Journal Entry Days
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Thursday–July 27, 2017
Trail Day–001 Maps 1-5
Location–Indian Head Park, then on to Del Rhea’s
My niece, Kim, drove me to the Amtrak Station yesterday morning for my all day train ride to Chicago. It was an enjoyable trip. I’ve enjoyed riding trains ever since I was a kid.
In Chicago for the night, I took a room at the downtown HI Hostel. It’s only a few blocks from Union Station, and the beginning of Historic Route 66. A fine, inexpensive place, considering rooms downtown Chicago can run way up in four figures for one night.
I’m up early, have my pack shouldered and by six-thirty, I’m at the corner of Adams and Michigan, the beginning of Historic Route 66. Overcast and cool, looks like it’s going to be a great first day back on the trail (road).
I thought I’d have the street to myself this morning, but people are already heading for work. I take a picture of the first Route 66 marker, then move on down the street–to blend right in. Yes, practically everyone is carrying a pack. Some folks look at me sort of funny though; it’s the sticks. Most have probably never seen hiking sticks. Ski poles–yes, but not hiking sticks. “Hey, old man, ain’t no snow here now!” Usual comment.
The Berghoff Restaurant (since 1898) is only a couple blocks away, right on the old route. So, I’d planned on breakfast there, but they’re not open till eleven. No problem! On up a few more blocks is Lou Mitchell’s (since 1926). They’re open for breakfast. In I go, to meet Faye, fifth generation, same family running the old place. Incredible breakfast. My two egg order comes out as four, and I have to work at putting away all the country fries. Faye pauses to pose with me for a picture before returning to her customers. The half-hour I’m at Lou’s, the place totally fills up.
Heading out of Chicago, Route 66 goes west, then southwest, passing the old Castle Car Wash (long ago closed), then Henry’s Drive-In. It’s mid-morning now and the day’s warming right up. Henry’s appears to be a neat old place, so I head in–to step back into the 1950s! I linger, have a pop, and look at the old photos.
I had felt less than comfortable this morning starting this trek, what with all the violence we’ve heard about here in Chicago. But to my surprise, do I find the folks who greet me to be very kind. And the motorists at the intersections (and there are a bunch today) show me patience and courtesy! Remember my little test for determining what sort of town I’m in–kind and helpful folks, or not so much? Yup, the debit card/cash advance request at the local bank. Ah, first bank I go into–Bingo; this town passes with flying colors!
Late afternoon I arrive at Del Rhea’s Chicken Basket. Here I’ve got my miles in for this first day. And I wanted to end the day here. Since reading about Del Rhea’s, the interesting story of how the old fellow who started the place back near the turn of last century got the recipe for his fried chicken from a couple of local farm ladies–since then, I’ve wanted to try Del’s chicken basket.
Del’s is another place that’s been run by the same family since the days of old Route 66. Inside, I meet Rene. When I tell him I’m hiking Route 66 and would like to meet the folks that own the place, he goes right to the phone to call Patrick, son of Del Rhea, who bought the business way back in 1963. We spend an enjoyable time talking about Route 66–and Del Rhea’s.
Patrick (and Rene) then insist on not only giving me their famous chicken basket, but they want to provide me a room for the night right across at the La Quinta. Can say thank you but only so many times. So, thank you, dear new friends!
Handled the 18+- today, no problem. I do believe my legs are going to come back under me–one more time. What an absolute blessing!
Friday–July 28, 2017
Trail Day–002 Maps 5-10
Location–Joliet, then on south to Sugar Creek at Nowell Park, SR-53
A really nice room at La Quinta, last night. Got the road grime off me and out of my clothes–and slept soundly. Patrick at Del Rhea’s Chicken Basket, thanks for your kindness and generosity!
I wanted to get up early and on the road before seven. Plan’s working. La Quinta has a fine continental breakfast; I hit that first thing, then I’m out and trekking just after six-thirty. I want to get to Joliet in time to visit the Route 66 Museum there, so this is going to be a head-down-and-hammer kind of day today, likely the first of many to come during this adventure.
Steady at it all morning, time for a short stop at (the third) McDonald’s. Then I’m right back out. Don’t recall ever trekking such an extended period of time on little other than sidewalk–all day yesterday, and almost till noon again today. I’m so relieved to finally have the sprawl that is Chicago in my rear view.
On the road now, after Bolingbrook, comes the first of four scary situations–getting past limited access four-lane. They’re all dark underpasses. The first one required working along a narrow, elevated concrete ledge with sixteen-wheelers flying by less than four feet away. Scary? Oh yes!
By two-thirty I’m in Joliet. Here I’m presented the first photo op for the day, the neat little Route 66 ice cream stand–complete with the (‘true-to-life) Blues Brothers sitting on top. On into town, now at the museum, I’m welcomed by Cooper, bright-eyed young fellow at the reception desk. He greets me with, “You Nimble? A lady from the newspaper wants to talk to you.” The lower floor of the museum is dedicated entirely to Route 66. Before I’m much into it, comes Patricia from the Joliet Farmers Weekly. A really fun interview; thanks, Pat!
I’m unable to find a nearby motel for the night. The nearest according to Google is close to two miles away. After the 23-miler today, I don’t have two more miles in me. There’s an old hotel downtown, but the grouch there wouldn’t rent me a room. Took one look at me as soon as I entered the place. “We’re full.” He grumbles. I tell him I don’t need a bed, no towel, anything, just a place to stay for the night. “I told you, we’re full.” Nasty stare.
