Route 66 #1

Route 66 #1
Route 66 Museum

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

So Much to See, So Little Time

While poking through Goggle Plus last night I came across a guy looking for Route 66 sites to see between Chicago at St. Louis. I of course gave him some of the more major ones but as I was trying to decide which spots to list it hit me that there are a lot of landmarks to see on 66. 

Just between Chicago and St. Louis alone there must be a 100 plus places outside of the normal ones worth seeing, either on, or close to the route. So in a way when you visit the route you can see not only the normal landmarks but a bit more depending on your interest. 

Route 66 has points of interest for agri-tourism, culinary tourism, paranormal tourism, American history, automotive history, aviation history, railway history, sport tourism, American Kitsch, and spa's. The list goes on, yet also the list tends to stay family friendly. 

Bachelors Grove Cemetery is a renowned ghost hunting sight near 66, one of many on the route

The Greek Islands in Chicago legendary Route 66 restaurant and gourmet paradise

St. James Winery a Route 66 must stop for wine lovers. 

Agri-tourism? Funks Grove is an excellent example. 

Love aviation? The Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, CA has to be on your list. 

Into art tourism, a luxury stay, railroad history, or fine dining? Then the La Posada is the place for you for any or all that apply.

As usual feel free to contact me and join my site if you are looking for something in particular for you and your family to see. 

Family Friendly Prices for a Chicago Visit

I just wanted to share this article with you all especially those coming to Chicago to visit for a while before moving down Route 66.

The article "20 Things to do in Chicago for $20 or Less" from Digital Journal gives some great tips for having fun herd in Chicago without blowing all your vacation money. The items the list are also family friendly.

I would like to thank my friends at the Willis Tower Skydeck (mentioned in the article) for passing this along.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Family Travel Must Haves: #3 Traveling with Families Best Friend

In many families dogs are considered to be family members, and accompany families on trips, when possible. But not all trips are pet friendly, and it's common for dogs to be boarded or left with friends or family on vacation. 

If your considering taking a Route 66 trip, I might be able to help you find ways of bringing your dog (or even cat) with so you can enjoy your trip without worrying about the family member left behind. 

Where to Stay?

The first thing a lot of people worry about is finding a place to stay with their pet. True, not all hotels and motels will allow you to bring a dog in with you, but many establishments are pet friendly, some even friendlier if you pay a little extra. 

One easy way to find a pet friendly hotel or motel is the Pet Friendly app available for iPhones. 

This app allows you to search for hotels and motels that accept dogs of certain weights, and allows you to search by town name or zip code. On the road you will find this app is a great tool for helping you find places that will take your pets, without have to search individual motel website or make phone calls. 

This app is one of was the first if it kind, but there are many others out there now as too. Also if your in doubt as to whether a hotel or motel takes pets it always helps to call ahead and find out. 

Packing for Doggy (or Kitty)

Luckily there are a lot of people traveling with their pets now days, which means there are a lot of pet travel products out now days. One of that best items out there for travel is the collapsible pet bowl set. 

The set as you can see above is in the set up position. In holds about 2 cups of food and water, which depending on the size of your dog may be a full days food, or just part of a days food. 

The bowls collapse, and the legs fold down, and can easily fit in a backpack. Also if you put messy soft food in the bowls easily pop out so you can clean them individually, without cleaning the whole set. 

As far as carrying food and water many pet owners keep a special bottle of water set aside for doggy. A regular bottle of water is often more the enough to keep doggy hydrated at a meal time, or after a long walk. As for dry food one great method is to put aside an empty 28 oz plastic peanut butter jar, after cleaning it out it can hold a serving or two of dog food, plus the lingering peanut butter smell will really keep doggy happy. The jar may not be enough to keep doggy fed for the whole trip but it will allow you to control daily food more easily.  

The bowl set and food and water storage methods listed here will work for kitty too.

 Walking with Doggy

There are lots of leashes and pick up bags out there. But when walking with doggy there is another cool gadget out there you should know about. 

This is a special harness your dog can wear. This allows you to have doggy carry some of the stuff they need to support themselves, on the trail, or just on walks around the park. Plus it doubles as doggy's suitcase for your trip. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Rails and Roads: Route 66 Starting Point Gives Clue to Origins

Route 66 shares something in common with a lot of other historic route through the U.S., its proximity to rails. Although 66 doesn't exactly follow the tracks of one railway and route it still follows tracks none the less. 

