Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Day 3 - Springfield to Oklahoma City, Part I

After sucking down the rather minimal breakfast, I raced to re-load the back seat before the rain hit. It wasn't fun - the boxes were somewhat heavy - but it wasn't as bad as it could have been, because the car was literally right out the door (did I mention it was a one-story 'motel'? No? Hmm).

The 'Missouri curse' continued right up from where it'd left off the night before - again the road wasn't well marked, and at one point we wound up driving twice around a square because the map said 'continue on X road,' but we were left to guess which one of the 4 exit roads was 'X road.' Turned out that it was the obvious choice - the exit directly across from where we came it. And before you smack your forehead and go 'no shit, moron' allow me to explain that on the other side of that road (as you approach it through the square) was a sign for Route 66, which seemed to indicate that we should pass that road up. Turns out, the sign was for traffic going in the opposite direction, which would be turning right at that point.

Kansas, for its part, was much better, even if you're only in it for about 15 minutes. More signs, and pretty much a direct route through the state. Stay on Route 66, and you'll cross into and out of Kansas on back roads, which makes for interesting views, and great pictures, such as the one above.

We managed to extend our stay by having lunch in Kansas. The Fiancee found a nice little restaurant in town (there wasn't much there) which seemed cozy and offered good food. Ironically for us foodies, we looked at the restaurant down the block, and decided not to eat there. Turns out, it was a place featured on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (or "Triple D" as Guy likes to call it). After hitting three places on his list, we were disappointed to learn we'd missed a fourth. But that's OK - our lunch was very delicious anyway.

 Next up was Oklahoma. It's not a bad state, actually, and we've met a few interesting locals here. More on that in a bit.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Day 2 - on to Springfield!

Missouri, that is....

After last night's adventure, we were hoping for a clear, sunny day.

Route 66 is pretty well-marked in Illinois, even if you do spend some time simply hopping back and forth across I55.

Such is not the case in Missouri. It's so bad, my trusty navigator (a/k/a The Fiancee) wondered who'd written the Missouri map for the Route 66 guide we had. At one point, the map told us to go past a road that we were to turn at. We drove about a mile and a half before coming to the realization that we were supposed to turn; unfortunately, we were forced to drive a bit longer, as the road at that point was a bit curvy and had no real opportunities for a turn-around.

In other parts, we were confused by blue signs which read "Route 66 Byway" as opposed to the normal brown signs. And in many cases, there were no signs, so we were left wondering if we were on Route 66, or if we'd missed another turn.

For much of the drive, Route 66 follows I44, hopscotching from one side to another. In many places, you're literally on the frontage road, doing 55 mph, while 50 feet away traffic on the interstate is blowing along at 70+. It's these points were, to me, the Route 66 drive is blah - I'm really enjoying where the route turns away from the interstate and makes its way through small towns. We found the original Bunyon (intentionally misspelled, as we learned) statute in one such town, and have really just enjoyed looking at places where time seems to have stopped. We wish we could drop in to various stores and just chat, but we don't have months to make this drive.

The best part of the day was early on. As we drove through Springfield, IL we came upon a car show. The Fiancee knows of my love for all things car, so we stopped for a visit. It was a 'power tour' show, so most of the cars were of the muscle variety, and few were older than 1966 models, but it was still fun. The highlight was finding a replica of the Family Truckster from National Lampoon's Vacation, complete with (faux?) autographs of Chevy and Beverly. The Fiancee and I both had our pictures taken with the car.

Lunch - a late one at that - was in Litchfield, IL at the Atkinson cafe. It's a historic Route 66 diner known more for its history than its food (decent, but not great). Of course, the experience of dining at a place my family has probably dined at before (a branch of my family hails from nearby Benld and Gillespie) when I was too small to really remember can't be beat.

As night began to fall, and the day grow late, the Fiancee pointed out that we were in Missouri, not Chicago, and that it was Sunday - restaurants would be closing soon. We pulled up at one three minutes before closing, and ordered a meal to go. Fortunately, they were happy to accommodate us, and we had a delicious meal for later.

Later was about two hours later, when we pulled up in front of an historic Route 66 motel that the Fiancee had found in our guide. It was modest, to be sure, and an old-fashioned, single story, motel. It's hard to describe, except to say its not someplace we're used to staying at these days. It turned out to be just fine, even if the 'breakfast' was nothing more than cheap coffee, a juice machine and donuts. Actually, we both regret not having taken a photo of the place....

We managed to dodge a downpour overnight, but as we head out, the clouds looked ominous...

Sunday, June 06, 2010

The Long Drive Starts...

Well, things have certainly been hectic the last month and a half - if change makes life interesting, I've had enough for a while, thanks.

I flew back to Chicago, ostensibly to wrap a few things up, pack up the (second) car and bring the girlfriend back to LA. I flew in on the Friday before Memorial Day, and thought we'd be on the road by Wednesday. Turns out, we didn't leave until yesterday. Oops...

Our first day was an adventure. After a week of sunny skies, we picked a cloudy, rainy, day to blow out of Chicago. We just didn't know how rainy. We'd decided to drive out to LA on the 'Mother Road' - Route 66 - so we knew it would take a bit longer than a hard drive like we did in January (when we made it out to LA in just over 3 1/2 days).

It was getting late when we hit Braidwood - that's what happens when you don't leave until late in the day - and I wanted to use the bathroom and get an iced coffee, so we stopped at the McDonald's there. Turns out, they'd just locked up the main area, and were only serving people out of the drive-thru, but....she'd make an exception for us. Turns out, it was the right thing to do. We used the bathroom, got the iced coffee and hung out for a bit. A little while later, as we got to Dwight, we learned that a tornado had just passed through - and was still nearby. We drove on, fighting the rain, until we hit Bloomington, and learned what we'd really missed. Made us wonder what might have been if not for a nice person in Braidwood....