I head south on old Route 66 through town. Stop at a Shell station jiffy–for a couple burritos and a giant fountain drink.
Evening now, sitting a picnic table in Nowell park just south of town, I’m composing today’s journal entry, waiting for sunset before pitching beside clear-rushing Sugar Creek.
Been a good day, a safe day. Thank you, Lord…
Saturday–July 29, 2017
Trail Day–003 Maps 11-13
Been a long time since I spent a night in my tent. That was way back last summer while completing my Pony Express National Historic Trail trek. Ha, this is going to sound strange, but anyway: It was good to be back on the ground again. A most pleasant night.
Camp struck, pack loaded and shouldered, I’m back on the road before six-thirty. Going to be another fine day weather-wise, cool with a gentle breeze to my back. I’d been fearful of being dealt extremely high temperatures and humidity, but as luck would have it (more a blessing), these first three days have been near ideal for trekking the highway.
Really moving along this morning (no kinks in the old jitney). I’m in Elwood for breakfast before ten.
First photo op of the day, nothing to do with Route 66, but I had to check it out, take it in: Midewin National Tall Grass Prairie. At the visitor center I learn that long before this area was settled, before Route 66 came through, the region all around was tall grass prairie, buffalo country. Today, it makes up a good bit of the “Breadbasket of America.” Only a very small percentage of the original tall grass prairie remains. The effort here is to restore a small sample from that time–including the grazing buffalo.
I’ve three Route 66 points of interest today, Gemini Giant, Sinclair Dino, and to end the day, the Polka Dot Diner. For this old fellow, much nostalgia. Neat stops for sure!
Added another old beat up penny to my coin collection this afternoon, the fifth or sixth so far this journey. Will likely have to bring on another quart Mason jar, the third. On the “Hiker Trash” page here, you can take a look at the countless coins I’ve picked up these many years.
Never could quite figure out how all the coins ended up scattered along the road shoulder–or for that matter, all the silverware too. My twelve place “flatware” silver service set is also pictured on the “Hiker Trash” page.
Today though, I come up on something totally strange and baffling–a broken egg laying on the shoulder. As I stare down at it, I realize it couldn’t have been thrown from a car window. It would have exploded and scattered everywhere. No, what had to happen–someone stopped, then dropped it on the pavement. The pieces of shell are all here. Also, the stain spot from the yolk–right there by the egg shell. Can you explain this? Weird, eh!
Managed a 21-mile day to Braidwood. Jesse James (yes, that’s his name), manager of the McDonald’s here provided me supper. And I’m invited back over for breakfast in the morning. They open at five, so I’ll be back before heading on to Odell, a 24-miler tomorrow. Dharam, owner of Braidwood Motel pretty much gave me a room for tonight. So, I’m clean and my clothes are (reasonably) clean too.
Another fine day trekking old Route 66!
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Sunday–July 30, 2017
Trail Day–004 Maps 13-17
I get a great jump-start this morning. Jesse James (his sweet mother gave him that name), Gen. Manager, McDonald’s, Braidwood, who never robbed anybody (can’t make this stuff up, folks), provided me supper last–and breakfast this morning.Thanks for your kindness and hospitality, Jesse! Braidwood is a mighty fine little village.
It was the wrong time of day yesterday to take pictures of the Polk-a-Dot Drive-In. Light’s much better this morning. Time to try again. And I hadn’t seen the Blues Brothers singing and dancing by the south side of the building. So, had to snap them too.
It’s gonna be another glorious day for trekking old Historic Route 66 (diagonally) across Illinois, cool, the least breeze at my back. Odell, here I come!
Between Braceville and Gardner, at the Mazon River, was the site of the Riviera Roadhouse. It was famous for being one of Al Capone’s favorite hangouts. But alas, it burned to the ground in 2010. At the site now, I look for any remains of the old place, but sadly there are none. All that’s left is the steel-pipe sign post by the road. There had been an old 1932 horse-drawn streetcar (turned-diner) here. It survived the fire and has since been moved to Gardner.
In Gardner, I follow the Route 66 signs to the site of the 1906 two-cell jail, and the old diner. Photo time!
Just south of Gardner, I-55 comes to crowd along beside old Route 66. I’ll have to deal with this deafening racket off and on the rest of this day.
Continuing on southwest on the old highway, the next village is Dwight. On the northeast side of town is (what remains of) Big Al’s Hot Dog Stand. All that’s left now is the little white block building. Fellow who lives across the street assures me it was Big Al’s. “Closed down years ago.” he said.
On across town is the old Ambler/Becker/Texaco/Marathon Station. Though no longer a gas station, it remains open as the Dwight Welcome Center. Everything’s been pretty much left as was when the gas station closed down. I believe you could still get an oil change and a grease job here–but no gas.
Treasures discovered along the road shoulder today: I’m eighteen cents richer–a dime, a nickel, and three pennies. And two things I’ve never seen before in all my travels, a birdcage, and from right out of A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh books, three little stuffed animals–Winnie, Eeyore, and Piglet. I leave the birdcage, but just can’t bring myself to leaving Pooh and his buddies behind.
Entering Odell, my destination for today, I’m greeted by a row of Burma-Shave-like signs. Neat welcome to Odell. Look at the pics!
Hiking down West Street, fellow comes from his porch to greet me. “You on a hike?” he asks–and I meet Joe and his granddaughter, Hana. Asking Joe if the local bar (locals call it a tap room) serves food, whether it’s open or not, Joe will have none of this. “Come in, I’ll fix you something to eat.” says Joe.
