Cadillac Ranch on Route 66 Outside Amarillo, Texas

As part of our latest trip west in April 2018 we drove across I-40 in Texas, which replaced Route 66 as the connector for the Texas Panhandle.  We did not get off of the Interstate to explore Route 66 in Texas other than just outside Amarillo to visit the Cadillac Ranch.  Here are our notes from the Cadillac Ranch.

On the western edge of Amarillo is the Cadillac Ranch.  It is a Stonehenge of Cadillacs, with part of the car buried in the ground.  Although we went during the school year there were plenty of people there, but most were people traveling along Route 66 to see the sights.

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas

The scene doesn’t look like much until you walk up close.

Years and years of people visiting Cadillac Ranch have spray painted their welcoming slogans onto the Cadillacs. There is an endless supply of spray paint cans inside each car for you to leave your mark. I don’t like the spray paint, but it is what it is.

Cruising Through New Mexico on Route 66

We explored Route 66 across the extent of New Mexico in April 2018.  New Mexico is a beautiful state with lots of Route 66 history.  We traveled from east to west across New Mexico and the first icon that you notice when entering the state is the fantastic Visitor’s Center.

Welcome to New Mexico

The Visitor’s Center is full of Route 66 information and includes a great New Mexico Route 66 Map.  I have inserted a photo of the map below.  They have a signup sheet in the Visitor’s Center where if you provide them with your E-Mail address they will send you some Route 66 electronic files including a photo of the map and a spreadsheet of New Mexico Route 66 Attractions.  You can get to a PDF of the spreadsheet here.  Link.

New Mexico Route 66 Map

New Mexico contains a lot of small towns who are very proud of their Route 66 heritage.  The first town that we drove through after entering New Mexico was Tucumcari.  This beautiful mural is found just a block off of Route 66 at the corner of McGee and Second streets.

The Legendary Road Mural, Tucumcari, New Mexico

Tucumcari also included the Tucumcari Historical Museum and the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum.  Both are well worth your time to visit.

Tucumcari Historical Museum

Firehouse No 1 Tucumcari Historical Museum

My love for Route 66 started when I read John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.  In the novel the Joad family truck breaks down near the town of Santa Rosa, New Mexico.  I always wanted to visit Santa Rosa.  So, after Tucumcari, we drove through Santa Rosa.  It is a very small town, but has an incredible Route 66 Auto Museum.  It was a lot of fun to visit and they had a large amount of Route 66 memorabilia for sale.

Route 66 Auto Museum Santa Rosa, New Mexico

Albuquerque was the next town we drove through and it has a great assortment of Route 66 icons on the landscape.  Everywhere you look there is a refurbished motel or restaurant commemorating Route 66.  The Route 66 Diner was not open yet when we drove by, so we took the next two photos in the parking lot

Route 66 Diner, Albuquerque, New Mexico

The El Rey Theater has become a great venue for music and theater and still looks iconic.

El Rey Theater, Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Kimo Theater is old and beautiful and is in the center of downtown Albuquerque. We walked around this theater for quite a while soaking in the great southwestern architecture and the location. It looks magnificent.

The Kimo Theater, Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Kimo Theater Box Office

Albuquerque loves Route 66

There are several murals depicting Route 66 in Downtown Albuquerque

Mural, Downtown Albuquerque

Mural, Downtown Albuquerque

Mural, Downtown Albuquerque

Mural, Downtown Albuquerque

Just west of Albuquerque lies the Historic Route 66 Rio Puerco Bridge.  This bridge was built in 1933 and is still standing today, although it is not open to highway traffic.

Rio Puerco Bridge, New Mexico

Grants, New Mexico has an old theater called the West Theater. It still continues to play first run movies and is open for business. It still looks great after all these years.

West Theater, Grants, New Mexico

West Theater, Grants, NewMexio

Cruising Route 66 in Northern Illinois

July 8-11, 2016 we headed upstate to explore Route 66 in northern Illinois.  We decided to drive Route 66 from Funks Grove north to the beginning of the Route in Chicago. Funks Grove is known as the mid point for the drive of Route 66 in Illinois.

Funks Grove Illinois Route 66 MidPoint Sign

Funks Grove Illinois Route 66 MidPoint Sign

Our first stop was at the Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup store.  We have heard a lot of great things about the Sirup store and it lived up to its reputation.   We made a great purchase at the store.  We bought a book titled, “101 Sights and Attractions on Illinois Route 66,” by David Alan Badger.  David’s book is a great travel guide filled with his wonderful drawings of the icons along Route 66 in Illinois.  As I mentioned, we drove north out of Funks Grove up to Chicago, so I will share our experience starting with Funks Grove and moving north.

