Historic Route 66 Road Trip – Days 1, 2 & 3

Get your motor running. Head out on the highway…. this road trip may be on your Bucket List — driving Historic Route 66 the full way.  Mapbooks, websites, chatrooms, AAA guides all confirmed – there IS NO one long Route 66 road. It’s been chopped and rerouted to smithereens over the decades.  But still, what an adventure driving Chicago to Santa Monica, eight states, 2675 miles by our calculation.  Time to roll..

These posts will be a series with resources, attractions, hotels, miles.  I miss the trip already, it was that much fun.  Start your planning by purchasing the books and maps, printing our my posts, then agreeing to be really flexible as you travel.  There is no way you could follow our precise route, nor should you.

The plan was to travel for 12 days — and work our way home with no real daily plan after all.  Just keep going and see the sites.  Chicago was the starting point, and Santa Monica in our hometown, Los Angeles the end. We live just a couple of miles from the Historic Route 66 ending point.  The overall distance would be around 2,500 miles.  That was what we used to calculate we needed to cover 250+ miles a day (we didn’t drive on Day 1).  This would be a snap!  Our bibles on the road became:

(1)    Route 66 Turbocharged Adventure Handbook, Drew Knowles, 4th edition, Santa Monica Press

(2)    Here It Is! Route 66 Map Series (8 maps), Jim Ross and Jerry McClanahan, Ghost Town Press, www.66maps.com

(3)    AAA TourBooks of each state for hotel resources — I stopped at a AAA in West LA and loaded up, then Larry poured thru them and made notes and marked them up, tore the right pages out to bring.  Books are heavy.  And yet, we neglected to download an app on our phones, post-its and tearing out pages were our process.

We packed two cameras, two smartphones, one portable GPS, one laptop.  To fly one-way TO Chicago, we used frequent flyer points (12,500 per ticket), packed light (for us). Remember… you hit a new hotel every night and leave the next morning, the less luggage to schlep the better. If we needed things, we could stop as we drove — like when we needed a tire gauge because the dashboard indicator kept telling us a tire was not happy.

No, we didn’t rent a red convertible corvette like the 1960’s TV show, Route 66. Sun, wind, rain, tornadoes, AGE = recipe for stress.  It was cold and rainy in Chicago when we left.

  • Day 1 — Flew to Chicago. Pre-booked Comfort Inn outside of ORD with free airport shuttle — hotels in downtown Chicago too pricey for this adventure.  Landed at 2 PM, dropped stuff at the hotel, then took the train downtown to the “real” start of Route 66 on foot. Which, turns out, there are several. Walked to the corner of Michigan Avenue and Jackson Avenue.  Then to Jackson at Lake Shore Drive, to cover both. Picked up some Garrett’s popcorn for the road, walked to Lou Mitchell’s restaurant to experience our first real Route 66 dining and discovered they closed at 3.  Spaghetti dinner (Giordano’s est. 1976), back to the train to the hotel.
  • Day 2–Got the car. Larry had pre-negotiated with Hertz (a human being… don’t do it via the internet) for a car that (you will NOT believe this) was $550 for unlimited miles and no fee for returning it in LA.  Hit the first Wal-Mart for a case of water, apples and ice chest. I was Driver, Larry Navigator. Made a first stop (not a Route 66 activity) to visit the headquarters of Wilton. From this point on… my notes are like this:  Nicely Leaning Tower of Pisa replica in Nicely. Joliet Prison. Ellwood Lincoln Burial site, vintage Texaco station, Polka Dot Diner and a Super 8 Motel in Dwight, IL.
  • Day 3— Hit the road at daybreak. O’Dell restored Standard oil station Pontiac, IL, Normal/Bloomington – fictional home of Colonel Blake from M.A.S.H. but real home of Beer Nuts. Sirup (not syrup) at Funks Grove was sold out, Dixie IL – darn!.  Saw “Muffler man” in Atlanta, called Bunyan Man.  The Mill, Lincoln.  Cozy Dog and Museum, Springfield. Lincoln Museum and Library, Capital Building, Springfield.  Historic Hotel 66 and Museum, Springfield, IL.

Miles driven through Day 3:  WHAT???  Yikes, only 319… UH, OH.  More soon… 

Trip — First three days

Trip — Mid-Point

Trip — Final leg of the journey

Trip — Lessons Learned 

Before we officially hit the road, I dragged Larry to see the new Marilyn Monroe giant figure in front of the Tribune building in downtown Chicago.

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