Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Route 66 in the State of Illinois

From the Great Lake of Michigan to the Gate Way of the West, Route 66 began it's journey. The Chicago Art Museum sits on Lake Shore Drive, about the place the Mother Road was born. Just as the nation had been expanding west, so ran the road. Route 66 ran 300 miles across the state in a southwesterly fashion, and crossed into Missouri at St. Louis on the old Chain of Rocks Bridge. The bridge is now just a pedestrian bridge, but it does still exist, just north of I-270 on the north side of the loop around St. Louis.

The State of Illinois, also nicknamed "The Land of Lincoln", is the home state of many famous Americans, including three presidents: Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, and Abraham Lincoln...our 16th president who took office in 1860 and was assassinated one month into his second therm, April 1965. He left his stamp all over this state, thus the nickname.

Other well known Americans from Illinois are: Al Capone (a gangster), Ernest Hemingway and Carl Sandburg (authors), and Raggedy Ann and Andy, who were created in 1918 in the Amish community near Arcola, and Walt Disney, the creative genius whose legacy lives on. The capital of Illinois is Springfield, though for a time it was Vandalia. Illinois is the 21st state in the roster of the United States.

Chicago, where Route 66 begins, is the location of the Sears Tower, which was completed in 1973. It was the tallest building in the world at one time, and it remains the tallest building in North America. This is the city where McDonald's had it's first franchise restaurant. Ray Kroc bought out the McDonalds' brothers hamburger restaurant in San Bernardino, CA, and began the fast food chain in Chicago that is now recognized around the world. Two other firsts that comes out of Chicago, having been introduced at the 1893 World's Fair, are hot dogs and the Ferris Wheel. This fair was organized to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus sailing to America, even though it was a year late. Columbus sailed in 1492, you recall.

The road leaving Chicago passed through Joliet, the home of Dairy Queen, which was born in 1940. When we lived in the Joliet area we would go to this original Dairy Queen on occasion, and I remember one son's favorite treat...a slushy. I think it was a grape slushy. The other son liked Buster Bars. We often went to the DQ after a ball game at the church.

Route 66 also passed through Channahon, which is near where we lived from 1981-1985. What a nice park we lived near! Our sons finished first grade and kindergarten before we left the area and moved back to Cleveland, TN. Route 66, however, headed southwest through the state, passing through Bloomington, Springfield, Staunton, and ending in Mitchell at the great Mississippi River.

In the 1950's most of the existing road was converted to a four lane, high speed route that by-passed most of the cities, eventually becoming Interstate 55. There are still a few original stretches of Route 66 to be found, but as you travel down I-55, you can be assured that's pretty much the path that the Mother Road took.

Now I have a trivia question for you, or a research question. Back at the Chicago Art Institute on Lake Shore Drive, where Route 66 started, there are two fierce creatures guarding the entrance. What are they?

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