Posts tagged Illinois

October 2005: Chicago, Illinois


We spent a beautiful weekend in Chicago – blessed with nice, warm weather in late October!

We took the Metra train in from the suburbs – as we did, we saw that there was a some sort of filming going on at Union Station. We found out it was for “Flags of Our Fathers” directed by Clint Eastwood.

Union Station - Chicago, Illinois
Lou Mitchell's - Chicago, Illinois

We walked a couple blocks away for breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s and spent the rest of the day taking lots of photos! We visited the site of the Eastland disaster, the site where Public Enemy #1 John Dillinger was killed, and the site of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

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May 2005: Illinois Route 66


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May 14-15, 2005: Illinois Route 66 Cruise


Pat had the idea to do a cruise on Route 66 in Illinois with some of our Route 66 friends. We started from the Luna Cafe in Mitchell and headed north on 66. With Pat and I were: Randy and Melody, Kent and Mary Sue, Marge, Fran and Dolly, Denny, Shellee and her son Trevor, Kip and Quinn, and Jane.

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Our Honeymoon on Route 66 (Day 1)


Speedway, Indiana to Fenton, Missouri

Monroe's Diner - Route 66, Pacific MissouriWe weren’t married until September 14, 2002, but we decided to take our honeymoon ahead of time. Jennifer just moved to Speedway from the Chicagoland area and wouldn’t have any vacation time at her new job in September after the wedding, so we took our trip early. We’re both a couple of road warriors at heart, and both of our fascinations with the lore of Route 66 is how we met to begin with. But that’s another story! So it was natural that we would take our honeymoon on Route 66. Upon hearing Indipala SS (an Impala SS club in Indianapolis to which Pat belongs), was having a caravan to St. Louis for Impalapalouis on the same day we’d be leaving for our trip, we decided it’d be neat to follow along, since we planned on staying in nearby Fenton, Missouri that night anyway.

After only 2 1/2 hours sleep, we started our journey at 9:15 AM heading west on I-70 to meet up with members of the club in Plainfield.  We arrived at Plainfield at 10am just in time for the caravan to leave. It took a little longer to pack Pat’s ’93 Caprice LTZ for the cross country trip than he had thought. But once we were there, we were met by Indipala prez Dave Bass and Dodie Sheffield. As the caravan took off, we brought up the rear. We must admit the bumper to bumper traffic at 70+mph (with the occasional brake tapping!) on I-70 was a bit much for Pat’s 34 year old heart to take, so we bailed off I-70 after entering Illinois and took the remainder of the trip on the much less congested and slower U.S. 40.

Early in the afternoon, we stopped in Effingham, Illinois for lunch at Woody’s Restaurant in the Dixie Trucker’s Home truck stop. Upon leaving the restaurant, Pat’s keen sense spotted a Corvair behind the restaurant. After discussing the car with the gentleman at the garage where it was parked, we jumped back on U.S. 40 and continued our southwest trek along the Old National Road, through such Illinois towns as St. Elmo, Mulberry Grove and Pocahontas, before entering Collinsville. We met up with some of the club members at the hotel and headed on to our hotel in Fenton.

Leaving the hotel, we ventured across the Mississippi River into Missouri where we stayed for the night at the Fairfield Inn. After checking in, we rested a bit, then we went back into St. Louis to have a frozen custard at Ted Drewe’s, where they’ve been making frozen custard on Route 66 since the 1940’s. We met our fellow Route 66 e-group member Emily Priddy for a concrete.  We had a great visit, we ended up talking for about two hours!

On our way back to the hotel, we needed to stop at Walgreen’s to pick up a Styrofoam cooler and other supplies, and we stumbled upon a St. Louis delicacy called St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake. For something that wasn’t even chocolate, it was so decadent!!  LOL

We went back to our hotel, and called it a night, since we wanted to get an early start tomorrow.

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June 2001: Illinois Motor Tour


This was my first time (but not my last) attending the Illinois Motor Tour, an event organized by the Route 66 Association of Illinois each year.

