Route 66 - Pontiac to Lincoln's Tomb

Lincoln loitering around the Lincoln
County Courthouse.
After a good night's rest in Pontiac, we drove back a couple of miles to pick up Route 66 where we dropped it to find a motel the night before. The Lincoln County Courthouse  on the town square is an interesting place to spend a bit of time. Abe Lincoln just hangs around leaning up against a fence in spite of the No Loitering sign.

Down the road a ways in Lexington is "Memory Lane," a 1 mile section of the old original highway that has been closed and is now a walking trail with period billboards and Burma Shave signs. You have to watch close for it or you'll pass it. It's worth a stop. Get out, stretch your legs, and enjoy the shaded walk and old signs.

Youngest-daughter on Memory Lane - Route 66
N41 18'37.7" W088 08'19.6
 The next "Must" stop is Funk's Grove, world-famous for the maple sirup produced there by hand since 1824.  The legend of the discovery of maple sirup ("sirup" is the original Webster's spelling of "syrup") dates back to an early Native American story.

One evening after returning from hunting, an Iroquois chief named Worksis plunged his hatchet into the side of a maple tree for safe keeping. The next morning he retrieved it and went out on another hunt. His wife had prepared his supper the night before while sitting under that tree and had by coincidence left a bowl directly underneath where he had stuck his hatchet. The sap ran into the bowl. Thinking it was water, the wife used the liquid to make venison stew that afternoon in preparation for the chief's return. As the stew cooked, water evaporated from the sap, leaving a thick, sweet substance in the stew. That evening, both Worksis and his wife were delighted by the sweet-tasting stew. They figured out what had happened and thus was discovered how to make maple sirup from sap.

Original Funk's Grove general store.
Be sure to visit the old hamlet itself for some great photo opportunities and a taste of blissful peace in this hectic world. Most people totally miss it in their hurry getting to the famous Sirup Store and that's their loss. The interstate is only a couple of miles away, but you would never know it here in this quiet little community. Afterwards, go on down the road about 1/2 mile to the Sirup store where you can purchase some great-tasting, hand-made, old-fashioned maple sirup, souvenirs, caps and books. The folks behind the counter are sure to greet you with a smile. Funk's Grove turned out to be not only one of the prettiest, but also one of my very favorite spots of the whole trip.

The sign to look for if you want some good sirup!
We were blessed during the first couple of days of our trip with very nice weather - a little more warm than is average for the last week of May, but comfortable in shorts and t-shirt. This day was when things drastically changed. The clouds fled from the partly cloudy skies and the sun shown bright and hot. It got up to 95 degrees and with no shade and not even a breath of air moving, it was hot, hot, hot even for this native Texan who grew up in heat like that. Just because we didn't fry doesn't mean it wasn't pretty miserable for most of the day!

Humble blog author relaxing at Funk's Grove.
The truck was thirsty and we were too so we stopped in McLean at Dixie Trucker's Home to fill up the pickup with gas and ourselves with bottles of cold water. Opened in 1928, Dixie Trucker's Home was open 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Until 2003, it was closed only 1 day and that was due to a fire. In 2003, John Geske, one of the original owners passed away at almost 100 years old and Dixie Trucker's Home was closed. It was purchased in 2006 by a company who reopened it as the Dixie Travel Center and purchased by another firm in 2009 which did extensive remodeling. I guess you can say it is still open, but it's no longer the old Route 66 icon it once was.

Dixie Trucker's Home, May, 2012
N41 18'37.7, W088 08'9.6
In Atlanta, Illinois we found Tall Paul, the fiberglass "muffler man," cousin to the Gemini Giant. Holding a giant hot dog, Tall Paul used to advertise a restaurant in Berwyn, but was moved to the downtown square in Atlanta and restored in December, 2003.

Tall Paul and his giant hot dog
N40 15'36.6 W089 13'5.8
Notice anything strange in the next picture? Maybe you noticed the phone booth on the roof of the Lincoln City Hall. In the late 1960s, the city decided it needed a spotter system when the weather turned severe. So the city fathers decided to use the City Hall roof as a vantage point. Naturally, during storms and tornadoes, the weather might get a bit wet so the lookout would need protection from the elements.

