Monday, May 27, 2013

Route 66 - part four

This posting covers Illinois and into Missouri, where I'm now in St. Louis.

Route 66 is 3,945 kilometres long or, as this is the States, 2,451 miles. It crosses two-thirds of the continental United States. For the record, the Trans-Canada Highway is 7,821 kilometres. 

Although people still take it - in the thousands - Route 66 only officially existed from 1926 to 1985. Replaced by multilane interstates, it declined, then revived as tourist potential became apparent. 

Interstates are safer and faster, but boring. Charles Kuralt, late, congenial ‘On The Road’ reporter for CBS, said, ‘Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.’ 

To see something, I'll detour from interstates, but only follow short portions of Route 66.  Long, long days in May and June, so usefully early starts.

Much of Route 66's appeal is the quirkiness of another time. In an earlier space age, Wilmington's Gemini Giant attracted travellers to a roadside restaurant.

Tourists en masse.

Next to the giant, Route 66 quietly cuts through one of hundreds of cities, towns, villages, unincorporated  communities and isolated dots along the way.

Odell has a charming 1932 Standard Oil Station (built to a 1916 company design), now a small museum.

I see my first of many motorcyclists following Route 66. These are coming from the west. 

In Pontiac, delightful little cars celebrate, among other things, Route 66 and Abraham Lincoln before he became president.

I rather like Abe's flying hair and, if you look closely, the logs above the bumper. For those who don't know, much is made of Lincoln having been born in a log cabin.

At Lincoln's tomb, down the road in Springfield, generations have rubbed 'his' nose for luck. 

However, what really impresses me in Springfield is this store, which, when closed, offers really good used books on the honour system. I suspect if you tried this in Toronto, a store would soon go out of business. Sadly, I have little extra space in my 'travel light' luggage.

Springfield’s home to the Cozy Dog Drive In on Route 66. This is locally famed for a version of the ‘corn dog,’ a hotdog on a stick covered in deep fried batter. This trip’s going to give my stomach a fast food hammering, so give the Cozy Dog a miss.

Onto a quite comfortable bus, assess my fellow passengers, and off to St. Louis. 

Route 66 entered St. Louis via the Chain of Rocks bridge, long closed to traffic. I walk across the Mississippi on the unorthodox structure, unusual as it abruptly changes course in the middle. In 1945 toll for auto and occupants was 25 cents.

I prefer this shot in black and white, which I think is more interesting.

Now in Missouri. More to come.