After more than a week on the road, I finally made it to Chicago! This was my first time in Chicago, so I did all the touristy things you would expect. I ate at Gino’s East and Portillo’s. I went to see The Bean. I stopped at Willis Tower. I took a hop on hop off bus around the city. I bought and ate some Garrett’s popcorn. And it was all glorious! Chicago is definitely a town I will go back to visit again.
The entire reason for going to Chicago, well, for this entire vacation actually, was to drive home along Route 66. I have been fascinated by Route 66 since I was a kid. I have no idea why, really. Growing up in Southern California I have driven along parts of the California portion and the Arizona portion before, but I really wanted to see the whole thing. One of my favorite places in Arizona – Oatman – is on the route, so maybe that is where the love was born. As this was my year of doing epic shit, I decided I better get to knocking this off my bucket list given it was already October.
Behold, the beginning of Route 66 in Chicago!
Quite a sight, isn’t it? Don’t worry, the route gets better from here. The sights below are not necessarily the order I saw them in, but rather I grouped them by the major themes that crop up over and over along the route.
Muffler Men! Not just one, but two! of the most photographed muffler men are in Illinois. The Gemini Giant still stands outside the Launching Pad restaurant, but the hot dog holding Paul Bunyan was moved to a spot near a Route 66 museum.
The muffler men are some of my favorite attractions along the route, but I am not going to lie, Paul Bunyan is creeping me out a little there. What’s up with the look on his face? It was raining when I took this picture, so maybe that was adding to the spookiness.
One of the cities that really takes advantage of the Route 66 notoriety is Joliet, IL. You can even see the Blues Brothers dancing up top on the Rich & Creamy. I really need to watch that movie one day.
Always popular are the kitschy restaurants.
Another popular type of attraction is the old gas stations. Notice the jerky jerk that rolled right up in front of me to take a picture, then proceeded to LEAVE HIS CAR THERE while he walked around, ruining photo ops for everyone behind him.
Of course, the Route 66 shield pops up often, too.
Stops also took place to see the 2-cell jail, what’s left of the Wishing Well Motel, a very interesting version of someone’s RV living fantasy that was driven on the route many times, and an old theater still showing movies.
Due to inclement weather, I had to veer a little off route in Illinois, so I didn’t get to see any of the Abraham Lincoln attractions other than Lincoln’s tomb. Thunderstorms made picture taking less than ideal anyway, and I needed to get to St. Louis safely. Despite the route change, I still feel like the Illinois portion of Route 66 was a success. I saw most of the items I wanted to see, and I didn’t do any damage to myself or my car, so this portion of the trip definitely started out in my favor. Next up is the Missouri and Kansas portion!