Route 66 Wrap up – Part 1

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Really, the purpose of my trip was to complete Route 66 from Chicago to LA. I also drove back home with the rental car and saw more of the country. Absolutely wonderful trip. So many things to see and experience. The museums, restored diners, restored cars and restored “a lot of other stuff”! I’ve given readers an overview and/or specific information and photos nearly every day on the trip. I may repeat some things here but it’s because it was really a high-light or it just came to mind as I’m developing this.

Although I’ve thought about Route 66 for many years, the impetus for going started came in 2017. JeNell was going on a trip with two of her granddaughters and I decided I’d take a trip as well. Almost every place I thought about, she wanted to see as well. Back to the internet. Of course, Route 66 was all over nearly every road trip site. Then I found the Great River Road. It is a combination of federal and state roads (and occasionally county roads as well). Starting at the source of the Mississippi River in northern MN to the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana. Starting in MN and WI just south of the Twin Cities, the road runs on both sides of the river. I started north of Minneapolis and went to Natchez MS on the east side and returned on the west side. Need to do both ends some time.  (How about some “history” blog entries with my days on that trip?)

I digress.  Route 66. The most famous road in the world, The Mainstreet of America, The Mother Road, Will Rogers Highway. (While it may not really be the most famous road in the world, visitors from many countries are attracted to travel all or part of this great treasure.) The Route 66 heroes all along the road, tell stories about people from all over the world who come here to pay homage to a great piece of American history. More on the heroes later in this post.

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After some thought and discussion with JeNell, thought about leaving in late September 2017. However, was offered a work contract starting in September and ending in December so postponed to spring. Decide starting on a weekend in Chicago would be much better than fighting Chicago traffic and then found that Saturdays in Chicago weren’t much better than weekdays. Which left Sunday. Since some of the attractions open for the season around April 1, that became the day. Drove to Chicago on Saturday, March 31st. Yes, Chicago traffic is bad, but not like LA. More on that later as well!

A great way to start is to take the picture of the sign at Adams and Michigan Ave in Chicago and then head out. (Selfie or your companions if you want to be in it.) Breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s is a must. From there, the road is through economically disadvantaged areas until getting out into the suburbs. Around Joliet, start seeing some “country” roads. And take a picture of the prison (now closed) where Joliet Jake in the “Blues Brothers” movie got his name.

Illinois has a lot to see. Spent three days there. The Route 66 museum in Pontiac as well as the military museum in the same building are must see places.  Of course, the “giants” start here in Illinois. Initially called the Muffler Men with hands formed to hold a muffler, now most of them are “redesigned”. For example, one of them is Paul Bunyan holding an axe. One has become Harley Davidson Man at the Pink Elephant antiques in Livingston IL. That place contains the obligatory Pink Elephant, Surfer Dude, and, apparently, Surfer Dude’s girlfriend. (She’s in a dress, not beach wear, so can’t call her Surfer Girl. Tip of the hat to the Beach Boys for the song.)

Illinois has a couple short stretches of the nearly original concrete Route 66. Square curbs, barely enough room for two cars to meet, etc. The end of the Illinois part is at Chain of Rocks bridge crossing the Mississippi River in the St. Louis MO metro area. The bridge is currently closed at both ends due to high crime areas on both sides of the river. The bridge was closed in 1970 with discussions of it’s fate going on for nearly 30 years. In 1998, it was renovated for a walking and biking bridge. A unique feature is a 22 degree bend in this mile long bridge.

Most of the larger cities have several Route 66 paths and St. Louis is no exception, so went over on a southern route and stopped at the Gateway Arch. Of course, it was a cold, gray windy day. Did the “Driveby Tourist” thing and stopped long enough to take pictures. The other must see in this area is Ted Drewes Custard. The Drewes family had several locations but only this one and another remain. The Route 66 location opened in 1941 and has continuously operated since then. Many other things to do along this stretch. Hard decision on how much to see vs how much time to get to LA.

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Next Post: Missouri and Oklahoma? And maybe Texas?

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