Short of it:
Joe, Hana, and Joe’s wife, Kathy, fix me a fine supper, topped off with moose-tracks ice cream! I’m then offered the use of their shower, followed by a most enjoyable evening of conversation.
I’m in their finished basement now (bed all made up for me) completing this day’s journal entry.
Amazing, eh friends! A bum off the street, total stranger, and these trusting folks befriend me and take me in. What a remarkable journey this is already becoming. I give Winnie, Eeyore and Piglet to Hana, a wonderful new home for the castaways…
Monday–July 31, 2017
Trail Day–005 Maps 17-20
Contented, restful sleep at Joe’s. My energy has returned this morning. And it becomes even better after Kathy serves me a full breakfast.
Hana and Kathy have given me permission to post their art work. Hana’s painting of a horse is on the basement wall. And the idyllic cabin on the lake painted by Kathy, it adorns the entire kitchen wall. They have such a lovely home.
This is Monday, a workday for both Joe and Kathy. So, too soon comes that sad time, goodbye Kathy, goodbye Hana, goodbye Joe, I’ll not forget your kindness.
The old 1932 Standard Oil Station is right down the street from Joe’s, on old Route 66. Perfect light on it this morning. Get a couple of good pics.
Hopefully, it won’t be quite so hot today. Turning cloudy, maybe it’ll last. Had to retreat under a bridge yesterday afternoon to escape the heat. Leaning back against the cool abutment I promptly fell asleep. An hour passed before I managed to get back out on the road.
I’ve been offered rides the past two days–more already this morning before I reach Pontiac. Really thankful for the two bottles of ice given to me by Kathy. What a treat having ice cold water out here in this heat. I put them both down as soon as the ice melts. Wow, thanks, Kathy!
On the corner near the turn into Pontiac sits the Log Cabin Inn. Inside, I meet Lucy sipping her morning coffee from a Log Cabin mug. Enjoyable time talking about the place during the bygone days.
In Pontiac, I take time to visit both the Illinois Route 66 Museum and the Pontiac Auto Museum. Also get a picture of Lincoln in front of the court house. Could have easily spent the rest of the day here in Pontiac.
South of Pontiac, I-55 keeps its distance for a change. Joy upon joy! So, I don’t have exhaust fumes and the constant rumbling hell to endure. Happy for this relief for awhile, for sure.
Most of this day is spent hiking the old abandoned road, expansion joints heaved up, weeds growing from all the cracks. A real treat, this relief from traffic–and a brief retreat back in time.
The energy bar Hana gave me boosts me the final three miles into Chenoa, the McDonald’s by the interstate. I text Joe and let him know I made the 23-miler okay. Ha, and Joe tells his friend, Billie Jo, who lives in Chenoa–and she’s right over here to bring me supper and cold drinks. Thanks again, Joe, and thanks Billy Jo!
I found a little place behind McDonald’s where I can stealth camp for the night. Getting dark, so heading there now, to enjoy the food Billie Joe so kindly brought.
Five days out of downtown Chicago now; passed the 100 miles mark today. Already a third of the way through Illinois…
Tuesday–August 1, 2017
Trail Day–006 Maps 20-23
A very nice (mowed) spot across (and secluded) from McDonald’s. The enormous container of hot lasagna, toasted buns, ice cold pop and water Billie Jo brought me transformed my little tent into a first class diner. Tummy full, contented–no time I’m off to dreamland.
A moment to pause here, to ponder the wonder and beauty of the daily joy we each give/receive through our interaction with others. Seems, we tend to dwell way too much on the negative aspects of our lives. I used to be guilty of that, more than anyone I guess. Fact is, if we open our hearts and minds to all the goodness we’re daily dealt, the negative things we occupy our thoughts with are such a small part. We’re definitely short-changing ourselves by not focusing on all the good.
Well, suddenly dawned on me this morning the beautiful people that have so quickly come and gone in my life just these past few days, the joy, the happiness, the incredible (mysterious, invisible-but-real) energy each person has, in their own way, given. This certainly has much to do with their kindness and generosity, but of equal importance is how I’ve changed, by thinking, being and living positive, I’m now ready, heart and mind, for this shower of blessings.
For a good part of this day, I’ll be able to walk along the old abandoned Route 66 pavement. In fact, through Chenoa (and a number if other communities to the south) the old roadbed has been improved and upgraded to a bike path. I’m hardly out and moving–comes more thoughtful kindness first thing. Billie Jo stops on her way to work to hand me a McDonald’s bag full of breakfast. Thanks, Billie Jo!
On down the old pavement, not long, a little motor home pulls to the shoulder and stops. I meet Paul and Geri from Queensland Australia. They’re touring all over the states. Much good conversation, about all the places they’ve seen, and now, Route 66!
Much positive spirit and energy in the little community of Towanda. The improvements to the old road, to upgrade it to a first class bike path–just a beautiful thing. First rainstorm I have to deal with hits me here in Towanda. Luck would have it, I’m right by the Freedom jiffy and duck right in. Kind clerk lets me rearrange the beer cases to make a place to sit. Hard rain for better part of half an hour.
On down the neat bike path, Kicks Bar and Grill is into this Route 66 thing. Much interest ’bout my hiking the old highway. Bar maid sets me up with a tall iced-down Mist, her compliments.
Second storm of the day, I’m not so lucky. Crack, bam, lightning and thunder simultaneously right in the nearest cornfield. No place to hide. Poncho is on, but the wind driven rain soaks me.
