Tuesday–August 22, 2017
Trail Day–027 Maps 69-72
Location–Redtop, then on to near Stanford
A little before six I wake to thunder, constant rumbling thunder, off to the west. A quick look at the radar shows a heavy line of storms coming in. If I linger here in camp, all my meager possessions, plus me, are soon going to become soaked. Breaking camp as quickly as possible, I shoulder my pack and return to the road. No sooner am I trekking the road shoulder than the rain begins, big quarter-size splats. Not good; I’m definitely in for a good drenching. With my left foot better now, drenching is not what’s needed!
Oh my, hard to believe, but less than 200 yards around the bend, an old barn right next the road. I rush there in a jog and manage to get in just as the wall of rain drives through. There’s an old chair over in one corner, turns out to be the dry corner. I remove my poncho, drop my pack, then sit and watch the show in all its swirling fury, as the rain comes in the open door and through gaping holes in the roof. An occasional spray of light mist finds my little corner, but I remain dry. Another look at the radar; the storm is directly upon me, yet it extends far to the west, clear into eastern Kansas. Wow, here comes another wave. Looks of it, I’ll be holed-up here in this old barn for awhile.
Ten o’clock now (been in this barn four hours), radar shows the storm east of me now. Still a light drizzle, but I move out in it.
Back on the road now, every step I take there’s a sharp pain in my left foot. Must just be stiffness. Another 100 yards and the pain hasn’t let up. I can’t put weight on my left foot. I finally stop and take my left shoe off. A small pebble falls out. I check my sock and my foot. They’re fine. Strange, there’s no stiffness or pain in my foot, whatsoever.
Shoe back on, pack shouldered, first step, bad pain. I hobble another 25 yards, stop, drop my pack and take my shoe off–again. This time I take my sock off. Nothing; my foot is fine, no pain at all. I run my hand in the shoe, nothing. Finally I pull the liner out and run my hand in the shoe again. Wow, something sharp sticking through! Finally, I turn the shoe over, there it is! In the old barn I picked up a short roofing nail and it had (by the time I finally found it) worked its way clear through the sole of my shoe. Nail gone, shoe and sock back on, pack up–I’m finally moving!
Local clutter has come in behind the storm creating total overcast. It remains cool, and I hike with my wind jacket on till noon!
Just before reaching the road to Niangua, I come upon another old motor court, “ABBYLEE MODERN COURT – AMONG THE TREES” reads the old sigh. Actually, the sign itself is really among the trees now. “Roadies” whizzing by here will miss this bit of 66 nostalgia. The cabins are being maintained, probably rented out long-term. The sign is really interesting. The lettering is quite faded, but it’s evident this was a brightly lit neon sign. The holes where the glass neon tubing came out can easily be seen. From the road I can count five cabins. There are probably more.
Also interesting, the old bridge across the Niangua River. The Niangua used to empty into the Osage River. That was before construction of Bagnell Dam. It now forms one of the major arms of Lake of the Ozarks. Dad and I used to fish the Niangua arm.
Added thirty-five cents to my retirement portfolio today, a quarter and a dime. Since leaving Chicago I’ve probably picked up three, maybe four dollars worth of change.
It’s two o’clock before I reach Marshfield. Would have been here before ten this morning if not for the storm. I’m hungry and thirsty. A fine deli in the Price Cutter Market. Kind lady loads up a plate full of food for the starved hiker. Their fountain is where I can get to it. Today I work on draining their lemonade spigot.
Late afternoon now it’s head down and hammer, if I want to get within striking distance of Springfield for tomorrow. It’s late evening when I finally reach the outskirts of Stanford. The old highway along here is wedged between the tracks and the interstate–no houses. I have to cross all four lanes of I-44 to get water for the night. I could see folks in their yard. Kind fellow let me take water from his faucet by the garage–then back across all four lanes of I-44.
Camp for the night is across the tracks in a nice wooded area. There’ll be train and interstate racket all night. I’m very tired, so the racket? No problem…
Monday–August 21, 2017
Trail Day–026 Maps 67-69
The Munger Moss Motel is old, very old, but over the years it’s had dedicated and loving care, the last nearly 50 of it by Bob and Ramona Lehman. My room? Old doors, old (era colors) tile, old pretty much everything. But just painstakingly maintained in perfect condition. A trip back in time here, for sure–but a delightful one; thanks, Bob, “Hoppy,” for your kindness and hospitality!
I’ve not had to bandage my left foot, and it’s been pain-free the last three days. Perhaps not 100% yet, but getting there. What an absolute blessing!
I have ended up with a small dime-sized spot of poison ivy on my left wrist. It’s dry, no itch. Sure dodged one there.
However, another situation, more an aggravation than a problem. Somewhere, last day or so, I got into a whole bunch of chiggers. Bites all over me, from my neck to my ankles, and other places in between. To get out of the heat the past few days I’ve been pulling off at shady spots, dropping my pack, and flopping down in the grass. Guess I’ll have to quit that–for sure.
I’m out from the motel in good order a little before six-thirty. No time, fellow comes alongside on his Harley, pulls over and stops. I meet Pete. Happy fellow for this early in the morning. “Where you headed?” he asks. I give him the prepared short version of Odyssey 2017. He’s headed to a good spot (near the full eclipse path), so off he goes. Just have never tired of hearing a well-tuned Harley go from idle, through the gears–up to cruise. Hey, couple minutes, Pete’s back. “You got your solar eclipse glasses?” He’s holding out a pair for me. I accept them, and off he goes again!
Lebanon is a great promoter of Route 66. From the moment I entered at the Munger Moss Motel, and all the way through town, evidence of “Main Street U.S.A.” all along. In the Lebanon-Laclede County Library there’s an entire room dedicated to Route 66, “The Museum of the Mother Road.” Would sure like to hang around this morning to see it, but gotta keep movin’ on down this old road.
