Our first day on this road trip was a long one. We were on the road by 9:30 am EST and when bed time rolled around it was about 1:00 am CST. The 5 hours or so through Michigan didn’t really leave us much to “see,” so when we got to Illinois we wanted to spend some time getting to know Route 66. And that’s why we ended up grabbing “dinner” at some local pool hall around 9:30 pm. Everything else was closed, and we really didn’t have any other choice. Part of our goal was to “not eat at ANY chain restaurants.” This resulted in a club sandwich (no tomato) from some local bar where a band was playing to a crowd of 20, yet the volume was set for a venue of 500. Sorry, no photos of that sandwich or establishment. ;)
Did I mention the heat? I think we saw temps well into the 90’s with a few brief stints of 100 or so. The A/C kept us feeling cool, and the Mustang kept us looking cool. So far, so good.
The first stop on Day Two was for breakfast. We ate at Charlie Parker’s. Many people had told me that I should check out the show “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” on TV before taking off on this road trip. Well, I don’t have cable, so that wasn’t gonna happen. But apparently this venue was featured on this show, and for good reason. The food was INCREDIBLE! I had the “Horseshoe” and Brian had the special of the day, the “Blueberry Casserole.” The “shoe” consisted of home-made biscuits with scrambled eggs (my choice) covered in gravy and cheese sauce. Nestled inside was some ham and delicious hash browns. It was pretty much a cheesy, hash brown-y pile of awesome. Too much to eat for one normal person, I shared it with Brian. The Blueberry Casserole was pretty much a desert, I’d say. Some wheat french toast topped with cream cheese, fresh, delicious blueberries and whipped cream. One thing I was surprised at was the price. I think each entrée was under $7.00. Amazing. On our way out we took a few photos and came across a boy of maybe 10 years. It was his birthday, and for his birthday they brought him to Charlie Parker’s for breakfast. His treat? A stack of chocolate chip pancakes at least a foot in diameter. They completely covered his plate, and then some.
Next stop was the house of Abraham Lincoln, just a few miles down the road. Nestled in the city of Springfield, lies about 1 square city block of preserved homes and buildings from the Lincoln era. We took a free tour of his home and got to touch the handrails that Lincoln himself had grabbed so many years ago on his way up the stairs to his bedroom. The home was simple but very nicely decorated. The upstairs rooms had 12 ft. ceilings! Brian was kind enough to carry my 20 lb. camera bag around during the tour while I snapped photos inside. Did you know if you stepped off the blue carpet in the hallways during the house tour an alarm would sound?
Brian told me our next stop would be at Henry’s Rabbit Ranch. Not knowing what to expect, I figured I’d see a bunch of rabbits running around some farm. Exciting. Well, I was very pleasantly surprised when we pulled up to see a Volkswagon Rabbit version of Cadillac Ranch (a future stop of ours). It was 100 degrees outside at this time, but that didn’t stop us from walking around this old gas station that was surrounded by classic V Dubs and rabbit-themed items. After snapping away some photos and sweating, we walked inside and were quickly greeted by the owner who asked “Where are you all from?” Deetroit! I replied. And thus started what would be a rather lengthy chat about Route 66 and the Rabbit Ranch. Let’s just say there were some real rabbits living there, one of which was “Big Red,” and he was wearing a cowboy hat. Awesome stop on Route 66 that I would recommend to everyone!
What trip would be complete without seeing the World’s Largest Ketchup Bottle? Exactly. So that was next on our agenda. This is basically a water tower shaped and painted to look like a ketchup bottle. Luckily we spotted it early enough and pulled off the road for the best photo vantage point. Not much else to say about a ketchup bottle, so let’s move on!
The Chain of Rocks Bridge. This is kind of out in the middle of nowhere, but worth the drive, I think. It’s an original Route 66 bridge that carries you over the Mississippi River. When we pulled up, we saw the only car leave and two bikes take off towards the bridge. You can’t drive on it anymore, it’s only for walking or bike riding. We were thinking of walking the 300 yards to the bend in the bridge, but decided against it. We took some photos and left, on our way to St. Louis, Missouri and the St. Louis Arch.
I’m afraid of heights. Just looking at this arch from the ground would make me freak out. “Let’s go up to the top and look out the windows!” Brian said. Um. No. “C’mon!” We took some photos from the outside then slowly ambled underground to the visitor’s center. Once inside we cooled off in the air conditioning and began to assess our options. The wait to get up to the top of the arch was about 1.5 hours (thank God), so we opted to not ride in the 5-person cable car the size of a 3 person box and instead, take in a 30 minute film about the construction of the Arch. Let’s just say this freaked me out just the same. Back during the construction, OSHA didn’t exist. The workers would walk around on the outside of the arch on scaffolding without…WITHOUT…any harnesses or cables securing them to the structure. One wrong move and, well, you get the idea. After the film we left and as we came outside we were greeted to massively gray clouds and lighting. We missed the rain on the way to the car but 10 minutes into our departing drive we were greeted with torrential rain. So much rain that after driving at 40 mph on the highway (on slightly bald tires), we decided to take the next exit and wait out some of the rain.
At this point we got back on the highway and headed towards our hotel for the night, The Wagon Wheel Motel. On our way there we stopped at INO’s pizza for dinner. This late dinner thing is becoming a pattern thing. Not sure I like that. We got a call from the hotel asking us when we’d be checking in and it turns out they like to close the office at 9 pm so they left our key under the mat for us. This is a quaint little grouping of buildings that reminds me of my family’s house we used to own up in Beulah, MI, due to the smell from all the wood trim. The room was basically…one room…with two beds and a sink in the corner. There was a bathroom with a small shower, A/C and a small flat screen TV. Recently remodeled, this is a nice quaint motel.
I’m writing this post on the morning of Day Three. I got about 4 hours of sleep, thanks to somebody’s tendency to saw logs.
More to come!