Along Route 66 - Here There Be Giants!

(continued from previous post)

As we were leaving Oak Ridge Cemetery, a car stopped beside me and a nice gentleman got out and introduced himself as Jim. His wife Betty stayed in the car, but rolled down the window, smiled and waved. Jim and Betty, an older retired couple from Missouri were, like me, checking off a bucket list item with a Route 66 pilgrimage. They had started in Chicago and planned to make it to Oklahoma City where they would then decide if they could continue going west or if they needed to go back home, rest for a while and tackle the 2nd half of the journey in the fall. Turns out he had parked next to my truck at the Sirup Store in Funk's Grove and noticed my metal Texas hitch cover. By chance, they kept coming up on us as they were stopping to see sites along the road just as we would be leaving. They knew for sure that it was us because of the Texas hitch cover. After a few pleasant minutes of conversation, he asked me if I knew where the "giant Lincoln" was? Hmmm. I remember reading about it in one of my Route 66 books, but I couldn't recall exactly where it is located. Now that he mentioned it and we had seen a couple of other "giant muffler" guys, we had to see it! Jim and I didn't discuss it for very long though because it was so dang hot standing in the middle of that blacktop road! We shook hands, said good luck finding Giant Abe, we'd keep an eye out for each other and have a safe trip!

Rail Splitter or Axe Murderer?
Firing up the mi-fi (mobile Internet connection - it's a wonderful thing!), I soon found directions to Giant Abe and we headed off toward his location at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. We got turned around a bit and wandered around for a while, but then spotted an Olive Garden and decided to eat lunch. Olive Garden was the usual Olive Garden, good, familiar, but nothing to rave about. After getting back on the road, we talked about the next giant dude on our list of "must see em's," the Lauterbach Giant. It took us a while to find the fair grounds, driving around lost for a while until we finally came across a street that was in the directions we had found on the Internet. After driving a couple of miles in the wrong direction (yes, I am very directionally challenged, a particularly vexing problem for a road  warrior), we got turned the right way and about an hour after leaving Olive Garden, we found the Abe we were looking for.

Located at N 39° 49.884 W 089° 38.382, the entrance to the fairgrounds, "The Rail Splitter" as he is affectionately known by most of the local residents (the rest of them supposedly call him "The Axe Murderer"), is made of fiberglass and was erected in 1968. He stands 30 feet tall and is one of the few depictions of a clean-shaven Abe Lincoln. We looked, but sadly, didn't spot Jim and Betty. We kept an eye out for the them during the rest of our trip, but never saw them again. Hope they found Abe, completed their journey and arrived back home safe and sound.

Needing to get back on Route 66 to see the Lauterbach Giant, I plugged in the address of the Lauderbach Tire and Auto Service. After following GPS directions for a couple of miles, Youngest-daughter and I remarked at almost the same time, "Hey, this looks familiar." Sure enough, we were backtracking and several miles later we found ourselves at the Olive Garden where we had eaten lunch. "Turn left" said sexy-voiced Lorena (with a voice like hers, my GPS couldn't be named anything but Lorena!). And right there in plain sight, not 1/2 a block on the left after we turned was the Lauterbach Giant. We had been just 200 yards from him as we ate!


Lauterbach Giant
N39 45 51.7 W089 40 47.0
One of the last 3 remaining original "Muffler Men" in Illinois, he started out holding a giant tire, but became more patriotic a few years ago and now holds an American flag.

Tragedy struck in March, 2006 when a tornado ripped through this section of Springfield and decapitated this gentle giant. Most folks thought he was a goner for sure, but his head was found intact a few hundred feet away and the Lauterbach auto business he stands in front of found a company which does fiberglass repair. He was soon reunited with his head and he still stands today, proudly holding the flag as it waves in the breeze.





Go to the first Route 66 entry here.
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