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April 2001: Restoration of Meramec Caverns Barn (Day 2)


We met up with members of the Illinois Route 66 Association in the lobby of the motel, and everybody was really nice and friendly!  We all headed over to the barn, and it was such a great day!  It was a wonderful experience to help in restoring a Route 66 landmark like this.  There were plenty of people there to help, so there wasn’t always something to do, even though we wanted to help more.  But when there was something to be done, we pitched right in and helped.  We even managed to climb the scaffold and paint some letters, way at the top of the barn!  I guess I was inspired by Shellee Graham, who climbed the scaffold with tremendous ease (she says she was good at hiding her nervousness…indeed!).  It was a nice surprise to see Shellee there!  I also met several members of the Route 66 Yahoo Groups mailing list, which was terrific.  I couldn’t have been more pleased to meet so many wonderful people, especially after being new to Illinois and not knowing anyone.

We stayed until about 4:45, but then we had to leave and get back up to Romeoville.  Amber and I joined the Preservation Committee to be informed of future restoration projects, and Pat had already signed me up for a membership with the Illinois Route 66 Association.  So I look forward to continuing participating in future projects and events!

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April 2001: Restoration of Meramec Caverns Barn (Day 1)


After a little late start this morning, Amber and I were on our way. We’ve been on various sections of 66 from Chicago to Romeoville several times since moving here, but this would be Amber’s first trip on Route 66 south since our first trip on vacation in August 2000.  We had with us an excellent book, written by John Weiss – The New, Historic Route 66 in Illinois.  It’s an excellent resource, not only for Route 66, but side trips too.

We were heading to southern Illinois to Hamel, where there is an old barn with a Meramec Caverns ad painted on it.  I read a post on the Route 66 mailing list made by Shellee Graham that the Route 66 Association of Illinois was planning on restoring it this weekend.  So I contacted both Jeff LaFollette, the president of the Association and John Weiss, the Chairman of the Preservation Committee about our interest in helping with the restoration.  They both indicated our help would be welcomed, so we were off to help restore a piece of Route 66 history!

We started our journey from Romeoville and went through Joliet, Elwood and Wilmington.  We hadn’t had breakfast, and it was still a little early for lunch food. But since the Launching Pad was open, we decided to stop.  We ordered our food from the drive-thru and continued south.

I showed Amber the old concrete road leading up to the old bridge in Gardner, and we went through Dwight and Odell.  It  was interesting to see the Odell station, because it was restored by the Preservation Committee also.  On our first trip on August 12, 2000, there was a Poker Run held there, attended by many of the same people we would be meeting down at the barn this weekend!

We followed the Route through Pontiac (I am convinced we’ll never get through Pontiac without getting mixed up!!  LOL), Chenoa, Lexington, Towanda, Normal and Bloomington.  In Lexington, we went by what was the Oasis Drive-In (picture, right).

Then it was on to Funks Grove!  We stopped by the old train depot and the antique store.  Amber was fascinated with it…it reminded her of “Whistle Stop” from Fried Green Tomatoes, which she had just seen. We then went over to Funks Grove Maple Sirup, of course!  It wasn’t as quiet here today as when Pat and I were here two weeks ago, there was a bus trip of tourists. Among our souvenirs, I bought the Route 66 music tape, an  antenna ball, and more maple candy (yum!).  Amber bought a Funks Grove t-shirt and some post cards.  We stopped at the Dixie to see the Hall of Fame, so I could show Amber what the Oasis Drive-In used to look like (they are a member of the Hall of Fame).

We went through Atlanta again, and in Lincoln, where I showed Amber The Tropics Restaurant, where Pat and I ate two weeks ago.  Cool sign!  Below are two pictures of The Tropics Restaurant today, and on the bottom is an old postcard Pat has of it.

In Springfield, we traveled on the 1930 – 1940 alignment, whereas the first time we had followed the 1926 – 1930 alignment.  I wanted to take Amber to the Cozy Drive-In for corn dogs this time!

South of Springfield, I took Amber on the 1930 – 1940 alignment, but then I realized that she hadn’t really seen the 1926 – 1930 alignment either!  By the time we left Springfield on our first trip, went out on that “side trip” to New Berlin, and returned to Springfield, it was late and Amber had fallen asleep.  She woke up when we arrived in Hamel at the Innkeeper Motel.  So next time we might take that alignment again, so she can see Carlinville and the other towns.