Phone booth on the roof of the
Lincoln City Hall
In a stroke of brilliance, somebody got the bright idea to put a phone booth up there. Being practical, they put in a phone wired directly to downstairs rather than a pay phone. It wouldn't do to have the weather spotter spy a tornado bearing down on the town and not have a dime to call it in! And for years, the Fire Department was very particular about who it sent up on the roof during dangerous weather - only their youngest non-married fella. That way if something happened to him, there wouldn't be a family counting on him for support.

The roof phone booth is no longer used, but people still come from all over the world to stand and stare up at the phone booth on the roof. We did too, but the sweat started rolling into my eyes and Youngest-daughter quickly climbed back into the air conditioned truck. I joined her a few seconds later and we left Route 66 proper for a short side trip to see Abraham Lincoln's tomb.

Lincoln's tomb
More than 200,000 people a year stop to visit Lincoln's Tomb, located in the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, and apparently, most of those visitors stop and rub Lincoln's nose. You see, according to folklore, rubbing the nose of a statue is supposed to bring good luck. I'm not so sure about that, but before leaving, we both rubbed Abe's large proboscis just in case there's any truth to it. One can never have too much good luck!

Youngest-daughter getting
her share of good luck.

Go to the first Route 66 entry here.
Or go to the first entry of each state:

Route 66 - Braidwood to Cayuga Illinois

Hmmm; the Polk-a-Dot or McDonald's? No
contest,  you gotta go with Polk-a-Dot!
In Braidwood is one of the better 50's & 60's diners in Illinois - the Polk-a-Dot Drive-in at 222 N. Front St. Over 50 years ago, the Polk-a-Dot started out as a converted school bus painted in rainbow polk-a-dots. When we stopped to eat there, the mostly high-school age staff was surprisingly professional, fast, and friendly. Good service, good food, and great atmosphere!

Order window inside Polk-a-Dot.
It's Betty inside the Polk-a-Dot!

Choosing a song to play the old fashioned way -
now it cost 25cents per song, not 3 for a quarter.

Ambler Beckler Gas Station in Dwight, IL
After Youngest-daughter ate every bite of her chicken-nuggets & french fries plus 1/2 of my fries I had with a hot dog (not exactly the most healthy fare, but hey, we're on an adventure and eating in a diner!), we headed on down the road to Dwight and a stop at the Ambler Beckler gas station. Although the station is no longer a station, it sold gas and services to Route 66 travelers for 66 years before it closed in 1999; the longest operating gas station on the route. Built in 1933, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places after it closed. Restoration work began in 2005 and it re-opened in 2007 as a visitor center owned by the town of Dwight.

Odell Gas Station - w/ 1953 Winnebago
beside it.
Another old gas station has been restored just down the road a few miles in the town of Odell. Built in 1932, it operated as a gas station and repair garage until 1967. From then until it was purchased by the town for historical preservation and renovation purposes in 1999, it was an auto body repair shop. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in November, 1997. We arrived just before sunset and I was pleasantly surprised to find nobody around. It was closed so we couldn't go inside, but it was so quiet and the beginning of the sunset was pretty so while Youngest-daughter wandered around taking pictures, I sat on a bench under the drive up roof in front of the station and just reveled in the peace. As I sat there, I noticed a little notch cut out of the wood beside the front door. It was a hidey-hole for the key to the station. I did research later and according to an old-timer I got in touch with, everyone in town back then knew the key was in that little notch, but in all the time it was in operation, it was never robbed. A bygone time for sure.

The Odell Gas Station in Odell, Illinois

87 miles from Chicago & just 2,361 miles
left in our journey.

Relaxing at the Odell Gas Station. The little black
sign behind my head is where the key hide
 was located.

Section of original Route 66 roadway just
outside Cayuga.
The Cayuga Barn
We arrived in Cayuga with the sun almost all the way down and spotted what is known as the Meramec Cavern Barn or the Cayuga Barn. Meramec Caverns once advertised itself by painting its name on barns around the country. This one has been restored by the Route 66 Preservation Society of Illinois and is one of only two which remain standing in Illinois. I watched as Youngest-daughter took several pictures of it, thinking it probably won't come out OK, but we'll see. I think she did a pretty good job!

One of our rules was that we wouldn't drive after dark so we wouldn't miss anything. We drove just a few more miles to Pontiac where we found a Best Western motel and called it a night. Looking dated and a bit cheap, but the place was being renovated. The room we got smelled like it had been a smoking room previously, but the new paint & carpet made it not very bad. The A/C worked very nicely, getting the room down to the chilly I like. The shower was decent and the toilet paper, while cheap, was still a couple of levels above corn cob. It had been a long day of driving and it wasn't but a few minutes before we were both in dream land.

