Homer's Travels: Route 66 & California - Illinois

Monday, December 05, 2011

Route 66 & California - Illinois

If you're going to drive Route 66 and want to stay as faithful to the original route as possible, you need a good guide book.  We used Jerry McClanahan's "EZ 66 Guide For Travelers 2nd Ed".  The spiral bound book gives turn by turn directions, descriptions of historical places and sights along the way, and recommended places to stop along the route.  The route is well marked in Illinois with Historic route 66 signs along the way similar to this (I drove the whole thing and didn't once take a picture of an official sign ... what was I thinking?  This picture is a scan of a magnet):
We left Chicago with the guidebook in the hands of the Wife, an excellent navigator, and headed down the mother road.  We knew there was a lot to see along the route and that we couldn't stop at everything of note along the way.  We decided that we would try to be picky and avoid most museums and concentrate on the stranger attractions and oddities along the route instead.

Our first stop was the Gemini Giant (The guidebook has several "Giant Alerts" along the route).  The Gemini Giant is an old Muffler Man with a few space related accessories added on.  We stopped to take some pictures and get some lunch at the Launching Pad Drive In.  Sadly, the drive in was closed.

The Gemini Giant.
We ended up eating at the Old Log Cabin restaurant in Pontiac, IL.  The restaurant dates back to 1926 and served some good food.  This was the beginning of something I hadn't expected ... though I should have ...  Route 66 was becoming a foodie vacation.  We'd decided early on to not stop at any fast food places along the route until we'd reached the end.  It was similar to the no fast food pledge I made myself when I walked the Camino.  We would try our best to eat at locally owned diners and restaurants along the way.  Now I wish I'd journaled about where and what I ate along the route.

Along the road we passed by the birthplace of Colonel Blake (A MASH character and also the birthplace of the actor who played him) which also happens to be the world's only source of Beer Nuts.

The next Giant Alert was in the town of Atlanta, IL where we discovered a Paul Bunyon holding a hot dog ...  I have no idea so don't ask.

A Paul Bunyan holding a Hot Dog ... What?!?
We arrived in Springfield, IL and visited Abraham Lincoln's tomb and presidential library.  Both were impressive.  People left pennies on every statue in the monument and we added one or two ourselves.

Lincoln with your nose so bright, won't you guide my sleigh tonight ...
Our next stop was for the Wife: "Our Lady of the Highway".  It was supposed to be south of Waggoner.  After driving south, west, east and north of Waggoner, a tiny half-horse town, we gave up and continued further south ... and there it was.  In the front yard of a farm house was a shrine with a Mary statue.  Signs along the route recited the Hail Mary.  We stopped and took pictures.

Our Lady of the Highway.
We ended the day in the town of Litchfield, IL.  We ate at the Ariston Cafe (built in 1931).  We had our second awesome meal of the day there.

Our first day on the route was exactly what I expected.  A lot of quiet driving, interesting sights, small towns, lots of turn left-turn right, and a few weird things in between.  What I didn't expect was the feeling I had as I drove along the route.  In my head I was still on the Camino and the route, while by car instead of by foot, felt like a continuation of my pilgrimage.  Statues, memorials, historic guideposts, Mary, natural beauty, and ...

Route 66 Pilgrim's Shell.
These pictures and more have been posted to my 2011-07 Route 66 Roadtrip Google Photos album.

Note: While I did record GPS tracks along the way, I didn't start the GPS until I took the first picture.  This resulted in incomplete tracks.  I just didn't think I would want to include maps and stats for a driving vacation.  After including stats and tracks in my Camino posts I realize I made a mistake on the Route 66 roadtrip.

Approximate distance driven this leg: 260 miles.