In Normal now, I stop to see the fine restoration of the 1931 Sprague Super Service. A professional piece of work. Photo op, oh yes!
There’s a McDonald’s on north US-51. That’s where I’m headed to end this day. Arriving, I find there’s no place to stealth camp anywhere, solid houses and businesses, the university. In and enjoying my usual chicken sandwich and fries, I Google “Nearby Motels.” Nothing close except–Vrooman Mansion B&B pops up. It’s a couple-three miles on down in the right direction. What the heck, give them a call. Ha, way, way priced out of my range. But Tricia shows interest in my story. I mention to her the most I could possibly pay. “Hold on a minute.” she says. Back on, disappointment in her voice. “I’m not able to accept that, but you can come and take a shower, and stay on our back porch for the night, no charge.”
Oh yes, Vrooman Mansion tonight. It’s dark when I arrive. Tricia greets me at their front door, then shows me to one of their showers. Incredible old place, creaky floors, twelve-foot-high ceilings, priceless antique furnishings, the works.
On the back porch laying out my bedroll now. Long, hard 25-miler (last three to the Mansion), but I’m pleased with the day and very thankful.
Wednesday–August 2, 2017
Trail Day–007 Maps 20-26
It was dark and way too late last night to get any pictures of the old mansion. This morning, though, after Sarah sits me down for a energy packed full breakfast, compliments of the kind Vrooman Mansion folks, I’m permitted to roam the old p(a)lace. An incredibly spacious and luxurious home. Many pictures inside, also of the grounds, which include a carriage house, and the original dwelling–before the mansion was built (1869). There’s a marker where a stately old oak once stood. It was called the Lincoln Oak. Both Lincoln and Douglas spoke here. The old mansion has hosted the likes of Woodrow Wilson, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Eleanor and Julia (Carl Vrooman’s wife) were close friends. Adlai Stevenson was Julia’s uncle. Julia had ancestral connections to Thomas Jefferson. She authored the book The High Road to Honor (1924), a very popular book at the time. Amazing history surrounding this old mansion and the lives of Carl and Julia Vrooman; a fascinating story. Thanks Tricia and Sarah, for your kindness and generosity!
Another fine Route 66 Museum downtown Bloomington. It opens at nine, and I’m right there. I treat myself to a Route 66 orange soda, and take the tour. Folks that put these museums together, which feature the old highway here in Illinois, really know their stuff. Another very interesting one with lots to see!
Heading out of town I get confused. My DeLorme software (12 years old) is so outdated. So too, my maps. Lots of new roads built (say modern alignments) in the past 12 years. I finally get back on Historic Route 66, but not before having to run across both southbound lanes of I-55 and climb the fence!
I’m no sooner out of town, following the old highway than here comes the railroad from one side, and I-55 from the other. Going to be another day of unmerciful rumble and racket. And so it is, all the way down to Funk’s Grove. More offers to ride again today from kind locals.
At their little store, I’m greeted by Debbie, wife of Mike Funk. Mike is the 5th generation–same family to run Funk’s Grove since 1824. Debbie provides me bottles of ice cold water, and a ziplock of her homemade sugar maple candy. Chugging the water, I manage to cool down. And the candy boosts me on down to McLean. With I-55 slap against old Route 66, I can see the exit signs for McLean. The “Food” sign shows there’s a McDonald’s in McLean. Whoo-Hoo; I head on down and right in!
Ah, and across from this McDonald’s there’s a fine spot to stealth camp for tonight–I’m home!
A week behind me, plus half of Illinois. Legs are back under me; I’m strong and of good spirit. True blessings…
Thursday–August 3, 2017
Trail Day–008 Maps 26-28
Great stealth site for last night’s camp, right across from McDonald’s! I’m back over first thing this morning for my coffee fix, compliments of the kind McDonald’s folks.
Another day of dealing with the rumble and roar, as the old highway continues to be hemmed in on both sides, trains on one, semis the other.
Plenty of history on the old road today. In McLean, a marker for the old Dixie Truckers Home, the oldest truck-stop in Illinois (1928).
Out of McLean, there’s a sign I’m able to see on I-55 (just across the fence) “Tall Grass Restoration Area next 101 Miles.” Sets me to wondering, is field corn considered a member of the tall grass family? Corn, that’s it, every direction for miles around. No room left for grass anywhere I can see!
Next town on down, Atlanta. A big booster community for the old highway. The Palms Grill Cafe, the giant “Tall Paul” hotdog man (a cross between Paul Bunion and the Muffler Man), the Atlanta Museum (housed in a beautifully restored 1867 downtown building), and the grand clock tower and library.
Not quite time for downtown Atlanta to open, but the museum door is unlocked, so in I go–to meet Peggy, museum docent–then Bill, Chairman of the national “Route 66 the Road Ahead Partnership.”
A trip to the post office and by the time I get back, the Palms is open. A remarkable restoration, right out of the Route 66 era. Time for breakfast. Sheila serves me a fine tank-stoker–provided by the kind folks (at the cafe and museum) here in Atlanta. Thanks, kind friends! The morning klatch is gathering; Shirley, John, and Glen. Good conversation, much help with local places of interest.
Peggy then gives me the tour of the museum. First, a picture of her standing by a wall map of the U.S, loaded with marking pins, at least one for every state. And on the opposite wall, a map of the world. Lots more pins. A remarkable number from Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. Amazing, the international interest in our “Mother Road.”
