First, let me say that this is going to be a long post. I saw a lot today.
Ok, so, like I said this morning, I didn’t have very far to go. Only 150 miles or so, right? Right. RIIIIGHT. If anyone can stretch “only” 150 miles out over 12 hours, it’s me. And I really did.
I was hoping to sleep in a bit, but woke up at 6am. I milled about the hotel room and finally applied Cat Crap to my face field. Cat Crap is an anti-fogger. No idea why they call it that, but it works.
My first mission evolved last night. I was looking at a map of Joliet and came across Mound Street. I figured that since it’s called Mound Street, there must be a mound. Probably an Indian burial mound. And after a bit of research, I found out that I was wrong on both counts.
There was a mound, but it’s not there anymore. I was shocked. Why would they remove a mound? Simple – because they needed some stuff that the mound was sitting on. It was turned into a quarry. But, according to the info that’s available, the mound was a naturally occurring mound. That’s right. In this very very flat river basin, there was this big lump with a flat top. Just… naturally and stuff.
Naturally occurring. Sure. I wonder if the quarrying company provided that info.
Anyway, while there was no mound, there was supposedly a historical marker. I rode around Mound Street, but saw no marker. Thanks! The pic I have is a stock pic.
And moving on…
There’s a stretch of 66 that has been sort of forgotten, even though it was 66 from the late 30′s till it was replace by I-55. The route through Joliet became Alt 66, though it’s much more well known today.
After a quick bite to eat at Panera Bread, I headed up Route 30 to Plainfield. I arrived during a town-crisis. All of the traffic lights had lost their power. The cops were no where to be seen. They left us to work it out for ourselves. And we pretty well did. I followed Lincoln Highway as it converged for a block with Route 66. My two favorite roads together at last!
I think it was just the traffic lights that were out. If all the town’s power was out, I would have seen neighbors outside talking to each other. People only speak when there’s a natural disaster of some kind.
This alignment was neat, but hardly fun. North of town is where all the cops were. They directed traffic around the strip malls. There were tons of strip malls. Miles of them, in fact. And with all the cops preoccupied with directing traffic, this was the golden opportunity for a small riot. You can’t have too big a riot because then the National Guard would be called in. Just a small one. And some looting. I’m rather disappointed in the people of Plainfield for not taking advantage of such a golden opportunity. Shame!
I had to go through Joliet again to get back to the alignment that I was following. There was one last thing I wanted to see there. I’ve been through Joliet three times (a bunch of times if you count last night) and have yet to see the Rialto Theater. Other people in the car with me have seen it. But I have not. Until today.
And all there is to say about it is wow.
But enough of the busy Chicago area. I wanted to get out onto what to me is the real Route 66. Give me an open stretch of road, already!
I had to wait a bit for that, but the four lane south of Joliet is pretty desolate after a bit. Just wide open spaces with signs urging developers to buy them up.
And finally, just north of Elwood, is the Chicago Road. It was probably a really early road into Chicago. It later became 66, but probably didn’t last long until it was bypassed by the four lane. But that didn’t matter. It was my first stretch of really Route 66! Just me alone on a forgotten two lane. I stopped to take it all in. A kid on a four wheeler flew by me and waved. This was great.
Elwood is a small town of little consequence. They all are, really. And even though they’re close to the interstate, nobody really visits. Elwood had a small fire last night. It burned down a tavern. A few townsfolk were still milling about. Again, people talk to each other during disasters. It’s finally something we have in common.
The Rittenhouse Guide ((Jack Rittenhouse wrote a guide to Route 66 in 1946. It’s been reprinted and, while it’s no longer anywhere near accurate, it’s great to see what the Road was like way back when.)) doesn’t even mention Elwood by name. Just “Gas Station. Another Gas Station with a cafe and a few cabins.”
Having passed the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery a few times, I thought it only right that I stop. This isn’t where he’s buried. That’s Springfield. But this is where many Illinois vets from WW2 and Vietnam (and probably others, I didn’t see others though) are buried. I rode around the cemetery, trying to avoid being swept up in a couple passing funerals.
As I didn’t have any pressing business here, I putted on to what many consider the “first” Route 66 icon ((By “first” I mean geographically the first going East to West.)), The Gemini Giant of Willington, IL! This is my third time visiting him and it never gets old.
