Day 34 – Saturday 3 June 2017 Chicago

Our feet hurt, and I will not even attempt to describe how my Achilles Tendon feels!  Over 6 hours wandering the streets of Chicago, in very high 80’s temperatures, is not ideal, but we are unlikely to be here again.

Highlight of our day was the “Architecture River Tour” along the Chicago River, looking at all of the buildings.  That sounds a bit dull in isolation, but the Guide’s encyclopaedic knowledge was impressive, and we saw a lot of amazing buildings.  However, to appreciate them you need to be there, so I am only going to post three pictures today.

The tour boat we went on:

Route 66 from the river:

Route 66 from underneath!

The End!

We leave Chicago, and Route 66, behind us tomorrow, for our journey back to the UK, stopping off in Iceland whilst en-route.  Our road trip has been, to use the word of almost every young Server we have come into contact with, “Awesome”.  We have seen some incredible sights, passed through some great cities, towns and villages, and met all manner of friendly and helpful people,

Okay – one last picture.  A very friendly Chicago PD Officer who has family in Battersea:

Day 33 – Friday 2 June 2017 – Chicago

Although we arrived yesterday, today we feel that our journey is officially over.  We visited the all important Route 66 signs, and ate in Lou Mitchell’s which is a Route 66 tradition:

Pauline spent ages looking for someone that she considered may be trustworthy enough to take this picture for us!

Three “Begin” signs all within a hundred yards!  We met some Brazilian Bikers at this sign, who were just about to start their journey.  They were very excited!

Pauline’s “light lunch” – Cantaloupe, Tuna, Cottage Cheese, Pineapple, Tomato and Pickle:

My Apple and Cheese omelette.  Sounds a bit weird from an English perspective, but it was delicious:

The Union Station was just along the road:

We spent most of the day getting on and off an open-top tour bus which is always a good way to see a big city.  Some random skyline pictures:

Not sure I would like to reverse a car into these spaces:

The famous “El”.   The only thing missing were Cop Cars chasing Bad Guys at high speed underneath it:

This is supposed to be a Flamingo…


Picasso sculpture:


Us looking straight into the Sun:

Buckingham Fountain – copied from a fountain at Versailles:

Trump Tower:

We spent quite a while at the Navy Pier.  Pity I never noticed that the camera lens was getting a bit smeary:

The Rolling Stones’ Exhibition is on in Chicago until July.  These tongues were everywhere on the Pier:

We went on the Ferris Wheel:

The Ground Floor level inside is just shops and eateries, so we were surprised to find a tranquil garden on the upper level:

Day 32 – Thursday 1 June 2017 Pontiac – Chicago

We made it!  Distance travelled today 124 miles.  Time on the road just under 8 hours.

Just like Santa Monica, there are two start points in Chicago and Pauline managed to catch this one as we drove by in heavy traffic.  Note to Self – avoid Rush Hour in big cities!  She never managed to catch the other one, as it was behind us as we turned a corner.  However, we will be visiting both sites tomorrow.

Some basic stats:

  • Distance travelled from Santa Monica – 3,516 miles.  2,448 is the official mileage, so our side trips, and meandering along pretty well every different alignment as we came to it, certainly added some extra miles!
  • Cost of fuel – 281 USD so approx £225!
  • Photographs taken – over 6,000
  • Hotels/Motels stayed in – 22 + 1 Resort Apartment
  • Days on the road – 32

We were up and out early this morning so that we could visit the Pontiac sights before we got going on the day’s journey.  This is outside the, now disused, 1941 State Police Office on Old Route 66 South of Pontiac.  It is next to an original alignment of the Route.  I have not posted a photo of the Station itself, as it is fairly nondescript from ground level.  However, from the air it is in the shape of a Derringer pistol!

Pontiac is another small town that it was a pleasure to visit.  A whole collection of Museums, including Route 66, and some really good murals.  I have only posted some of our pictures as there were so many:

The owner of this converted School Bus, the late Bob Waldmire, used it to cruise up and down Route 66, and he was a major contributor to the Pontiac Museum:

Little cars like these were all along the pavement around the Museums:

Rose who told us all about the Museum and Pontiac, and she gave us a free badge each:

This VW Campervan was also owned by the late Bob Waldmire:

A Steak & Shake Diner Table:

I always grab centre stage!  This will keep me in Pauline’s Good Books for many years to come!

