Friday, August 7, 2009

Mini Kicks on Route 66

Last weekend, my fun bf and I took a nice little road trip on Route 66 from Chicago to Bloomington/Normal. I'd always been kind of curious about Route 66 since there are signs for it along Joliet Rd. which is not too far from where I grew up. But I never bothered to do any research on it because ... that's just how I roll. Lucky for me, I now have a boyfriend who does do research, and my curiosity about Route 66 has been quenched!

So the bf and I had discussed a possible mini road trip, and then one day we were downtown eating at the Bennigan's on Michigan Ave. which was just about a dream come true for me considering all the Bennigan's in the suburbs are gone, and the Michigan Ave. was gone but now it's back, and I was so excited to go that we took a picture:

Anyway, back to Route 66. While at that particular Bennigan's, we were fortunate enough to get a lovely window table and we noticed the sign on the sidewalk, right smack next to the Bennigan's, that marked the beginning of Route 66. I was disappointed in myself that I had no idea that was even there. But this revived our Route 66 discussion and inspired us to act.

So Scott went to the library and got some books on the Route and we set off. We ventured back to the Bennigan's (unfortunately did not eat there) last Saturday morning and started our journey.

Our first stop beyond the usual Chicago suburbs was Joliet. Joliet is very proud of their affiliation with Route 66 (or the "Mother Road" if you're obsessed with it and write books about how to travel it).

Joliet also has a Route 66/Joliet museum. Someone inexplicably decided to charge for the Joliet part of the museum, so we skipped that which just left of some random Route 66 stuff to look at in the lobby area and the gift shop. We also sent this awesome email postcard to my mother:

Our next stop was at the Launching Pad Drive-in for lunch. It also happens to be the home of the "Gemini Giant," an enormous astronaut man holding a rocket.

After that we went through a series of extremely small towns including Braidwood, Gardner, and Dwight where we found a bank designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and and big windmill they seem to be very proud of. My favorite town was Odell, where we were informed by way of Burma Shave signs as we entered the town that they believe "everybody is somebody." We then came to what appeared to be their main attraction, an old gas station with a gift shop inside. As we left, more Burma Shave signs bid us farewell and encouraged us to visit the museum in our next stop, Pontiac, IL.

Pontiac was actually a cute bigger small town with a great Route 66 "museum" in their old Fire Station/City Hall.

Their "museum" (run by old guys who probably call Route 66 the "Mother Road" on a regular basis) consisted of a bunch of random artifacts from each town along Route 66 from Chicago to St. Louis, all displayed in glass cases, along with a bunch of manikins dressed up in old-timey looking garb, a little tribute to Steak & Shake which was starting in Bloomington, IL, and a bunch of random little junk from the movie Cars. It was borderline garage sale, but still great.

The rest of the City Hall building was filled with some antique stores and Route 66 Photo galleries in the upstairs areas. We quickly realized that these rooms upstairs used to be jail cells. I was particularly excited that they kept the toilets in tact.

After Pontiac, we headed down to Bloomington which we figured would be a good ending to our mini road trip, but it turns out there's absolutely nothing in Bloomington. So we hopped on I-55 and made our way back.

We did manage to run into a few of the same people who were clearly making the Route 66 trip, which made things interesting. Our trip down there took a total of 7.5 hours. The trip back: 2.5.

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