Funks Grove Maple Sirup Sign

Funks Grove Maple Sirup Sign

 

Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup Store

Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup Store

In Funks Grove there are several places to visit.   Funks Grove is a wonderful place to start your Route 66 trek.  The Funks Grove Maple Sirup store is a great starting point because it is located right along Route 66 and is the mid point for the route as it crosses through Illinois.  The store has bottles of home made Maple Sirup for sale as well as lots of Route 66 souvenirs and memorabilia.

One of the gems we found in Funks Grove is the Sugar Grove Nature Center.  Thanks to David Alan Badger’s guide we discovered this wonderful place.  I am a lover of prairie restoration projects and the Sugar Grove Nature Center does a great job of bringing the natural splendor of the native Tallgrass prairie to the Route 66 traveler.  Hummingbirds, native prairie plants and beautiful viewing barns are all worth the visit along with a wonderful visitor’s center.

Enjoying the Sugar Grove Nature Center

Enjoying the Sugar Grove Nature Center

A Wonderful Prairie Viewing Barn

A Wonderful Prairie Viewing Barn

 

Viewing the Sugar Grove Nature Center Prairie from the Viewing Barn

Viewing the Sugar Grove Nature Center Prairie from the Viewing Barn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next stop as we headed north was the Old Shirley Train Depot in Funks Grove.  It is hard to believe today that at one time this was a well-used train depot.

Old Shirley Train Depot in Funks Grove

Old Shirley Train Depot in Funks Grove

Route 66 runs right through the twin cities of Bloomington and Normal, Illinois.  There are lots of beautiful old homes and buildings and a few newer businesses associated with the Mother Road.  The Vrooman Mansion has been turned into a Bed and Breakfast destination and is an incredibly beautiful, and stately home.

The Vrooman Mansion

The Vrooman Mansion

We stopped by Gene’s Dairy Delight on Main Street in Bloomington and ate one of the best ice cream sundae’s I have ever had.  The ice cream was more creamy than any I have tasted before.  It is a wonderful place to stop at the end of a long day.

Gene's Dairy Delight

Gene’s Dairy Delight

We sere driving through downtown Normal, Illinois while an art show was in full swing on our route.  We visited the beautiful Normal Theater, which was surrounded by people and art exhibits.  I think you can tell from the photo below that it is a grand old theater that has been painstakenly restored..

The Normal Theater

The Normal Theater

In Lexington they have done a great job of creating a 2.2 mile walking trail that commemorates Route 66.  In fact, the trail is on an old portion of original Route 66.

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Route 66 Trail

Lesington also has a couple of other Route 66 landmarks.  There are lots of old signs like the original Burma Shave signs that dot the town.  One of them is the Route 66 vintage Lexington Arrow sign.

Vintage Lexington Sign

Vintage Lexington Sign

The other is a very unique original section of Route 66 that visitors can walk on called “Memory Lane.”  It is a fantastic place to stop and stretch your legs and absorb some of the history that Route 66 brought to this part of Illinois.

Memorty Lane

Memorty Lane

 

Roadside Attraction

Roadside Attraction

 

Memory Lane

Memory Lane

 

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Memory Lane

 

Memory Lane Marker

Memory Lane Marker

The next stop on the route north was the town of Pontiac, Illinois.  I have written about Pontiac before.  I believe it is the best kept secret along Route 66.  The Illinois Route 66 Museum is located in Pontiac and lots of time and energy has gone into decorating the town with Murals and historic memorabilia.  It is worth a long stay to see all there is in Pontiac.  We visited the Illinois Route 66 Museum to see the Land Yacht bus and the Volkswagen Van that Bob Waldemire lived in for many years.  Bob was a resident artist on Route 66 and earned a Steinbeck award for his writing about the route.

Downtown Pontiac Billboard

Downtown Pontiac Billboard

Front of the Route 66 Museum and Visitor's Center

Front of the Route 66 Museum and Visitor’s Center

Rear of the Route 66 Museum

Rear of the Route 66 Museum

 

The Land Yacht

The Land Yacht

There is a wonderful map of Illinois Route 66 painted on the wall inside the museum

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Illinois Route 66 Map

There are some very nice murals painted on the outside of the buildings around Pontiac

Roszells Mural

Roszells Mural

 

Daniels Oil Co Mural

Daniels Oil Co Mural

 

US Tires Mural

US Tires Mural

 

Wonderful Route 66 Mural and GTOs in Pontiac

Wonderful Route 66 Mural and GTOs in Pontiac

 

CocaCola Mural

CocaCola Mural

Moving on north the Standard Oil Gas Station in Odell is a beautiful Route 66 artifact.  It is full of Route 66 souvenirs and also has a very nice restored glass gasoline pump.