West side of Lebanon, nice murals in “Our Town Your Town” Park, and right across, Faye’s Diner. Neat 66 place. Great breakfast. Got my tank topped off for today! Couldn’t resist taking some pictures inside the place, a cartoon and a license plate.
Out of Lebanon, I’m right away hiking the grand Missouri countryside. An old concrete bridge gets my attention. And it is old. A bronze marker affixed to it is dated 1922. How about this bridge? It’s 95 years old–and no load limit!
A short distance further, an old building off in a pasture gets my attention (not making very good time this morning). The field gate is open, no “keep out” sign, so over I go. A stone fixed above the door reads, “FRANKENBERGER – 1949 – 1953.” And above that, another stone with a bell etched in. What was this building back in 1949 – 1953? Perhaps a one-room schoolhouse, but it really doesn’t look like a school. It couldn’t have been a church, no belfry, no stained glass windows. It’s a fairly nice building. Maybe it was the Frankenberger home. Whatever, its better days coincided with the hay-days of the Mother Road.
A bit further I come to C&Js Classics. They’re into classic car restoration. They’re open and I can see a 1956 Chevy in the bay. Fellow let’s me take pictures of the rusty truck out front–and the ’55 Chevy they’re working on. They just got the rebuilt engine back in. “Don’t forget the blue-dot tail lights.” I tell them.
Next stop (lots of stops this morning), C & H Auto Sales. Bill runs the place. He isn’t busy, time to sit the porch and chat. “Cars are all ready to go; nothing to do now.” says Bill. I ask him about the Frankenberger building. “I think that was their home. I went to school with a couple of Frankenbergers. There were a whole bunch of them. Not a single one of them around anymore. Don’t know where they all went or what happened to them.” puzzled expression on Bill’s face. He talked about what he used to do, about getting old–and about losing his son, his sister, his wife, and both his parents. “Drive by my son’s grave every day. Never have got over it.” Forlorn look of sadness. I give Bill one of my cards. “Sign my guestbook if you get a chance.” With that I turn to go. Bill’s phone rings. So long, Bill, enjoyed talking with you.
In awhile, the day starts darkening over. The sky is perfectly clear. Must be the beginning of the solar eclipse. Reaching for the glasses Pete gave me, I take a look. Through the glasses the sun looks like the moon in its last quarter. The day continues to darken. Vehicles on the interstate now have their headlights on, and the night-lights at a farmhouse I’m now passing have come on. Never hiked through an eclipse before, but I’m happy for this one. It’s cooled down some!
Late afternoon now, I reach Conway, my destination for today. A very nice market right at the main intersection. In I go, to meet Travis, the manager, and Judy, the lady working the deli. They’ve a nice seating area and I’m permitted to sit and rest, and charge my phone. “Would you like a cup of ice water?” asks Judy. In awhile, Travis looks at my maps, then explains what’s ahead, and Judy prepares me a full supper.
Evening now, I have Judy top off my water bottles, shoulder my pack and head on south. Camp is in a tall canopy of oak. An interesting hiking day, what with the solar eclipse…
Sunday–August 20, 2017
Trail Day–025 Maps 65-67
Just across and above the Gasconade River Bridge, a fine little grove of cedar. There, a soft bed for my camp last night. The bridge was barricaded, but I managed to cross just fine. I imagine it’ll eventually be razed. Local folks would rather see it repaired and opened again. I guess most “Roadies” would, too.
I’ve a relatively short hike today, around 14 miles to Lebanon, to the iconic Route 66 Munger Moss Motel (1946). A clear morning, but already hot and humid.
First stop, the neat jiffy at exit SR-T. Lots of Route 66 related information, including a map of the states, plus one of the world. It’s quite amazing, the folks from all over that have stopped in at this little place. Ah, could it’s be their good biscuits and gravy!
The “hot” at the beginning of this day is soon taken care of–towering thunderheads off to the southwest are moving in, and in no time the beginning cool breeze turns to leaf-shredding wind. Then to follow, sheets of rain. I’m able to duck under a line of trees along the road, here to be protected from the storm. As the rain works its way down through the canopy, the worst of the storm has passed, so I climb back to the road and continue on–poncho on. The storm soon moves off to the northeast leaving a cloudy, much cooler (and delightful) hiking day.
At the next exit, Historic Route 66 turns to cross I-44. To get to the old highway on the other side (I-44 must cross the original roadbed here), the road makes a long, sweeping bend in the wrong direction. Checking my map, looks like it’s better part of half-a-mile. I’d planned on staying this side of the interstate on down to the Lebanon exit–so I do.
A mile or so on, I get to thinking “I’m probably going to miss something important staying over here.” I’m right next the interstate now, and can see the old road right across on the other side. Yup! After waiting a good while for a break in the rushing line of traffic, I scurry across all four lanes of I-44 (no fences along here).
And I’m so glad I crossed, because in no time I come to an old, old roadside cafe sign advertising “FRIED CHICKEN – HOME MADE PIE.” The name of the cafe, which would have been at the top of the pole, is gone. So too, any visible remains of the former cafe.
And further along toward Lebanon now, I come upon what appears to be (the remains of) a Route 66 motor court. There’s a two-story residence (hidden by a tree), along with three cottages behind, all built from tan-colored flagstone. A fellow is out front in the parking area. We exchange greetings–and I meet James. Tells me he lives in the house. “You’re living in the old motor court house!” I reply. “What’s a motor court?” asks James. I tell him it’s like a motel; they were called motor courts back in the day. “Landlord told me this was one of the first motels around Lebanon, used to be a bunch more cabins; tornado got ’em or something.” says James. I give him my card–and the short-story version of my trek. James is impressed, wants a picture. We exchange selfies.
