Travel Time: 12 hours, 15 minutes
Pictures Taken: 98
Today began the stereotypical, small-town kitsch part of Route 66. Lots of small towns with quirky signs and roadside "attractions". Unfortunately, it was exceedingly gray and drizzly until about 1 pm.
Heading south out of Joliet, we found the first "giant" of Route 66 - a huge fiberglass astronaut at the Launching Pad Drive-In. He's known as the Gemini Giant.
A little further down the road in Braidwood was the Polka Dot Diner - complete with fiberglass replicas (life size, this time) of a few iconic Americans from the 50's and 60's.
The next stop was Pontiac - a place I vaguely remembered from childhood visits to my grandparents who lived in nearby Streator. (To them, Pontiac was the "big town" to go shopping in.) Pontiac is home to the Route 66 museum - complete with a replica of an interior of a Steak-n-Shake restaurant and countless other memorabilia.
Onward to Atlanta! Atlanta had another giant - this time it was Paul Bunyan holding a giant hot dog (of course).
Across the street from the giant was the Palm Tree Inn where we had lunch and I learned a new word. The word is "ponyshoe", which, despite our waitress seeming put out we had never heard of it, is, in fact, a very regional foodstuff. It's essentially cheese fries on bread with your choice of meat - even bacon is an option. Needless to say, we passed on the ponyshoe. The restaurant (not an Inn,despite the name) did have a palm tree in it - a very tiny, anemic-looking palm tree in a pot. But the fish was phenomenally good!
Atlanta also had a very old, stone library in the shape of an octagon...
a clock tower that requires hand winding three times a day (done by a team of volunteers - their schedule was posted on the door)...
and a grain elevator "museum". Good stuff!
Then it was back on the road through towns like Lincoln and Broadwell and Sherman (alas, no Wayback Machine to be found). Lots of things like restored filling stations along the way.
Next up was the Illinois state capital, Springfield! (Disappointingly, only saw one reference to The Simpson's in the entire town.) The capital building looked pretty cool, but was surrounded by construction.
The only real stop we made in Springfield was a visit to Lincoln's tomb. Very impressive monument in the middle of a largish cemetery.
(Abe doesn't look too pleased about everyone rubbing his nose for luck.)
(Lincoln is actually buried just behind and ten feet below this monument.)
Despite being tempted at the gift shop just outside the cemetery, I did not purchase a stick-on Lincoln beard for $4.50.
At this point, we were running a bit later than we wanted to be, so we decided to "cheat" a little and hop on the Interstate. Where we promptly sat in a traffic jam for 30 minutes.
So, it was back on Route 66 for a while longer. We meandered through the town of Staunton and eventually found Henry's Rabbit Ranch and Route 66 Emporium. Some interesting "lawn art" made a great photo op.
Despite the closed sign on the door, the proprietor came out from his house and opened the "Emporium" for us for a few minutes. There were, in fact, three large rabbits living inside! Coffee, Blackie, and Big Red who enjoyed having his picture taken.
After that, it was a fairly quick trip over the Mighty Mississippi River and into Missouri. Our one and only goal for St. Louis, MO was to see the Gateway Arch and ride to the top. Unfortunately, our frequent stops earlier in the day put us in St. Louis a bit later than we'd planned and we had to compete for the road with thousands of Cardinals fans heading to the game. Adding to the traffic and parking woes was the fact that the Mississippi is apparently running very high at the moment and has flooded entire parking lots that normally line the river!
We finally snagged a free parking spot on the roof of the casino's parking garage and walked (mostly uphill) the ten blocks or so to the arch. By the time we got there and stood in line for a few minutes, the ranger came out and said all the tickets for today's rides to the top were sold out. Boo! So we settled for looking at it from the outside and also looked at the barges and helicopters and riverboat casinos on the water and the horse drawn carriages.
By this time, we were hot, sweaty, tired, and hungry so of course, we headed to Ted Drewes Frozen Custard Stand. Totally worth the hype. Incredible stuff!
We headed out of town into the setting sun and drove about an hour to Cuba, MO for the night. Before we got to the hotel, we decided we really should have something more substantial for dinner than frozen custard, so we decided to try a new-to-us fast food place called Lion's Choice. I was hoping to see things like zebra and gazelle on the menu, but alas, it was more pedestrian fare. They did apparently throw in a complimentary salt lick with my roast beef sandwich!
Tomorrow it's off to see more small-town Americana and take a side trip to Branson, MO. Not planning on seeing any shows - we just want to take in the sights.