Go to the first Route 66 entry here.
Or go to the first entry of each state:

Route 66 - Putting Chicago Behind Us

Lion Statue at Chicago Museum of Art, Grant's Park
Leaving Lou Mitchell's and our disappointing lunch behind, we headed to Lake Shore Drive and Grant's Park, the entrance of which became the start of Route 66 in 1933. Youngest-daughter and I were pumped, ready to officially begin our big Daddy Daughter Mother Road Trip adventure. Our faithful GPS guided us to the intersection of Jackson and Lake Shore Drive, but the closer we got, the more traffic and the more people we encountered. I think there must have been something really big happening that weekend or maybe it's always that crowded, but whatever, there were no parking places to be found. Most of the surrounding streets, except for Lake Shore, are one-way and if we slowed down trying to figure out exactly where we were & where we needed to go, surrounding cars honked and several let us know we were number one in their book by showing us their middle finger. Not very nice, but that's often the way it is in the big city.

Buckingham Fountain in Grant's Park
After driving around our intended designation several times and declining to park at least a mile away and walk back, I decided  Youngest-daughter should just lean out of the window as I drove by the intersection, take a picture, and off we would go. Driving around Grant's Park one more time, she read from the Route 66 Itinerary I had assembled over the last several months. The park was dedicated as Lake Park in 1844 and then expanded in 1871 when a lagoon was filled in with debris from the Great Chicago Fire. And on this day it was covered in people like ants on a dropped piece of hard candy.

"If you ever plan to motor west; travel my way, take the highway that's the best. Get your kicks on Route Sixty-Six!" - from the song Route 66 by Bobby Troup.

We headed west on Jackson Drive and just a couple of blocks later ran into another challenge - road construction. Jackson was closed, blocked off, and the detour took us 3 or 4 blocks south and then west for at least a mile. By the time we were able to head back to hook back up with Jackson, it had curved and we had lost it. About 2 miles from the start, we couldn't find the route and had only been on it for about 2 blocks. Not a great start. I drove us around for a few blocks in the general direction of where I thought it should be, but I couldn't reacquire it. Finally I pulled off to the side and plugged in the address to Henry's Drive-in in Cicero.

Henry's Hot Dog Drive-in - a meal in itself!
A couple of blocks before Henry's, we found an Illinois Route 66 sign - we were back on track! We pulled into Henry's parking lot to eyeball it and take pictures, but didn't eat there because we weren't hungry yet. Located at 6031 W Ogden Ave., it is a hot dog stand which has been in business since the 1950's. Many say it is the best hot dog you'll ever eat! Bring cash though, they don't take credit cards. This is one of the places where I wish I had eaten, but if I had eaten at all of those places, I'd have gained about 20 pounds on the trip!

The town of Cicero, basically a suburb of Chicago, was where Al Capone moved to get away from the Chicago police after building his criminal empire there. According to legend, the whole town is still riddled with tunnels which were used by the gangsters and bootleggers. It has also long been a place of government scandal. Recently, the town mayor was convicted of misappropriating $12 million in funds and is serving time in a federal prison. As of late May, 2012, at least the old Route 66 part of Cicero we saw, the town is very blue collar and economically disadvantaged, some might call it "gritty." With burglar bars on most windows and doors of the businesses, Youngest-daughter didn't want to stop until we got out of that area. I felt OK, but I might not advise you drive through it in a convertible after dark.

Robin Hood Mufflers - for sale
Just down from Henry's is the site of the former Robin Hood Muffler shop. In business between the early 50's and 2010, it is now for sale. Located at coordinates N 41° 49.916 W 087° 46.604, hopefully somebody will purchase it and restore it.

Passing through several small towns with nothing much of note about them, we had to get on I-55 in Burr Ridge and then on and off several more times in a couple of other places because the interstate was laid on top of Route 66. After going through Romeoville (yes, Youngest-daughter and I had fun with "Oh Romeoville, Romeoville, where fore art thou Romeoville?"), we stopped in Joliet to take pictures of  Statesville Correctional Center, known as the Joliet Prison. Sound familiar, but just can't place it?  It is featured in the motion picture The Blues Brothers as the prison from which Jake Blues is released at the beginning of the movie. It is also the location for the first season of Fox TVs Prison Break television show and the movie Lets Go to Prison. Interestingly, the outer front gate was open and no guard was in site. We pulled up, got out of BFT and walked just inside the gate, but decided to go no further. I'm allergic to prison. 