A bit before two I’m in Lebanon, the Munger Moss Motel. Dirty, stinking-sweaty, bedraggled, I enter the lobby. Lady behind the counter is talking to a couple that had just pulled up in their big shiny rolling palace. Turning from their conversation, the lady gestures to me–“What do you want.” WOW! How’s that for a welcome? I explain that I’d talked to her yesterday evening about a room for tonight. “I don’t remember talking to you.” her terse reply as she continues her conversation with the couple. In a few more minutes, the man turns to me, and I get to meet Mac and Laurie. They’re on Route 66, not going clear to California, but touring sections along.
The lady (Ramona, the owner)–after listening to my conversation with Mac–“So you’re Sunny; I remember talking to you now, just didn’t expect an old man to come walking in.” sympathetic, friendly look on her face!
Meantime, Bob, Ramona’s husband, comes in. I get a picture of the two. “We been married 60 years; he calls me Hoppy!” Exclaims Ramona, beaming smile now. Asking about the old cafe and motor court I’d passed coming in, Ramona brings out a book with some old black and white pictures. The motor court, “4 Acre Cabins.” And the long-gone Cafe, the really neat “Satellite Cafe.”
Before leaving, Mac hands me money. “Take this; we want to help the cause!” By their motorhome now, and before they move on, I take a picture of this kind, friendly couple. Thanks, Mac, for breaking the ice with Hoppy for me!
Turns out, I’m Bob and Ramona’s guest for this night. Thanks, dear new friends!
And so, folks, the ending to another remarkable day trekking this grand old “Mother Road.”
Saturday–August 19, 2017
Trail Day–024 Maps 63-65
I’ve quit worrying about a poison ivy reaction–way past 48 hours now, the time frame within which the rash usually starts to appear. Clothes are clean (pretty much) and fresh, at least best as can be by soaking, scrubbing, and rinsing them in the bathtub.
I’m out to a perfectly clear morning, trekking through the west end of St. Roberts and into Waynesville. Looking for a place for breakfast, right away up comes the perfect mom-n-pop. Lots of pickups out front, the klatch at the large community table inside. Another fine tank-stokin’ breakfast to boost me down the road. Klatch breaking up, a fellow stops to chat. Richard gives me much good local information. I’d been concerned about food and water this evening. I now know there’s a truck stop with a fine cafe in Hazelgreen, my destination for today.
Waitress is cleaning off the table. Richard asks her for my check. “Another fellow already beat you to it.” she tells Richard. “Bet it was Bill.” says Richard. “He’s our retired state representative–bet it was him.” Amazing, isn’t it folks, how this kindness continues to be lavished on this old hiker! This historic highway must have something to do with it. I’ve had much good come my way during previous treks, but never to this extent. It’s simply remarkable!
Late afternoon now, the old highway a fair distance from the interstate, little local traffic, I have the opportunity to really enjoy the Ozark countryside, some winding road, some open views across the valley to adjacent green hills.
But the peace and quiet soon ends as I’m nearing the interstate again. The deep rumble-drum of truck traffic jolts me out my spell–brought by the backroads tranquility.
A vehicle slows behind me, then stops right in the road across, beautiful red Corvette. “Are you Nimblewill Nomad?” asks the driver, big smile. I meet Dick and Judy from Arizona. They heard about me through Route 66 News. Traffic coming up behind them. I’m now less than a mile from Hazelgreen, the truck stop that Richard told me about this morning. They drive on, and we soon meet again there.
Just a wonderful, energy-filled time with these two “Roadies.” Dick began his love affair with Route 66 way back in the late 50s. Since, he and his wife, Judy, have logged well over 20,000 miles on the Mother Road!
Along the old road today I passed the Roubidoux Springs Cherokee Trail of Tears Campsite, and a Route 66 icon, the Gascozark Cafe (1932).
At the Westwood Cafe, Hazelgreen, I enjoy some of their great “Down Home Cookin'” (compliments of Dick and Judy).
Kayla and Wendy, waitresses at the Westwood Cafe, let me linger the rest of the afternoon, while they drain their fountain in an attempt to keep an iced down mist in front of me.
Here at the Hazlegreen interchange, Route 66 takes to I-44. But Wendy assures me (even though the old highway bridge over the Gasconade River is closed) I’ll be able to get over the barricade and hike across.
I’ve waited here at the restaurant until after six, waiting for the heat of the day to back off some, with little luck. I want to get on down to the Gasconade before dark, so I head back out.
A very enjoyable three-mile hike down this deadend road. Ruins of an old 50s era garage, a sign for the Munger Moss Motel (an old 66 icon), a beautiful old church, and a line painted across the road showing the April flood high water mark.
At sunset I’m at the old box frame bridge. It’s much like the one over Big Piney River. Looking at it now, easy to see why it’s closed. Hope it’ll hold me up!
Across the Gasconade River I find a fine camp spot under a grove of cedar.
A very fine day, plenty hot, but fine. Some really nice people have crossed my path this day. This journey, this trek, will likely be labeled “Charmed!”
Friday–August 18, 2017
Trail Day–023 Maps 62-63
Location–Gospel Ridge, then on to near Waynesville
Really cooled off by the old church last night. Heavy dew, plus fog this morning.
Another dumb move first thing. If I had just glanced at Google Earth last evening I would have seen that the gravel road to the church stayed down, to run along a little branch, while the old highway started climbing toward Hooker Cut. Lucky for me, as I continue the gravel, I can hear the occasional vehicle hammering the old pitted pavement. Dawns on me now, that noise is coming from above, not across. Not good. I figured the gravel road would soon lead back to the pavement, obviously, it doesn’t. Same time I figure what’s going on, I come to a driveway that crosses the branch by a ford. I cross to find an old trailer. From here, I can see the road cut above. I work my way past and behind the trailer to find a steep, brush-choked incline. Five minutes, I’ve manage to beat and claw my way halfway up. The bank becomes much steeper now. In order to continue climbing, I must kick in each toehold, then to inch my way up. Finally, I’m back on old Route 66. Saying goes, things like this goof “come in threes.” This dumb move adds up to the third, past two days–hey, my hopes are up!
