Old 66, Agricultural Illinois, and Blessings

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Chicago to Sringfield, IL

Although Chicago had a little drizzle last night, the morning came in dry and clear. Nothing but blue from horizon to horizon. We packed the Car and headed downtown. It was about 50 degrees, but sunny and no wind so, yes, the top was down.

After exiting the freeway near downtown, we came across a number of young families heading to church. Everyone was enjoying the day. It did our hearts good. Plan to go next Sunday (somewhere).

First stop, breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s (see photo above), a traditional jumping-off breakfast spot for Route 66 travelers.  Packed with a mix of “regulars” and travelers, it’s at the beginning of Route 66 and about a block from Union Station.

Marian said it was the best breakfast she ever had, and I couldn’t disagree. Unbelieveably fluffy eggs, hash browns, Greek bread toast, bacon, and pure maple syrup. It was enough to tide us over until dinner.

After breakfast we walked down the block and went through Union Station.  Beautiful

place, beautiful architecture, It was enough to get us thinking about a future trip by rail. AND we had as serious Kevin Costner “Untouchables” moment.

Then we drove down Jackson and motored north on Lakeshore Drive past the beach area north of the Drake. I remember first driving Lakeshore in 1967 as part of a road trip to Montreal. It was amazing then and it’s still amazing. We then exited and drove south on Michigan Ave. More people, more shoppers.

Finally we reached the headwaters of Route 66 – Michigan and Jackson (66 West to East) and Michigan and Adams (66 East to West). We took some of the obligatory photos

(attached), considered stepping into the Art Institute of Chicago across the street. But it was really time to drive Route 66. (After all, that’s the whole idea.) So again dropping the top, we took off.

Coming out of Chicago as far as Cicero, we took the old 66 route with all the twists and turns. We wanted to see what kind of time we would make, but we also wanted to look at the Road (as close as we can) from the viewpoint of those traveling years ago. Late in the day we ended up on the freeway for a while, but there is a different rhythm to Route 66, not just slower but being more aware of the trip and not the miles. It was very refreshing, and I expect we will do much more.

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Old Route 66 Through Farming Country

South of Cicero we took some side trips just to see even older sections of the Road. That evolved into a detailed, lengthy, and unstructured inspection of the corn fields of central Illinois. For part of our inspection were escorted by an exceedingly large tractor and disc plow, and for another we teamed with a large combine.

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Combine Escort Through Farm Country, Just Short of the Dead End.  I gather this is the locals’ way of honoring travelers.

The former was kind enough to veer to the side and let us pass, the latter not so much. Eventually he went way and we went another.

Our inspection of old 66/agricultural Illinois took us from pavement to gravel, to very light gravel, to dirt, and then to nothing at all. A dead end may be a daunting experience for uninitiated travelers. But as for us, we just turned around where the road stopped and headed back. Eventually we got out of the cornfields and back on our journey. By the way, the fields are large and the farmers’ houses are far apart, but they are very nice!

We drove south on 66 through Wilmington, best known for Launching Pad Drive In. We didn’t stop to eat but we did get a look at Gemini Giant, one of many growth-hormone challenged beings living along 66. (Photo)

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Gemini Giant, doomed to forever stand beside Route 66. (Nice shoes though.)

Further down the road, we did stop for a light supper at the Polka-Dot Drive-In in Braidwood with some normal-sized but bigger-than-life friends. (Photos.)

This blog is starting to sound like “eating across America.” I will try not to overdo it, but trying new places is part of the mystique of traveling.

After Braidwood we got up on the Interstate and made it on down to Springfield, we we are stopping for the night. We will begin tomorrow looking for the historical Lincoln.

Last item. The best part of the day was talking with each other about where we are and where are going (chronologically and experientially, not geographically). We are exceedingly blessed.  Part of the blessing is that we are aware of it. And part of the blessing is being able to share this trip with family and friends.

More tomorrow.

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