A room upstairs is devoted to Lincoln. Here in Atlanta, Lincoln prepared for his debate with Douglas. Here, too, mementos of the sadness and sorrow surrounding his assassination. Two original Memorial/Mourning Ribbons (1865) are on display. Lincoln’s funeral train passed through Atlanta. The nearly 1,700-mile epic journey the funeral train made was the biggest single event to happen in the lives of American citizens at the time. Just south of Lincoln, comes riding up behind me three fellows from China (yes, China)–Haoli, Shuifa Ji, and Yufei Zhang. They’re here to do Route 66 on their bicycles–in 29 days. They present me with a gift of China Incense, a necklace of symbolic interwoven flowers representing good luck. They then remount, and quickly disappear out of sight.
Another intense storm comes through this afternoon. And again, I’ve nowhere to retreat, to escape it’s fury. Just get my poncho on when it hits. I’m soaked in no time.
In Lincoln now, on the original alignment, I stop at the Postville Courthouse (rebuilt) where Lincoln practiced law from 1840 to 1847. Last stop in Lincoln, the Old Mill–renovated and now a museum. Here I meet Barb. It’s 4:00 and she’s fixing to close, but takes time to turn all the lights back on and give me the tour.
Bad storms are forecast again for tonight. So, just south of Lincoln, at the Salt Creek bridge I call it a day. If the storms come, I’ll stay dry up under the bridge, on the abutment.
Oh my, late evening now. Storms haven’t arrived yet, but the mosquitoes have…
Friday–August 4, 2017
Trail Day–009 Maps 29-31
Camping under the Salt Creek Bridge brought back memories of Odysseys 1998 and 2000-01, my hike down through the Florida Keys to Key West, when I camped a number of nights under the many bridges–with the traffic slamming the pavement right above my head. You’d think there’d be no way to sleep with such vibration and racket, but it quickly fades from my conscience. Save for dealing with the mosquitoes and having to reinflate my sleeping pad numerous times (it leaks and I can’t get it fixed), I slept well.
A very chilly morning greets me. Must don my wind jacket to keep warm; not comfortable taking it off until I reached Elkhart, a little before ten.
In Elkhart, another little community that prides itself on being the “Main Street of America.” Not a great number of businesses here (the Under the Prairie Museum is closed, permanently). I’m headed for the Wild Hare Cafe (+Antiques and Gifts). Went all day yesterday on the breakfast provided by the kind folks in Atlanta, and the hot dogs given me by the bikers from China, so I’m really hungry this morning. They’re open right at ten. I meet the owners, Peter and Andrea. When I tell Peter I could go for some coffee–and breakfast, he suggests eggs, bacon, and (sourdough) toast. Oh yes, fine choice! Andrea gets everything up and running for the day (it’s a large business with an incredible inventory). If I really started looking at everything, trying to pick out a gift for a friend, I could be here all day! She then takes time to come and visit with me. There’s much interest in my hike. Soon, the whole crew comes over–picture time! Thanks, Laura, Brandi, Tina, Peter and Andrea!
I’d planned on taking a break in the new Williamsville Library, but it’s closed Fridays. No problem. There’s a Loves Truck Plaza, complete with a McDonald’s across I-55, right on my way. They’re open Fridays! Need to spend some time writing. Got behind yesterday because of the storm–had no signal under the bridge.
It’s evening by the time I reach Sherman, my destination for today. A stop at Walgreen’s for some “Vitanin I” (ibuprofen), then it’s on down the road, looking for a place for supper. There’s a Fairlane Diner (Drive-In) right across, famous for the “Horseshoe.” It’s Friday evening, cruisin’ night, and their whole parking lot is full of beautiful (Route 66 era) cars. Oh yes, over I go! On the lawn out front now, I hear someone call “Eb, Eb, is that you?” I look up to see a lady motioning to me. “You’re the fellow hiking Route 66, aren’t you?” she asks. Dang, Bosephus, we definitely gotta get us some bigger shades!
There’s a bunch of folks sitting an outside table. They’ve got Route 66 T-shirts on. I quickly find out they’re “Roadies,” Route 66 devotees and travelers. Penny, the lady who called out to me found out about my trek through friends on FaceBook, and has been keeping up through my daily journal entries.
She insists on buying supper for me. My refusing doesn’t work–once, twice, three times. In we go. When Penny tells the lady taking my order about my walk down Route 66–Ha, she wouldn’t let Penny pay. “Your order’s on us!”
Much wonderful conversation. And before I prepare to go, comes another of their friends, Cheryl, the “Route 66 Chick.” She’s an accomplished speaker (topic–Route 66) and author. Click the hot link to view her really neat page, to read about her love of the old road (and see her books). All dear new “Roadie” friends, Penny, Katrina, Rob, Gary, Stephanie, and Cheryl, thank you–incredible energy!
Near sunset now, I make tracks for Carpenter Park, where there’s an old segment of concrete pavement with curbs. I arrive just at sunset. The old roadbed is barricaded but I can go around–to find it’s been totally abandoned, overgrown with tree limbs and other clutter blocking the way. The old curb, both sides, they’re covered with years of fallen leaves and brush. I work my way down, approximately an eighth of a mile, to where it ends at the Sangamon River. The old bridge abutments remain, but the bridge is gone. I pitch for the night at the end of the pavement.
Another joy-filled, rewarding day trekking Historic Route 66…
Saturday–August 5, 2017
Trail Day–010 Maps 31-33
By the time I reached the Sagamon River last night and pitched camp it was too dark to get a good picture–and I wanted a shot of my tent set right by the old curbed roadbed. Ah, but this morning, just incredible light as the sunrise brightened the very spot where I’d pitched. A couple fine shots to show you now!