Back on the divided four-lane now, not long l come to Hooker Cut. It was noted in the guides, and I’d marked it on my maps. Hooker Cut was a engineering marvel of rock blasting and excavation at the time. This concrete slab I’m standing on has to be one of the most impressive of all the old sections of Route 66. It was in this cut that the last section was paved. This was also the last section to be bypassed in the early 1980s. Other firsts: This was the first four-lane section, also, the first pavement that had sloped curbs to channel off rainwater. This roadwork was completed in 1938–the year I was born! All this sets me to pondering–“Hey old highway, you’re a bit pockmarked and scarred, definitely worn down; same goes for me. Ah, but we’re both still here!”
Just ahead and down, an older alignment makes a long horseshoe loop to cross Big Piney River at a spot called Devil’s Elbow. Gotta see this–left turn. At the river there’s an old bar and grill, Elbow Inn. The May flood of this year damaged much of the old historic district, including the inn and post office. Both are undergoing renovation. Right next is the old box frame two-span through truss bridge built in 1923. It survived the flood and is open.
Hiking over the bridge, past the post office, I’m soon back on the old four-lane. It leads me to Gospel Ridge and the Country Cafe. Sure, in I go for breakfast. A grand high-octane meal. Bobbi, my waitress, lets me linger, charge my phone, and get caught up on yesterday’s journal entry.
Many vehicles pass me today. All courteous, save for one. He comes to and stays the white line, forcing me into the ditch, blasting his horn the whole time. Willis makes up for it in short order, though. Across the way, in the westbound lane he slows, rolls down his window and hollers, “You walking Route 66?” I nod my head yes. “That WAS you I saw two weeks ago in Illinois!” Apparently he just passed me headIng east, turned around and came back–because he’s now turned around again. I get him stopped in order to hand him one of my Odyssey 2017 cards. Gotta be six people with him, big smiles, all–and much encouragement. Willis reaches across to take the card, then shake my hand–as the encouragement and well-wishes continue.
Folks, the wind passes, the sun’s rays touch us. Wonderful energy, sure! But the energy just passed to me here, totally different. And I’ve found–it can only be received with a joyful spirit and an open heart.
I’m in the Ozarks now. These are not majestic mountains, but they’re grand none-the-less. I spent my childhood nearby, in these hills, such a special place. And the people here? Some of the most-kind and friendly you could ever hope to meet anywhere.
I’ve been nursing a very tender spot on the ball of my left foot for the past two weeks. It gets better, then the soreness is back again. The long mile days, the constant hammering the pavement hasn’t helped. Denial comes easy when strength and great health have so long prevailed. Decision now though, is to cut this day short. Last number of days, I’ve managed to climb up on the itinerary miles for today. I’m in Gospel Ridge before one, my destination for today. Passing on through Gospel Ridge, and in short time I come to my kind of motel, family run All Star Inn. Jay immediately cuts me a hiker trash deal–I’m in!
The sore foot has definitely ushered a cloud over me despite my best attempt to fight it. Good enough reason to end this day early. Also, while struggling up and over the railroad tracks yesterday, I became entangled head-high in poison ivy. On gaining the road, I immediately stopped and washed my face, hands and legs best I could. No reaction now, so I should be okay. My clothing, though, is no doubt also coated with the ivy oil. First thing in my room, time to bathe and wash my clothes.
Now, for the rest of this day–rest…
Beyond the last horizon’s rim
Beyond adventure’s farthest quest,
Somewhere they rise, serene and dim,
The happy, happy Hills of Rest.
[Albert Bigelow Payne]
Thursday–August 17, 2017
Trail Day–022 Maps 59-62
Location–Doolittle, then on to Hooker Church/Cemetery
Very restful night at the Budget Inn. Second night in a row to be in a motel room. Getting soft!
I’ve an interview first thing this morning. Andrew, staff writer with Phelps County Focus is right at my door at 7:30. His girlfriend, Athena, has come along. They take me to the new Waffle House just down the street where I’m treated to breakfast. A very enjoyable time. Both Athena and Andrew are award winners, Athena as an editorial page cartoon artist, and Andrew as winner of the William E. James/Outstanding Young Journalist Award.
They have me back to my room before nine. I had everything ready, so I need only shoulder my pack and go.
Really busy time for Rolla right now. Rolla is a college town and classes started again today. I remember Rolla for the School of Mines. It’s a much bigger campus now, and the name’s been changed to Missouri University of Science and Technology.
Down US-63 (and Historic Route 66) a short distance I come to one of the old highway’s biggest icons–actually two. First one, the Totem Pole Trading Post. The other, Tim Jones, owner of the place–for the past 37 years. The business was started 84 years ago by Tim’s father, Ralph. That was 1933. And Totem Pole is now the oldest and longest surviving business on Missouri’s Mother Road. Tim took over from his father in 1974. So, the business was not only started, but has remained in the Jones family all these years.
A rare lull, I get to spend a bit of mighty fine time with Tim. Far away glint in his eye, he tells me about marrying his high school sweetheart, Alice. They’ve lived happily together for the past 52 years. Tim and Alice have (had) five children. They lost Matthew in his youth.
Like me, Tim’s had a love affair with the classic Fords and Chevys. He started with an old Chevy, me with a Ford. He switched to Ford, me to Chevy–go figure! He still has his ’39 Ford coupe. Dropped a big-block blown engine in it years ago. Folks want to buy it, but “I’ll keep it awhile longer.” says Tim.
Tim’s also been fascinated by the amazing interest folks from far corners of the world have for Historic Route 66. He shows me two of his guest registers totally filled with (only) foreign visitors to Totem Pole. He’ll soon have to start another.
A real pleasure meeting you, Tim; thanks for the great trip back to the past, thank you!
I’ve a routing problem to solve today–how to put Little Piney Creek behind me. Folks have stopped to greet me this morning, ask if I need a ride. A pleasure meeting you, Mark! Same, too, Brian and Miranda. Hey, school started today. Brian and Miranda finally have a bit of time to themselves!