When it comes to rails there is one city in this country that is second to none, Chicago. And where does 66 start? That's right Chicago. 

US 66, as well as US 12, US 14, US 41, the Lincoln Highway, and Dixie Highway either start in Chicago or pass through Chicago. This is for a couple of reasons of coarse there are the obvious ones like connecting the large city of Chicago to  other large cities like New York city or Los Angeles, and/or Chicago is along the way.

More importantly though there are a few other reasons why Chicago is such a key point along the way. Geographically speaking Chicago was at the time a centerpoint for both maritime, and rail commerce in the area making Road commerce in these area a need as well. Chicago's centrality in the middle of the country as well as in the heart of the Midwest, and its location next to Lake Michigan have given it a key role in collecting and disbursing transportation traffic and materials. 

It's Chicago's close proximity to rails though that play a key point in the development of Route 66 as well as other US routes and name routes. In the construction of rails the railways are often forced to level land's so that the rails can be constructed upon them. The railway also keeps lands level next to the tracks in order to have vehicular access to the tracks for repairs and maintenance. These leveled areas stretch on as far as the tracks do. So when it came time for the US government to build highways across country it was a wise choice to look to the railways. Lands next to the railway tracks were flat and level by the railways and also where found in terrain which made passing though mountains easy since the railway wished to have low gradients for their locomotives to climb with little effort. This made road travel for cars and trucks easier to. 

Chicago being a central railway point and hub of the nations railway was a point in the country that had rail connections to just about every city in the nation heading East, West, North, or South. Meaning following the tracks from Chicago you could get to any other city you choose. So building roads from this point became a highly logical concept. In 1926 when 66 and its sister routes where first constructed, Chicago became a focal point exactly for these reasons.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Vintage Trailers on Route 66

Route 66 is, and forever will be associated with vintage automobiles. But there are times when we truly forget about the other types of transportation that once you should travel the route. By this I mean semi trucks and also Classic RVs and travel trailers.

When we think about the 1950s and classic travel trailers I think we often call to mind the Lucille Ball movie the Long, Long, Trailer. The movie doesn't actually take place on Route 66 or even anywhere near it outside of being in the general Los Angeles area. But there are definitely some very classic images of the 1950s and of cars and of travel trailers and just of a general way of living.

When it comes to the topic of travel trailers though we need to keep in mind that there was a wide variety of travel trailers in the 1950s just as there are now. Travel trailers back then though were definitely unique and considering the era definitely had a 50s look and feel to them. Often the travel trailers came in unique colors with unique interiors often very bright and cheerful. Not exactly what you see today in modern travel trailers which tend to be very simple looking and even uncomfortable. Travel trailers of the late 40s to early 60s came with bright blues, reds, yellows on the exteriors and interiors that had classic looking refrigerators and stoves on the inside places for cute little pieces of art, And all those special little touches indicative of the era.

Traveling the route nowadays I sincerely doubt that she will see any vintage traveler Trailers on the route with you. But don't give up hope yet. There is actually a special rendezvous that takes place every year sponsored by the Southwest Vintage Camper Association, specifically for showing off vintage trailers. 

Although this years event will take place in Canon City, Colorado the association openly serves Route 66 through the Southwest and has had rendezvous's in the past in Albuquerque. 

Check out there Facebook page for information and upcoming events.

With all the really cool motels and hotels on route 66 I think we often forget that many families used to actually camp along the route some in tents, and some in RVs or in travel trailers like those you will see on the Associations page, and elsewhere.

 There are still many places to camp along route 66 both in the traditional tent form and also in the RV form it is just a matter of looking for such places, since I would strongly suggest against sleeping in an open field as they used to in the past. You can find state parks and KOA's, as well as other private camping grounds.

No matter what your accommodations are or where you choose to stay you still have to admit spending part of your time sleeping in a vintage trailer along the route does sound intriguing. So go ahead and check out the Southwest Vintage Trailer Association if that interests you as well.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Not much "Union" at Union Station

Heading East or West down Route 66 through Chicago it's impossible to miss Union Station. The crowds of people crossing the street near the river is usually the tip off. 