Some more murals after we left the Museum:

The approach to Odell:

A beautifully restored Standard Oil Gas Station:

Next to the Gas Station was this 1953 caravan just like the one Pauline’s parents used to have in their garden:

Another Gas Station in Dwight this time:

We met the owner of this bike at Ambler’s Gas Station, also in Dwight, and he was from Iowa and had ridden across to Chicago to start his trip down to Santa Monica.  He has allowed a month for the trip, and he will certainly need it judging by the amount of interest his copper plated bike was generating:

Amblers Gas Station:

The Mining Museum in Godley:

In Braidwood, we stopped at the famous Polka Dot Drive In where I had a Shake so thick and full of fruit that I had difficulty finishing it!  When we signed the Visitors’ Book we were given free key rings which was a nice gesture:

Then it was on to Wilmington.  The Green Dinosaur was much bigger than the Guide Books had suggested:

and then we had all three!  The Gemini Giant which is just along the road from the Dinosaur:

When we reached Elwood we spotted their monument to Munitions Workers who died in a massive wartime explosion:

Joilet.  A large city but with a small town feel to it.  Used to be called Juliet, and was next to the town of Romeo,  However, Romeo changed its name to Romeoville so Juliet chnaged their name to Joilet:

Joilet’s 1926 Vaudeville Movie theatre:

The Jefferson Street Lifting Bridge:

On the “Must See” list:

A very inviting looking Ice Cream Parlour – but I had already had a Milk Shake! Not a brilliant picture (fast traffic again) but you can just see the Blues Brothers dancing on the roof.

Dell Rhea’s 1938  Chicken Basket in Willowbank.  Its iconic sign is being refurbished and is being re-erected in July:

The former Snuffy’s 24-Hour Grill on Joliet Road in McCook:

The Cindy Lyn Motel in Cicero:

Approaching Downtown Chicago:

Traffic was very heavy, and fast, going into Chicago, so we could not take photographs of all that we wanted to as we passed by.  We finally reached our destination, and here it is again for good measure:

and we then set off for our hotel for the next three nights.  Very tall buildings and SatNav’s do not mix very well!  The GPS signals can’t always reach the receiver, and we ended up doing a lot of random turns, but arrived eventually.  Very tired and very happy, until we checked in.  Over 1,100 USD for the three nights and we were charged extra for parking!  No breakfast provided either!  Corporate Greed.

Day 31 – Wednesday 31 May 2017 – Springfield IL – Pontiac

Distance travelled 124 miles.  Time on the road 8 hours.

Today’s Blog will be in two parts.  As our first stop this morning, we visited the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield.  Not only is Springfield the State Capital,  despite its relatively small size, but it is Lincoln’s birthplace.  Not visiting the Museum would be a bit like visiting London but not bothering to go to Buckingham Palace.

The old Union Station across the road from the Presidential Museum.  The Station is also a Museum:

Springfield is a city of “One Way” roads and getting to the parking garage near the Museum was a bit of a nightmare.  First, I turned into a one way road, the wrong way, which must have caused the oncoming drivers a bit of consternation, then when Pauline said “over there” I couldn’t get across the 4 busy lanes of traffic to the car park entrance without going round the block.  It usually takes more than 10 yards distance to change so many lanes…

The Museum was outstanding:

Pauline outside an exact replica of the one room wooden house that Lincoln was raised in.

With his wife, Mary.

Lincoln’s wife, Mary:

From what we saw, politics in Lincoln’s day was pretty much the same as today.  Mary was regarded as entirely unsuitable to be the First Lady by the Washington political glitterati’s wives, and these dresses were worn by the wives and daughters of those politicians who aspired to be President themselves.  Their aim was to put Mary in the shade at every opportunity.  The President and Mary had four children, three of whom died as children, and her surviving son had her involuntarily institutionalised for “psychiatric disease” ten years after her husband’s murder.  Considering what she had been through, I suspect a modern approach to what ailed her would have been a bit more sympathetic.

Lincoln reading his draft Emancipation Proclamation to his Cabinet which set a date for the freedom of more than 3 million black slaves in the United States and recast the Civil War as a fight against slavery, instead of a war to restore the Union.