I decide to stick by the old alignment that runs beside the interstate. On this way now I follow it down to Arlington, where it dead-ends at Little Piney Creek. The old highway bridge here was washed out years ago and never replaced. I’d planned on fording the creek, but quickly have second thoughts. Been a fair amount of rain recently and the creek is running dark brown–and fast.
Only other choice, claw my way up the bank to I-44 and cross Little Piney on the interstate bridge. BAD idea. Walking westbound in the eastbound emergency lane is working fine for the short distance to the bridge–where it abruptly narrows to only three feet in width. I’m committed to this foolhardy ordeal now, so across I go. Doing fine until two fully-loaded semis come at me at 80, side-by-side. These guys are all pros, and they never fail to give me all the road they can. But here, there’s just nowhere for either of them to go. Jake-break, too late, they’re on me. Somehow they keep their cool as they fly by–only three feet away, three feet between them. The bridge moves up and down, not a joyful time. Reminds me of crossing Seven-mile Bridge during Odyssey 1998. The top of the bridge center span rises 125 feet above the Straits of Florida. When a fully loaded Oakley tanker passed me just as I reached the top, the bridge literally lifted and dropped under my feet. Remember that one, oh yes–will remember this one, also! Dumb, just plain DUMB!
Off the interstate, I’ve railroad tracks to cross. Sounds easy, NOT! Deep, brush filled ditch both sides, ten feet of loose rocks below the tracks, both sides. I’m finally back on the old road, west side of Little Piney–and still in one piece–thank you, Lord. Promise I’ll never do anything like this again!
Rest of this day is uneventful. Sundown and quickly turning dark, I reach the old Hooker Church/Cemetery where I pitch in a fence corner just outside the cemetery. An adventure, action-filled day. Heart managed to stay in my chest.
Over half-way across Missouri now, hiking strong…
Wednesday–August 16, 2017
Trail Day–021 Maps 57-59
Location–Saint James, then on to Northwye (Rolla)
The Super 8 by the interstate is a very nice facility, the staff, courteous and kind. Thanks Joe (with the city of Cuba), and Tracy, Joy and Tammy (at the Cuba Free Press/Saint James Press) for your generosity and kindness!
Slept in this morning (quiet room, comfortable bed). First thing I want to do before heading out of Cuba is to go back downtown and take pictures of a couple of the building murals. The one at the newspaper office is of Bette Davis. She was spotted here in Cuba in 1948. The other is of Amelia Earhart. She was forced to land here in Cuba in 1928 during her transcontinental flight, the first by a woman.
The picture of the Four Way Station is of the actual building. It was built by Paul T. Carr in 1932 and renovated in 2015. It was built by Paul T. Carr as a modern full-service filling station for gasoline and repairs. It now operates as a cafe (with rave reviews).
On down the old highway is the Fanning Outpost and General Store, noted for the largest rocking chair in the world. The store is up and running, fresh and new. I receive a very friendly and warm greeting from Michelle. “You want your picture by the rocker?” asks Michelle. Out we go for the picture. Thanks, Michelle, for your kindness to me. Thanks, especially, for your guestbook entry; great energy for this old intrepid!
In Saint James, comes a young fellow up the sidewalk, pad and camera in hand. Greeting me, he asks, “You wouldn’t happen to be Nimblewill would you?” Ha, gotta remember to get them bigger shades, Bosephus! It’s Andrew Sheeley with the new weekly paper, Phelps County Focus. He’s interested in an interview. We make plans to get together tomorrow. I always look forward to and enjoy talking about “The Mother Road.”
I take lunch at Burger King, just this side of the interstate. A dark cloud bank is approaching from the west. I pay it little heed and head back out anyway. WRONG! In a short time the quarter-size drops start splatting. Here it comes! Luckily, I’m able to duck into an auto shop just as the downpour begins. Kind owner, Danny, lets me drop my pack and stay awhile.
I strike up a conversation with him. Come to find this is no ordinary auto repair shop. Rather, Danny’s business is restoration and exotic specialty painting, primarily on motorcycles. In his shop now is a beautiful 1957 Ford Ranchero belonging to the owner of Missouri Hick Bar-BQ. It’s in for a digital dash and radio upgrade. One of the finest examples of the old Rancheros I’ve ever seen.
The storm has totally set in; it’s pouring down rain. Danny takes a break from working on his Harley to show me pictures of his brother’s 1st place show winning bike, build and wild paintwork by Danny. “He’s won first place in both shows entered so far.” says Danny, proudly. More bike tanks and fenders sitting a table next his desk. Beautiful (but wild) looking paint work.
The rain has backed off from pour to steady. Danny’s fixing to close soon, and if I’m going to make the eight miles on down to north Rolla before dark, I’ve gotta get moving. Thanks, Danny, for letting me hang around!
Pack up, poncho on, I’m out in it. No time, the rain intensifies. I’m soon soaked. Rain lets up long enough to get a shot of the old Mule Trading Post. Cars coming at me with headlights on as I enter Northwye (Rolla). Kind lady at Budget Inn takes pity on the sodden old hiker. I’m in–and so thankful to be out of it.
Tuesday–August 15, 2017
Trail Day–020 Maps 55-57
Location–Southwest of Bourbon, then on to Cuba
Not 200 yards from McDonald’s last night, a brushy fence line beside a cemetery, perfect stealth camp. I hit McDonald’s right at six for breakfast this morning. Scrambled eggs, sausage and hash browns, coffee of course. I’m fueled for this day.
Out of Sullivan, I-44 comes right back to join the old highway the six miles on down to Bourbon. I’d made a note on my map for the Circle Inn Malt Shop in Bourbon. It originally opened in 1955 and is now into the third generation ownership, same family. The place is open, so in I go–for a step or two back in time, for sure. Route 66 paintings adorn the walls, in frames, and actual murals on the walls.
