After another quiet night at Chateau Walmart in Lincoln, it was back on the road for us. We weren’t quite done with Lincoln yet, though. On our way out of town we stopped at the world’s biggest covered wagon. As you do, at least when you’re traveling Route 66.
There’s not a lot in Elkhart, but it’s a perfect example of the sort of town that Route 66 helped to grow, and that fell when the interstates bypassed it. This mural shows an idealized version of what the town must’ve been like at its peak. It’s a good way to remember it.
It was a short drive to Springfield, the state capital, and home of even more Abraham Lincoln sites, including his childhood home and his tomb. Traffic and parking made it impossible for us to stay together, so we declared “Every van for itself.”
I’m not much for cities, and my van is difficult to maneuver and park, so I headed to yet another Chateau Walmart for the rest of the day to do some work (ironically, writing up a story about the Pontiac-Oakland Museum — I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do this!) Birgit and Tom did some more sightseeing, then met me there later. Buffy continued south, holing up at a campground for the night. She’d take a lazy morning and give us time to catch up.
The next day, after a couple of hours of work, we set out to catch up to Buffy, and found ourselves on this 1.4 mile preserved original section of Route 66, a brick road built in 1931. I had no idea this was a thing. It’s amazing how well it’s held up, though I’m sure it’s maintained as a piece of history as well.
Auburn is also the home of a nifty double decker bandstand in the town square. I wonder how anyone gets to the second level, though. I didn’t see any stairs.
By following the 1920-1931 alignment of Route 66, we found ourselves on some tiny back roads that look not so much preserved, but not updated for literally the past 100 years. It was a bit narrower than any modern road. Our modern vans didn’t quite fit in our lane. There were no expansion joints in the concrete, which led to the cracks you see. It was a slow drive, but quite an experience to drive on a 100 year old road. After a while, we’d had enough bouncing around and got back on Illinois 4, a later and much better condition alignment of 66.
Back in the day, you could buy everything from Sears. EVERYTHING. Including mail-order houses! In the small town of Carlinville there is literally an entire neighborhood of them.
It’s interesting to see the identical dimensions, yet different layouts and roof options. I’m glad we left when we did, though. I noticed a police car a couple of blocks behind us had stopped, probably watching the two suspicious looking white vans casing the neighborhood.
The center of town is pretty nice, too, with more brick roads and a beautiful quaint town square.
I was looking forward to our next stop, Henry’s Rabbit Ranch — a celebration of anything to do with rabbits. Yes, including Volkswagens. The living rabbits have already moved inside for the winter, but the rest of the place was still open to explore. There’s a rabbit graveyard for all their old pets. And a Rabbit graveyard of another type…
I took the opportunity to show the man himself, Rich Henry, a picture of my own “Rabbit” pickup truck. He had a few real ones, and he got a kick out of my 2003 VW Jetta with a Smyth Performance Ute kit. You can read all about it here.
Here we paused at a local park for a little while, as we’d actually gotten ahead of Buffy. I got some more work done, and the critters got some outside time. Once Buffy arrived and the band was back together, we ventured onto the Pink Elephant Antiques Mall.
This place is a bit strange. It’s in the former high school, and has antiques, a small restaurant and ice cream shop, and a variety of larger than life statues, including the pink elephant that gives it its name. I don’t talk about politics publicly, but I have to say that the 20-foot tall Donald Trump statue was scary, regardless of your political persuasion.
It was getting late, so we found our undisclosed location for the night. We’re striking distance from St. Louis, Missouri, and will see it tomorrow. It’ll be a new state for me, and my first time ever seeing and crossing the Mississippi River. And, as always at this point, it’ll be the farthest west I’ve ever traveled under my own power.
Illinois has been a fun start to this journey. The Blues Brothers stuff was amazing, being one of my favorite movies ever. There’s a lot of history here, especially tied up with Abraham Lincoln. The quaint little Midwest towns are adorable. But I feel like I’ve seen enough, and I’m ready to move on.
The Great Journey of Life continues.