Chicago to Needles (Route 66) and then Las Vegas!
This is the first blog of a trip that will start on May 24 at Lou Mitchel's resturant in Chicago and wander along old route 66 to the Santa Monica Pier then ending in Las Vegas for a few days.
Unfortunately little if anything will be added during the actual trip because I want to enjoy the journey and not be tied down by making entries along the way.
Just a bit of history, Jan, my wife, and I have driven various parts of 66 in the past (actually most of it). On this trip, there will be a total of 3 ladies, Jan, her sister-Susan, and her cousin-Suzie plus myself. (Since all three ladies are very opinionated and head-strong, I wonder if I will be able to get a word in edgewise or be able to keep on track).
Just a bit of info about each......
Jan is a retired writer--fiction and non-fiction
Susan-a newspaper editor
Suzie-a National Parks Service employee, ex ranger and now works on saving the memories. (She had trouble coming to grips with the idea of being a tourist instead of worker).
I am a retired Army officer and other things and an amateur philosopher.
So there is a real variance of backgrounds that should make for an interesting journey into the past to try to get a forward looking at life.
While I am going into this journey with an open mind, I do have some opinions that should be brought to life before continuing.
1. Since most of the "characters" have already past, I take what people say an reminiscences of what they have been told or read.
2. Personally, I do not places that have rebuilt just to take tourist dollars (tourist traps) without giving the past its due. For instance, the skywalk in Tulsa. But do like to see the local color of places like Sandhill Curosity Shop, Seligman, and Oatman. Also then the National Museum in Elk City is great!
3. While I think the ruins along the way are sad, WE, you and I, were the cause of them for not frequenting them. They should be remembered as they are today and not try to restore them to their previous glory.
4. I like the old neon signs whereever they are found.
With that I am going to signoff for now. I hope to make another post before IT begins. Will also try to respond to comments as appropiate.
One of the best sites for digging along route 66 is this one built by Guy Randall.
Originally Posted by scotishbob
I'm looking forward to reading you blog this summer. That's a trip I'd like to do one day - except I'd have to start in Texas or Oklahoma and do it over the course of two trips. Still sounds like something cool.
I like that website Mark. I forsee many hours spent playing on that.
Images of 66
I'd suggest you get a copy of David Wickline's "Images of 66, Vol. 1." Lots of pictures with captions that help enhance the trip. We also had people sign the pictures for extra memories of the trip.
He also has a Vol. 2 out now.
Too bad you'll be missing the Route 66 Festival in Litchfield, Illinois later in June.
Check out Ron Warnick's Route 66 News site to get a list of Route 66 events and festivals.
The stretch of old 66 in Missouri by Devil's Elbow and the Hooker Cut are a personal favorite stretch of the old road. It has very little traffic.
RT 66 (Chicago to Needles) #1
In a previous note, I stated that I was making the trip along 66 from Chicao to Santa Monica as well as listing the people traveling together (two had never intentionally been on 66--my wife and I have made about half the journey). We ran out of time around Needles and never made it all the way. Actually, that was ok, because we all saw people and things that would have been missed if we had sped up any at all! While this is not going to be a strictly chronological diary or even a day by day event calender of what we did or saw, I hope it will catch the essence of the journey.
For me, the essence of the journey was expressed by two iterant hippies in Erick, Oklahoma. These two individuals, Annebelle and Harley, have found their niche along 66 without any assistance (local, state, or federal-actually disliked by the locals because they are making money) and are having the time of their life while entertaining many tour bus loades of people that do not make any other stop in Erick even though the town has a good museum and several "66" style eateries. (See attachment #1). Note: I have an interview of Harley and another of their singing if anyone is interested! In my ever so humble opinion, if more would take a lead from them, 66 would be a better journey and without governmental interference too!--Time to get off my soap box and describe the trip.
3 of us had to pick up the fourth at Midway Airport at 9:30 am. We drove all night from North Carolina and make it on time. Our first stop was Lou Mitchel's Resturant. (See attachement #2 & 3). Here it was as expected. Crowded--about an hour wait in line to get seated. By the time we got inside, we were already stuffed with free doughnut holes that were passed around continuously. Inside was the greatest thrill. The food (both quality and quantity) were without equal. The atmosphere was worth the trip itself. The hostess was a blast. Anything you have heard about this place has to have been an understatement.
Next followed the only frustrating experiences along the route. On this Saturday the city of Chicago was having their Memorial Day parade which prevented us from following 66 thru the city on to Joliet. It also drove the gps (TomTom) crazy with the various route changes that had to be made.
Stopped at the museum in Joliet for a bit. Well worth the stop. Next came beer break at the Riveria outside Gardner. This is strictly a "locals" bar and met several friendly characters here. Just as a comment, the throne in both restrooms are on raised platforms. Outback is an old diner that will be refurbished when enough money is made. Give this place an A++
A little later, occurred an event that keeps drawing me back to 66 and restores my faith in mankind. In Dwight, we stopped to take photos of an old lighthouse. When we returned we ran into a fancy wedding reception with tuxs et al (we were in shorts). While awaiting the bride and groom to arrive, we were given beer and great conversation.
After searching for a bit we finally found a motel to spent the night. We were trying to find "66" style motels. So ends day one.
Great report and info. Hope there's more!
Originally Posted by scotishbob
One of the most unique places anywhere. Glad you got a chance to visit. Hopefully, the owner was behind the bar. He sure has lots of great stories.
Route 66 (Chicago to Needles) #2
This is the second in a series of a travelogue of the trip from Chicago to Needles, Ca. following Old Route 66.