Joliet Prison
Interestingly, Romeoville and Joliet were originally named Romeo and Juliet in the 1830's. In 1845, Juliet chose to change its name to Joliet in honor of the explorer Louis Joliet. Romeo responded like a jilted lover and changed its name to Romeoville. Because of the numerous limestone quarries in the area, Romeoville became known for a while as "Stone City" and shipped out two trainloads of limestone each morning. Many buildings in the nearby cities and towns were built with Romeoville limestone; perhaps the most famous is the Illinois State Capitol Building in Springfield.

Along Illinois Route 66 in Joliet
Back on the now pretty well marked route, a few miles later and we came to Wilmington, home of about 5,000 people, but most famous as the home of the Gemini Giant. Located in the parking lot of the Launching Pad Drive-in diner, it was built in 1960 as a large fiberglass "muffler man." For a few years, these huge men were used to draw in customers and could be found all over America. They always held various "tools" in their hands, from mufflers to axes, to hot dogs. This particular giant, wearing green clothes, a Buck Rogers-style silver space helmet, silver shoes, and with a rather ominous looking demeanor on his face, holds a rocket ship. Most of these "giant muffler men" are no more so the few left have become symbols of a time gone by, with road warriors searching for and eagerly reporting whenever another one is occasionally found.

Still a little too early to eat, we purchased cokes, spent a couple of minutes talking to the young and obviously very bored counter girl, took a few pictures, jumped back into BFT and headed on to the old coal-mining town of Braidwood where we would grab supper at the Polk-a-Dot drive-in, a Route 66 classic.

Dick's Garage on Route 66
Roof top Blues Brothers

The Gemini Giant at the Launching
Pad Drive-in Diner
Rather ominous looking.
Go to the first Route 66 entry here.
Or go to the first entry of each state:

Route 66 - It Starts in Chicago

I've spent a good number of hours over the last 20 years or so enviously reading other people's accounts of their Route 66 trips, but I don't recall anyone even mentioning the very first step of the trip - getting to the beginning of Route 66 in either Chicago or L.A. Now, a lot of people live in Chicago and L.A., but I would venture to say relatively few of them have ever taken the full 2,448 mile Route 66 trip by leaving home and driving just a couple of miles to the start and and have then written books about it so well that they've been published. So why haven't I heard about the "pre road trip" road trip, the getting to the start part? I now know why and I'll let you in on it - because they drove the interstate highways to get there and it's mind-numbingly boring!

Youngest-daughter and I wanted to start our "Daddy Daughter Mother Road Trip" at the traditional beginning of Route 66 in Chicago at Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park. Between us and it was 688 very long miles. Nobody takes a leisurely back road road trip to start a long back road road trip and neither did we.
Youngest-daughter relieved her boredom by
taking pics of trucks
Over the last two days before leaving, I had washed, cleaned, packed and gassed up BFT (Big Ford Truck) so we could leave at noon sharp on Friday, Youngest-daughter's last day of school for the summer. I would rather have driven a classic Corvette or a Mustang or a Camaro, but given that I don't own any of those, we were taking the next best thing - a vintage pickup! OK, so it was a 2011 Ford F-150 King Ranch with leather seats, GPS, sat radio and all the other  bells & whistles, but hey, it's what we have so we had to make do. I felt pretty good when we finally pulled out of the driveway at 1:30. Just 1 1/2 hours late; not bad!

Getting to Chicago we went interstate all the way - jumping on I-40 and going through Conway and Little Rock, Arkansas - set the cruise on 72 and had smooth sailing  all the way - all the way to Forrest City, Arkansas anyway, a grand total of about 125 miles. Road construction ahead. Everyone came to a screeching halt. A couple of times I turned off the truck to save gas, but every time I did, the line moved up a couple of car lengths and I had to start it back up so youngest-daughter and I sat in our idling vehicle making the oil folks richer and me poorer. At first we talked about her being out of school for the summer, where her friends were going on vacation and her concern that we would have to spend a few nights in run-down flea-bag motels while on this trip. I let her go on thinking that just because it was fun to do so. Eventually she fell asleep and I was left with nothing to do except look at my fellow drivers and exchange glances, nods of heads and shrugs of shoulders in our shared misery of being on an interstate going nowhere quickly. I watched the folks going about 80 miles per hour the other way whizzing by us and I knew they were thinking, "Whoa, sure glad I'm not going east bound. Yes!"