I order a fountain drink, look around, take a few pictures, then drop my pack at one of the tables. Striking up a conversation with the lady next table over, I introduce myself. Her name is Erma. “Don’t miss the big mural in that room,” says Erma, pointing to the doorway past the end of the counter. “And there’s more in the bathroom.” I go check them out. Back sipping on my sprite, Erma says, “My husband painted all of them.” followed by, “The [expletive, six letter word, starts with “a”] died ten years ago. Been the best ten years of my life.” Then she tells me, “I was never allowed to talk to another man the whole time we were married–while that [same expletive] went out carousing every night.” I sat and listened in disbelief. Can’t make this stuff up folks! The paintings are nice.
After the early start this morning, plus having hiked part of today’s distance yesterday, being noon, decision is to trek it on down to Cuba. I’d like to get a room for the night there at the beautifully restored old Wagon Wheel Motel, then go for a good meal right next door at the Missouri Hick BBQ.
Also, Tracy, at the Cuba Free Press, contacted me awhile back expressing interest in interviewing me for their paper. So, on to Cuba I go. Making good time, I arrive midafternoon.
Ah, but sometimes the best plans just don’t work out. When I tell the motel owner that I’m walking Route 66, am on a limited budget (what with my hike taking till late November), she expresses not the least interest. That’s when I find out their nightly rates are half again more than I’m able to pay.
Things start looking up, though, when I let Tracy know I’d have to be moving on down the road. She wasn’t at all surprised to hear about my experience at the motel. In fact, she’d already checked with Super 8 out by the interstate and had made tentative arrangements to put me up for the night.
Sure glad I accepted her kindness and decided to hang around. Supper at Missouri Hick BBQ actually works out. I hike it back and meet Tracy and her husband, Joe, there. And, my goodness, Missouri Hick BBQ provides my supper!
Cuba is known for its beautiful murals depicting the town’s history–painted on the walls of a number of downtown buildings. So, after supper, Joe and Tracy load me up and give me the grand tour. I’m even introduced to a personal friend, Shelly, who’s up on scaffolding painting one of the murals!
Late evening now, Joe and Tracy deliver me out to the Super 8. Thanks dear new friends for your generosity and kindness!
The situation at the Wagon Wheel didn’t upset me. Just that it’s such a well-known Route 66 icon, and for the owner to express not the least interest in my journey–walking the old highway–well, it just surprised me.
Monday–August 14, 2017
Trail Day–018 Maps 53-55
Location–Twin Springs Hollow (Stanton), then on to Sullivan
Rain came in around three and lasted a couple of hours. I always have my tent fly rigged, so I needed only pull it dow
n over the front of my tent. Getting used to the constant, infernal interstate racket. Blocked it out and let the rain lull me back to sleep.
Neat campsite for last night, behind a (one of hundreds) Meramec Caverns billboard. A bit late getting out this morning. Wet tent is going to weigh me down a bit; and doesn’t appear I’ll be able to dry it out. No rain this morning, but total-solid overcast. Fine with me if it lasts all day. Temps can remain mild again, just great good fortune.
In a short while I come to an interesting looking place along the road–some wigwams, two of them wood framed and covered with roof shingles, and a third, made from traditional poles and canvas. I’m standing in the road taking pictures of the place when a woman emerges from the upper wigwam. I greet her with a wave. But instead of returning my greeting, she shouts at me, “Go on,” pointing down the road. Still pointing, she shout even louder, “GO ON!” Yes ma’am, oh yes ma’am! I quickly put my phone (camera) back in my pack, and hasten on down the road. What was that?
I-44 swaps sides with the old highway a couple times today. I’m now trekking the south frontage road. It takes me into Saint Clair–and the neat old Lewis Cafe. I arrive just in time for breakfast. The place is hopping, but I get waited on right away. A mighty establishment, courteous staff, good service, great food. They’ve sure got it figured out–after working it since 1938!
My destination for today is Twin Springs Hollow (Stanton). I’m in by noon. There’s a jiffy at the I-44 overpass. For services, that’s it. I go for one of their pipe-roller hotdogs and a sprite. Had to restack two beer cases for a place to sit. I’d been low on energy today for some reason, but it’s coming back. Plan now is to trek it on down to Sullivan. There’s a McDonald’s there.
Hitting the service road south, first thing is the Jesse James Museum. A small, nondescript building. I think they’re open, not sure. Not at all inviting. The toy museum right next is closed, permanently. And a short distance further, a shuttered motel. Appears, Meramec Caverns has sucked all the oxygen out of this interchange. Three miles south, the Caverns, there’s a motel, restaurant, boat trips, cave tours, everything! Who wants to stop here at this interchange when everything’s down at the Caverns?
I’d hiked four miles or so beyond my destination yesterday. That set me up for hiking it on down to Sullivan today. Got in here at six, around a 22-miler. Found a place to stealth camp behind McDonald’s–soon as it turns dark.
A dicey, dangerous day today. While I-44 cuts straight through, the old highway follows the rolling hills, up, down, around. No shoulder, constant blind curves and top-outs. Thankfully, traffic was light, motorist courteous.
Being here in Sullivan now sets me up for a fairly short day on down to Cuba tomorrow. I’ll be talking shortly with the owner of the famous (and beautifully restored) old Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba. I’ll likely be staying there tomorrow night. Hope so, I sorely need a bath!
Sunday–August 13, 2017
Trail Day–018 Maps 51-52
I’m awake early–and decide to go ahead and break camp and get moving. Jacket on to start with. Just fantastic weather so far. Hasn’t gotten above the low eighties this past week, and these conditions are forecast to continue.
I-55 has come back over to run along with Historic Route 66 again. Most exits, which are right next the old highway, have some sort of services. First one I come to this morning, a Phillips 66 complete with deli. Breakfast time–a sausage, egg and cheese biscuit, plus coffee. There’s a table and chairs, and a nearby outlet to recharge my phone. I linger better part of an hour.