We went through Farmersville and Waggoner, then Raymond, past the Our Lady of the Highways shrine at Francis Marten’s farm.  We doubled back to find Pat’s mystery slab, which was only a short distance to the north. Pat would come out tomorrow to investigate, but was disappointed to find it was not an alignment.

At the Holiday Inn of Carlinville, we saw the paddle boat as shown in John Weiss’ book.

We went through one of the alignments in Litchfield, and into Mount Olive and by Soulsby’s Shell Service Station. In Staunton, we went by Rich Henry’s and onto Hamel.  We went by the Meramec Caverns barn, but everyone must have left for the day.  The front was painted black, and the side facing the road was red.

It was too early to check into the motel, so I thought Amber might like to head into St. Louis and – where else – go to Ted Drewe’s for a concrete!  We continued through Hamel and into Edwardsville.  When we got to the A & W, Amber too, was upset to see it ready to be torn down (not sure about that, but it seems highly likely).

We continued down into Mitchell and by the Hen House, where we ate breakfast the first time.  We drove into the parking lot where Pat got us stuck last time!  The “trench” he left is still there!  LOL  We took the Interstate over the Mississippi River and into St. Louis and on to Ted Drewe’s.  After that, we went over to where the Coral Court once stood.  Thanks to Pat, he pointed out the location of the Coral Court to me on our trip two weeks ago.  I observed from this trip that it is easy to get confused about the Coral Court’s location because there are many curved, slate entranceways in the area that look like the ones at the Coral Court.  But this time we got it right!

We headed back up to Staunton, where we were going to spend the night.  I’m still not used to the open farmland, so seeing the sunset was very pretty down here.

Click here for Day 2 of our trip

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April 2001: Route 66 – Romeoville, IL to St. Robert, MO (Day 2)


When we awoke Sunday, our Wayfarer Inn experience wasn’t over. When we discovered there wasn’t any hot (or even lukewarm!) water coming out of the shower, Jennifer decided she’d had enough and called the front desk. When she told Mr. Patel we weren’t getting any hot water, he said it would get hot if we left it on “for 5 or 10 minute”. At this point, Jennifer vowed to never take a chance on an independent motel she hadn’t previously stayed in. So, feeling a bit peeved at Mr. Patel’s remedy for hot water, we just decided to end this nightmare and leave. (I won’t tell you that we left on all the lights and television.)  We then went next door to Shoney’s for breakfast (best breakfast bar around!).

After breakfast, we stayed on 66 through Rolla and made our way back east. We noticed the Mule Trading Post was open, so we had to stop. Noticing we were wearing Route 66 garb, the man behind the counter informed us all the Route 66 merchandise was 10% off. So we stocked up on some of Jerry’s postcards, Bob Waldmire’s “Bird’s Eye View” of Route 66, and a map poster of his as well. Leaving the Mule Trading Post, we jumped on I-44 east so we could get back early enough to take 66 through Illinois.

However, I can only take “so much” of the interstate when I know 66 beckons nearby. So we got off 44 in Cuba, MO and rejoined 66. We took 66 back to Stanton, where we took the road towards Meramec Caverns and stopped at the Riverside Reptile Ranch. If you’ve never stopped here, it’s well worth the $4 admission. Jennifer & Amber stopped there last August while on their trip (Riverside Reptile Ranch, August, 2000) They have all sorts of critters there, ranging from turtles, lizards, and a variety of snakes. As Jennifer walked down the corridor where the displays are on both sides, she turned the corner at the end of the corridor to get a better look at a lizard. Much to her surprise when she turned the corner, there waiting for her was a tortoise on the floor that was at least 4 feet long and every bit of 2 feet tall! Fortunately, her heart failure was only temporary. ;-)   At one point in the tour, we were nervous when our 12 year old tour guide got into the “cage” where two alligators were residing. He had a broomstick handle with him and put it around the mouth of one of the gators. We took about 3 steps back when this thing let out a loud “hiss” that sounded more like a vacuum cleaner! We were both having thoughts of  this young man becoming lunch, so we were relieved when he decided to get out of the cage. We finished the tour by heading out behind the building to see Leo, the 2 year old lion they have. They’ve had Leo since he was 2 months old. He was a very playful little fellow (if you can call a 400 pound lion “playful”), as he would rub against the fence while you could pet him. We were told by Bill Fitzgerald (at left, with Jennifer & Leo) that he could reach up to 600 pounds when he reaches maturity. Leo got a little tired from showing off in front of us and laid down next to the building. Thanking Bill for the tour and the stories about Leo, we took off for St. Louis.