Standard Oil Gas Station

Standard Oil Gas Station

 

Standard Oil Gas Station

Standard Oil Gas Station

 

Glass Gasoline Pump

Glass Gasoline Pump

Heading north the town of Dwight has several icons worth exploring.  The old windmill behind the Oughton Carriage House is beautiful, and the restored Ambler-Becker Texaco Station is incredible.  Both are well worth the look.

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Dwight, Illinois

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The Windmill

Ambler-Becker Texaco Station

Ambler-Becker Texaco Station

Gardner, Illinois has two of the more unusual attractions along Illinois Route 66.  The first on is the Horse-Drawn Streetcar Diner, which arrived in Gardner in 1932.

Horse-Drawn Streetcar Diner

Horse-Drawn Streetcar Diner

The other attraction is the Two-Cell Jail located on the same property as the Horse-Drawn Streetcar DIner.

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Two-Cell Jail

On the north edge of Gardner is the Polka Dot Diner, which looks like a great Drive In Diner to grab a bit to eat.

Polka Dot Diner

Polka Dot Diner

Wilmington is another of my favorite places on Illinois Route 66.  The beautiful Marr Theater is located in downtown.

Marr Theater

Marr Theater

The historic Launching Pad Restaurant and the Gemini Giant are close to the Marr Theater

The Launching Pad

The Launching Pad

 

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The Gemini Giant

Wilmington has lots of Route 66 material culture icons on the highway, but it also has a wonderful prairie restoration project nearby. I mentioned that I love prairies and Wilmington has one of the best restored Tallgrass prairies I have seen.  The MIdewin National Tallgrass Prairie is a wonderful place to explore nature.  The Department of Defense used to man a bomb arsenal here during World War II.  They built and stored bombs on site.   After the DoD was finished with the site it was transferred to the US Forest Service and in 1996 Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie was established by Congress.  Please top in at the visitor’s center.  It is a magical place.

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

That brings us to the Chicagoland area with the first stop in Joliet.  There is a lot to see in Joliet.  The Rialto Square Theater is an incredible theater.

Rialto Square Theater

Rialto Square Theater

 

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Rialto Square Theater

Joliet has a very nice Union Station located in downtown.

Joliet Union Station

Joliet Union Station

There is a nice Route 66 Diner in Joliet

Route 66 Diner

Route 66 Diner

Joliet has a wonderful Route 66 Museum with lots of souvenirs inside

Joliet Historical Museum

Joliet Historical Museum

As you cross over the Des Plaines River there is a small Route 66 Park and the Rich and Creamy Ice Cream Shop both along Route 66.  The park has an exhibit telling you where you can see the historic gas pumps around Joliet.

Route 66 Park

Route 66 Park

 

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Gas Pump in Illinois Route 66 Park

 

Rich and Creamy Ice Cream

Rich and Creamy Ice Cream

 

Heading north into Romeoville is the White Fence Farm Restaurant.  It looks like a great place to take the family to enjoy a fantastic meal.

White Fence Farm Restaurant

White Fence Farm Restaurant

One of the big icons along Illinois Route 66 is a bit north in Willowbrook.  Del Rhea’s Chicken Basket began in the 1930s as an old gas station lunch counter.  Their fried chicken is legendary.

Del Rhea's Chicken Basket Restaurant

Del Rhea’s Chicken Basket Restaurant

The Wolf’s Head Restaurant in Indian Head is another place to stop and enjoy the food.

Wolf's Head Restaurant

Wolf’s Head Restaurant

The town of Berwyn hosts a great Route 66 attraction.  Henry’s Restaurant is an iconic stop on Route 66 with its big hot dog sign out front.  It is located right on Route 66 (Ogden Blvd) in Berwyn.

Henry's Drive In

Henry’s Drive In

One of the big disappointments for me along Route 66 was the Castle Car Wash in Cicero.  What was once a proud and iconic Route 66 attraction has now fallen into disrepair.  This attraction could use some TLC.  Hopefully, someone will come along and take care of it.

Castle Car Wash

Castle Car Wash

Nearing the end of the drive north we stopped at Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant in downtown Chicago.  This restaurant is an iconic diner.  Stop and enjoy the food and the service.

Lou Mitchell's Restaurant

Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant

Downtown Chicago has the last three items on our Route 66 icon list.  The first is the Route 66 Begins here sign located at the intersection of Adam St and South Michigan Ave.

Route66_Begin

The Beginning of Route 66 at the intersection of Adams St and S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago

The second is the historic Chicago Water Tower on North Michigan Ave.  It is beautiful and seems to stick out against the modern Chicago skyline.

Chicago Water Tower at Night

Chicago Water Tower at Night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final icon and the mark of the beginning of Route 66 is Buckingham fountain in Mellinnium Park on Lake Michigan.  The beautiful fouintain is a great marker for starting your trip.

