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Had a day of trying to find the road a number of times! Even though the maps are really good, looking at the maps vs actually being there isn’t the same. Typically that happens when I want to do a side trip and have a problem getting back on Route 66 again. Now, I think I’ve figured out how to handle that. But, let’s get back to the sights and attractions of the day. The Driveby Tourist started the day where I left off yesterday. So, some of my Pontiac information is on the Day 1 post. I’m into Day 2 – Pontiac to Troy. (Rewritten: June 2020)
And here is the Pontiac Route 66 Museum where I started the day. Bob Waldmire’s beloved VW Micro-bus stands proudly in the middle of the museum. While this is a very interesting museum, many of the pictures and displays are about places and historic events on Route 66. Consequently, I saw many of them on my trip. Of course, this is only Day 2 so hadn’t seen the rest of it yet. But, looking back on the trip, there aren’t very many pictures to display on this post as the pictures will be of the actual places and will be on future posts. Overall, it’s a good overview of the trip you will see when you drive ’66. Or, a summary of the what you’ve seen if you are eastbound. Click or tap on this Museum link from Day 2 – Pontiac to Troy for your viewing pleasure.
Day 2 – Pontiac to Troy
There are three museums here. First, the ground floor consists of the Illinois Route 66 museum. Second, the Livingston County War Museum occupies much of the next floor. The museum honors military members from the local county. While the highlight, for me, remains the picture of all the mannequins in so many military uniforms, but there is much more to see. For example, a very large display of nearly 50 newspaper headlines traces victory in World War II. However, the museum represents all of the wars and conflicts involving service members from Livingston County.
Last, The Bob Waldmire Experience occupies the remainder of the floor. Specifically, displays present his work and experience on Route 66. The displays trace the evolution of Bob’s artist and spiritual development during his lifetime. Also, the museum provides a video tour of his Hackberry Arizona home. Because, during his later years, he spent winters in Arizona and traveled extensively on Route 66 as inspiration for his artistic work.
Other places on Day 2 – Pontiac to Troy
Of course, taking time to see every place on the route isn’t going to happen! I missed some of them, partly choice. (There are others to see as well. So many books about Route 66…) If you do as I did, Day 2 will have a limit, here (below) are additional places to see on this section of Route 66. In future posts, I’ll continue to list places recommended by my research sources, but that I didn’t see. I covered other places in Pontiac in Day 1.
Starting with Day 2 – Pontiac to Troy, additional places I recommend but didn’t see, show up at the end of each section. Better way to show than at the end. While you are reading, you likely want to know about all the places I’ve seen and recommend in one place. The posts for each day include recommendations for additional places to visit. While I’ve included more places, your own research will likely show additional places to visit. I encourage you to read the books and material in my Day 0 – Positioning to Chicago for references.
Small Towns on Historic Route 66 – Illinois
This is a section of Route 66 near Chenoa IL was once four lane. The highway officials abandoned the west bound lanes and they are going back to nature. In other places, these sections have already been torn out for farm land or for other uses. Of course, this happened all along Route 66 as the Interstate system took over major traffic. Otherwise, Chenoa is a very small town of about 1700 people. So, the only other historical attraction of significance is the home of the town founder, Matthew T. Scott.
Significantly, Adlai E. Stevenson I, who held many important political positions and would become the 23rd Vice President of the United States courted and married Scott’s sister-in-law, Letitia Green. Stevenson’s grandson, Adlai Stevenson II, became the Democratic presidential candidate in 1952 and 1956. Coincidentally, he was defeated both times by Dwight Eisenhower who pushed for and signed the bill creating the Interstate Highway system. And that’s a connection to Chenoa’s lack of growth over the years!
And now, let’s take a stroll down Memory Lane. The city restored this section of original Route 66 from 1926. It fell into disrepair due to Route 66 rerouting in the 1930s. Now, it’s become a 1940s era stretch of road. In this case, signs now include historic Route 66 road signs, old business signs advertising former establishments, a description of the 66 Roadside Attraction, and a series of old time Burma-Shave signs.
