Looking for just a little warmer weather, Mike and I headed out from chilly Michigan southward. The first three hours were familiar territory, highways we have often traveled. But we decided to go off the beaten path in Joliet, Illinois.
U.S. Route 66, also known as the Will Rogers Highway and The Mother Road was established in 1926. One of the most famous roads in the United States, it ran from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California.
John Belushi (Joliet Jake Blues) and Dan Aykroyd (Elwood Blues) put Joliet on the map in the movie The Blues Brothers. They are immortalized in many places in Joliet.
The Gemini Giant is in Wilmington, IL outside the Launching Pad Drive-In. I read there were many of these giant 30 foot tall statues around the US in the 60s. This giant was named after the Gemini Space Program.
Also in Wilmington, the Sinclair dino sits on top of an auto body shop.
The next stop was the Polka-Dot Drive-Inn in Braidwood, IL. Not my normal diet food, I totally succumbed to a chili dog and chili cheese fries. Yummo!
In Gardner, IL we met Tom and Rufus, his dog. Tom owns The Perkins Shop which is full of coca cola memorabilia. His little shop was originally the office for the lumber mill that his grandfather owned. The mill was torn down and replaced by grain silos. Oddly, the silos and other buildings were all torn down the week before we arrived. Tom clearly loved talking about the history of the area he has lived in his entire life.
The same town boasts the two-cell jail, built in 1906 and used until the 1950s. When we peeked in there was a group of young people in the cell. Not sure what they were doing, but they seemed to be having fun. Right next to the jail is a Kankakee streetcar that was converted into a diner in 1932 and recently restored as a Route 66 landmark. No food is served by the chef that is painted on the wall.
Restored gas stations can be found in Dwight and Odell. Just south of Odell a barn sign for Meramec Caverns has been restored.
On to Pontiac, IL. More than 20 murals adorn the walls of buildings in the town.
Small town America is seen in the barbershop and movie theater that still boasts a streetside walk up ticket booth. The town boasts a beautiful county courthouse.
Pontiac was supposed to be our last stop, but I had to detour into Atlanta, IL when I read that a brother to the Gemini Giant, a huge Paul Bunyan had been moved from Cicero to Atlanta.
There is also an octagonal library, as well as a clock tower with a clock that is still weekly wound by “The Keepers”.