A Little Piece of 66

Signs

I had the bike out again today, alone, and decided to revisit a few of my favorite stops along the Illinois portion of historic Route 66. I wasn’t out nearly as long today as I had been yesterday, only 130 miles versus 216, but I still had fun. On the one hand, I did not get rained on, but on the other, it was much warmer today.

I picked up the Mother Road in Wilmington, a little ways south of Joliet. In so doing, I passed up the pretty cool Joliet Area Historical Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center in Downtown Joliet. I did this primarily because I was out to put miles on Miss Scarlett before her 50K service tomorrow, but also because I was alone and prefer to visit museums and such with others. If you haven’t been to the welcome center, do check it out—it’s worth it.

I did make a point, however, of pulling off at the site of the former Launching Pad Drive-In, which has been shuttered since 2010. An attempt to sell the property at auction did not go well and the facility continues to deteriorate. This does not stop visitors from stopping to take photos with the Gemini Giant, one of several fiberglass muffler man statues that can be found along Route 66 and elsewhere. Once, several years ago, my son and I stopped to visit the Gemini Giant and found a sizable group of touring motorcyclists, all on Harley-Davidson bikes. When we got closer to the group, we realized they were all speaking German. I invited my son, who had taken four years of German in high school and even toured Germany in his senior year, to strike up a conversation with some of them, but he declined.

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Continuing south on Illinois 53, I passed the Polk-A-Dot Drive-In, a genuine Route 66 establishment in Braidwood, Illinois. I had just been there for lunch less than a week earlier, so I did not stop today, but I highly recommend the Polk-A-Dot as a place for photo opportunities, classic drive-in fare,  and ice cream treats.

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My next stop was in Dwight, first at an historic Texaco gas station which doubles as a visitors center and then at a real gas station just up the road, because Miss Scarlett had gotten quite low on fuel. The Texaco station is a neat little place to stop. Make a point of talking to the volunteer staff. They tend to be friendly and knowledgeable, as well as helpful.

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From Dwight I rolled on to Odell, where one can find a remarkably well-preserved Standard Station. On the way, I stopped twice, once to shoot a photo of an old barn with a Meramec Caverns ad painted on it and once to shoot some video showing a segment of the original roadway that was once U.S. 66, which shows up between the frontage road, which traces Route 66 and Interstate 55, which essentially replaced it. I apologize for the horrid audio quality of the video. The wind had really picked up during that part of the afternoon.

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I opted to turn around after I got to Pontiac, home to the Route 66 Association Hall of Fame & Museum. I have visited this museum several times and will gladly do so in the future. I did not stop today because time was running short and, well, I was alone. But do make a point of stopping here. Don’t forget to look behind the building as well.

The last photo I snapped today was while I was stopped for a freight train on my way out of Pontiac. There I saw a sign that I had been seeing at railroad crossings all along my trip southward on old Route 66. “TRAINS MAY EXCEED 80 MPH,” the sign cautioned. Indeed, the train for which I had stopped was hauling at a high rate of speed. I didn’t know they could move that quickly, nor have I any clue when they began doing so.

Once I got back out to I-55, I pretty much high-tailed it home, where I drank copious amounts of cold water and promptly fell asleep. It had been a good day.

In all probablility, the next post I write will be from the road. My Rendezvous Run is just around the corner. Thank you, as always, for hanging with me.

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