Big sign for the Gardenway Motel. It’s right across the street from the jiffy, brush and tree limbs growing through it. The sign points down the road. I’m soon standing before what’s left of the place. Been closed awhile!
Next exit, I’m in luck again, a Burger King. It’s noon, so I head in for lunch. Wow, this Burger King is big-time into Route 66! They’ve gone all out; the walls are covered, totally decorated in nostalgic Route 66 era photos and other era related history. And why not? Burger King was founded in 1953, perfect timing to become part of the old highway history! Enlarge the black and white photo of the Burger King pictured here. The car you see is a 1953 Ford. No, it’s not my ’53, but it’s just like it! The photo I took of “The Nifty Fifties Fords”–the Ford just below center, also a ’53! Very, very few of them left anymore. Wish now that I’d kept mine.
If you’re my age, or near my age, you’ll remember the famous male actor in the early ’50s–James Dean. East of Eden, Rebel Without A Cause, Giant. That James Dean! A couple photos on the wall relate to him. I remember seeing pictures of the mangled ’55 Porsche he was driving when he rolled it and killed himself, but I’d never seen a copy of the speeding ticket he was given just before the wreck. You may not be the least interested in any of this–totally fascinating stuff to me, though! It’s all part of my nostalgic trek down this old road–my journey back in time.
On the highway now and a bit further down, the old Sunset Motel. Looks of it, the final sunset set on this place a long time ago.
Late afternoon I arrive at my destination for today, Twin Bridges. No twin bridges that I can see here. Just the US-50 exit, and a Harley Davidson dealership. A great location for Harley–an amazingly popular way to tour Route 66. Remember the group from Italy that I met at the Ra66it Ranch? They were all riding Harleys!
A few more miles and I pitch for the night, behind a Meramec Caverns billboard. Semis hitting the rumble strips should put me to sleep in no time…
Saturday–August 12, 2017
Trail Day–017 Maps 47-51
The owner of the Chippewa Motel put me in Room #1 last night, right out by the busy street. But even with the constant street racket, I slept okay. I was really tired.
Sure glad to get out and going this morning, away from the place–by far the filthiest room I’ve ever stayed in, and I’ve been in some real rat-traps.
Another grand day in the making, gentle breeze, temps in the low 80s. I had been very worried about extreme heat and high humidity coming out of Chicago, but I’ve had little difficulty. I’m passed Illinois now and working on Missouri–and every day that passes is a day closer to fall.
I’ve deviated a bit from Historic Route 66 today in order to pass by the Museum of Transport near Kirkwood. It’s filled with old steam locomotives of every size and description and I want to see them. As you’ll see, I’ve been captivated by these old “Iron Horses” since childhood. Take a moment and click on Mopac Railtrail 2005. It’ll take you to a neat internal page here. You’ll see a depiction of the old iron horse coming into the Russellville Station, a young lad on a bicycle (me), and a shadowy image of the old hiker (also me) with his hand on the lads shoulder. You can read all about my childhood (and adulthood) infatuation with trains on this page–and hear the old locomotive belching into the station.
Haven’t told you about how my financial well being has received such a grand boost (all the coins I’ve picked up) since shortly after coming out of Chicago. But gotta tell you about my find today: if you’ll enlarge the picture here, you’ll see a bunch of pennies laying in the cracks in the street. An absolute windfall–twenty pennies in all!
This has turned out to be a “stroll with the flowers” day. What a grand variety, such a radiant array of the brightest colors! Had to stop often–and just look.
Late evening and nearing the completion of this 20+ mile day I come up on an old Route 66 highway establishment, the Big Chief Roadhouse, established in 1929. Wasn’t aware of this icon, hadn’t read about it. And WOW, the place is jumpin’ tonight. I settle for an iced down Sprite from the bartenders mix gun.
The sun is setting as I take to the road again. A short distance, I find the perfect campsite in a public preserve.
Hammered the sidewalks again today, save for the last four miles. I think I’ve got the suburbs of the “Lou” finally behind me…
Friday–August 11, 2017
Trail Day–16 Maps 45-48
In my entry yesterday I’d mentioned finding a stealth spot across from McDonald’s near the on ramp to I-70. Well, the off ramp is right there too. Didn’t know, but quickly found out that traffic exits to immediately hit the light at Broadway. The semis all have to jake-brake–and that machine gun racket continued all night. I woke up maybe three times, caused more by the rain coming in. Wouldn’t have believed it, but the semi racket really didn’t bother me!
Hit the St. Louis sidewalks late yesterday evening, and I’m right back on them again, heading on down Broadway this morning. I leave McDonald’s (after my burrito fix) in a steady drizzle. It’s a dismal, dreary morning. Fitting though for where I’m headed–the old industrial/commercial section of St. Louis. Rusting, fallen-down warehouses, mostly boarded up empty and abandoned industrial buildings. Barricades and chain link topped with barbed wire all along. This was a dynamic and thriving area of St. Louis during the good times of Route 66. But like that old road, those times have passed. As I trek on toward downtown, I take a few shots of the depressing gloom that presents along both sides of Broadway.
If you’ve looked at my maps, which show my route through St. Louis, you’ll notice I’ve deviated from it. I’ve decided to hike right into the jaws of the monster as I continue on Broadway right into downtown St. Louis. By this time, the drear has passed; the sky has brightened. I can see Gateway Arch now.
Through the high walls of downtown St Louis (not as high as the buildings of Chicago) I set my sights on the first point of Historic Route 66 interest, the Eat Rite Diner. I hit it just as the late breakfast crowd is leaving. I’ve the most enjoyable time talking to Frank, chief cook. I learn much history, about both the old diner, and its old owner, L.B.
L.B. and his wife, Dorcas, bought the old place in 1970. And indeed, it was old. Built sometime in the 1930, Eat Rite had already been an all-night diner for nearly 40 years. Both L.B. and Dorcas are in their 80s now, but still going. And though just a crackerbox, Eat Rite is still going too.
