Homer's Travels: Route 66 & California - Beginning At The Beginning

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Route 66 & California - Beginning At The Beginning

I arrived back home from Spain late in the evening, Tuesday, 28 June.  Four days later we climbed in the car and left on our summer vacation.  The vacation would take us to my In-Law's lake house in Iowa, along the entire length of Route 66, up the coast of California to San Francisco, and back - over three week's time.

Route 66 - the Will Rogers highway, the Mother Road, the Main Street of America - runs roughly 2,448 miles (3,940 km) from Chicago, IL to Santa Monica, CA.  The route, established in 1926, passes through eight states and innumerable small towns.  I'd wanted to drive it for a long while and I was happy that the Wife also thought driving the route would make for a great vacation.  It would be somewhat of a challenge as we'd discovered a while back during our first vacation as a married couple that car trips over ten days were stressful and this vacation would be twenty-two days long with fourteen of those being driving days.

Before we actually started Route 66 we were stopping at the In-Law's lake house on Lake Cornelia.  We spent three days there enjoying ourselves at the lake and celebrating the fourth of July with the annual boat parade and fireworks.  I told stories of my Camino (the first of many tellings over the next few months) and relaxed the best I could.  I was still a little high from my experience in Spain and my body was trying to recover and, I suspect, having withdrawals from the 1,600 mg of Ibuprofen that I took every day while I walked the Camino.  The craze at the lake this years was the mini-hot air balloon.  You could see them being launched all around the lake and we launched a few of our own.

Hot air balloon being launched at Lake Cornelia.
On the fifth of July we drove east.  We stopped in the town of Galena, IL for lunch.  This is one of our favorite towns (along with Cambria, CA and Stillwater, MN).   I always marvel at the stairs coming down the bluffs into the downtown area - reminded me of the Camino.

Stairs in Galena, IL.  Reminded me of the Camino.
Our destination that day was Chicago, the start of Route 66.  We stayed in a hotel on Grant park only a couple blocks from the official start of the route.  After settling into our room we went down to the lobby.  The Wife went up to the front desk and asked what there was to do within walking distance.  The hotel clerk told us about museums, restaurants, and stores in the area.  As he was doing this another visitor was checking in and the other clerk asked him if he was here for the concert.  "What concert?"  we asked, thinking it might be some free summer concert in Grant park.   "U2" he said, "do you want to go?"  We laughed and said "Sure but we don't have tickets."  "There's a guest in the hotel who is trying to sell a couple tickets.  Do you want me to call him?"  he said.  "Heck yeah!"  we said.  We met with the gentlemen (from New Zealand, I think) who appeared to be a hard core U2 groupy.  He quizzed the Wife (I think he wanted his tickets to go to real fans) and, being satisfied with her answers, sold us two floor tickets for face value ($54 a piece - not a bad price at all).  WHAT!?!  What just happen?!? 

We walked over to Soldier Field where the concert was and went in.  We bought some food and headed down to the floor.  We kept looking at each other and grinning from ear to ear.  WHAT!?!  (That became our reaction to just about everything on this vacation - WHAT!?!)  This concert had been sold out and we didn't even know it was that night and it just kind of fell into our laps.  WHAT!?!

The concert started with Interpol warming up for U2.  They were pretty good but I was only familiar with a few of their songs.  Next U2 came on and it was crazy awesome.  A great concert.  Up there with Green Day and the Eagles.

Near the end of the night it was starting to get really hot.  We'd been standing (no chairs on the floor) for about five or six hours and as the night progressed the people on the floor had slowly pressed towards the stage until we were all packed in like sardines - hot sweaty sardines.  By the last encore it was too much for us and we made our way to the edge of the crowd so we could try to cool off.

As we got close to the wall I saw the Wife was in bad shape.  I got her sitting on the floor, back to the wall, and asked someone for water.  When no one came through I bought a bottle and got her drinking.  By this time first aid arrived and we were helped to the first aid station where we encountered Nurse Mary.  She was all business and no nonsense.  She got the Wife on a bed, checked her vitals, and asked her questions ("What day is today?").  She handed the Wife two bottle of water and said "Drink these and pee.  If you don't pee, you go to the hospital."  It wasn't easy but the Wife finished the two bottles (three including the one I gave her) and did what she was told.  Nurse Mary didn't seem to believe the Wife but, after signing away all liability, she let us go.  This whole incident was a flashback of the start of our first roadtrip together.

We walked ... slowly ... back to our hotel.  It was a little scary there for a bit but, despite the heat stroke,  what a marvelous way to start the route.


  1. That is awesome! I'm glad you had a good time at the concert. I'm extra-glad the Wife is okay! It's so easy to get over-heated at those events!

  2. Miss McC: Thanks! It was a really hot night. A lot of people were overheating on the floor.