Buckingham Fountain

Buckingham Fountain

 

It was a fun trip.  We plan to finish the south half of Illinois route 66 later this summer.

Route 66 and All Pontiac Cruise and Show

On September 2oth Marilyn and I visited the All Pontiac Cruise and Show in Pontiac, Illinois. It was a beautiful day and the incredible Pontiacs were out. Pontiac, Illinois seems to be the perfect place for a historic car show and an All Pontiac show seemed to fit perfectly. We took a few photos of the great cars and the historic buildings in Pontiac and walked around the Route 66 Museum in Pontiac. It was a fantastic day. Here’s some of the photos:

Front of the Route 66 Museum and Visitor's Center

Front of the Route 66 Museum and Visitor’s Center

The front of the Route 66 Museum was very nice, but most of the great happenings are in the back

Rear of the Route 66 Museum

Rear of the Route 66 Museum

 

The back of the Museum contains a large wall mural and a place to park your car so that you can take some great photos.  It was fixed up very nice.

Bob Waldmire Road Yacht behind the Route 66 Museum

Bob Waldmire Road Yacht behind the Route 66 Museum

The back of the Museum is also where Bob Waldmire’s Road Yacht is parked.  Bob donated the Road Yacht to the Illinois Route 66 Association when he passed away.

Bob Waldmire Road Yacht Marker

Bob Waldmire Road Yacht Marker

There is a nice plaque commemorating and explaining the Road Yacht exhibit

Back of the Bob Waldmire Road Yacht

Back of the Bob Waldmire Road Yacht

This is the back side of the Bob Waldmire Road Yacht

Wonderful Route 66 Mural and GTOs in Pontiac

Wonderful Route 66 Mural and GTOs in Pontiac

Beautiful Route 66 mural and some really nice restored Pontiac GTOs.

Lots of Cherried Out Pontiacs in Pontiac

 

 

The restored Pontiacs were parked all the way around the County Courthouse square.  There were lots of beautiful cars in Pontiac this weekend.

Route 66 in Litchfield, Illinois

I had a great trip to Springfield, Illinois yesterday morning.  On the way back home I drove down historic Route 66 through Litchfield, Illinois.  Here’s a few photos of Litchfield I took with my phone.

Route 66 Banners line the historic highway as you drive through town.  Litchfield has embraced the Route 66 theme and is very proud of the transportation legacy that started with Route 66 and now continues with Interstate 55.

 

 

 

Route 66 is alive in Litchfield

 

SkyView Drive-In

There is a nice historical marker for the Sky View Drive In.  The Sky View still looks to be in good shape.

 

Historic Route 66 changed locations over the years.  Route 66 stretches from the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois, to the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica, California.  It was not built as one new road from end to end, but was a collection of existing roads that were brought together as one.  As a result, the highway roadbed changed a few times over the years.  In Illinois it mostly parallels Interstate 55.

 

 

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Wolff Oil is across the street from the Sky View Drive In.  It has a nice Route 66 emblem and an antique gas pump on the side of the building commemorating the past.

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The Litchfield Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center is a brand new effort to celebrate the history of Route 66 and the local area.

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Across the street from the Litchfield Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center is the Ariston Restaurant. This is one of the great examples of the Route 66 landscape. The owners have given the Ariston a lot of love and care over the years. It is beautiful.

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The sky View Drive In sign says it all. It is late October and the travel season along historic Route 66 is about over. See you next year! This is a wonderful way to leave town.

The Legend of “The Piasa, The Bird That Devours Men”

The legend of the Piasa. In 1673 French Explorer Jacques Marquette reported that he and fellow French explorer Louis Jolliet discovered a painting of what was probably two “Water Monsters” on the bluffs of the Mississippi River near present day Alton, Illinois. By 1700 those pictographic creatures were no longer visible. In 1836 the novelist John Russell described an image cut into the bluff of a legendary dragon-like creature with wings (See photo below). According to Russell the creature was called a “Piasa, the bird that devours men.” That version of the pictograph as well as myths about the Piasa have become prominent in local folklore.

The Piasa

The Piasa

Dan Berkenstock: The world is one big dataset. Now, how to photograph it …

Great TED video of Dan Berkenstock talking about the vision of SkyBox and what drives them. This is “game changing” technology that will force the mapping industry to evolve and produce more dynamic and increasingly important capabilities. I am very excited with what SkyBox and the other small satellite companies are doing.

Interactive Map of Illinois Route 66

We added an interactive map for Illinois Route 66 for The American Digital Backroads Project today. The interactive map contains the a red line depicting the route Highway 66 takes across Illinois and different colored dots representing the cultural icons found along Route 66 in Illinois. If you click on the icon dots you will get a pop-up that includes information and photos of many of the historic locations found alongside historic Route 66. Here is the interactive web-map:


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