For most cities including LA, the "Union" in Union Station indicates that the station serves as the unified train station for the city meaning all trains no matter what the railway come to that station. But in Chicago that's not the case, now or in the past.  

Now days Union Station is the central station for all cross country trains, but not all passenger trains in Chicago come here. Metra, Chicago's massive commuter train service has trains that come to Union Station, but also trains that go to other stations following the heritage of the original railways that are now part of the Metra system.  Of course it has long been noted that when it comes to Union Station the relationship between Metra and Amtrak is at times strained, especially since Amtrak controls the  station dispite Metra having more trains operate out of the station every single day. 

Metra is an interesting case and point about the original stations and rail lines that came into the city of Chicago in the past, since Metra still operates at a lot of those stations either in the original form or more modern reincarnations. Or to put it another way if you want to experience the terminals and sites of historic American passenger trains Metra may provide you with a living examples, something your not likely to see anywhere else. 

Historically and in a very real modern sense Chicago is and has been the railroad hub of the United States for well over a hundred years. This means that there are hundreds of rail lines coming into the city from all directions. For the great Eastern railways that there where and are, Chicago was a the Western Terminus, for the Western Railways the Eastern terminus, and the same could be said for the Northern railways of Canada with a Southern end, and Southern with a Northern end. One can only imagine that with trains coming in on multiple tracks from all directions, the concept of a central station would cause severe rail gridlock as trains converged on one point. So Chicago would need to accomdate passenger trains with more then one station. 

For most railroads this wasn't to their dislike. A railroad station built for their specific needs, could show off the railways affluence, and market the railway to its captive audience of passengers. Ornate woodwork, gold leaf fixtures, marble floors and columns, and a plethora of top quality restaurants and passenger service stores allowed railways to instill a feeling of luxury, and service to passengers, and others passing through the stations. 

Union Station Chicago is an excellent example of railway architecture and interior design for stations during the golden era of train travel.

In the height of the rail travel era Chicago was served by 6 major train stations:

-Union Station that served the Chicago, Burlinton, and Quincy, Milwaukee Road, and Pennsylvania Railways, and several smaller lines. 

Union Station today, in the right of the picture above the "bacon" truck you can see part of the office building stucture that replaced the terminal building. 

-Northwestern Station which served the Chicago Northwestern, B&O, Union Pacific, and smaller lines. 
-Lasalle Street Station that served the New York Central and played a major part in Hitchcocks North by Northwest. Lasalle Street also served the Rock Island. 
-Central Station which served the Illinois Central, C&O, and smaller lines 
-Dearborn Station which famously served the Santa Fe, as well as the Grand Trunk,  Erie, Monon, and Wabash.
-Grand Central Station which also served that B&O, SOO, and smaller lines. 

Of the six stations only Union Station remains in its original form both in structure and operation. Or I should mention that its Grand Hall still stands which is the true show piece of the station. The terminal structure that stood accross Canal Street from it was replaced with an office complex in the 1960's. 

Old postcard depicts the entire Union Station complex as it was. Only the larger building in back the "Grand Hall" still stands, but it is a functional structure that accommodates thousands of passengers daily. 

Windows on the Eastern side of Union Station list the founding railroads of Union Station in gold lettering. 

Dearborn Station also still stands but it's railway history is long gone. The building is in good shape and has a restaurant, a few small stores, and professional offices in it. Any sign that this building was once a home to such legendary trains as Santa Fe's Super Chief are long gone. 

Central Station is no longer and was demolished in 1974. However, Central Stations legacy lives on at Millenium Station which lies below Chicago's Millenium Park, beneath that "Bean" and "Pritzker Pavillion". Millenium Station still serves Illinois Centrals electric line, now part of Metra. You might have seen Millenium Station in "The Dark Knight", as Batman raced his Batbike through it. 

Northwestern Station operates as part of Metra/Union Pacific Railway. However the original station structure was demolished in 1984 and replaced with a towering office building, that has hints of the original structure still in it. Ogilvie Station as it is now called, still has the original platform and overpass from the C&NW in place. 

