Friday, 7 September 2012

Getting Our Kicks Down Route 66

We're so lucky we live in the city where the famous Route 66 begins and we had the pleasure of travelling down some of it last Saturday.  Route 66 begins in Chicago and ends in Los Angeles covering over 2451 miles (3945km ). It is commonly known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road. One of the original U.S highways, Route 66 was established on November 11, 1926. The highway which became one of the moat famous roads in America, originally ran from Chicago through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona ans California before ending at Los Angeles.

So we headed down to Lou Mitchell's to dine at this famous restaurant - known for it being the start of Route 66, so with our bellies full, we set off to discover what the Route 66 had to offer.

The Famous Lou Mitchells - Start of Route 66

As Route 66 got decommissioned it isn't shown on any modern day US road maps so we were at the fate of following the historic road signs and the internet and because of this we did have a few problems following the route, but it wasn't long, before we got on track and enjoyed a few hours meandering down Route 66. We did miss a great photo opportunity in Joliet of the blues brothers and the Route 66 sign, oh well next time, but we did stop in Wilmington to look at the Gemini Giant Statue - which my dad proudly informed us was featured in the Billy Connolly series about Route 66 which he has watched and got excited about.

D-Dad with the Gemini Giant

Next stop along Route 66 for us was the little town of Gardner where we discovered a two cell jail and a former horse-drawn streetcar diner that's over 100 years old. It's been in Gardner since 1932 and in 1937, the streetcar became a cottage and playhouse, the diner was moved to the grounds of the two-cell jail after a fire in 2010 , where it was located behind the Riviera Roadhouse. 

Two-cell Jail
Streetcar Diner

After Gardner and continuing along the Route 66 we passed through Dwight and imagine our surprise when we came upon an old gas station, which was open for people to look around, it was amazing, well kept to the era, it still had the employee time cards on display and it turns out this historic 1933 filling station was identified as the longest operating gas station along Route 66. It dispensed fuel for 66 continuous years until 1999.

The Ambler-Becker Texaco Gas Station

After our visit to this wonderful gas station we hot footed it to Pontiac our final destination as we wanted to see the Route 66 Hall of Fame & Museum, and we didn't have much time up our sleeves.

Inside the Route 66 Hall of Fame & Museum
Tilly & Ruby on one of the many painted cars

Luckily though we got there in time to have a look around this great museum and to discover something that was also featured in the Billy Connolly show - a converted Chevrolet school bus that Bob Waldmire lived and travelled in. He was an American artist well known for his artwork of U.S. Route 66.

Bob Waldmire's Converted School Bus

One of Waldmire’s modified vehicles, an orange 1972 Volkswagen Microbus, was the inspiration for the character “Fillmore” from the animated motion picture Cars.

Iconic Mural of the Route 66

After the museum we had a walk around Pontiac and discovered what a great little town it was, it featured lots of amazing murals around the place as well as little painted cars

3 great murals of shops "back in the day"
Mural of the Route 66 - A tribute to Bob Waldmire  - his original design
Fantastic Coca-Cola Mural

We'd had a fantastic journey along this stretch of the Route 66, albeit in sections we got lost, veered off the 66, found it again, missed a few things, but all in all it was a great road trip down a great historic road, one we are keen to venture along further, although we'll be a little more prepared with our directions. We didn't take the Route 66 back to Chicago but our journey back consisted of lots of talk about our day.

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