Saturday, May 26, 2012

Kicks: Day One

IMG_3174smA 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 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 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.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Kicks: T-1

Route 66 wheelsIt’s hard to believe, but tomorrow is the day we’re hitting the road and taking what should be a fairly epic road trip.

Today has been a matter of deciding what clothes to pack, getting out the guidebooks I want to take, and generally doing some last minute things around here. When Ken got home, I drove us up to the airport to pick up our rental car, and boy howdy, did he get a dandy! (Thanks for the pic, hubby!) It’s a Chrysler 300, and although I haven’t ridden in it yet, Ken says it’s a sweet ride. It’s got some neat features, like satellite radio and a USB port so we don’t have to take a bunch of CDs along (we’re flying back, if you recall). I’ve got my MP3 player loaded up, so we’re good to go on the music front. (No, I’m not doing a bunch of oldies. Just because you’re doing a retro road trip doesn’t mean you don’t get to listen to new and energetic stuff.)

I’ve picked out the travel journal I want to take, as well as the pens. It’s important to have the proper office supplies when traveling!

I think I’ve contacted everyone I need to contact, and made sure that these Very Important People have our cell phone numbers. We are looking forward to meeting our friend Laurel, seeing our friend Marty again, and seeing family and friends. Our cousin Kristi is graduating from high school and we’re very happy for her; it will be an honor to be at our friend Andy’s graduation from Cal Tech. (No doubt there will be a certain household complaining about how we aren’t attending another graduation...hey, we don’t go to things we’re not invited to! You don’t NOT invite someone and then get to bitch about how they didn’t attend.)

As I’ve assured the Moms and the family, we will be available via cell phone if they need to reach us. We’ll also be online at least once a day (as far as I know), so you can always message us on Facebook or contact us with an email. It’s pretty amazing how connected we can be, even on an extended road trip like this one.

My hope is to update daily, but don’t be upset with me if I don’t meet that goal. I want to chronicle our trip as completely as possible, but I want to enjoy the moment as much as possible, too! There will be plenty of pictures and video coming your way, and I hope you’ll enjoy our trip along with us.

A big thank you ahead of time to Cousin Shane, Matt, and Mom A. for doing kitty care while we’re gone. I’m going to miss Sheeba terribly, but I know he’ll be in good hands with people who love him.

See ya on the road!

It’s rainin’ all over the world

Showdown - David CornOne of my favorite political journalists is David Corn (Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones and frequent guest on MSNBC), and he recently put out a book called Showdown: The Inside Story of How Obama Fought Back Against Boehner, Cantor, and the Tea Party. I finished it a couple of days ago, and I liked it a lot.

I’ve been following politics closely for the past several years, and I remember President Obama’s first three years of presidency very well. What is recounted in the book is much of what I remember, although “insider” information is included.

Corn is obviously on the left side of the spectrum...just read the title of the book. But I found this to be fairly reasonable and pretty much how I remember it. I mean, c’mon...does anyone really think that President Obama didn’t try to reach out and come to a bipartisan agreement on several issues, only to be left at the altar? If not, have you been paying attention?

This book doesn’t gloss over the fact that the President was naive in thinking that he would be able to make deals with the Republicans. He made the mistake of assuming that they also wanted what was best for the country, and he ignored the clear message from Mitch McConnell that the main goal of the Republicans was to ensure that Obama had a one term presidency. Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein recently wrote a piece for the Washington Post in which they just stone cold laid it on the line: it’s mainly the Republicans’ fault for our dysfunctional government.

I’m sorry if that offends you...oh, who am I kidding? I’m not sorry at all. Boehner and his pals aren’t content with coming close to a government shutdown or a default on our obligations once...they’re more than happy to threaten it again. Never mind the fact that the Congressional Budget Office has said that this will probably result in an economic slowdown and another recession. The Republicans are putting partisan politics before the well-being of the country and of the American people, and I’m getting more than a little pissed off.

Anyway, I thought this was a very good book. I’ve felt all along that President Obama had a long-term goal in mind. He made the mistake of not recognizing the extreme intransigence of his opposition, but he has always had a vision of how to move our country forward. And for the last time, he is NOT a socialist. That is so ridiculous. Those of us on the far left of the spectrum find that the height of absurdity. Obama is a socialist like I’m a bench chemist. (Private joke...a lot of those lately, but all will be revealed soon.) If you’re like-minded when it comes to politics, I recommend this book. Now I’ve started the next book on my book club list, Main Street by Sinclair Lewis. Since we’re planning a vacation on the Main Street of America (Route 66), how appropriate is that?

Elliptical**Workout note: Maybe I’m pushing it because I know that on our vacation I won’t be able to work out as much as I have been lately, but today was wicked! I was pushing an hour and 45 minutes total, including 40 minutes and 2 miles on the elliptical! That’s the most I’ve ever done, and it felt great. It’s amazing how much music pushes me to go further. Today’s motivational music was autoKratz, another techno band, and I kept thinking, “Okay, finish this song.” Then it was, “Okay, keep going till you hit 35 minutes.” Then THAT song wasn’t over, so it was another, “Finish this song.” By that time, I was so proud of myself, I had to make sure I hit 2 miles. This might sound odd, but I’ve also found that my attire matters. If it’s wintertime and it’s cold and I’m shlumping in sweats, I just want to get it done and not linger. But if it’s hot and I’m wearing a sports bra and low-slung shorts, it makes me want to work harder and it makes me feel all like a gym rat and junk. I’m so glad we have our own little gym here at Nutwood, so I can wear stuff like that in the summer and not feel weird or stared at!