Picture of above street platform from original structure, taken from Clinton side, looking at Randolph overpass

The station itself though is very modern and geared toward the thousands of commuters who pass through daily with grab and go shopping and food court

Ogilvie Station

Grand Central Station on the other hand is totally gone and nothing but a vacant lot remain, sadly it was ripped down in
1969, and has no surviving lagacy. 

Lasalle Station like Ogilvie exists but has been modernized with original parts of the structure ripped down and replaced for the lucrative air rights in 1981. So don't go looking for where Cary Grant shaved in North by Northwest that part is long gone. But the station survives and is operated by Metra for its Rock Island district. 

Lasalle Street Station as it now looks

So of the six stations from the golden era only one stands as is and is functional, one stands but no longer as a station, one is totally gone, two stand in their original spots but rebuilt and modernized, and one is gone but had its place taken elsewhere. But that also means Chicago has four train stations that see thousands of passengers a day, three which operate in the same spots they did long ago. 

If you want to see living history, and the legacy of what once was Metra can accommodate you at Union, Ogilvie, LaSalle and Millenium Station, and Amtrak can too at Union Station. If your  visiting Chicago as a Route 66 follower and/or a railfan be sure to check at least one of these stations out, and if possible take a short ride on one of Metra's trains. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Route 66 Movies - Cars

Ok, I know I have been promising to talk about Route 66 movies for a while now. So I'm finally doing it, and the first movie I have chosen is probably the best example of a Route 66 family movie there is. Disney-Pixar's Cars from 2006.

My guess is if your a parent with little boys you've seen the film. If you haven't then find a way to, its a must see. But, I'm not going to go into the story line a whole lot, so hopefully no spoiler alerts here. 

The basic plot is that a self-absorbed race car gets lost via an accident and ends up trapped in a small town called Radiator Springs. Radiator Springs is a small town located on Route 66, the "Gateway to the Ornament Valley", presumably in Arizona or California. 

First of all I have to say as a Route 66 enthusiast I love the movie, and I love Radiator Springs as an omage to Route 66 landmarks and towns. At the same time though in its quest to condense the spirit of Route 66 into one town the movie gives those who know very little about the route a few misconceptions like everything in the town is based of real sites, or the all sites like those in the movie can be found in one town, or that the sites are purely figments of the animators imaginations. 

With that said here we go:

By now common sense should tell you there is no town called Radiator Springs. I have a few candidates though as to what town it is actually based on. The first two that come to mind are Newberry Springs, CA and Peach Springs, AZ. Both like Radiator Springs are middle of no where desert towns. Another suspect is Holbrook, AZ home of the Wigwam Motel, and like Radiator Spring a short distance from the Monument Valley, painted desert, and petrified forest. 

Ramones House of Body Art is a real place, but it is called the U-drop Inn and it was a gas station and restaurant. It is located in Shamrock, TX. 

Flo's V-8 Cafe as cool as it is, and even cooler in toy form doesn't exist. Sorry I know it would be cool. 

Luigi's Casa del La Tire also doesn't exist  but many auto repair shops had giants (muffler men) in front. The closest place to Luigi's I can think of is a Leaning Tower of Pisa half size model in Niles, IL which isn't on Route 66, but is a roadside attraction.

Lizzys Curio Shop is a real place as well but it is called the Jackrabbit and located in Joseph City, AZ. It's a Route 66 classic. 

Sally's Cozy Cone is based on three different places. Design wise the first two are obviously the Rialto and Holbrook Wigwam Motels, but it's based a bit more on the Rialto location. In name though there was a Tiki themed trailer park in Kingman, AZ named that Cozy Corners. 

Sarge's, Filmore's, Maters, and Docs are all stereotypical buildings you will see on Route 66. Quonset Huts and geodesic structures are pretty common as are old garages and sheds. However the character of Filmore is loosely based on the VW Microbus of Bob Waldmire a true character and Route 66 artist. Mater is based on a rusted out tow truck found in Kansas, but there are many others like it along the way. Sarge is obviously based on the Jeep in military form, Jeeps are still made in a similar appearance and are symbols of the American adventurous spirit. As for Doc, Hudson Hornets like Doc where among the first NASCARS, but this is fairly obvious in the movie. 

