Staying in the suburbs of Chicago, we intended to do part of our trip, from Chicago to the suburbs, on Friday night.  On Saturday, we would start out early from the suburbs and see how far we could get, hopefully to St. Louis.  Unfortunately, snow changed our plans!

After some debate about postponing the trip to another weekend, Pat drove up to Chicago from Indianapolis.  We started out on Saturday at noon from Downers Grove, IL.  We traveled south on IL 53, until it became Route 66 in Romeoville.

ROMEOVILLE – JOLIET – ELWOOD – WILMINGTON – BRAIDWOOD

We followed the route through Romeoville, Joliet, and Elwood.  As we arrived in Wilmington, we decided to have lunch at the Launching Pad Cafe, which, if you are westbound, is on the right just after you enter town.  You won’t miss it with the Gemini Giant there to welcome you!

Just a few minutes later, you’ll pass the Polk-A-Dot Drive-Inn in Braidwood (also on the right).

GODLEY – BRACEVILLE – GARDNER – DWIGHT – ODELL

Just north of Gardner, there is an old bridge crossing the railroad tracks on the old alignment on your right. We went by the bridge, and just before the IL 53 alignment jogs left, we made a right turn and backtracked on the old alignment up to the bridge.  You can’t cross this bridge, but you can drive up to a certain point.  If you make this trip and the bridge is there, you might want to check it out, since the bridge is slated for demolition.

The old and new alignments converge south of Gardner.

We passed by the Marathon Station in Dwight, as well as Feddersen’s Pizza Garage.  Pat mentioned this as an interesting place to eat, so that might be a worthwhile stop to make!  We then went by the restored Standard/Sinclair station in Odell.

We’re not sure how, but we missed the barn with the Meramec Caverns ad painted on it. (We must have been talking!  LOL)  Too bad, because I wanted a picture of it in the winter with snow, because I already have a beautiful picture of it in the summer from my first trip, with wildflowers in the foreground.

PONTIAC – CHENOA – LEXINGTON

We still can’t figure out too, how we missed the Old Log Cabin Restaurant…I had seen it on my first trip, and I remember getting lost a little bit in downtown Pontiac.  Oh well…next time…!  But at least I had a little better idea of the streets here.  And this time I knew to follow IL 23, out of Pontiac and not IL 53 as I had previously read (if you read the narrative from my August trip, you’ll know what I’m talking about!).  This time, we followed the main bypass route, but there is an unmarked 1926 – 1930 alignment which runs through downtown Pontiac, which I had taken before.  That route is outlined in the book Traveling the New, Historic Route 66 of Illinois by John Weiss.  This book is well worth picking up, for a concentrated look at Route 66 in Illinois, as well as some short side trips and attractions.

In Lexington, we went by a little park on the right which commemorates Route 66 with a plaque and a display.  In the summer, it should be worth checking this out!

Just past Lexington, is an original section of Route 66 which cannot be driven.  It is marked as Memory Lane, and has billboards, Burma Shave signs, and so on…you can walk through this area in the summer.

TOWANDA – BLOOMINGTON/NORMAL

We didn’t see too much in this area to make note of….there was the first, original Steak and Shake in Normal which unfortunately, we believe was torn down.

SHIRLEY – FUNK’S GROVE – McLEAN

We stopped at the old general store in Funk’s Grove, and explored an old alignment described in a book Pat has, Route 66: Goin’ Somewhere: The Road in McLean County by Terri Ryburn-LaMonte.   You reach this section by turning left off the main road, near the general store.

In McLean, we stopped at the Dixie Truckers Home, and visited the Route 66 Museum and Hall of Fame.  This is always worth a stop, so make sure you do!  We didn’t eat here though, because we hoped to get to Springfield to the Cozy Drive-In for corn dogs.

ATLANTA

We followed the Route through Atlanta, but it was dark by this time and we wanted to make it to Springfield before the Cozy Drive-In closed, so we took the Interstate into Springfield.

SPRINGFIELD

In Springfield, we followed a different alignment than I had followed on my first trip (which was the 1926 – 1930 alignment). We followed Business 55, past the state fair grounds (on the right), and Shea’s Historic 66 Museum, also on the right. It wasn’t long before we arrived at the Cozy Drive-In, but as we approached, we could see it was closed! It was early – 6:45 PM, and the sign said they were supposed to close at 8:00 PM…we were confused about that and pretty disappointed as well…Pat was looking forward to his periodic meal of corn dogs at the Cozy, and I hadn’t had corn dogs before. This was the original reason we decided to make this trip!

Even though I’m sure Springfield has a number of good restaurant choices, we couldn’t decide where to eat, so we opted to head north on the Interstate, and have dinner at the Dixie Truckers Home before getting back to Chicago.