Remember how I said that the Plainfield alignment was replaced by I-55 and took itself away from what we now consider Historic 66? Here is where it joins up. In Braidwood. Rittenhouse describes it as having piles of coal slag on either side of the road. Certainly they weren’t a big as Shamokin’s pile, but it’s surprising that the piles are gone. Unlike Shamokin’s.
The Joliet alignment and Plainfield alignment don’t really meet up. Joliet’s, called Alt 66 is on the east side of the tracks while Plainfield’s is on the west. It’s a pretty nifty thing to see, I think. Hard to photograph though.
Dwight, the next town, is “quiet and peaceful.” Not much is in it or around it for miles. It, like most of the towns around here, is divided by the railroad. Amtrak still has service to almost all these places, Dwight included. There is a car dealership called Rub Ford ((That sounds pretty perverse to me.)) which still has brand new 2004 Mustangs. Want one?
Odell and Pontiac provided some great photo opportunities. But going through my pictures, one town looks just like the others. It’s only through maps and some almost educated guessing that I can label one picture as being from Odell and another from Pontiac – or any of twenty or more such towns.
One thing that does separate Pontiac from any other Route 66 is its “swinging bridges.” I spied the sign and zoomed off in search of untold treasures. And to my delight, there were three suspension bridges just for walking. I’m not really sure of the story of these things, but it’s pretty cool.
The towns were getting farther apart now. Chicago was far behind me. Rittenhouse mentions Ocoya, but there doesn’t seem to be anything there now. The towns were also getting smaller and the signs of clinging to life were obvious. Here, the life is Route 66. Either embrace it and stand a small chance of survival or… well, there is no “or.”
Sometimes the towns don’t need to provide the entertainment. Between Pontiac and Lexington I found five train cars on their side. They were almost neatly arranged, their wheels in a pile next to a county road. It was hard to figure out what happened here, but I assumed a derailment. This may have been mid-clean up. (Edit: some research and yes, it was a derailment. Look.)
Just a few miles farther, Lexington turned their old alignment into a “Memory Lane” of old billboards for businesses in Lexington that were no more.Towanda did much the same. It’s nice in a sort of sad way. but that is how Route 66 can be.
Out of nowhere arises the twin cities of Normal and Bloomington. They’re basically one town and not very interesting as far as Route 66 goes. I took not one picture there. It did, however, rain like crazy in Normal. I was soaked. It didn’t rain at all in Bloomington though. And by the time I got through the cities, I was mostly dry.
By this point, I had proved to myself that my thoughts of having too much time were insane. If anything, I didn’t have enough time! More realistically, I got off to a late start, but still. I had to pick up the pace, at least just a little.
This meant buzzing through towns rather than exploring. I guess that is ok.
I entered Shirley ((yeah yeah, that’s what she said)) and then Funks Grove, where they make “Sirip.” Rittenhouse describes these several towns, including Mclean and Atlanta, as all having “no tourist facilities,” but having a cafe. Each of them. It must have been nice when every small town had a cafe and a gas station.
Atlanta, long one of my favorite Route 66 in Illinois stops, had to be hurried too. It wasn’t a big deal as I’ve explored it twice before. I took a few pics, including one with Ruby and Paul Bunyon and scurried on.
One thing I will call a sacrifice for time today was the town of Lincoln. This was a great size. Not too small and definitely not too big. But I had to just pass through it. Route 66 doesn’t claim its downtown and neither did I. Next time.
With Springfield, my home for tonight, so close at hand, I found my way through the city with quite a bit of ease. I will see more of it tomorrow.
I was pretty well decided upon staying at the KOA Kampground. However, I couldn’t find it. The campground that I went to wasn’t KOA and was only for RVs. So I had to find somewhere else that would take my money.
That is where the Peachtree Inn comes into play. And here I am. On a very floral bed typing out my memories of today before I forget them. Denny’s is next door. I admit to indulging in “seasoned fries.” And now is sleep.
Miles traveled today: 239
Miles traveled today: 1192
High temp: 83
Low temp: 63
Here are the pics of today!
Map explaining where I was today. ((Sort of. Cole requested a map like one that I did before, but I tried and couldn’t come up with anything. Here’s a Google Map that sort of has the route. It’s not anywhere near exact, but gives you a rough idea. For a larger overview, there’s the crude map on the main page.))