Lincoln’s assassination:

As may be imagined, we took a lot of photographs in the Museum but we had to get back on the road.  We were aiming for Shea’s Petrolina Museum, but missed it in the heavy traffic, but stopped at this Phillips 66 one a few hundred yards away.

A Coke for 10 Cents!

Just down the road from the gas station was the entrance to the Illinois State Fair Ground and, inside the gate is the famous Log Splitter statue of Lincoln as a young man:

We went looking for Lincoln’s Covered Wagon but it was not where it was supposed to be!  More about that later.

The 1929 Mill Restaurant in Lincoln.  It has been refurbished and is now a very nice Museum. The elderly gentleman volunteer inside told us that there are documented instances of The Mill being visited by Al Capone when it was operating as a dance hall in the 1930’s.

Apparently, the original owner built in all sorts of quirky things, including this leg that dangles through the ceiling.  It moves!

The Springfield Covered Wagon is now in Lincoln!  Abe is 12 feet tall, and the Wagon is 24 feet.

Still in Lincoln.  The historic Postville Court House – it’s a replica built in the 50’s!  Abraham Lincoln used the original when he was a circuit lawyer.

Atlanta.  A small town that is making the most of its Route 66 heritage:

We had a late lunch in the 1934 Palm’s Grill:

Across the road is a very tranquil little park specifically for Route 66 travellers to relax in:


Atlanta also has one of the three Illinois Route 66 Giants, the 19 feet tall Bunyon Giant. Yesterday we saw the Lauterbach Giant, and tomorrow we hope to see the Gemini Giant.

The Dixie Truckers Home.  The original US Truck Stop established in 1928 on the corner of Route 66 and Route 136:

Shirley.  Funk Grove Pure Maple Sirup!  That is how they spell it.

This photo does not do the sign justice.  It is actually red – the only red one we have seen.

Stock Cars / Hot Rods we passed:

A roadside marker in Lexington to commemorate Route 66:

The Lexington Arrow.  Another tick for the list:

Pontiac.  We were pretty tired by the time we got to Pontiac, so we will pick up some more of the sights tomorrow:

More red brick road:

Day 30 – Tuesday 30 May 2017 St Louis – Springfield IL

Distance travelled 153 miles.  Time on the road 6.5 hours.

My US SIM Card has time-bombed so that means we have been on the road for a month!

We had great fun today; hunting for things we did not always find!  When we went on our river cruise yesterday I was hoping that we would go far enough upstream to see the famous 1929 Chain of Rocks Route 66 Bridge, but we did not.  It would have been good to have photographed it from the River because, on the Missouri side all access is fenced off as there has been so much crime involving travellers stopping to visit the bridge, but Pauline was able to take a quick photo as we drove past:

then she was able to photograph it from the side as we crossed the bridge that replaced it in 1967:

and she also managed to catch the State Line as we crossed into Illinois:

On the Illinois side, we had to cross this small bridge on the way to the Illinois entrance to the Chain of Rocks Bridge:

There is also a lot of crime centred around the car park on this side of the bridge, so we did not dare leave the car to walk over the bridge.  It is only open to walkers and cyclists nowadays:

There was a disused Motel and Cafe on the Illinois approach to the bridge:

Our first Illinois Route 66 sign – back to brown after Missouri’s blue ones:

Granite City.  The Luna Cafe.

and the Apple Valley Motel – only the sign remains:

Still in Granite City – I wonder what happened to the “R”:

Staunton.  There should have been a photo of the famous Muppet Bus here!  But it was not where it was supposed to be, just up a rough track off a very old stretch of alignment.  Pauline was busy giving me stick for yet another SatNav failure, when a local chap, who was cutting his vast lawn, came across and confirmed that we were in the right place, but the bus had burnt out 4 years ago!

Raymond.  A photo of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Highways should have been here!  We never found it and, having Googled it now that I am Blogging, we needed to go about half a mile further along the road…

Mitchell.   Kaiser Frazer Motel sign on someone’s front lawn:

Signposting in Illinois is very good, and possibly the best we have seen on our trip.  We stayed on the 1926-40 alignment all day apart from small diversions when needed to see a particular sight:

The first time we had seen a cycling Route 66 sign.  Saw them all over the place after this one:


Outside the Litchfield Town Museum and Route 66 Welcome Centre:

with the “must tick off on the list” Ariston Cafe across the road:

The Museum also acts as the offices of the Chamber of Commerce:

The Museum has the High School Yearbook photographs going back to 1885!