First stop was the Lions part in Dwight. Visited the swinging bridge—neat….The area was so quiet and serene. We stayed on 66 to Normal viewing old gas stations and a bit of metal works called “pop art.” Some was good and others were junk. At Normal we got on the interstate 55 and took it Sherman. 66 exists along this stretch but is right beside the interstate.
We had to stop in Atlanta. A person could spend an entire day here. Starting with the Giant Hot Dog (see picture #1) and the Launching Pad Restaurant (great food, cheap). Main Street is most unusual—restored to days of yore (see picture #2). The public library is a good example of old architecture. The restored grain elevators is unique. And there is always a “smiley face” looking over you from the water tower.
In Sherman, we got back on 66 and followed it to just outside St. Louis. This stretch is not to be missed. While there is little of major importance, there are signs of the towns/villages retaining much of their old charm and without outside aid. That is, they are restoring what they can and using what is useable without becoming purely tourists traps.
We elected to not drive through downtown St. Louis because so little of the route had been preserved plus it was in the “run-down” part of the town. Three of us had previously visited the Arch and Sue had designed the Lewis and Clarke exhibition that was there several years ago. If you have not been the Arch, by all means make it a stop. Be forewarned, to take the ride to the top can take waiting in line for several hours. However, we did stop to see the “Chain of Rocks” bridge and even take a walk out on it.
Route 66 crosses the interstate several times along this stretch. The first good stop for us was Cuba, Mo. There is little doubt this is correctly called “Mural City of America.” Scattered throughout the town are many excellently painted mural of various scenes in the history of the town. We spent several hours wandering thru the town. Be sure to read the signs attached to the murals to get a good perspective of this wonderful little town. No one should miss here!
The last thing viewed on the second day was the original A & W Root Beer Family (see picture #3). This is just east of Rolla where we spent the night.
When taken as a whole we had covered too many miles and not spent enough time with some of the relics. For me personally, this was a most enlightening part of the journey.
Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 07-01-2008 at 07:52 PM.
Reason: removed links, as result of merging of threads into one thread
We are enjoying this!
I have placed the three original threads into one linear one -- so we can follow along easier -- Thanks for sharing your trip with us!
Chicago to Needles (Route 66) #3
First of allHAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA!. Isn't it great to live in a country and be able to visit its wonderous beauty!
Note: Pictures 6 thru 8 are in #3a which will be posted later this evening......got to go see a baseball game, eat a hot dog, and watch fireworks.
Now is the time for another edition of the journal. This segment goes from Rolla, Missouri to Claremore, Oklahoma. One could say it is a section of contrasts. All of this section is on route 66 without visiting the interstate except a short section around Lebanon, Mo. When we awaken, we discovered the one thing that trippers dread the most—overcast skies and the threat of rain.
The day begins by back tracking a bit to visit the Mule Trading Post (see picture #1). From my perspective this is an indoor flea and junk market. Some of the material does bring back memories of the past. They have lots of stuff to include many old record albums, old washing machines, and even some stuffed animals. Additionally, they have chain-saw art of wildlife such as bears and deer.
Back on the trail, one of the first things that we run into is a big outdoor garden as a tribute to the Trail of Tears (see picture #2) which came through this region. For me this is a trip highlight—not because of the quality which is great (mainly stone architecture) but knowing that others besides me think that the forced march of the Cherokee (and treatment of Indians in general) is a very sad point in the history of this nation. And it continues to be even today.
Next we headed into the Ozarks—small mountains but still many curvy roads. The most scenic spot was the Devil’s Elbow. In the distance is a railroad bridge over Piney River (see picture #3).
While there were many things that could be done in Springfield, Mo we decided to make a few more miles along the old road. But we did have to stop and look at a couple of the abandoned motels/travelers inns. The route was like this the rest of the way thru Missouri. In Carthage was the most unusual “flying machine” I have ever seen called “Crap Duster. It is an old manure spreader with wings and an aircraft engine (see picture #4).
The distance across Kansas on route 66 is only 13 miles. For me the only thing memorable was the Marsh Rainbow Bridge. It is one-way across for automobile and it is definitely worth the time spent here.
By the time we got into Oklahoma, the skies were lowering and seemed to be more threatening. Rain would soon be falling. There was one place just inside Oklahoma but just off 66 that we wanted to visit—Picher. This town is the totally condemned because it is the worst toxic waste site in the USA. The only people living there are ones too poor to leave. About two weeks before we arrived, it was completely destroyed by a tornado. Needless to say, we could not get there. In Commerce, Ok. we had to stop to pay homage to the home of Mickey Mantle and then it was on to Coo-Coo land.
By the time we got to Miami, it had rained. Streets were wet with steam coming off them. This did not deter us from having lunch at Waylan’s Ku Ku Burger (see picture #5). While it seemed to be a fast-food type establishment, the food was better and cheaper. But the best thing was the service. Even though they were busy, they took the time to stop and chat with us and give us key rings of the place in addition to explaining the unusual menu. I would recommend it to one and all.
Just south of Miami is a stretch of old 66 that has been saved that shows a better picture of the road was like back in the 30s. There is a nine foot section of concrete down the middle with gravel on both sides (see picture #6). Thank goodness we met no traffic and the rain was not falling on us.
On down the road and just east of Chelsea is a 1926 bridge that is still in use. Our last stop of the day was outside of Foyil—the Totem Pole Park (see pictures #7 and #8). This one of the few times when the local government took over the maintenance of a park, it has been kept up to good standards. One needs to remember that the totem poles were carved and painted and maintained for many years by one man without any outside help. Picture #7 shows the world’s largest totem pole at 90 feet high and 20 feet in diameter.
A few miles down the road was Claremore when the rain finally caught up with us just as we were looking for a motel to spend the night. Actually it was a severe thunderstorm. A good time to call it a day.
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