Upon entering St. Louis, we had to stop for frozen custard again at Ted Drewe’s. We then crossed the Mississippi River and drove up Illinois 203 to Mitchell, where we rejoined Route 66. We pulled off across the street from the remnants of the old Bel-Air Drive-In. I pulled into the access road to the motel across the street. I pulled a “little” too far to the side of the road and the car got itself stuck in, what appeared to be, just wet grass. After running the gears through “drive” and “reverse” to rock the car out of the trench I was digging, it finally dawned on me. Why am I babying this thing? I’ve got a Chevy Caprice, ex-Indiana State Police cruiser with a 200 horsepower 350 V8 and posi-trac rearend! WHY am I babying it!?  So I just
gassed it and it blasted out of the trench. It left a nice “navigational waterway”………perhaps the motel can put a riverboat casino in it?? The Bel-Air Drive-In sign is still there, however the property will soon be developed into commercial businesses (hotels, restaurants). So we got a picture of the sign before it disappears for good.

From Mitchell, we motored up to Edwardsville where we stopped at the old A&W Root Beer, that appears to be weeks away from the wrecking ball. Jennifer stopped there last August on her first Route 66 trip and took some pictures of it (Route 66 – Illinois, August 2000).  From Edwardsville, we went through Hamel and stopped again at Staunton to get pictures of Henry’s Old Route 66 Emporium and the Country Classic Cars. We then ventured to Mt. Olive and poked our noses in the windows of Soulsby’s Service Station. In Litchfield, we got pictures of the Route 66 Cafe, the Ariston,  and a few other miscellaneous signs. Next we made a stop at Francis Marten’s farm and the “Our Lady of the Highways” shrine. Just north of the farm, I eyeballed where the original alignment went due north of the farm. Less than a mile later, I spotted a drainage ditch that showed a wide section of concrete next to it. Thinking we spotted a “gold mine” of 66 history, we stopped to investigate. The section was about 6 feet down from ground level in the ditch, on the south side of the ditch and ended at the water. What I found interesting is that it was directly below where that original section would have been. But then I realized with the fields next to it, would the road have been that far below the rest of the ground around it? Doubt it. I still would like to know what it was we were looking at. Perhaps Steve Look knows where & what this is??

Back on the road, we stopped by Art’s Motel & Restaurant for more pictures, and then it was on to Springfield. We explored an old 4 lane section of 66 on the south side of Lake Springfield that now serves as access to the boat ramps for the lake. We parked there for a while & contemplated where to have supper. We decided to try the newly re-opened Tropics in Lincoln, so we got back on 66 and drove through Springfield and stopped in Broadwell at Ernie’s Pig Hip Restaurant for some more pictures. From there it was on to Lincoln where we got a couple of pictures of some older motels there before dining at The Tropics. That was the first time either of us had dined there, and it was very good. We had a generous supply of mozzarella sticks for an appetizer. Jennifer ordered the Stuffed Shells, and I had a Meatball sandwich on a hoagie. It was all reasonably priced ($21 for both) and worth another stop. They’re open ’til 10 most nights. We left there shortly after 7pm (they hadn’t turned the neon sign on yet, darn it!) and jumped on I-55 to head back to Romeoville. We passed through some threatening black clouds, but the rain wasn’t too bad. We got back to Romeoville shortly after 9pm, thus ending our busy little 2 day jaunt on the Mother Road.

Hope you all enjoyed it “with us”!