The most exciting thing we saw along the
interstate - burning wheat fields
75 minutes later and 10 miles closer to Chicago, we finally cleared the last of the bright orange and white barrels which had blocked off one of the two lanes for 10 miles so the last 100 yards of road could be worked on. I quickly got BFT back up to 72, set the cruise and we were soon putting the miles behind us. Jumped onto I-55 just west of Memphis and that's where we stayed until reaching Marion, Illinois, where we stopped to spend the night at the first "flea-bag motel," a new Marriott Fairfield Inn at 1400 Champion Dr. 

View from our hotel window - have had worse!
Rather new, in a safe neighborhood, very clean and with a friendly front desk staff, Youngest-daughter was pleased and relieved. The shower was exceptionally nice and I spent a couple of extra minutes standing under the spray letting the hot water relax me. Those of you who have followed my missives for a while know how I feel about hotels that save a nickel by supplying cheap, 3rd-world-country, splinter-embedded toilet paper so you know I checked it out and I'm happy to report it passed - not Charmin, but nice enough. The only complaint I had at all was the air conditioner would not get the room below about 72 degrees. I strongly suspect that some places, and this was one of them, put some kind of mechanical or software constraint on the A/C unit so that even if you set it to 65, it will not cool below 72 degrees and they can save some money on electricity. I like the room to be about 68 so I can snuggle under the covers and sleep the good sleep. Too warm and I can't sleep at all. Pay $100+ for a room for the night and call me unreasonable, but I kind of expect to be able to sleep good. Sorry Fairfield Inn in Marion, IL, you get a point deducted since I had to use the fan I carry with me for just such occasions.

The famous Lou Mitchell's
The next morning, after partaking of the "free" breakfast at the hotel, we were off to Chicago, the Windy City; home to almost 3 million people  and still the U.S. home of the Lava Lite (Haggerty Enterprises in Chicago, which purchased the manufacturing rights to the Lava Lamp in the late 1970's, is still in business and selling the 1960's icons). Our 1st stop would be Lou Mitchell's Restaurant on Jackson Blvd. Open for breakfast and lunch only and most famous for their breakfast fare, it has been in business since 1923, three years before Route 66 came into existence. Since it was a Saturday, we figured there wouldn't be a lot of traffic and not much problem getting there. We were wrong. There was lots of traffic. I'm talking LOTS of traffic! From the outskirts of downtown all the way in was stop and go. Fortunately, the GPS guided us along the turns and confusing changing of freeways and although later than we had thought, we arrived at Lou's with no problem and even found a place to park in a pay parking lot around the block. $6, but what the heck, we found the place, we're excited and we're hungry so let's have us some Lou Mitchell's!

Inside Lou Mitchell's - hope that guy didn't
 decide on the cheeseburger combo!
It was crowded, it was noisy and it was pretty darn cool! We were quickly shown to a table for 2, Youngest-daughter received her complimentary little box of milk duds (given to all female patrons) and our waitress arrived quickly. Cheeseburger combo for me (medium-well, please) & chicken nugget combo for Youngest-daughter. We laughed, we looked around, we took pictures, we were all smiles - until our food came.

Maybe there's a reason Lou Mitchell's is famous for their breakfasts and not their lunches. My burger came with decently cooked edges of the meat, but still red in the middle. The fries were barely warm, limp and almost tasted raw (don't ask me how real potato's can be both limp & raw cause I don't know). The chicken nuggets were basically puff-balls of fried batter with a little piece of chicken trapped inside. I've occasionally marvelled at Youngest-daughter's ability to eat what I consider to be nasty-looking chicken nuggets. If they are even close to being chicken nuggets, she can eat them, yet she didn't finish these. She gave me a rather sad look and said, "Sorry Dad, these just don't taste very good." And then she didn't eat the fries. This was something so rare, it has only been observed maybe once before - ever. We started to send it all back, but decided we'd just head on down the road and eat again at a Diner. Maybe it was an anomaly, maybe we just don't have the same taste as Chicagoans. Whatever it was, I am left with no option other than to say go there for breakfast or go there for some of their baked goods, but do not go there for lunch! After our Route 66 adventure was over, we both agreed, this was the worst meal we had on the entire trip.

