A beautiful, sunny day for a road trip!
We headed up Highway 2 to Chicago as far as was practical (trying to take the back roads as much as possible), and then took the freeways and Skyway up to Chicago. It’s always fun to drive down Lakeshore and see the Chicago Skyline...one of the more beautiful and recognizable in the country!
Route 66 starts in the Loop and heads southwest to Cicero and Berwyn. This is still a fairly urban area, but there are a few great signs (Henry’s has a big hot dog). I was very sad to see that the Wishing Well Motel in Countryside has been torn down. It’s so sad...you can see its footprint, and I remember it being among the trees, which are still there. But the motel is gone. ::sigh::
We had to stop at Dell Rhea Chicken Basket in Willowbrook for lunch. It’s been there since the ‘40s, and it’s still going strong. Plenty of people in for the lunch buffet, and we enjoyed our Route 66 Red Ale. They’re known for their chicken (obviously!), but I didn’t want to eat that much for lunch, so it was a Cobb salad for me and a shrimp basket for Ken. Great place!
We cruised through downtown Joliet, which is really a pretty little town. The Rialto Theater is a beauty!
The Launching Pad Drive-In in Wilmington is one of my favorites, because it has a giant guy, the Gemini Giant. I love the giant guys!
We stopped at one of the great restored gas stations in Illinois, the Texaco in Dwight. It’s wonderful to see so many of these restorations, and it seems that many of these places now have gift shops (I don’t recall them in these places when Shane and I came through in 2001...I think they were newly restored back then, and they have expanded their operations a little bit. Excellent!).
We went to the site of the Riviera Roadhouse near Gardner. It was so sad. It was still standing when Shane and I came through, although I think it had temporarily closed, and was under new management. It was one of the original places on Route 66, dating back to the ‘20s, and people like Gene Kelly, Tom Mix, and Al Capone frequented the Riviera. Sadly, it burned down two years ago, and there is nothing left. Just a gravel parking lot and a wooded area that is going to weed. A couple of trees had extensive burn marks, and I picked up a few things in the parking lot...a piece of tile, a screw, little things like that. It’s sobering and humbling to realize how soon nature takes over after a building is gone. If you didn’t know where it was, you wouldn’t give it another glance.
This is a dead-end portion of 66 where a bridge was demolished. We drove down to the end and then I took this picture looking back. As we were driving back, a cop was heading our way…maybe he thought we were up to no good!
Another great restored gas station is the Standard Oil in Odell. This is a real beauty, with very rare tiled siding, and lovely blue trim (maybe I love it because it reminds me of the Colts!).
This is one of only two Meramec Caverns barns left in Illinois. We’re planning on visiting Meramec on Sunday!
We stopped at the Old Log Cabin Inn near Odell for a cool beverage. This place also dates back to the ‘20s, and is unique in that it originally faced the oldest part of Route 66, from 1926. A new four lane Route 66 was built just a few years later, and they picked up the whole restaurant and turned it to face the new alignment! If you walk behind it near the railroad tracks, you can see a little pile of pavement that was torn up from the original alignment. When Shane and I came through there, I recall it being BIG piles of debris, and I got a couple of pieces of the old road for my collection. There isn’t much left a decade later!
Outside of Odell, we went by a motel I totally did not remember from the first time through, the Palamar. I would guess that it dates from the ‘50s or ‘60s, based on the decorative walls. Much of it has been closed off, including what looked to be the original office, with a drive-through canopy at the entrance. Does anyone know anything about the Palamar?
We meandered through Normal/Bloomington, and there isn’t a whole lot left here from the Route 66 era. (The very first Steak ‘N Shake was here, but it turned into a pizza joint some time ago. Shane and I were pissed, because we were ready for a shake! It’s too bad they didn’t preserve the original restaurant.) We’re staying at a place off of I-55, and will head back to Route 66 tomorrow morning, heading towards St. Louis. Chain of Rocks Bridge! Luna Cafe! Some of my favorites!
Okay, I’m getting this posted so we can get some sleep and do a brief workout in the morning then get back on the road. This was probably our longest traveling day, since we had to head up to Chicago first, so tomorrow should be a little more laid back.