Jennifer & Pat (in Indy)

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April 2001: Route 66 – Romeoville, IL to St. Robert, MO (Day 1)


Signs marking various alignments in southern IllinoisAfter Jennifer got back Saturday morning from the airport, we met at her apartment in Romeoville to begin our weekend excursion. The plan was to take 55 to St. Louis, and 66 in Missouri. After a “grab & go” at Burger King for breakfast, our first stop Saturday morning was Funk’s Grove. We had the chance to talk with Debby Funk and pick up some sirup, maple candy and a few other trinkets. Jennifer never had their sirup before.  On her first trip last August with Amber, they were closed for the season.  We found out from Debby that during that season, they had less sirup than normal, only 800 gallons. They usually yield about 1500 gallons for a season. This year, they have 2500 gallons, 1000 more than usual! So anyone who would like some Funks Grove Maple Sirup should be able to get some this year! Jennifer and I both bought some, and some Route 66 souvenirs, maple candy, and Jennifer bought some maple cream too (delicious!).

From there, being so close, we decided to just stay on 66 and head down to the Dixie Trucker’s Home. We checked out the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame, and bought a t-shirt and postcard. From there it was back on the superslab (gotta make time!) and motored south. We got off the interstate in Staunton and went to Country Classic Cars to see some of the more than 300 classic (both restored and unrestored) cars for sale there. My day was made complete when I found 2 Corvairs (a ’61 Greenbrier van and a ’64 Monza sedan). I tried to convince Jennifer how good she would look cruising around Romeoville in the ’64, but she was less than convinced. (Jennifer’s note:  I was convinced!  Don’t listen to him!  LOL)

We left and headed for Henry’s Old Route 66 Emporium to buy some more souvenirs, however, tJennifer & Pat at Ted Drewe's Frozen Custard, St. Louis, Missourihey were closed. After we left Staunton, we called Shellee Graham to see if she could meet us at Ted Drewe’s. After we got the big “thumbs up” from Shellee, we arrived shortly after 1:30 and ordered two concretes while we waited for her arrival. It was an ideal day for frozen custard, as it was sunny and warm and in the low 80’s in St. Louis. After discussing everything from Corvair alternators to dim bulbs to Jim’s new book to Becky’s message in the Texas newsletter, we hated to part, but we said our goodbyes and Jennifer & I started west on 66 around 2:45. Before we left, Shellee kindly took a photograph for us!  We made a stop at the Route 66 State Park in Eureka and drove around the grounds & tried to imagine where all the homes once stood. It was a gorgeous day and place for a picnic lunch (too bad we hadn’t brought one!)…so there’s a new “next time” for our list.

Leaving the park, we ventured through Pacific past Monroe’s Route 66 diner (where Jennifer and Amber had breakfast on their August trip – simply fabulous!!). They were closed for the day, but we were hoping they’d be opened the next day (iffy since it was Easter).

We went through Gray Summit (I refrained from throwing any objects at the Gardenway Motel as we passed), St. Clair, and into Stanton, where we stopped at the Antique Toy Museum. Since Jennifer had bought me a Dixie Trucker’s Home t-shirt earlier in the day, I felt compelled to return the favor. So, at the Toy Museum, they had some 66 t-shirts with “The Route America Travels” on it. Looks like the image of an old decal. So I bought one for her and myself, and a couple of cold Route 66 Root Beers for the road. From there, we made our way toward Rolla. Since it was after 5:30 at this point, Route 66 Motors and the Mule Trading Post were both closed for the day. However, the Totem Pole Trading Post on the west side of Rolla was open, so we found more souvenirs to buy. On the outskirts of Rolla, “Wolfman’s” had the open sign on, so we decided to stop. After the proprietor (Jim) saw our car pull into the lot, he made his way from his house next door to let us in. We wished we’d kept driving!  If you like second-hand cameras, 8-track tapes, and Dale Earnhardt souvenirs, this place is for you! Jennifer bought a $2 ($2!!?) Route 66 ink pen…….a charitable effort on her part!

From there, we made our way to John’s Modern Cabins. (As a side note, I collect old Route 66 postcards of structures that I know are still standing, and I try to recreate those same photos as the buildings look today….from the same spot the postcard photographer took them. And one postcard I have is of Vernelle’s Motel. So I had to get a shot of Vernelle’s while we were at John’s Modern Cabins.)  Upon arriving at John’s, we noticed that the Burma Shave-esque signs which Ron Warnick and Emily Priddy put up on the edge of 66 in front of the cabins, needed some attention. Two of the four were still standing, but one of the signs had fallen off the stake, and another one of the stakes had been split in two pieces.  Someone had tried to fix it with duct tape, but it was sagging badly. So it was Jennifer’s quest to right this wrong and fix the signs. And since I had a toolbox in my trunk, I got to play Mr. Fix-It. So we scoured the area around the cabins for anything that had nails we could use. We found some loose boards that had straight nails, so I yanked them out with a pair of pliers and used them on the signs. After securing them as best we could, we hammered them (didn’t even use a hammer!) back into the ground. So hopefully our handy-work will last long enough for you all to see the next time you’re through Missouri.