I’ve an intentionally short day today as I’ve planned to take time to see as much of Springfield as possible. And I’ll try to curtail my usual long-windedness. There’ll be lots to read, the photos I’ll be taking. If you’re not interested in a rehash of all this history, primarily as to do with Abraham Lincoln, just skip on through.
And why so much interest and concentration on the life and times of Lincoln? Well, a few years ago I received the most kind email from a family that was home-schooling their children. They told me they often used my site for lessons–on American history, geography, and even social studies–and they wanted to thank me. They told me they had a number of friends that were also home-schooling, and through those friends, many more. So, when the opportunity presents, as it certainly will today, there’ll be pictures with informative narrative. Bear with me!
Needing my morning coffee fix (and I’m hungry), along comes Jungle Jim’s Cafe. Parking lot is full; the place is jumping. Doesn’t take long to see why; fast service, great food.
My tank full, I move on toward Springfield. To get to the cemetery where Lincoln is buried, closest way for me is by the back gate. Down the third or fourth residential street, I get confused. A couple out early walking their dog stop to direct me–and to chat. Thanks, Rich and Debbie, for your help!
I arrive Oak Ridge Cemetery at what was once the main entrance (through which Lincoln’s casket was carried), now a walkway entrance. First is the tomb of his temporary internment, then on a hill, up many steps, his grave.
Lincoln’s Tomb is the most remarkable of any such monument work I’ve ever seen, just magnificent! I spend much time here, both in the tomb (yes, a door leads into the tomb) and out, reading and photographing. As I exit the tomb, here to greet me, Rich and Debbie, the folks who directed me earlier. They came to make sure I found the way. Oh my, and they offer to take me to lunch this afternoon, down to the Cozy Dog Drive-In. I’ll call them later, and we’ll go, oh yes!
I’ve a half-hour walk downtown to the Lincoln Library. The way I’ve chosen passes through an old, old section of Springfield, some dwellings dating to the times of Lincoln. Modest but lovingly-kept homes. A most pleasant walk.
The Lincoln Library? For me, a disappointment. I had expected a small building of older architectural design. I’d visualized the inside being a setting more in keeping with what we’ve all learned about Lincoln–during his younger years. But alas, the building looks more like a hospital–inside and out. Yes, a disappointment for sure.
From the library, it’s a short walk to the capitol. The Illinois capitol is a massive, most impressive structure. The dome is magnificent, the rotunda, just takes my breath away. For all the capitol buildings I’ve passed during my treks, this one ranks right up there for pure stature and beauty–right below Missouri, of course.
From the capitol it’s a short distance to the Governor’s Mansion. I arrive to find it barricaded all around, and boarded up. What I can see of it–really deteriorated.
Late afternoon, as I head south out of town I give Rich and Debbie a call. They come get me and off to Cozy Dog Drive-In we go. More pictures. The place is a Route 66 icon, been in the Waldmire family for decades. And the cozy dogs are good!
Late evening now, Rich and Debbie return me to where they’d picked me up. I get their picture, then it’s farewell time. I’m never prepared for this. How is it possible to know a couple for such an incredibly short time, and feel sad on parting? Don’t know, I just don’t know.
It’s late, late evening now. I’ve hiked on to the Interurban Trail. Had to negotiate a chain link fence to reach it. Easy for you, not so easy for me.
A mile down the trail toward Chatham I find a campsite by a canal and call it a day.
200 miles of Illinois in my rearview, 100 to St. Louis.
Sunday–August 6, 2017
Trail Day–011 Maps 33-35
Location–Virden, then on to Girard
A wonderful hushed night, only a couple freight trains to break the silence. Checked the time and went right back to sleep.
Forecast is for rain this entire day, but for now (6:00 AM) the sky is totally overcast, no rain yet. Could turn to be the best hiking day yet, cloudy and cool.
This Interurban Trail is really nice, a welcome break from the road, from all the noise and confusion. But it ends too soon. I’m right back on the road at Chatham, busy SR-4.
Another Historic Route 66 feature–just one today, but it’s mighty impressive, the 1931 section of brick road just south of Irwin’s Park that runs for better than a mile. It’s totally intact, as if just built. Photo time for sure!
Yesterday I received a private message in my guestbook from Em. He’s with News Channel 20 WICS, ABC Springfield/FOX Illinois. Somehow he’d found out I was coming into Springfield, and he wanted to interview me. I get back with him this morning, and in no time Andrew, photographer for WICS, tracks me down. A fun time answering questions, as the traffic continues flying by.
There’s NO steady rain all day, as was forecast, but there’s sure enough steady traffic all day. Seems, everybody is either heading for Springfield, or returning. Managing to keep out of harms way, by three I’ve hiked down what’s left of the 23 miles for today.
In Virden now, no McDonald’s, I decide to hit Hardee’s. I need to charge my phone and complete this journal entry. I’ve seldom frequented Hardee’s, but to my surprise, this place is really nice! Great menu, competitive prices. I go for a small fountain drink and tell the girl at the register that I’ll order something to eat later–and can I charge my phone?
Half hour goes by; here comes the hostess. Looks like I’m gonna get booted. But no, I meet Ashley. With a bright, wide smile she asks, “Would you like a free cheeseburger?” Well now, how far off was I on judging this one! “Sure, that’d be great.” I tell her. Few minutes, here she comes with a burger basket, containing a burger–and fries! “Need catsup or anything.” The bright, wide smile continues. A short time later, she returns with two hot apple tarts.