Please enjoy some Electric Light Orchestra and the genius of Jeff Lynne.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

So long, Cira’s

Beth at Cira's2I met Cousin Shane at his house this morning so that we could head out to have a late breakfast or an early lunch at Cira’s Restaurant. We dallied at his house for a bit: he showed me the new paint job in the living room (AKA the Blue the colors!), we grooved to a Grafton Primary song on the disc I made for him, I checked out the recent plantings they’ve been working on, and I loved on his cats a bit. Matt was working, so he wasn’t able to join us, and we missed him!

We dallied a little too long, because we got to the restaurant 15 minutes after they stopped serving breakfast. Drat! I was all up into thinking about eggs over easy and toast! But it was a light lunch instead, with usual diner food, and our server was a super nice and sweet lady who told me I had a beautiful smile. Aww!

We dug the retro decor, with booths and counter seating, recessed lighting, and a cool angled entryway. There was also this neat partition wall between the cash register and a little alcove with a larger table. The oldies station was playing through the overhead speakers, and it was a really fun place. They were doing great business, so it’s a real shame that they decided to close. Shane and I weren’t sure if the good business was because they’re closing soon, or if they always do that well. I’m thinking the latter, because it was an older crowd that looked to be locals. I’m kind of hoping that someone will buy the place and decide to keep it going. Shane found out that it has been there since 1954, and we both agreed that for such an old place, it was really clean and in great shape. Shane said he’d like to run a little diner like that, if you could limit the hours of operation.

Shane at Cira'sAfter chatting for a while, we moved on and got some pictures of the sign outside. Shane hopes to get back one more time before they close, and I hope he’s able to do that. It was a beautiful day, so we decided to take a little stroll in the neighborhood. We ended up at Bowman Cemetery, where we saw the Henry Studebaker burial site—several of his family members are buried there, and a fairly tall obelisk marks the grave site.

Then we drove around the area for a bit, past where our grandparents used to live, and through Shane’s neighborhood on the way back to his house. There are some just awesomely super cool ‘60s ranch houses in that neighborhood (did I mention how cool they are?), including a Frank Lloyd Wright house, the Mossberg House. “Mad Men” is not what fueled our love of ‘50s and ‘60s retro...Shane has never even seen the show (although I told him I think he’d like it), and Ken and I only started watching it recently. We’ve loved that style for some time now, so “Mad Men” is catching up with US. haha

I wish I could have walked around with Shane a little more, but I needed to get back home and work on some things before our trip. As it was, we still spent three hours gabbing! It was a lot of fun, as always, and I’m so glad that we got to go there and get a few pictures on the verge of it closing. I’m going to get to see lots of places like this on our trip, but there’s something special about one in your own community. I wish the owners all the best, and I thank them for many years of a wonderful South Bend fixture.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Welcome to the Monkey House

Red pandaWhich is a great album by the Dandy Warhols, I must say!

Yesterday was our trip to our local zoo, the Potawatomi Zoo. We picked up Ken’s Mom and her friend Yvonne, and headed out. It was a blazing hot day, and I was very grateful for all the trees at the Zoo. I tried to stay in the shade as much as possible! The Zoo has been there for many years, and I think the last time I went was when I was in grade school (or maybe junior high) and we took a field trip there. It was a pleasure to go back.

It’s a very small zoo, but it’s a pleasant part of our community, and it seems to get pretty good support. Potawatomi Park is right there by it, and I saw a lot of people picnicking and hanging out there. (By the way, the Potawatomis are the Indian tribe that was in this area; the Pokagon band of the Potawatomis are the ones who built and run Four Winds Casino nearby in Michigan.)

Since it was such a hot day, most of the animals were lounging in the shade, and not active at all. That’s probably what we should have been doing, too, but no...we were walking around the Zoo, looking at the animals lounging! I always love the big cats (it’s amazing to me to see how similar they are to domestic cats in their behavior, and vice versa), the monkeys, and the kangaroos and wallabies are super cute. But my two favorites were the red panda and the river otters.

The red panda (I didn’t take that photo above, but that’s about how our South Bend red panda looked) is really an adorable animal. He was snoozing with his mouth open, and it kind of looked like he was smiling. He has a big bushy tail that looks kind of like a raccoon tail, and just looks really cute and cuddly. Sadly, one of the pair at our Zoo died recently...I think it was the female. But I’ve read that they are getting another one from a different zoo.

The river otters are hilarious. Constantly squirming around, and the Zoo has a nice viewing area for them where you can see them swimming underwater. One was swimming and picked up a rock from the floor of the tank and was playing with it. It was so freakin’ adorable! Squeeee! Judging from the crowd in the viewing area, plenty of other people love the otters, too!

We’ll go back later this summer. My Mom wants to go, and I think she’ll enjoy it. I hope it won’t be quite as hot as it was yesterday, though. Ken’s Mom and Yvonne were troopers, but it really was awfully hot.

Oaken BucketAfter the Zoo, we headed to the Oaken Bucket for a bite to eat. It had been quite a while since we’d been there, and it was great to go back! They are usually credited with having the best burger in town, and that’s what I had to have. Not a big place, and it doesn’t look like much from the outside, but mmm, the burgers are as good as I remember them! We’ll definitely be enjoying that place more often when we want to grab a bite, and Ken’s Mom liked it a lot, too. Next time, I hope it will be milder so we can sit out on the patio, which overlooks the St. Joseph River.

Tomorrow I’m having a late breakfast/early lunch with Cousin Shane at Cira’s Restaurant, a little place that’s been around for ages...but sadly, is closing soon. We’ve always said that we need to get there one of these days, and when we saw the story in the newspaper that it was closing soon, we leaped into action and arranged our date immediately! I’m so happy that it worked out that we can get there before they close, especially since we’re leaving on vacation soon.

After that, I’m going to get busy with laying out clothes for the trip. Time to get into gear!