Neon sign inside Lou Mitchell's
If you've eaten at Lou Mitchell's, please leave a comment and let me know what you thought. I'd really like to think we were just there on a bad day or something.

Next up: Grant's Park & Buckingham Fountain where we begin the actual journey. Just 2,448 exciting miles to go!

Go to the first Route 66 entry here.
Or go to the first entry of each state:

Route 66 – And So It Begins

Route 66 never really was a road. It was certainly never just an ordinary road. Commissioned by the U.S. Government in 1926 and originally called Route 60, it was merely a linking of many bits and pieces of existing road which enabled a traveler to get from Chicago to Los Angeles. When it was first commissioned, only 800 miles of its roughly 2,448 miles were paved and most of the rest was just washed out dirt trails. It wasn’t until 1937 that it was paved from end to end. In spite of its humble beginnings though, it was destined to become an iconic highway that represents what is good about America.

Over its life, there were numerous realignments which resulted in adding and subtracting miles and various sections of roadway. In downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico, one realignment resulted in the corner of Central Avenue and Fourth Street being the corner of Route 66 and Route 66! Traveling the old highway today requires you to make numerous decisions along the way as to which alignment you want to take where. If you are looking to drive a single highway, Route 66 is not the road trip for you. Route 66 is the un-interstate and a road trip down her is a kind of un-vacation. You have to accept that you will not get anywhere fast. And be aware, you WILL get lost a few times. No matter how good your maps, no matter how good your instructions, no matter how good your internal compass, road construction and numerous side trips you find yourself taking will cause you to lose your way and you will have to seek until you eventually find the route on down the road a ways. Best to just think of it as part of the fun and always keep in mind that Route 66 isn’t the way to get to your destination — Route 66 is your destination.

In 1927, Cyrus Avery, the father of Route 66, was the first to refer to it as “The Main Street of America.” In the Dust Bowl years, people saw Route 66 as a symbol of hope and a new beginning. John Steinbeck was the first to refer to it as the “Mother Road” in his 1939 novel, The Grapes of Wrath. Bobby Troup wrote the hit song “Get Your Kicks on Route 66″ in 1946 and it was recorded that same year by Nat King Cole (hear the song here). The song captured the heart of the country and eventually the world. In the 1960′s came the popular TV show “Route 66″ with Todd & Buzz traveling the country in a Corvette seeking adventure (Partial episode here). People began to romanticize Route 66 and before long it became known as the most magical road in the world.

The Interstate is fast - no curious attractions to tempt the traveler to pull over and spend a few minutes not driving, no stop lights and higher speed limits, but it is mind-numbingly, mile after mile sterile. In the 1950′s though, for a number of reasons, “speed” became America’s buzz word and the interstate highway system began to take over much of Route 66. Sections were dug up, towns were bypassed and mom & pop business’s located along her roads began dying from lack of customers. Finally, in 1984, the last section of the old girl was bypassed in Williams, Arizona. Government officials expected the road to become just another historical byway like the Oregon Trail and the Chisholm Trail. But she refused to die and she didn’t go away.

Before long, she became something even more special, even more magical. And she began a slow, but steady comeback. A few people began writing books about her; movies were made about her, then merchandise and magazines became available. It became a grass-roots movement of resurgence led by a few hardy, dedicated souls. The movement is still underway today as more and more people travel her, not just Americans, but folks from all around the world, hoping to find bygone glory days, glimpses of a simpler way of life. The small towns and communities along Route 66 are like snapshots of a time in America that have almost disappeared; glimpses of America’s past.

Like a lot of people, one of the items on my Bucket List was to travel Route 66 from beginning to end. I am happy to say that item has now been checked off. From May 25, 2012 through June 4, 2012 with my 13-year-old daughter along as navigator and co-photographer, we set out to travel America’s Main Street from Chicago to L.A. We called it our “Daddy Daughter Mother Road Trip.”

What follows over the next few blog entries will be an account of this once-in-a-lifetime trip. We talked, we laughed, we took hundreds of pictures, we met some really interesting people, we saw a lot of really interesting sites and yes, we actually made it the whole way and are still talking to each other!