Well, I came in here tired, and downing the burger and fries, plus the tarts did it. My head dropped to the table, into my crossed arms, and I fell into total sleep. Don’t know how long it lasted, but it was more than a few minutes. Awake now, here comes Angel, the assistant manager. This is it for sure now, I’m thinking–doubt they like people sleeping in here. Goodness, Angel also greets me with a wide, bright smile! “Took a little nap!” she says. “Here, I have something for you.” She hands me two big coupon cards–for free meals. “I think all the Hardee’s from here to Missouri will accept them.” I don’t know what to say. Finally, I manage to blurt out, “Thank you, thank you!”
What kind folks here at Hardee’s. Come to find, Angel’s mother, Sandy, has left greetings in my guestbook. Sandy, you have a wonderful daughter; I know you’re very proud of her!
If you’ve followed my recent odysseys, you’ll know I didn’t hike those treks alone, that my dear friend, Bart Smith and I hiked together. Bart was the first person to hike all 11 National Scenic Trails. So, he then began walking down our National Historic Trails–and we ended up hiking together on the trails of westward expansion, those National Historic Trails. During these treks, Bart became a dear friend.
Well, Bart’s wife, Bridgie, has a sister, Becky, who, with her husband, Andy, live nearby. Bridgie has contacted her. And…Becky has contacted me–and has offered to come for me tomorrow in Carlinville, then to take me to their home where I can bathe, wash my clothes, get a good meal (or two), plus a good nights sleep in a real bed. Oh yes, I’ll be getting back with Becky tomorrow!
Another amazing day, eh folks; another amazing day on Historic Route 66–for this tired old intrepid…
Monday–August 7, 2017
Trail Day–012 Maps 35-37
By the cornfield next a hay bale, behind the local market–that worked fine for my camp last night, peaceful and quiet.
I’m out and moving by six-thirty, not as early as I’d liked, but I’m moving! Another overcast, cool day in the making.
A short hike to downtown Girard to see Deck’s Drug Store and Doc’s Soda Fountain (1884). They’re open Mondays, but not at six forty-five. I peer through the window, take a couple pictures, and move on.
Pure prairie country now, corn everywhere as I hike on down to Nilwood. There’s a piece of pavement somewhere south of Nilwood with turkey tracks in it–from when the concrete was freshly poured (back in 1926). I flag down a local and he gives me direction.
On the south side of town I stop at “The Fork on the Road.” It’s a little portable lunch wagon set up and run by Bonnie. She’s not open yet but is here and comes to greet me. No effort at all talking her into making me a sandwich. Right away she’s fixed me a tenderloin sandwich and a bowl of vegetables (freshly picked from her sister’s garden). When I tell her the funny one-liner by Yogi Berra, “When you come to a fork IN the road, take it,” I think I convince her to make a small change to the name of her establishment. Bonnie won’t accept payment for the sandwich–then sends me off with a ziplock of fruit. Thanks for your generosity and kindness, Bonnie!
A ways on down, I come to the older alignment (1926-1930). Turning here leads me to where I expected to find the tracks, but no luck. But luck would have it, a local comes by. I flag him down–to meet Gary. “Up by that farm house, the tracks are there.” he tells me. Sure glad Gary happened by; I was ready to give up and head back to the main highway.
Right away I see why these tracks are such a big deal. This old concrete road is 90 years old, and here these turkey tracks are, clear as can be, like it all happened yesterday!
A neat old farm house, everything in place, yard mowed, hedges trimmed. An old fellow sitting on the back porch. We exchange greetings; I meet Ron. “Folks found out about the turkey tracks, maybe ten years ago. Ever since, five, ten at a time on motorcycles, they stop, buses full, campers, bicyclists, everybody wants to see the turkey tracks. You’re the first one come walking through.” Rob tells me how to get back to the highway. “You’ll see other tracks on up there; folks don’t know about them.”
I’m no sooner back on the highway than this car pulls off across. Oh my, it’s Angel, the kind assistant manager from Hardee’s. She’s come out to find me, to tell me she saw me on the news, and to wish me well. Moments later another car stops. “Can we get a picture with you?” I meet Jessica and her daughter, Emily. They found out about my journey on FaceBook and have been following my daily journal entries.
Link to article/video here: http://newschannel20.com/news/local/78-year-old-man-treks-historic-route-66-by-foot-08-07-2017
Sky’s turning really dark. Now comes the rain, a few drops to start, then before I get my poncho out, the sky opens. I trudge into it. By the time I reach Carlinville it lets up, but I’m soaked. Then another vehicle stops. It’s Dick with Carlinville Tourism. He wants to buy me lunch at Hardee’s. To Hardee’s I go! Here, I wait for Andy, who’s coming from Nokomis to pick me up and take me to his place for the night. Andy soon arrives and we’re off to Nokomis.
First thing this morning, motorists started honking and waving. It went on all day. Come to find, my interview with the Springfield TV station not only aired on the news yesterday evening, but also this morning. Another action packed day!
Tuesday–August 8, 2017
Trail Day–013 Maps 37-39
Andy and Becky have a lovely home. It’s out on the magnificent Illinois prairie a ways from Nocomis, gentle rolling countryside, lush corn and soybean fields all around.
