Posts tagged Illinois

Route 66 – Springfield, IL to St. Louis, MO


February 3 – 4, 2001

Since our roadtrip through Illinois was cut short a week ago, Jennifer & I decided to complete the 2nd half of the trip this past weekend.

We began this weekend’s journey by leaving Indianapolis on US 36 and heading west to Springfield, Illinois. As you may recall, last weekend the Cozy Drive-In was mysteriously closed at a time of the day when it should’ve been opened. We thought we’d try our luck with our Cozy dog quest once again and fortunately, they were open Saturday afternoon. So Jennifer was then able to finally have her first Cozy dog. Buzz Waldmire was behind the counter as usual, but he’s lost a lot of weight and has a full beard…..hardly recognized him!

After our late lunch, we decided to take the 1926-30 alignment south out of Springfield. We mixed in a few older sections of 66 down our trip on IL 4, and especially enjoyed the brick stretch of road. After we toured
Carlinville, we went east to pick up the newer alignment of 66 north of Litchfield. From there, we made our way through Mt. Olive, Staunton, Hamel, and Edwardsville, where we picked up Chain of Rocks Road. After trying to convince ourselves to stay at one of the independent motels near the Chain of Rocks Bridge (we couldn’t convince ourselves THAT much!), we took IL 3 south to pick up the interstate and made our way into St. Louis to look for a place to stay. We both had read this part in East St. Louis was not a good place to stop or have a flat tire…….we now know why! After we saw our second woman standing on a street corner wave to us (perhaps she liked Jennifer’s Neon?), we realized it was ill-advised to have taken this route after dark on a Saturday night! But after we got back on the interstate and across the river, all was well. After cruising down Chippewa and Watson, we found ourselves on I-44 westbound. We pulled into an evil chain motel where they “leave the light on for ya” in Fenton which was conveniently located across from a Krispy Kreme where we had a late night snack.

On Sunday morning, we made our way to the Chain of Rocks Bridge to snoop around. We found some old road remnants around the Canal bridge that I saw on list member Steve Look’s website. After we did some footwork in weeds looking for concrete, we took Chain of Rocks Road back east to hook up with the interstate.

Just to warn everyone, it looks like the remnants of the old Bel-Air Drive In, and sign, will soon disappear. There was a big sign near the old drive-in sign stating it was the future home of the Bel-Air Industrial Park. Chances are they aren’t smart enough to incorporate the old theater sign with it, so if you have never got any pics of it or the other remnants of the drive-in, you might want to…….soon!

From there, we jumped on the super slab and made our way back to Indianapolis…..with the occasional side trip onto US 40. Jennifer then made her way back to Chicago Sunday night. Stay tuned in the weeks ahead for another road report. Our next weekender will be a trip deeper into Missouri.

Until then…….

Pat in Indy

Route 66 – Chicago to Springfield, IL (Day 2)



For our next day, we left from Downers Grove on I-294 north up to the O’Hare Oasis for breakfast.  We then continued north on I-294, exiting at US 19, which we followed into Skokie and Evanston.  We stopped at a park on Lake Michigan and took a walk by the lake, and through a very nice, seemingly exclusive neighborhood of stately elite homes, many in brick.

We drove down into the city to visit the Hit the Road travel store owned by Route 66 mailing list members Maureen and Annice.  We talked with Maureen for a bit and had a nice visit at the store, and we both bought a number of items there.  They have great road travel supplies, maps, car organizers, kids games and so on…as well as Route 66 memorabilia, books, and videos.  One interesting thing they have available is custom made diner furniture, if you want a retro style diner booth and table, or round stools, they can custom order this for you, at pretty reasonable prices!

We then drove downtown to Route 66, turning east onto Jackson.  We passed by Lou Mitchell’s (I still have to get there for breakfast!).  Rather than head over to Adams & Michigan, we turned south and made a quick loop around the block and headed west on Adams from this point.

We went through the run down area in Cicero, where there was a tricky intersection (there’s a detour, so follow the signs!).  We ended up on 26th Street, but of course, we weren’t lost since Pat is known as the Road Maven (and I’m pretty good with directions too)!  We simply followed 26th Street west to the intersection of IL 43.  We made a left turn south, until we reached the intersection of Ogden (White Castle Hamburgers on the corner).   Unfortunately, on the short stretch of Ogden which we missed was a neat hot dog place called Henry’s (with a great neon sign!), and Bunyon’s Hot Dogs.  I passed by this on my first trip as well, to see my first muffler man there (though I hadn’t seen Henry’s then).


We didn’t go back to see Henry’s or Bunyon’s, so we continued on 43 and then followed Joliet Road through the Forest Preserve and into Lyons.  In McCook, there is a detour of Joliet Road.  There are signs to guide you, but you follow 55th Street west to S East Ave. and head south until the road hooks back up to Joliet Road.  Pat explained that this area is closed because Joliet Road ran along the middle of two huge quarries on either side.  It was not structurally sound, so this section was closed.  You can see the quarries a little bit on the detour.

There’s not too much interesting to see along here, it’s an industrial area.


In Countryside, we were on the lookout for the Wishing Well Motel on the right…unfortunately, we were so focused on it that we missed the Route 66 Cafe and Grill 3/10 mile before it…we couldn’t figure out how we missed it!  I was especially baffled, since if you read the narrative of my first trip, I had brunch there!  Well, it shows how selectively we see things, and how our memory works to remember how things are…a day or two later, I was too curious as to how I missed it, so I had to go back.  It turns out I had seen the sign, but it didn’t really register in my mind…because it wasn’t the Route 66 Cafe and Grill anymore!  It’s now called the William Tell Restaurant, and is located in the same building, only off to the right near its attached motel.  I should have realized this the day before, because the sign is still a round white sign, but I was focused on looking for the Route 66 shield, it never occurred to me.  Plus, I remembered the area as being different than it really was, with a bigger parking lot – that’s why I say your memory sort of alters the way you remember things!

So, the sign for the Route 66 Cafe & Grill is no longer there, very disappointing!  There is a very faded neon sign still on the building, but without the word “Grill,” and there is a listing in the phone book for the Route 66 Cafe.  I believe it is still open for breakfast and lunch (as the sign indicates). If you are there early, check it out.  It was good at the time Amber and I went in August 2000.

We continued through Indian Head Park and Burr Ridge, and ended our trip by having an early dinner at Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket, where Pat introduced me to a Midwestern delicacy……chicken gizzards.  However, I opted for grilled herbed chicken breast instead, and it was absolutely excellent!

That concluded this trip…till next time!

This is a picture of a “Blues Brothers Car” we spotted from the window of room at the Suburban Lodge in Downers Grove.  It was still there last month, and the shrinkwrap from the speaker was removed…it’s really cool to see that!

Route 66 – Chicago to Springfield, IL (Day 1)


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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