In addition, a restored Old Route 66 Art Deco neon sign pointing to downtown returned to it’s original location. And the old Oasis Drive-In building, now abandoned still stands. While it isn’t restored, it still looks like it did in it’s better days. Just another sight to see on Day 2 – Pontiac to Troy.
Additional recommendation in Lexington
Kelly’s on 66 in Lexington is a restaurant on the route. My sources recommended it.
Original Route 66 contained a deceptive curve in the middle of town. Of course, it became known as Deadman’s Curve, since it caused so many accidents. In fact, highway officials removed a house near the corner after a truck went off the road and knocked it off it’s foundation.
The abandoned southbound lanes of Route 66 became the Towanda Route 66 Park & Trail. And, 1.6 miles of the trail now contains a park and a walking tour with several signs about the history of Route 66 in the area. Volunteers from Towanda and students and teachers from nearby Normal Community High School created the original design and development.
And, Route 66 Park & Trail contains a display to advertise a local speedway operating in the summer months. However, on the other side, Joe’s Garage, a collection of unique personal memorabilia. Many of you may enjoy a stop to browse through the displays and gift shop.
Additional recommendation in Towanda
Duncan Manor is a very large, historic house and, apparently, is worth a drive by. It’s privately owned but occasionally is opened for tours to raise money for renovations.
Bloomington – Normal IL
Sprague Service and McLean County Museum
Sprague Super Service from 1931 adorns Route 66 into Normal IL. An Illinois State University professor and her husband purchased the building in 2006 with the intent to restore it, including a museum and gift shop as well as a cafe. Funding proved too difficult and the City of Normal purchased the property. It now houses an Information Center and Gift Shop.
The original Steak ‘n Shake calls Normal IL home. Gus and Edith Belt opened their first restaurant in 1934. They grew the business and sold it in 1969. It’s been through many changes since then. The original location now houses a local pizza shop. Has been on the Day 2 – Pontiac to Troy route almost since the beginning.
The Mclean County Museum of History contains a Crusin’ with Lincoln on 66 series of exhibits. The exhibits celebrates both the significant role of Route 66 and Abraham Lincoln in the history of the Bloomington-Normal. The museum provides an overview of history of the area. There are some well known business that originated in the area as well. For example, the aforementioned Steak ‘n Shake, State Farm Insurance, and Electrolux Vacuum Cleaners, originally known as The Eureka Company.
Bloomington places to visit
Of course, Bloomington owes it’s “college town” reputation to the presence of Illinois State University. Interestingly, Bloomington Indiana is also a “college town” known for Indiana University. And Bloomington MN, formerly home of the Twins, the Vikings and the North Stars hockey is the now the home of the Mall of America. (Twelve other states have cities named Bloomington but the three above are the largest and all have approximately the same population!)
But, it you want a place to eat, consider the Parkview Food & Pub. Although the original was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in recent years, builders adhered to the original design. The place remains a fixture on Route 66. If you are into historical business buildings, visit the Original State Farm Building. Or, you may want to stop for a picture opportunity at the High-Rise Manson. Construction of the building took place in 1920. The structure on the roof initially became a roof top garden and rumor has it, a Prohibition-era party house. Today, it’s a roof-top apartment.
Additional recommendations in Bloomington / Normal
Historic Normandy Village attracts visitors to the historic buildings. The site opens everyday for viewing. While no buildings are open to the public, walk around viewing is encouraged.
The original Beer Nuts Factory became a company store and museum over the years. In 1937, Arlo Shirk and his father Edward purchase a small confectionery shop in downtown Bloomington. In 1950, they packaged a product called “Redskins” which evolved into Beer Nuts by 1953. All of their product is still manufactured in Bloomington at a facility a few blocks away.
Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington isn’t related to Route 66 except that it’s here. The zoo opens every day of the year except for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
And, not to be outdone, the Nestle Factory remains here as well. While the company has gone through several acquisitions over the years, this factory still operates.