It was a fair distance for Andy to come for me yesterday (Becky stayed home planning and preparing a grand supper for us), so it was late evening by the time we got back to their home. I was greeted by Becky, and soon by their daughter, Ashley, and granddaughter, Gabby. They all gave me a big hug, though I smelled disgusting, like a week-old dead buffalo. Such a pleasure taking a shower, getting myself clean again. Can’t remember the last time I was as filthy. Don’t know how Andy manage to stand me on the drive back!
This morning, before Andy, Becky, and Gabby return me to Carlinville, I get the tour of their beautiful home, built by Andy and Becky, plus Andy’s shop (that he built, then added onto, and added onto again). Andy’s in the process of rodding an old pickup, a body-off-frame project. Much work, many modifications, lots of new parts, much customizing.
Back at Hardee’s in Carlinville, does inevitably come that sad time again–bidding farewell to these dear new friends. So long Andy, so long Becky, Ashley and Gabby. Oh, thanks, Gabby, for giving up your (pretty girl’s) room for me!
By the time I shoulder my pack and get to hiking, it’s close to noon. Going to be a head down and hammer kind of day, a near 22-miler to Staunton. I’ve got to keep moving if I’m going to reach Staunton before dark. Oh my, and this old SR-4, it’s not the least friendly, no shoulder to speak of, loose gravel, can’t walk in that. And the traffic is wicked and flying low; gonna be a long, long day. [Hey old man, you sure do whine a lot.]
A couple neat sections of the old 1926-1930 concrete pavement today, all beat down, busted, and abandoned. Sign says “Road Ends.” Ah, but yet, does the road not go on?
“The road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
And now far ahead the road has gone
And I must follow it if I can.”
More rolling prairie, lush with grain, green with soybeans, picturesque countryside. Mid afternoon I reach Gillespie. Big concrete flower tub on the sidewalk, “Route 66 Los Angeles 1783 Miles.” Getting there, folks, getting there. Day after tomorrow I’ll put Illinois in my rearview.
Gillespie was a coal town in its heydays, the early 1900s. Coal was THE fuel needed to keep the huge, cumbersome locomotives rolling down the track.
Benld, typical little prairie town, named for Ben L. Dorsey, it was a jumpin’ town in its day, home to The Coliseum Ballroom. Standing here at the Route 66 marker now, rusty iron silhouette figures dancing and whirling before me, comes a local fellow. He sees me looking at the picture of the old Coliseum. “Burned to the ground awhile back, sad deal; really sad deal,” grim frown on his face. “Chuck Berry played there. He hired locals to accompany him, didn’t have his own band. Got a faded old black-n-white photo of some of my family who played in that band for Chuck.” Comes a pickup. “Here’s my ride; gotta go,” and he was gone, just like that. Never had a chance to get his name. Chuck Berry created “Rock-n-Roll.”
Back in the USA
“New York, Los Angeles, oh, how I yearned for you
Detroit, Chicago, Chattanooga, Baton Rouge
Let alone just to be at my home back in ol’ St. Lou
Late evening, sunset in fact, I finally arrive Staunton. A cool but grueling day on the tarmac. 12-15 vehicles a minute doesn’t sound like a lot. But that’s one every four to five seconds. I have no idea where all these folks were going but they were in one heck of a hurry. Lady came over the white line right at me. Don’t know what she was doing, but when she looked up and saw me, oh yeah, look of horror and fear on her face. I hit the ditch. She missed.
At Hardee’s (yes, Hardee’s is my go-to place now) I walk the street behind and down looking for a spot to stealth camp. Finding just the place by a little stream, turning to return to Hardee’s, stops this fellow. “Saw you on the road three different times, where you going?” I meet Mark. Works for the Illinois Highway Department. I give him the short version–“I’m headed for L.A. on 66.” Tell him I’m looking for a place to camp tonight. “You can stay at my house.” he says. Bam–not the least hesitation! My goodness, folks, I know you probably don’t believe this, but what I’m telling you here is true. The kindness of total strangers extended this old man, this odyssey, really unbelievable.
If you’ve read the entries in my Guestbook, then you’ve seen this one by Fred:
“What impresses me most, however, more than the descriptions of geography and history, are the stories of the people and this trip is turning out to be one of the best. The kind-hearted souls you meet, strangers helping a traveler for no reason other than the goodness of their being, represent the ‘real’ America, the one so many people claim no longer exists.”
Wow, you’ve capture the true spirit of this journey, Fred!
The question so oft’ ask concerning my comings and goings, these long journeys–the question, WHY? It’s the one question I so long didn’t want to hear, because I had no good answer. Finally, I distilled it down:
It’s the people
(notice how this starts)
It’s the people, the places,
The pain and the trials,
It’s the joy and the blessings
That come with the miles.
It’s a calling gone out to a fortunate few,
To wander the fringes of God’s hazy blue.
Wednesday–August 9, 2017
Trail Day–014 Maps 39-42
Location–Bluff Junction (Edwardsville)
When Mark invited me to his home yesterday evening, he mentioned that he could use some company. It was good that I was able to be with him. Tough go of it recently for Mark. His daughter lost her infant child recently, then her mother passed away last Thursday.
I’ve got my first mail drop here in Staunton. The post office doesn’t open till nine, so I kill time at Hardee’s. Not back on the road until eleven.
Route 66 point of interest today is right down the road, Henry’s Ra66it Ranch. A real pleasure meeting Rich Henry. His place is a long-time fixture on old 66. Great conversation. Every job Rich ever held in his life, save one, has been on Route 66. Got his own place now.