Nilwood.  We then set off to find the famous Turkey Tracks made by an inconsiderate bird that wandered across the wet cement when the road was first laid down.  You know that when you pass the same barn twice, the SatNav is having fun:

We eventually found Donaldson Road and drove along it slowly looking for the tracks.  We then drove back the way we had just come, and spotted this little sign that said that we had to go back a further mile.  So we did.  By this time we had driven about 2 miles at slower than walking pace.

every mark on the road looked like tracks until we looked closely…

Eureka!  Donaldson Road goes in two different directions, at right angles to each other, and we had been on the wrong stretch of road.  After getting on for an hour of searching, we finally found it.  If only we had turned the other way to begin with…

Still in Nilwood:

Girard.  Our Lunch stop and, as with all Mom & Pop eateries along the Route, that we have been in, the food was excellent:

Auburn.  Becky’s Barn:

Still in Auburn, the 1.4 mile stretch of red-brick Route 66:

We spotted a sign for an historic covered bridge, so we detoured off Route 66 to find it.  The bridge crosses Sugar Creek in Pioneer Park which is South East of Chatham:

Old Road Chatham, a section of original Route 66:

Springfield IL.  The Lauterbach Giant:

and a pink elephant just across the road:

Cozy Dogs Drive In:

As we had been on the road for a long time, at this point we decided to leave the rest of the Springfield sights until the next day.

Day 29 – Monday 29 May 2017 St Louis

End of week four mileage is 2957.  Suspect that if we totted up all the little local trips during the evenings etc. we would be well above 3000 by now.

Note to Self:  When you have a painful foot, and it is very hot and humid, walking around a city for nearly 6 hours is not a good idea!  On the plus side, we spent an hour on a cruise up the Mississippi River, on a paddle boat called the Tom Sawyer.  As we were walking back to the hotel it started to rain big droplets, but it only started to come down heavily just after we got into the hotel.

Camera battery fully charged.  A better view from our hotel room window:

The historic St Louis Courthouse.  We spent quite a lot of time wandering around inside;

Looking up at the inside of the dome.  If I had lain down on the floor I may have been able to get it all in, but I would probably have had to ask for help to stand up again!

The booking office for trips up inside the Arch is in the Courthouse, but it was fully booked.  Not surprising as it is the Memorial Day holiday.  When we saw what we would have travelled up in, we didn’t mind so much that we could not make the trip:

A lot of the exhibitions in the Courthouse were about the abolition of slavery, and we watched a very moving documentary about Dred Scott and his wife Harriet, and their fight for freedom.

Everywhere you turn in Downtown St Louis there are sculptures:

You can almost hear her shrieking because she had got her hair wet:

Front and rear view to illustrate that it is about to hit a tiny being with a sledge hammer!

Power Walker:

We saw a lot of these inset into the pavement so, presumably, every State is represented somewhere in the area we were in:

We were arguing about where to go for lunch.  If you look closely you can see Pauline’s gritted teeth:

We went to Laclede’s Landing, which is an old warehouse area alongside the river, where there were all manner of eateries:

Needless to say, there was a sculpture just inside the entrance.  Pauline in full pose mode:

and we ate in Joey B’s.  As well as tipping the expected 20% for good service, Pauline also gave our server a winning Scratch Card for 2 USD.  Her largesse knows no bounds…

After lunch we headed for the Arch and, although we could not go up it, we went into the Visitors’ area under one side of the base and watched a really interesting documentary about how it was built in the early and mid-60’s.  630 feet tall and weighs more an aircraft carrier!

Then it was down to the river side for our cruise.  Lots of horse drawn carriages and this one is for Evie, our Granddaughter.

A log masquerading as a seal:

Lots of bridges:

Pauline’s “I am enjoying myself really” look:

Me demonstrating my usually well hidden artistic side by capturing the old Courthouse through the Arch:

As I am finishing Blogging for this evening, the thunder has started – again. Now we have two Arches:

Day 28 – Sunday 28 May 2017 Cuba to St Louis

Distance travelled 109 miles.  Time on the road 4.5 hours.