After our contribution to the Mother Road was finished, we walked east with my camera to Vernelle’s. It’s amazing how the place had changed (buildings razed, buildings moved) since the picture of the postcard was taken in the late 1950’s. Since it was past 7pm, I tried to convince Jennifer we should stay there for the evening, but all she did was mention the Jerry McClanahan Suite and the next thing I knew, we were on the road towards Devil’s Elbow. ;-)  Since Jennifer had missed the turnoff to Devil’s Elbow on her trip in August, I had to take her there to show her the sights. We passed the Elbow Inn (the Hawgs were there in full force!), crossed the old bridge, and saw Allman’s Market. We went up to the area where you can pull off and we looked south down into the “valley” where the trains cross the old iron bridge. At this point, I said to Jennifer “It’s so quiet here”. And before I finished getting “here” out of my mouth, a shotgun blast up the road came out of nowhere and echoed endlessly! After a few more shots, we both decided we didn’t want to be someone’s supper, so we got back in the car and left. Talk about timing, eh??

Arriving in St. Robert for fuel, we discussed where we wanted to spend the night. I lobbied hard for another 30 miles west to the Munger Moss, but since Jennifer had been up since before 5am that morning, we decided to head back to Rolla for the night so Sunday’s drive wouldn’t have to be so long. Since we’re both “mom & pop motel” types, we thought we’d choose from a few on Martin Spring Drive. Since I had taken a picture earlier in the day of the Wayfarer Inn (I had an old postcard of it), we thought it looked like a decent place to stay. Neither of us thought checking into a motel was such a chore! The “new help” behind the counter had difficulty using Jennifer’s card on the credit card machine. After “New Help’s” 6th or 7th attempt, a man (presumably the owner), ) came from the back to see what the problem was. He told “New Help” she wasn’t entering all the numbers, so after the 8th attempt, the credit card machine spit out another error message. He again told “New Help” she hadn’t entered it right… attempt number nine had the same results as the previous eight. At this point, this comedy duo  were too much for Jennifer and she came down with a case of “I’m trying like heck to hide my laughter”. Well, at this point, Jennifer was able to compose herself long enough to say she’d pay in cash. Meanwhile, the comedy duo were still doing their fine routine. Jennifer couldn’t take anymore, in spite of desperately trying to conceal her laughter (which NEVER works), and she mentioned something about having to get something in the car. So I took care of the bill, and when I got to the car, Jennifer’s ailment turned into a full-fledged case of “I can’t hide my laughter”. Well, upon entering our room (#118 for those of you playing at home), we both decided sometimes it just doesn’t pay to support mom & pop! The room was less than appealing, as the interior door was missing paint, the curtains wouldn’t open as they were nailed to the wall, there were all of 2 lights in the room. The bathroom door shut too tight, you had to force it in with your shoulder to open it from the outside (and Jennifer nearly dislocated her shoulder trying to pull it open from the inside). The bathroom was old-looking, which is NOT always a flaw in older places…however, this place had strange caulking all over, mold on the tile floor, the toilet ran on and off all night, and to get it to flush, you had to keep holding down on the handle until all of the water came out of the tank. Niiiiiiiice! We then called it a night, but that isn’t the end of the Wayfarer Inn story.

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The eve of a new Route 66 trip!


Our weekend started off late Friday night, when I (Pat) checked into my motel in Joliet. After meeting up with Jennifer & her daughter Amber in Romeoville, we went cruising looking for a place that had ice cream. The places we had in mind were either closed or didn’t have ice cream, so we settled on a Blizzard from a local Dairy Queen. Since Jennifer had to get up at 4:45am Saturday morning to take Amber to Chicago Midway Airport for a 7:00 AM flight back to Connecticut for spring break, we cut our Friday night short.

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