Two more Route 66 era establishments to take in today. The Donut Drive-In, and Ted Drewes. Both businesses continue to thrive. I get a plain donut to go at the Donut Drive-In, then at Drewes, their favorite frozen custard. Luck would have it, at Ted’s I get to meet Travis, a family member. Ted Drewes was established in 1941 and has remained in the family ever since.
Travis tells me about a couple-three motels on out along the old highway. I’m tired, need a bath. Chippewa Motel cuts me a hiker trash deal (the twenty-five buck rooms are gone forever), and I settle in. The place is one of the worst dives I’ve ever stayed in, but hey, they’ve got a tub, and hot water to soak my tired old bones…
Thursday–August 10, 2017
Trail Day–015 Maps 42-44
Location–Baden (St. Louis)
Spent the night last under a big oak tree at the American Legion Post 199 Golf Course. A quiet night.
I’ve a shorter than normal day today, across the Mississippi and into St. Louis. Another cool day; I’m so thankful for that.
A diversion this morning. There’s a rail trail that parallels old Route 66 for a few miles, so I decide to follow it. A good choice as it passes through a wooded area, with an overhead canopy nearly the entire distance. Along this way, folks out jogging this morning. Two of them stop to ask if I’m the hiker that’s going clear to California. Oh my, just big time energy to boost me along!
Coming off the rail trail, in a short while I see a sign for “[Ford] Mustang Corral on Route 66 since 1980.” I’ve a soft spot for these old classic Ford “Pony” cars. I head over. Hey, they’re open! Entering, I meet Shawn. When I tell him how many Mustangs I’ve owned over the years (bought and sold them as a hobby) he shows me his shop, the beautiful 1965 he’s just finished restoring for a customer. Professional work in every way–got some pics.
Back on the highway I pass an old faded-and-peeling Kaiser – Frazer sign. Wonder how many folks even know what they were?
At the intersection of SR-111 stands the old Bel-Aire Drive-In sign. The building is long gone, just a semi parking lot. But the sign looks pretty good yet, a letter or two missing, but it’s still standing.
A couple of big deals today. First, I put Illinois in my rear view a little before three. Nearly 300 miles hiked in 15 days. I’m happy with that.
Second, one of the most impressive landmarks of all–from the Route 66 heydays, the Chain of Rocks Bridge. This is my third time across it on foot. 2004 was the 200th anniversary of the outbound Lewis & Clark Expedition, 2006, the 200th anniversary of their return. In 2004 I had to climb a chain link fence to get on the bridge. It was all grown up with brush and vines, long abandoned. On my return hike in 2006, it had been repaired and opened as a hiking/biking trail. Both those Lewis & Clark Expedition crossings I got rained on. Ha, I’m no sooner in the center span today, yup, the sky opens again! Still manage to take a few good shots.
I’ve hiked to near downtown St. Louis this evening–to the McDonald’s on Broadway. Took time to look around before coming in. Found a stealth spot across the road, near the I-70 on ramp. Likely won’t be as serene tonight…
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.
“I hear motorcycles,” says Rich. Sure enough, here comes a whole touring group, perhaps 15 or 20 bikes. Rich welcomes them. Short time, I get to meet the “Wagonmaster,” Victor Muntane–and his son, Alvaro. They’re from Italy. In fact, the whole group is from Italy.
Victor has been out and back on Route 66, and out and back some more. Enough times to be an expert on the old road. In fact he’s written a guide book on Route 66, in Italian. To date he’s sold over 17,000 copies. Victor and his son are from Italy. The entire group is from Italy.
Rich gets busy ringing up 66 souvenir sales. Between customers, I bid him farewell and head on down the road. Not long, here they come, “Rolling Thunder.” I grab my camera and turn–just in time to catch Victor waving to me. Everyone is waving, horns honking, it’s a very special time for me as they all glide past. Soon, the rumble fades, and they are gone.
In awhile a Jeep pulls to the far shoulder and stops. A fellow and a lad cross the busy road to greet me. They’re Mike and Gehrig from Chicago, traveling Route 66. Rich, from Ra66it Ranch had asked them to stop and check on me. They give me an ice cold bottle of tea before returning to the road.
Late afternoon, I’m on a rail-trail bike path. A van has pulled off ahead and a woman is walking toward me. I recognize her right away. It’s Cheryl. I’d met her back at the Fairlane Drive-In with the group of “Roadies.” Then another vehicle stops, and another lady gets out. It’s Anne, a friend of Cheryl’s. If you recall, Cheryl is an author and lecturer–on Route 66. I’d linked to her site. Well, Anne is also an author, Route 66 children’s books. More great conversation. It’s getting late though, and I’ve miles to go yet to reach Edwardsville/Bluff Junction, so I bid Cheryl and Anne goodbye and continue on toward town.
In Edwardsville now, I’m both hungry and thirsty. Into the Stagger Inn Again Bar and Grill I go. Besides their usual burger menu, they are also serving a number of specials tonight. I choose the high octane one, spaghetti with meat sauce. Comes with a salad, too. Sure fills me up.
When I’d explained to Janet, my waitress, why the pack, she tells me she has a friend that’s on the Appalachian Trail. I give her one of my cards.
A group of folks from a running club have taken up the whole row of tables in the dining area. Janet must have told them about my adventure, for in a short while a fellow comes to my table. His name is Tim. He’s a mechanical engineer (and a runner). More, he’s a restless soul plagued with wanderlust. I didn’t help his situation, in fact, I made it worse. I told him to quit his job and hit the trail!
When I ask Janet for my check, she tells me there isn’t one. “Your supper’s on us.” Wow, thanks Stagger Inn Again.
I was stuck on SR-4 most of the day again. A bit more shoulder, and less traffic. Mild temperatures, a gentle breeze to my back–another fine one for the road…
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.
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!
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…
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.
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…
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…
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…
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.
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…
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…
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!
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…
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!