Saturday, July 2, 2011

Day 14 Bloomington (IL) to Chicago (IL) 1st July

Our final night o the road was spent in Burr House, a bed and breakfast in a six bedroom mansion in Bloomington. Our friends from Sacramento made a dash from Springfield at 8pm to catch us up and we talked about our respective adventure’s till well after midnight.

This is it, the final day of our American odyssey! Today we would drive into the Mob City on the edge of Lake Michigan.

We walked down memory lane, a section of the road preserved alongside the main road to celebrate to entire journey over the eight states.

Dale Sparks has retired to a Police beat in Towanda and dreams about doing the old road with his Grandson. He was all too pleased to share some of our spirit in nearly reaching the end of journey.

In Lexington the old rail depot has been turned into yet another Mother Road Museum.

Next stop Pontiac and the much talked about Hall of Fame. We found many of the people we’d met along the way who had been inducted into the Hall. The highest profile was Bob Waldmire who died a few years back. Arguably the last of the old hippies, Bob travelled the road in his Combie van, disguising his stash of marijuana in locked ‘live snake’ boxes the cops would never want to open! This man was the son of the Ed who invented the Corn Dog (Pluto Pup / Hot Dog) and was ironically a staunch vegetarian.

Bob's old converted school bus plied the highway through Arizona for several of his last years and when cleaned out the story has it a million dollars in cash was found hidden in the bus. Fact or fiction? This is the ‘Road’ and anything’s possible!  

Down the road the North Creek bridge actually boasts a Highway marker pre dating the 1926 opening of Route 66.

In Dwight, The Becker gas station. Deb and Phil Becker ran this station for more than 30 years and sold it in the mid nineties. As luck would have it they were rostered on to volunteer duty today to tell people about their old garage. Inside the original old Model A Ford that once sat proudly out front to attract customers. Hot Rodder Phil is passionate about his cars including a 1946 Hudson Woody!

In Gardiner, the old street car is all that’s left of a once famous food stop that graced the street’s of Gardiner until is burned down in 2004. The two cell jail next door was for nothing more than the locals who been consumed with too much liquor!

The Polk-A-Dot drive In at Braidwood was serving up Shakes and Malts in the prime of Route 66. Today she was our last official diner stop on our trip....

...and a chance to meet the rich and famous.  Tomorrow the diet will start!


..and our last Gemini Giant in Wilmington... Rocket man!

The Rialto Square theatre is certainly the most famous old landmark in Joliet and is still operating in 2011. Tonight – Sheryl Crow!

The remainder of the afternoon was spent navigating the streets of Chicago right down to Lake Shore Drive surrounding Lake Michigan. This is the official end (or start) of Route 66 - the place where thousands before us have become infected with ‘Mother Road’ fever. The Taste of Chicago food and music festival was on leading up to July 4 celebrations, so our arrival was somewhat overshadowed but it was officially the end of the road for us and our friends Dave and Sheril of a nearly three thousand mile journey*across America’s Main Street. It has been a wonderful journey back in time and across the many different faces of USA.

The car, our 2007 Stillen built Supercharged Mustang will be stored in Chicago and used for a proposed return trip, ‘the right way’ back to where it all began for us possibly as early as next year.
She has served us well, hardly missed a beat and delivered a special level of enjoyment to this particular trip. Thanks to Kyle Millen for preparing the car so well, it is a dream drive! We can’t leave without thanking our sponsors, The Steve & Danny Brennan in Los Angeles for helping get the car ‘route ready’ prior to our arrival, and Mcdonald’s for serving up the best free Wi Fi in America for our blog!

 Our last state decal is in place on the back of the Mustang. The journey and story has temporarily come to an end. Watch out for the return run on Route 66!

*officially 2448 miles but with visits to Grand Canyon, Vegas and Branson we clocked up well over 3,000 miles (5,000 kms)in the last two weeks.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day 13 Edwardsville (IL) to Bloomington (IL) 30th June

Two miles away from our motel was the Mustang Corral... arrgh Paul’s dream location! A family run affair for the last thirty years this place has Mustangs in various stages of deterioration and restoration! A yellow ’69 Mach 1, a ’67 Shelby, a ’65 GT Convertible... the list goes on!


There’s corn everywhere you look in this state, if not that, it’s peas and other vegetable crops for miles. The place is incredibly green and such a contrast to where we’ve come from.

The Colisium Ballroom in Gillespie.... is anything but these days, antiques line the massive hall which in itself is full of history. Chicago Mob money built it. Al Capone’s Grandmother lived in town so that’s why Gillespie got a Ballroom! Apparently the builder was found in a nearby pond with concrete gumboots on.. for failing to pay bills!

Just down the road the route narrowed and led to a now disused 1929 bridge... you can tell cars weren’t very wide in those early days.

Through Carlinville, pride in homes gets a huge boost, a far cry from the parts of St Louis we travelled through yesterday. American fashion has very few fences between properties and the concept of a quarter acre we used to take for granted in Australia would be considered small in these parts. Even the city square is expansive, neat and tidy.

There was grass growing under our feet on the original bits of Route 66 coming into Girard, the greenery clearly evident through the concrete pavement. Back when it was laid in the twenties and thirties the wild turkeys of this region had little regard for new concrete roads being laid... their signature now a well established attraction on the old road.

This trip has brought a handful of real highlights to mind and today Deck’s drug store was definitely another. Brother’s Bill and Bob Deck have retired now and just pop into their old store to say high to the folks passing through Route 66. They were the pharmacists in the town, as was their father and grandfather before him. In fact it opened in March 1884 and they seem to have kept everything from about that time on. Dozens of medicinal potions were presented to rectify anything from the common cold to dysentery! These guys are reason alone to make a trip on the Mother Road and bring real life to this time warp.

On the way out of town Robyn caught a glimpse of another cute creature.. the humble squirrel, munching on an acorn of course!

The Yellow Brick road is actually Auburn in this part of the world.. certainly outside Auburn and it’s about two miles long and all the original interlocked brick... Surprisingly it’s not hard on the suspension.

More insights in Springfield... no not home to Bart but in fact the home of the Pluto Pup (AUS) or Hot Dog (NZ). In 1945 Ed Waldmire came up with the idea and first put them on the market right here at the Cozy Dog Drive-In as a ‘Corn Dog’!

Speaking of ‘Drive-In’... that’s to drive in and park to get something... ‘Drive through’ is what you’d expect except in USA drive- thru can be for banking, pharmacy or even tax returns... almost anything you can think of!

Next stop was Lincoln, home of the phone box on the city hall building (used to spot approaching bad weather!) ...

... President Ab Lincoln, an undersized watermelon, significant because the former president cut the melon in honour of his namesake city! From the famous to the infamous, according to Cliff - who owns the old garage (now turned into a Harley Service Centre) on the corner of 66 coming into town – Al Capone used to fill up his cars en route south... usually late at night, leaving the cash in a strong box in the wall that they discovered when they did renovations! Cliff and his mate Dave enjoy sharing a tale or two about the road and chewing the fat about bikes... and Mustangs, if it has to be four wheels!

...and that was our penultimate day, full of inspiring people and interesting stories, a real highlight of the trip. After nearly two weeks on the road we have no one doubt about why you would drive Route 66. It is something different to everything who drives it... and you get from it what you put in. It doesn’t matter how little you see, it will be enjoyable... but if you make an effort, grab a guide or two and do some basic research the rewards are significant!
One day to go!