Very overcast this morning but at least the rain eventually stopped.  Some pictures of the 1938 Wagon Wheel Motel where a lot of money has obviously been spent on preservation.  The most comfortable bed so far, and we have slept in more than a few on this trip:

Yet again, the driving rain came in useful for washing our car:

Before we set off on the road today, we drove around Cuba taking photo’s of all the murals.  Cuba is described as Mural City and it is not hard to see why:

This one commemorates a forced landing in Cuba by Amelia Earhart:

Considering how far North Cuba is, we were surprised to see that the Confederate Army had reached the town:

A new one being painted:

Even the old gas station was beautifully decorated:

Then we had a late, and superb, breakfast in Shelly’s Cafe:

and Pauline made a new friend:

We eventually got going!

St Cloud.  A big gun!  Outside Ruby’s Guns “We sell protection!”

As planned, we went to the Meramec Caverns but, as soon as we saw that the tour was 1 hour 20 minutes long we decided not to go in.  As mentioned way back at the start of our Blog, I was a bit concerned about my Plantar Fasciitis i.e. excruciating heel pain starting up again, and it did about a week ago but I have been very brave and not mentioned it until now.  I have had it strapped up with Messrs. Walgreen’s foot strapping up thingy, but I still did not want to get stuck in such a long tour.  In addition, we did an interesting cavern some weeks back on the trip and, when you have seen one stalactite you have seen them all, and the same applies to stalagmites… Allegedly, Jesse James used the caverns as a hideout.  Whether he did or not, it is good for business!

Guess who was convinced that I had failed to either lock the car or turn the engine off.  She was wrong but her FitBit enjoyed the extra steps!

St Clair.  A trading post:

Two lonely old gas pumps.  They are actually in someone’s front garden:

Villa Ridge.  The Zephyr Cafe & Gas Station.  Pauline liked what they had done with the place!

Just down the road was Diamonds Restaurant.  If you follow the link you can see what it looked like in its heyday:

Still in Villa Ridge.  The 1945 Gardenway Motel which must be the biggest we have seen.  The picture just shows half of it.

Pick a Sign.  Any sign.  We went Left:

Pacific.  Old Silica Mines were alongside the road all the way through Pacific.  Someone, OK, Me, failed to charge the battery in the camera last night, and it died after Pauline took this one.  Needless to say, much better caves were just along the road:

Eureka.  We stopped off in the Route 66 State Park, but could not get far as we were in a car:

A tiny bridge that we could not cross:

Kirkwood.  1947 Spencer’s Grill.

On our final run into Downtown St. Louis:

The view from our 17th Floor room.  The view of the Arch cost us an extra 8 Dollars per night!

Day 27 – Saturday 27 May 2017 Springfield MO to Cuba MO

Distance travelled 140 miles. Time on the road nearly 6.5 hours.

We have just managed to beat the thunderstorms to tonight’s motel, the iconic Wagon Wheel in Cuba. We stayed ahead of them all day, spurred on by descriptions of “severe storms” and “golf ball hail”, but it literally started just after we pulled up outside our cabin and as we started to unload the car. Heavy rain, thunder and lightening, and I am drafting this in Word because the internet connection is already down! One quick picture of the cabin, with more to follow tomorrow – if the weather improves so that we can take some:

Last night our hotel in Springfield MO (I keep saying Springfield MO because next week we are in Springfield IL) could well have been right in the middle of the Street Rod show. Ours was one of the few normal cars in the carpark overnight, and when we went across to the nearby Cracker Barrel for Dinner (Mel – we pretended you were with us. Hope you felt the Love!) the place was full of Show participants in their fancy T Shirts which put my grey “Standing on The Corner in Winslow, Arizona” one into the shade. Springfield MO is where Route 66 has its roots, and the hotel had a nice clock in the lobby:

When we got outside to load our car, one of the few remaining Show cars from the night before, was this tiny thing:

Pauline took this one just to illustrate how closely the modern Interstates sometimes follow the old Route 66 highway.   A couple of minutes later our road veered off into the countryside.

Phillipsburg.  We never went in!