More Illinois Small towns – Historic Route 66
Very little still exists from Old Funks Grove. Over the years, as Route 66 took different paths, it became a ghost town. A few buildings still stand but in ruins. The “Grove” contains maple trees that provide Funks Grove Maple Sirup. It’s still spelled that way as it was the preferred spelling in the 1920s regarding the product produced here. Today, the company produces about 2,000 gallons of sirup each season. Here is a link to the interesting process to create sirup.
The Dixie Truck stop in McLean Illinois provides a prototype of truck stops. Established in 1928 on Route 66, it’s the oldest truck stop in the United States. Initially, a mechanic shop, a cafe with half a dozen stools provided a place to eat. Over the year, the owners built cabins for truck drivers to sleep en-route. A fire destroyed the main building in 1965. Over the years, ownership changes and remodeling made it into a modern truck stop. I have some pictures but they didn’t make the cut for this post.
If you are a model railroad fan, check out the McLean Depot Train Shop across the street from the Dixie Truck Stop. The Depot not only displays model trains but sells everything for the hobbyist wanting to make their own displays. This town also plays host to a vintage video arcade museum and an attached hotel. The museum is free and most of the games are playable. The hotel includes a vintage video game in each suite.
Atlanta – More Historic Route 66
The Route 66 Memories Museum contains a lot of memories! And some of them are kind of offbeat! As in the picture above. The museum even contains a Rolls-Royce. The museum combines the founders love of cars, local culture and the history of Route 66. Great museum in this town of less than 2,000 people, a size that is typical for many towns on historic Route 66.
The giant Paul Bunyon statue stands near the museum. It’s purposely spelled that way. The statue formerly graced the property of Bunyon’s Hot Dog Stall in Cicero. The Atlanta public library’s historical significance is mostly about it’s octagonal design. The clock tower in town still contains the old hand cranked mechanism. It needs rewinding every 8 days, scheduled year around by faithful local volunteers. The tower itself is a newer design but the clock was “transplanted” from the previous tower. The yellow water tower shows a huge Smiley Face! And don’t miss the many downtown murals about Route 66.
Additional recommendations in Atlanta IL
The Palms Grill Cafe opened in 1934 along original Route 66 in downtown Atlanta. In recent year, the owners restored the cafe to its original 1930s style. It is still located in downtown Atlanta and is still known for it’s homemade pies.
The modern Route 66 Park built by the city for Route 66 travelers contains several Route 66 exhibits. A 20 feet by 6 feet mural titled “Atlanta: Midway on Illinois’ Mother Road”, completed in 2003, remains a highlight.
The Abe Lincoln statue and wagon moved several times. Divernon IL provided a home before it was moved here. Maybe Abe will stay here for a while! I guess it’s appropriate it would be here in a town called Lincoln!
A tiny church stands in the parking lot of Zion Lutheran Church. Apparently it’s good “advertising” for their church. I thought about historical significance but the church built it in recent years as an attraction. It’s open at unscheduled times, so if you go there, it may or may not be open.
For years, The Mill Restaurant stood as an attraction and great place to eat. It closed in 1996 and deteriorated. Someone bought it in 2005 but ran out of money to restore it. In 2006, local citizens formed the Route 66 Heritage Foundation of Logan County. The building became The Mill on 66 Museum. By the way, original owners acquired an old Army barracks used to house German prisoners of war and moved it to Lincoln where it became part of the restaurant. A Dutch windmill stands in front. At one time, the Dutch theme dominated the decor. More attractions about Abraham Lincoln are in Springfield.
Additional recommendations in Lincoln
The Lost Roadway in Lincoln IL goes through a car dealership. The dealership allows parking in the rear of the building to walk the lost section of Route 66.
The road leading to the Ghost Bridge North Route in Lincoln became private property in recent years. I don’t recommend trespassing to the see the bridge! Therefore, not a highlight!
Recommendations in Williamsville
The Old Gas Station in Williamsville remains a fixture on Route 66. A new owner recently purchased the station. He plans to keep it much the same with two bays dedicated to provide an area for his restoring of old cars and motorcycles. Plans for the third bay include a small cafe as well as a drive-thru. Here’s a link to the place. The site includes a video about Frank Kohlrus, the eccentric former owner.