The Wheel Well Motel outside of Radiator Springs has nothing it can really be compared to on Route 66. The closest I can come is the Blue Swallow in Tucumcari, NM but there are a lot of unique motels on Route 66. 

The Terrain:

Behind Radiator Springs you will see the Cadillac Range. This looks like the tail ends if Cadillacs in rock, and is based on the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo.

Between Radiator Springs and the Wheel Well Motel there are some winding roads which are like those near Oatman, AZ. However the waterfalls are not like anything you will find on Route 66, sorry! The roads and waterfall are actually a lot like those in and near the Grand Canyon which is close to Route 66 but not on it. A lot of the other terrain and road views are actually similar to stuff you will really see on Route 66, and I-40.

If you haven't seen the movie please do. It will inspire you and help excite your kids as to what they will see on a Route 66 adventure. Also be sure to pay attention to what you see and be prepared make the comparisons to what you actually see on the road. Also check out the book "The Art of Cars" it gives great insight into the films production and inspiration. 
I hope Planes is as eye opening, and I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Route 66 Kids Picks - #7 Funks Grove Maple Sirup

A Kids Opinion - James 9 Years Old

"We where driving down Route 66 near the big highway after leaving a big town. My dad turned into a driveway that bought us to a farm and we parked in front of the house. I thought we where stopping to see someone. Then my parents got out of the car and went into a little building that was actually a store. The store had a bunch of Route 66 stuff, and books, and candy, and pancake mix and Sirup. What I really liked was learning about where the Sirup came from, I hope see it happen up close some day. That and the Sirup is the best I ever had."

No we aren't misspelling it Sirup is how the syrup from Funks Grove is spelled. Actually a unique branding strategy before the term "branding strategy" was even coined. Funks Grove  is as James said a farm that can easily be mistaken for being a private farm rather then a business, yet it is a great business. The syrup or sirup producing farm and town of Funks Grove pre-date Route 66 by some time, dating to the 1850's.

Although Funks Grove may not prove to be as fun as some of the the other kids picks, it is still a selection that most kids walk away from with a memory. Many kids like learning as James did where maple syrup or sirup comes from, and most are shocked to find it doesn't come from Aunt Jamima out of a factory, but from trees. Of course kids also love the fact that they can enjoy the Sirup, and other items available in the shop made right there on the farm. Trust me once you buy a bottle of Sirup you kid(s) wont stop pestering you till you make pancakes or waffles to put the Sirup on. 

As parents though here are a few other benefits to stopping at Funks Grove like;

Agri-tourism - Going where the product made and buying direct, while supporting the farmer(s) directly, and understanding how the product is made

Gourmet Tourism - buying the real thing, without preservatives, and from the maker directly. 

No matter what way you view it Funks Grove is a great little adventure on 66, and worth a stop.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Route 66 Day-trips: Introduction

This blog is for families looking to travel Route 66, and having as much fun as possible. But, also in talking to potential travelers, and through e-mails I have received that 2000 miles of road trip is daunting especially for families. There are a number of reasons maybe it's that the kids just won't stay still for a trip like that, or you may be no where near the Eastern or Western terminus, or you simple don't have the time to dedicate to the whole trip. 

If any of these apply to you, then this article series is for you. Every week I will break the Route down into bite size portions that are equal to a day trip, that is of course based upon how close you are to the starting point of that article. 

By my estimates a "day-trip" suggestion should take you about half a day to drive. I do however, take into account that with a family you will have plenty of stops, both planned and unplanned. This also gives you time to linger at various attractions along the way and still make it to the end point. 

Look for these articles, I will be posting number 1 in the next few weeks.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Travelers Retrospective #6: Final Take

You know today July 4th reminds me of that first trip down 66. Part of the reason we took a week, 7 days and not longer was that we had to be elsewhere by July 4th. My wife who I previously mentioned is a Californian, wanted to visit one set of grandparents and then spend the 4th with the other. 

Let me tell you there is nothing more American the spending July 4th in a town called Independence, in the shadow of Mount Whitney. 

But that brings me to my reason for this post. I got a recent e-mail ( FYI) from someone reading this series who asked if I skipped Oatman, AZ for any particular reason. Basically my answer was time. Time on the way out to California, but on the way back we cuaght what we missed which is why I'm writing this final entry in the series.

