The town colors the river green on St. Patrick’s Day.
• This drawbridge is always in this position, and has been like this for over twenty years. The only time it’s down is when it’s tested to make sure it still works.

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Buildings along the three branches of the river spanned in age from the 1800s to the Art Deco movement of the early 20th century, and from the silliness of the 1960s to the glass-and-steel monoliths of the late 20th century. There are several 21st-century buildings that show how architects have returned to fun-and-functional.

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It was a delightful tour, and we all got nice sunburns in the process. Not really bad—at least I’ve been able to kick-start my summer tan!

That night we visited with Paul’s cousin and his wife. It had been a lot of years since we’d last seen them. Our hotel was only a couple of blocks from their apartment building, so getting there was easy. We had a few drinks and then went to a really nice Italian restaurant. When we got back to their place, we admired the view of the city lights for a bit,

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talked a little more, then headed back to the hotel.

Lights out early–the next day we would be on the road!

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