Recommendations in Sherman
A former section of the road is now Route 66 Memorial Rest Area. The Village of Sherman purchased the property from the state in 2007. Plans to restore and preserve this section of Route 66 have been developed. These plans still awaiting funding. Currently, the area remains a rest stop on Route 66. One can imagine stopping for a picnic lunch and a break from driving. Hopefully, the village develops funding soon.
Broadwell / Elkhart
A famed cafe, The Pig Hip Restaurant stood in Broadwell from 1937 until it closed as a restaurant in 1990. Ernie Edwards, (known as “The Old Coot on Route 66” operated it as a restaurant and then as a museum. It was destroyed by fire in 2007, but Route 66 fans placed a plaque on the site that says “U.S. Route 66 ‘The Mother Road’ Endures FOREVER.” Other homemade signs dot the site as well. Here’s a link to more explanation.
The Wild Hare Cafe in Elkhart remains as part of Horsefeathers Museum and Antique Shop. The museum includes a lecture series about many and varied topics of interest to locals and travelers. Their website contains a schedule. The two buildings housing The Wild Hare and Horsefeathers are circa 19th century. While this isn’t specifically about Route 66, their varied food and programs are well worth the visit.
Springfield IL – Day 2 – Pontiac to Troy
The Muffler Man statue stands along Historic Route 66 in Springfield. Of course, Abe Lincoln lived in Springfield for many years and considered it his home town. Both the State Capital and the Lincoln Museum and Presidential library are located here. While not Route 66 related, you may want to take the time to visit some of the Lincoln memorabilia. (The Driveby Tourist spent two days here in a prior year.) Mahan’s Filling Station continues to be an exhibit at a local pizza shop.
Additional recommendations in Springfield
The Lost Route 66 Segment in Springfield runs from the Cabin Smoke Trail to the Sangamon River. The road now runs through Carpenter Park and is available to walk.
A young Abe Lincoln Rail Splitter Statue at Gate #1 to Illinois State Fair fairgrounds stands 30 feet tall, making it another Route 66 giant!
The Cozy Dog Drive In originated the name “Cozy Dogs” for battered and deep fried hot dogs. The Waldmire family (remember Bob Waldmire from Day 1?) still owns it. Bob’s father, Ed, developed the idea while in the Air Force in World War II. Apparently, it’s one of the most popular attractions on Route 66.
The Route 66 Motorheads Bar, Grill & Museum contains a salute to past along with great meals on Route 66. Not only a great place to eat but the museum provides lots of information about the history of Route 66. Of course, much of it is about CARS! And Motorcycles! I didn’t see this one but I’m sorry I missed it. Reading about it makes me wish I had stopped.
The Old 4-Lane Route 66 through Springfield became part of the Lake Springfield Marina. This section is a maintained 4 lane highway, unlike most other remaining 4 lane sections of Route 66.
Last Illinois small towns of the day
Auburn – Historic Route 66
Near Auburn IL, you will find about 1.5 miles of Route 66 red brick road. It’s in a rural area as well. Consider the determination of the planners and builders of the road to use bricks for this section of the road. Amazing that it was done and also that it is being maintained.
Girard, on Historic Route 66, is home to Doc’s Soda Fountain. My last stop of the day, but just for a picture. Closing time occurred prior to my visit. I’ll be back tomorrow for lunch as I resume my Route 66 trip. Since I already made a reservation in Troy, I’m going ahead 40 miles or so, and will back track to here tomorrow.
Signing off for the Day 2 – Pontiac to Troy drive. However, here are some links. If you want to go back and read Day 1, click or tap on the link. And if you want to jump ahead to Day 3, click or tap on this link. Of course, if you want to go back to the overview post, then click or tap here.
“Memories” by Elvis Presley
Memories, pressed between the pages of my mind
Memories, sweetened through the ages just like wine
Quiet thought come floating down
And settle softly to the ground
Like golden autumn leaves around my feet
I touched them and they burst apart with sweet memories
Written by: Donald Baldwin / Jeffrey Bowen / Kathy Wakefield
One of the features of this post is Memory Lane. And it’s “always” OK to have an Elvis song for classic rock!