Stark City.  Freshly repainted by the look of it.  Quite a few barns along Route 66 advertising these Caverns, which we will be visiting tomorrow.  Despite their new appearance they date back to the 1930’s.  Apparently, new Barn Murals are not allowed, but the law allows old ones to be preserved.

Lebanon.  You know you are in a town that appreciates its Route 66 heritage when you see something like this on the way in:

A Veterans’ Memorial:

Finally, an old Motel.  We were beginning to wonder whether we would see any:

Immediately over the road from the iconic Munger Moss Motel.  Beautifully preserved and still working:

In the middle of nowhere:

Waynesville.  The famous Frog Rock:

Pulaski County .  Devil’s Elbow Railway Bridge:

and the road bridge over the Big Piney River:

Devil’s Elbow Inn:

Newburg. Vernelle’s Motel on a very old alignment that runs parallel to a newer road.  Disused and someone has, less than helpfully, blocked off the road:

When we saw that the old alignment was blocked off at Vernelle’s Motel, we thought that we would have to give John’s Modern Cabins a miss.  However, about 100 yards further along, there is a car width track leading across to the old alignment, right alongside of the old cabins which are falling to pieces now.  Lots of mosquitoes!

!!!!  The middle of America and we come across a half-sized model of Stonehenge…  It was carved by the University of Missouri’s Water Jet Lab to demonstrate the power of their equipment and, apparently, when used as a clock it is accurate to within 15 seconds. :

An original Mule Trading Post:

Transporting new lorries American style:

St James.  An old gas station.  One of very few that we have seen today.  In some States we saw dozens every hour:

Fanning.   Pauline had cunningly worn a top that complemented the chair.  If you look really closely, the local Top Cat Chapter are all snoozing on the left hand rocker:

Close up!

Storm is still well underway outside,..

Day 26 – Friday 26 May 2017 Springfield MO

Distance travelled 60 miles.  Time on the road – negligible.

Branson is already starting to become a distant memory, and we are now back on Route 66 again.  I don’t suppose we will ever again see scenery like we did in Branson.  It was really something quite special, and driving up and down the hills was something to remember. Particularly when we were not on the main highways when the roads were winding, twisting and narrow!

We left Branson mid-morning, so we were in Springfield by lunchtime, and we went straight to the Street Rod Show.  Over 2200 classic, vintage or customised cars on display and the sheer variety was mind-boggling to us Brits who rarely see examples of these back home.  It was obviously a big social event for a lot of the owners who were catching up with old friends and, no doubt, deciding that their car was actually the best one on display!

Highlight of the day for me was getting a ride along in a souped up Mustang around an obstacle course.  Half a minute waiting for the light to go green, then 30 seconds of pure adrenaline.  My driver blotted his copy book by taking out a few cones but, as the circuit was also open to anyone who wanted to drive their own cars around it, and who were hitting cones all over the place, I don’t think his professional status was affected by just a couple of cones!  Small clip I filmed from inside the car:

DSCF3942 and Pauline took this video as I went round – click here but you need to be on Facebook to watch it.

and just a few of the 2200 cars!

My favourite car (and lady):

Paint it Black…

Day 25 – Thursday 25 May 2017 Branson

Another lazy day, but our last one as we rejoin Route 66 tomorrow.

Spent the morning strolling around Branson Old Town and the shops down by the lake. Spotted a Brookstones so I was able to satisfy my need for a gadget that a) does not weigh much and b) might actually come in handy!  Pauline is dubious about point b)!

This evening we went to the Dixie Stampede Dinner Show, and it was the highlight of our visit to Branson.  We are big fans of Dolly Parton and, thanks to our children who have bought the tickets for us, we have seen her on her UK tours a number of times.  We were also lucky enough to see her in her Christmas Show in Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, some years ago and the Dixie Stampede has been on our “must see” list ever since.  When we found that we could see the show in Branson it was a no-brainer!

Looks as though all of the recent good-eating has taken its toll, so I will have to watch what I eat from here on!  So much good food and so little time left to eat it all!

As mentioned earlier, we are back to Route 66 tomorrow, and we will be glad to be on the road again as we have really enjoyed it so far.  We will be heading up to Spingfield MO first thing in the morning, so that we can spend as much of the day as possible at the NSRA Mid-America Street Rod Nationals , and then we will head out of Springfield for Cuba MO on Saturday morning.