After a pleasant night and a slow morning, we made our way back to Joliet, then turned south on Illinois 53, which is the old Route 66. From here, there’s no making time. We’re just enjoying the ride and seeing what we can find as we begin our trek down the Mother Road.
Our first stop was before we even got out of Joliet to see this flying Bluesmobile. Ironically, I’d also stopped here Friday in my search for air for my underinflated tires, but was so concerned about them I didn’t look up to see this. I wasn’t exactly sightseeing at the time. I’m glad we came back so I could catch it the second time around.
On a more serious note, we stopped to visit the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery. The former President isn’t buried here, but countless people who served in the military are. It’s like the more well known Arlington National Cemetery, except in Illinois. We even saw some new lines of gravestones being lined up with laser precision.
Back before European civilization took over the Midwest, it was all wild prairie. The Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie has brought back and preserved a small piece of how it used to be before our civilization and massive agriculture took over. It was great to see, especially not having spent much time in the Midwest at all myself.
Lister enjoyed it too. I think he wanted to move in. He always likes tall grass, and he really liked this place next to the visitor’s center.
Our next stop down the road was the Launching Pad, renamed so in the 1960s during the Gemini program. Why? Because of this guy.
The Gemini Giant is the first of numerous Muffler Men we’ll see along Route 66, a relic from the Mother Road’s heyday. This spaceman is unique, but there were many made advertising various products like hot dogs and, yes, mufflers. As a big space nerd, I had to check it out.
And this. As they said in Spaceballs, “Even in the future nothing works.”
We’d planned to stop at the Riviera Restaurant for lunch, only to find out it’s a reproduction of a 1920s diner, not the genuine article. It was still really neat to check out, though.
It was quite small, even by modern diner standards. But 100 years ago, you didn’t have nearly as many travelers, especially before Route 66 was a thing.
Next door was a tiny two-cell jail from the early 1900s. It’s a whole lot smaller than the old Joliet prison, though interestingly the construction looks vaguely similar.
We moved on to the Polk-a-Dot Drive-In, where life size figurines of everyone from Superman to Elvis to Betty Boop were ready for photo opportunities. I tried to keep up with Jake and Elwood’s dance moves, but couldn’t.
Fun fact: Elwood is the name of a small town just south of Joliet that we drove through. We know one of the Blues Brothers, Joliet Jake, is named after the area, but actually both of them are.
We drove on to the town of Pontiac, where we finally grabbed a late lunch at Baby Bull’s Family Restaurant. It was yummy, and reasonably priced. Not even a mile down the road was our Chateau Walmart for the night.
This was more what I had in mind for driving Route 66. We’re only 64 miles from Joliet where we started, and that’s just fine by me. It was an easy day of driving, likely how many of our days will be, with plenty of time for me to do other things like work and write Captain’s Log entries. About 100 miles down since the beginning in Chicago, and about 2,000 more to go.