Tuesday, November 6, 2012

2012 Fall Break - Route 66 in Illinois

2012 Fall Break – Route 66 in Illinois 

In October our granddaughters had a fall break from school, so we drove down to pick them up and bring them back to visit us in Michigan for a week.  We had done the Route 66 trip going south from Missouri to New Mexico in the spring time, and on this trip we decided to do Route 66 in Illinois.  Hubby and I and our two dogs, Tuxedo and Kefli, loaded up Miss Holly and headed south. 

Our first stop was in Wilmington…as we decided to by-pass Chicago for now, and we just drove through Joliet.  The Gemini Giant Space Age Muffler Man was the reason for our first stop.  We had hoped to eat at the Launching Pad Drive-in, but it has been closed.

The picture below shows the old Route 66 alignment, no longer traveled, right next to the new road.  We saw the original alignment frequently through Illinois, very narrow, patchy, pavement ends abruptly.  You will note the railroad tracks left of the new road…always a tell tale sign of Route 66 alignment, as it followed the tracks as much as possible.  (This was our last road trip with Tuxedo…here he is with me standing out on the original Route 66.)

Of course, what’s a Route 66 road trip without the original gas stations?  On the left is a restored Texaco station in Dwight, Illinois, and on the right is a restored Standard station in Odell.  Remember full service days…fill it up and check the oil for you?
We had to do this pull out along Route 66 and get a picture of the advertisement for Meramec Caverns down in Missouri…another Route 66 icon, and they had their own advertising gimmicks…painting on barns and placing bumper stickers on the vehicles of their visitors. 

I had done my research so we would know what “hot spots” to hit as we traveled Route 66 through Illinois.  Some we found, some we by-passed (not enough time), and some just weren't there…at least not where we could find them.  I can tell you, though, DO NOT skip over Pontiac, Illinois.  It has more stuff to offer than you can see in a day, if you want to do it right.  And for the shoppers in the crowd (ahem, granddaughters!!) there is a terrific resale shop in the middle of town.  One of the nicest I've been in. 

This is Lincoln country, you know…the state of Illinois, the Land of Lincoln.  Well, what caught my eye first were statues of him in front of the county courthouse (being restored), where he used to practice as a lawyer.  That is an impressive court house, and I will go back some day when it is completed and take a tour.  Besides, there are many things we did not have time to see on this trip.  I think Pontiac deserves a weekend getaway trip.

The town is known for all of its murals, and it seems on every corner there is a small (kid-size) car or truck, painted in all types of themes.  Let’s start with the main mural:

Here’s Miss Holly parked alongside a row of PT Cruisers.  Their club was having a meet in town that day, I guess.  But get a load of that downtown street…takes you back a few years, doesn't it?

There’s an excellent museum in Pontiac…has several levels, includes some quaint stores, and gives a nice overview of all of Route 66, using old jail cells (it’s housed in the former city hall and jail) to depict each of the states along Route 66.  (We still have to do Arizona and California some day…time and money permitting.)  Anyway, parked outside the museum is an old school bus that one Route 66 artist turned into a “travel trailer/bus” as he traveled the Mother Road and sold his art work along the way.  The bus had a bathroom with shower and everything you could need for comfort as you travel.  Here are three views of it:


Inside the museum is an old VW van that was popular for traveling in back when it was cool to travel the open road.  This room is jam packed full of Route 66 memoirs, and it’s only one room of one level.  Very interesting place!!

The above picture was taken specifically for the teenager…who loves pandas!  She even dressed up as a panda for Halloween this year…made her own costume and did a terrific job!!  She’s VERY creative!!


Just don’t forget to stop in Pontiac, Illinois to get some kicks on Route 66!!

Well, time for food.  We chose to stop at the historic Polk-a-Dot drive-in for authentic drive-in food:  hot dogs, corn dogs, chili fries, and malts.  This place even had the juke box on the table where you could put in a quarter and play your favorite hit.  My apologies, I don’t remember the town.  (Uh, the food wasn't that great…)  Our younger granddaughter’s favorite color is purple, so I chose “Purple People Eater”, a 1958 hit by ShebWooley (okay…so I had to Google that).


Driving through a town we found the old dinosaur icon of the Sinclair gas stations.

Supposedly there are six Gemini Giants along Route 66 in Illinois.  We found our second one in Atlanta.  Here he is known as Paul Bunyan with his giant hot dog.  He’s located right across the street from Palms Grill CafĂ©, which was closed that day.  It was a Sunday, and I guess they aren't open on Sundays.  Looked like a nice place. 

 There was also an eight-sided library/museum and a 1908 Seth Thomas Clock, which I took pictures of, but did not stop to tour.

AtlantaIllinois, is another town worth going back to spend more time.  There are murals and a working grain elevator museum.

One of our last stops was in Joliet, where we lived in the early 1980’s.  We had a house built in front of a new park down near Channahon.  We called it “The Chocolate House” because we painted it dark brown.  Today it is a beige house…actually looks much nicer!!  They have also added a park sign to our side yard (it wasn't actually our yard, but we used it like it was).  There’s a huge playground in the park now, and so we stopped and our youngest one used some of her energy climbing, sliding, and such.

This trip was made in a day going south and a day coming back north. I have just combined the two days, and selected some of my favorite pictures.  I’m not much into driving the Interstate anymore now that we have traveled Route 66.  It’s nice to take a trip back through time and think about how things used to be…to be able to share with our young ladies a little history of their nation.  If you are planning a trip, going west, be sure and take the highway that’s the best!!  ROUTE 66.  Here’s map to get you started, if you are leaving from Chicago!  Be sure to include stops we did not have time for:  Staunton, McLean, Springfield, Funks Grove, LincolnLexingtonNormal, Shirley….lots to see and do in Illinois!