It sounds like I upgraded my car. Today actually did start with something car related, a visit to the Pontiac-Oakland Auto Museum. Fittingly, this museum in Pontiac, Illinois, was dedicated exclusively to the Pontiac brand, as well as Oakland which preceded it. I’m going to do a detailed write-up for FIXD, but in summary, they’ve nicely represented the history of Pontiac, through cars, engines, and memorabilia on display. They have some popular as well as unique cars on display. I particularly liked the Fiero corner, which showed off the space frame and plastic body panel design that would later go on to be one of Saturn’s staples. There’s also a one-off prototype of a Fiero 2+2 design — a Fiero with a back seat! I can see why it never went into production.
To my surprise, they also have a Pontiac 6000STE. My first car was a 1982 Pontiac 6000LE, the first year of this model. I must be getting old now that I’ve found my first car in a museum. I never had any pictures of that car that survived the years, so this is the closest I can get.
We moved onto the Route 66 Hall of Fame museum. This featured displays of all the Route 66 sites in Illinois, including those we’ve seen and those that we will. It was neat to see a bit of the background of these places, like how the Launching Pad came to be, or how the Standard Oil gas station in Odell was a functioning gas station until 2005, when it was converted back to a previous appearance and turned into a small museum.
Also featured prominently was Bob Waldmire’s VW Microbus. Bob did van life before van life was cool. He had roots in Illinois, and traveled 66 extensively to set some down in Arizona as well. The character Fillmore from the movie Cars was based on this van in his honor. In fact, the character’s name was supposed to be Fillmore, but he didn’t want cheap toys to be made out of something with his name on it, and wouldn’t sell Disney the rights to use it.
His converted school bus was out back as well. This is one serious skoolie. For the Bob Waldmire connection alone, I’d recommend a stop here for anyone into this lifestyle who’s passing through. It’s a great bit of history that applies directly to what we’re doing today.
There’s so much more in Pontiac as well. The museum also has a ton of 1940s vintage displays, from a 1940s home to a war museum next door. And then there’s the beautiful murals all over town. If you’re ever anywhere near Pontiac, whether you’re doing Route 66 or not, I highly recommend stopping in.
From there, we had a pleasant, quiet drive to a town where we absolutely do not belong — Normal.
We stopped to see the old Sprague Super Service station, which is now yet another Route 66 memorabilia and gift shop. I could literally finish coating my entire headliner with Route 66 stickers before I get halfway to California if I wanted to. It was still fun to check out, though.
After another short drive and a few wrong turns, we ended up in Atlanta. Fortunately, we weren’t so lost that we ended up in Georgia. This Atlanta was the next town down 66.
Here we found yet another Muffler Man. This one used to be Paul Bunyan in a past life, but got repurposed for a hot dog stand. Even more wall murals decorated this nice little town.
Another short drive, and we were in Lincoln. This town has the distinction of being the only named for Abe while he was still alive. He christened the new town with the juice of a watermelon when the first lots were sold in 1853. It was here that he reportedly said, “Nothing with the name of Lincoln has ever amounted to much.” On this point, how wrong he was.
The town amounted to something at one point, but it’s a shell of its former self now. Only one or two of the buildings in this photo are even occupied. At least one of them is condemned. It’s a sad state of decay for a town Abe Lincoln himself helped establish.
Once again, we spent the night at Chateau Walmart across town, after Cracker Barrel ended up being too loud and crowded. I don’t like staying at Walmart’s so much, but they’re a means to an end on this journey, that end being the journey itself.
We’ve had rather good luck with Walmarts so far. Most have had nice grassy areas next to them, where Lister could frolic and chase bugs while I caught up with writing and internetting. The free WiFi has worked well, too, which is useful because I return to work tomorrow.