We finally got out of California on July 11, 2005. My wife wanted to do some of the driving back so we stayed on I-40 till Needles and then got back on to 66 to hit what we missed on the way to. I remember hitting a town called Golden Shores for gas, and with how low we where at that point the heavenly reference made by the towns name seemed fitting. After that it was on to Oatman, and Kingman. The ride into Oatman East or Westbound is filled with curves and hills and just about require Dramamine. Having grown up in the deserts and mountains of California my wife handled the road to Outman beautifully, and despite having never driven the road before it almost seemed as if she had ESP driving it with. Her past experiences gave her the ability to anticipate every curve and hill in the road and the ability to understand when to speed up and slow down at particular times.

To be honest Oatman looks about the same in person as it does in the pictures that you will see of it. The day we visited though the town had a great deal of traffic and cars parked everywhere do to some sort of special event. So we didn't get to stay long and also didn't get a chance to see the famous Oatman Hotel. Oatman was cool and I would like to visit it again and perhaps spend a little more time.

The road out of Oatman is as winding twisting  and hilly as the road into Oatman. As you climb one of the final hills leaving Oatman you will find an overlook looking out at Oatman in the valley below. But as you look towards one of the curves below you you'll see something very frightening that is the remains of a school bus and VW bug that at one point in this routes history had gone off that curve and down the cliff below. We tried the best we could to get photos of the vehicles. To say the least this site is frightening yet at the same time kind of cool.

Eventually the road begins straighten out as you come back down into the next valley as you find yourself approaching Kingman,  Arizona. Kingman is connected to 66 through the famous song. But to be honest there really isn't all that much of Kingman so we found ourselves passing through Kingman rather quickly. Then we returned back to I 40 and later that day finally ended up in Winslow for stay at the La Posada. 

The next day July 12 we would stop by the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest for a visit since we had also missed these two sites on the trip to California it doesn't take very long to actually run through both of these national parks. I would definitely have to say that you would want to check both these parks out if you're passing through the area I only wish that we had more time to spend in the two parks which are basically connected to each other.

After that we where back onto I-40 and I-44 a few more days until we got into Eastern Oklahoma. On July 15 we left Claremore, Oklahoma and proceeded to follow Route 66 through that area of Oklahoma through Kansas and to Joplin Missouri and back to I-44. To be honest there's really not much I'll see in these three areas in route to Joplin from Claremore is mainly through small towns and agricultural areas. Although it is part Route 66 and Route 66 experience if you should happen to miss these areas you really won't be missing much. 

After that there really wasn't anything else that we missed. We decided however to stop in Springfield Illinois to see some of the sites. There is quite a bit of history in Springfield, Illinois both national or state. If you can you might want to work out a day in Springfield Illinois on your route 66 trip. There is both Abraham Lincoln history to be found in Springfield, Illinois. 

Overall if you put all the things we had missed together into one day it probably would've taken us the extent of the whole day or less to cover what we missed on the way too. 

If your trip gives you the ability to return the same way that you had came then you may want to consider breaking route 66 up into different sections and stopping to see some of the major sites on the way to California and the more minor sites on the way back from California. But of course that's all up to you based on the time you have and what your starting point would be.

Remember if you have any questions about planning your trip please email me and let me know also don't hesitate to post something on my blogs for an area.

Happy Forth of July!!!!

Happy 4th of July. 

A few years back I picked up a cool Route 66 themed Hawaiian shirt in Winslow, Arizona, and I wear it every 4th of July. People ask me why I don't where red, white, and blue or something with flags on it on the 4th and why the Hawaiian Route 66 shirt? I tell then what is more about the American spirit then Route 66? 

Route 66 is 4th of July fireworks, apple pie, rock and roll, memorably landmarks, and natural wonders all rolled into 2000 miles of travel though 8 states, and multiple regions. It's different cultures, and society's all together on one road under one flag. Chicago businessmen, St. Louis industrial workers, Kansas farmers, Oklahoma oil roughnecks, Texas cattlemen, New Mexico scientist, Arizona Navajos, and LA movie stars all together connected by one road. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Route 66 for Family Forum

Be sure to visit that forum on my blog. It's a great way to ask questions and share with other travelers like yourself. See the link below.