Was it a very special Father – Daughter bonding experience? Yes. Did we make memories that my daughter will remember for the rest of her life? I believe so; I think and hope so. Did we learn more about each other? Yes. Would I do it again? Absolutely. Just maybe not in the next couple of months!

Go to the first Route 66 entry here.
Or go to the first entry of each state:

Route 66 - Planning the Trip

Most people over the age of 55 have their bucket list; the things they want to do, the things they want to see before they leave all of this behind and transition on over to the great unknown. One of the biggie’s on mine, perhaps number 1 now that I’ve seen a space shuttle liftoff (see Space Shuttle), is that quintessential road trip, the road trip emulated by all other road trips, the Alpha and Omega of road trips – Route 66. (see Road Trip Bucket List)

Growing up in a home that was so poor poverty would have been a step up, about the only recreation I had was the public library. It was there I could go to find a different world from my reality; a place to learn; a place to dream. I read most anything I could get my hands on. I spent many, many evenings reading the Encyclopedia Britannica page by page. When it listed book titles, I wrote them down until I had a list several pages long, front and back. And then I started reading them. One of the first I read was The Grapes of Wrath, the American classic by John Steinbeck. I was only 13 or 14 and it made a big impression on me. My grandfather, and therefore myself (even though I had never met them) had family in Oklahoma and the book was about people from Oklahoma, so in my young imaginative mind, it was a book about my family. In the book, Route 66 represented hope; the way to a new and better life. And so Route 66 became that for me also.

As time rolled by, driving Route 66 from beginning to end became more and more of a dream for me. It remained just that though as life happened and there were always logical reasons and good excuses for it to remain right where it always had been, a thought in my head that one of these days…
Fast forward going on 50 years after I first read The Grapes of Wrath and “one of these days” will be here next Friday. I suffered a fatal heart attack 1 year, 5 months and 2 days ago (but who’s counting?), and by a miracle of dedicated, very good medical personnel who didn’t give up on me and a few electrical shocks from a defibrillator, I returned to the land of the living. (that story is here Back from the dead & here I’m still here). Since I was given the gift of a 2nd chance at life, I have tried to make the most of it in ways big and small. One of the things I’ve been trying to do is to check off some of my bucket list items. Number 1 on the hit parade is Route 66.

Youngest-daughter is now 13, soon to be 14, is a wonderful young lady with her own personality and a great sense of humor that often cracks me up. She is my baby girl and the center of my life, but just as important, I truly enjoy being with her. She has also developed into a very good photographer with an innate sense of space and composition and an understanding of what makes a good photograph. So who better to share my grand life-long dream with than her? Momma-woman is staying home so it can be just the two of us on this trip. It will be our adventure, our time together, time to smile, time to laugh, time to talk, time to teach each other and time to learn from each other. Time to hopefully make a nice, life-long memory for her to call on when I’m gone. We’re calling it our “Daddy Daughter Mother Road Trip.”

Next Friday is her last day of school for the summer break. With grades being posted online, we already know she has passed (with almost straight A’s, there was never any doubt anyway). Nothing to do that day except tell her friends bye for the summer, turn in books and throw away unwanted papers. I have work meetings that morning, but can be finished with everything by lunch so Thursday night we pack BFT with clothes, some road food, laptops, GPS, Route 66 books & maps, my camera gear, and Youngest-daughter’s brand new, right-out-of-the-box Canon starter DSLR camera that came from Amazon today and Friday, at 12:00 o’clock, high noon, I pick her up at school and we are on our way to Adams Street & Lakeshore Drive in Chicago, the official start of Route 66.

Who knows what will happen between Chicago and the end of the trip at the Santa Monica pier in California? We have an itinerary of things we want to see and a few places where we want to eat and spend the night, but no set schedule. We might be gone 10 days; we might be gone 3 weeks; and there’s always the possibility that Youngest-daughter will be totally bored with the whole thing & we’ll cut it short and be back within just a few days. If that happens, I’ll be calling on my friends and family for a volunteer to be my co-pilot for the rest of the trip as I don’t intend to let anything stop me from checking off this bucket list item!

Whatever happens, we hope you will join us on our journey as we intend to post entries and pictures when we get the chance. It should be interesting!

Go to the first Route 66 entry here.
Or go to the first entry of each state: