After a year of planning, our Route 66 trip is underway. Long a bucket-list trip for our friend Mike, we invested in lots of books and maps for the historic route, and Mike gladly spent lots of time plotting out the best attractions, what towns not to miss, etc. Randy and Mike are both 66 this year, so it’s the right year to make the trip. Cathy and I are just along as eye candy…
We decided to rent a car in Chicago, where Route 66 begins. We hoped to rent a vintage car, but that proved to be a challenge (and really, what vintage car could drive 2000+ miles and through the desert without breaking down?). So a 2019 Nissan Pathfinder it is! Mike was disappointed, so Randy and I bought him some vintage car tchotchkes to hang from the rear view mirror to help with the atmosphere…
After we picked up our Pathfinder and parked our personal car at a long-term lot, we were off to our first of a string of Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives restaurants – this one was Big & Little’s in downtown Chicago. Delicious.
After fueling up, it was time to find the OFFICIAL START of Route 66 in downtown Chicago.
As we drove along 66 out of Chicago (aka I-55?) we saw a sign for the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery. Could HE be buried there? Of course we know he is not buried there. But…we veered off the road anyway and found a beautiful Veteran’s Cemetery.
Next stop was Wilmington, IL – home of the Gemeni Giant (aka Rocket Man – cue Elton John…). We stopped in at The Launching Pad and had some ice cream and Cathy and I each bought a 2020 Route 66 calendar so we can relive the trip every month next year!
Down the road, we saw a beautifully restored Rambler’s Texaco in Dwight, IL (not currently in operation though).
Continuing our Route 66 journey, we came across a restored Standard Station in Odell – this one was open and served as a tourist and trinket shop for Route 66 fans. We also seemed to be stopping at the same places as a large group of French-speaking (France? Quebec Province?) motorcycle-riding couples were enjoying their own Route 66 trip.
Pontiac, IL is known as Mural City, and they had some really cool murals that we loved – also a huge Route 66 mural with a staging pad in front of it so you could park your car (or just stand there) for a photo op. Some people there ahead of us had vintage 1940’s pickup trucks and their photo op was awesome. But EVERYONE was in awe when we pulled in our Nissan Pathfinder for our photo op. Jealousy is SO unattractive, people…!
We tried to be true to the Route 66 road, but there are areas where it has not been maintained, and it fades into grass. Other times Route 66 closely parallels a bypass or state highway – you can see in the picture below that we are on 66, and the freeway is just to our left…
Did someone say they wanted to see another giant? Well, here is the Bunyan Giant in Atlanta, IL! And how about the size of that hot dog he’s holding!?!?
As the day turned to dusk, we visited one more giant – this time, Abe in a Wagon.
For dinner, a Guy Fieri-inspired corn dog and awesome fries at the Cozy Dog in Springfield.
A fun first day! Many more to come – we are still in Illinois, and we have to make it to LA by Friday, May 10 where we are catching a sleeper car train back to Chicago.