Route 66, Chicago to Springfield, Memorial Day 2008

by Brian Cofer July. 04, 2008 2481 views

If I keep showing postings from Chicagoland, you're going to think I'm from the Windy City, so it's time to head home. I traveled Route 66 from Bolingbrook on the southwest edge of the Chicago suburbs to about Williamsburg, which is just north of Springfield. Much of the way, 66 is essentially I-55's east frontage road. Much of 66 is this way, making me wonder what all the big whoop is over the Mother Road. All those Germans and Japanese Harley riders would probably find any number of other U.S. highways, such as 40 and 50, more interesting and authentic. Yet, the Route 66 mystique remains, and I certainly found plenty to photograph.

We'll start in Joliet. I had always envisioned gritty images of the Blues Brothers getting out of prison (which I did pass just north of town) and Rudy sweating it out in the steel mills. But actually Joliet is a pretty pleasant little city.

I love this modern cool sign in Wilmington.

Just across the street is the Launching Pad drive in. This was erected in the '50s, back when mom and pop establishments were looking for any gimmick they could think up to get people to stop.

In Dwight, I found one of many restored gas stations that have popped up along Route 66, mostly civic projects to get nostalgia tourists to spend a pause a few minutes. The old guy running the place was very friendly and we talked a for several minutes. He said this place was a working Texaco station until only about 10 years ago and the proprieter was an enthusiastic volunteer manning this place up until he died several months ago.

Here's what I think is another attempt at a restored gas station/museum, just down the road in Odell. It wasn't open on this morning. I actually like that it's not fixed up too cutesy like many of these other places. I really hate that retro-nostalgia '50s diner crap with James Dean and Betty Boop posters and those cheesy reproduction Coca-Cola and John Deere signs. Give me real grit any day.

Like Rock City and Wall Drug, barns across middle America have been used to advertise Meramec Caverns about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis, a real classic Route 66 tourist attraction. I have several other photos of these barns I've taken over the years. I'll have to share them some time.

Don't you know this was once a really snazzy place to stay! It's still in business but a complete dump. This is in Pontiac.

Here's a link to a postcard from what appears to be the '70s when the Palamar was still clearly a nice place: http://www.66postcards.com/images/xx01.jpg [66postcards.com]

Just cut and paste it into the address bar. Unfortunately, I can't seem to get hyperlinks to work here. This isn't the most user-friendly program. But hey, it's free.

This sign in Pontiac hearkens to the day when Schlitz was the world's No. 1 selling beer. When's the last time you actually saw Schlitz beer?

An abandoned stretch of 66 that's been turned into a park for walking and biking.

My first-ever Maid-Rite sandwich, a way of life in states like Illinois and Iowa. it's what they call loose meat. Think sloppy Joe without the sauce or hamburger meat that's crumbly and not compacted into patties. Pretty darn good!

I don't remember what town this is, but this is a muffler man that was used by a hot dog shop in Cicero in the Chicago area. When it went out of business 10 years or so back, the owners donated it to this town as a Route 66 attraction.

It's nice to see one of these small-town, Main-Street cinemas still in business. In my travels, I've been shocked to see that there are more of these than you might think, offering up first- and second-run movies to locals.

Here's another 66 landmark. I love seeing old establishments that evoke faraway, exotic places like a place called the Tropics plopped amid the cornfields of Illinois.

Cut and paste these links for old postcard images:
http://www.66postcards.com/images/05Mar01.jpg [66postcards.com]

http://www.66postcards.com/images/Oct02.jpg [66postcards.com]

Sadly, the Tropics recently closed and sits forlornly awaiting its fate, which can't be good.

By now it was getting late in the afternoon so I hopped on 55 for the last couple of hours.

Home again!

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