Illinois

"Land of Lincoln"

Cozy Drive In, Springfield IL

In Cozy Drive In in Springfield IL they serve the one and only hot dogs, protected by a patent, called cozy dogs. It’s a sausage on a stick fried in a corn batter.

The originator of this delicacy (they are delicious!) is the first owner of the snack bar, deceased Edwin Waldmire. He invented cozy dog just after leaving the army, where he bravely served his country. He constructed a special tools for this unusual need, which you can see on the walls of the bar. What’s very rare, there’s a big bookcase in the snack bar, with many books on philosophy, as a memento of Edwin and his wife Virginia. One of Edwin’s sons was Bob Waldmire (Do you remember the very beginning of our trip and the memorial plaque commemorating Bob on Santa Monica Pier?). His drawings hang on the walls of Cozy Drive In.

Cozy Drive In, Springfield IL

Josh Waldmire

Today the snack bar is run by Edwin’s grandson Josh Waldmire and his brother (Bob Waldmire was their uncle). He continues tradition of a family business with pride and modesty.

Josh! Greetings from Poland! Your Cozy Dogs are fantastic.

Springfield is a city of Abraham Lincoln – he lived and worked here in the years 1837 – 1861 and he left for Washington, D.C. to take up the position of the 16th President. You can visit his house and office where he completed legal practice. All of these on a quite green streets with no road traffic.

Lincoln abolished slavery in the United States. Under his presidency American Civil War between the North (the Union) and the South (the Confederacy) broke out and ended. Plantation owners in the South took advantage of black slaves mainly on the cotton fields as a cheap workforce. Luckily they lost and the slavery was abolished.

It was right here in Springfield in 2007 where Barack Obama symbolically announced his candidature for President. He is the 44th President and the first black man on this position.

Abraham Lincoln’s House, Springfield IL

Lincoln Tomb, Springfield IL

Here stands Lincoln Tomb – a huge structure with fighting soldiers. Lincoln died after assuming second term of the office. He was assassinated by fanatic supporter of the South and slavery. He was attacked in a theatre box by the actor, who after it jumped down on the stage and screamed: “Death to the tyrants”.

Shea’s Gas Station Museum in Springfield, unfortunately closed “for the moment” for two years. It used to be a gas station and garage, then changed to a museum, run since 1946 by a father of the current owner. Nowadays the museum is put up for sale. At least Bill Shea wants to sell it in its entirety, which means continuation of this wonderful place.

Shea’s Gas Station Museum, Springfield IL

Shea’s Gas Station Museum, Springfield IL

You can find here all sorts of things concerning Route 66 and American motorization. And right here, thanks to the fact that museum is closed for two years, I appreciated other places like this one at the Road. In this jumble of junk and relics – standing, lying and hanging, chaotically now – you can understand how much work and artistic talent is needed to run such a museum. In many other places which we have seen before, it seemed that the chaos reigns, that there’s almost a junkyard, although very charming and causing good emotions. Here I saw that they were all well preserved and intentionally arranged places.

Billy used to help his father. He was coming to the museum every Saturday and met here many people. When he retired he started to come here every day and took great care of the museum. Today, because of his age, he wants someone young to continue this inheritance.

Bill Shea

Shea’s Gas Station Museum, Springfield IL

Bill’s father wanted to tour around Europe. But, as he used to say: As a matter of fact, what for? If the whole world comes to me?

World's Largest Covered Wagon driven by Abraham Lincoln himself, in Lincoln IL is another attraction entered in Guinness Book of Records. How lucky we were during this journey demonstrates this situation – we happened to meet the author of this record wagon a moment before, in Springfield in the front of Cozy Drive In. He was passing by, he realized that we go Route 66 and made sure we go east. He told us that we really need to see his work in Lincoln. He was very proud of it and pleased. Such nice meetings wait for you on the Road!

World's Largest Covered Wagon, Lincoln IL

Tall Paul the Muffler Man, Atlanta IL

Tall Paul the Muffler Man is a huge figure with big hot dog in his hands, in Atlanta IL. There’s more of it at Route 66. They usually advertise a garage or snack bar standing next to it. The idea came from Paul Bunyan – the legendary lumberjack, strong and talented giant. Following the example of Paul the statues of lumberjack with axe in his hands showed all over the USA. With time they raised similar figures, but with mufflers or tires, which advertised roadside garages. And finally arose “variations on a theme” – next one in Wilmington.

Pontiac IL is famous for many beautiful murals.

  • Pontiac IL

Route 66 Museum, Pontiac IL

In Route 66 Museum in Pontiac Bob Waldmire’s Volkswagen Bus stands in the central place. At the back of the museum in a parking lot there’s old Chevrolet school bus fitted with a hand-built wooden camper top. Bob – well known and well liked hippie artist – used to drive both vehicles on Route 66 all his life. He used to take VW bus in tow and when he arrived to a place which was impassable with his Chevrolet “home”, he got into VW bus and went away.

On the second floor of the museum the whole apartment from the 50. and the 60. is arranged, with authentic furniture, music equipment and kitchen utensils.

We toured around these original murals in Pontiac with special map in our hands, which directed us to the right streets. There were also signs on the sidewalks, which shows the right buildings where these great wall paintings are ready to admire.

Pontiac IL

Pontiac IL

Standard Oil Co., Odell IL

Lovely restored, small and very old gas station of Standard Oil Co. in Odell IL.

Another automotive surprise at the Road – fuel pumps of Shell in Dwight IL. There is Italian Ferrari painted on the wall. Is it because Shell is a European corporation (British – Dutch)?

We found one more gas station in Dwight – Ambler’s Texaco. It’s also restored, but not as  “cute” – as the American say – as those met before (“cute” is especially used by American teenagers and it means something very sweet and lovely).

Dwight IL

Polk-A-Dot Drive Inn, Braidwood IL

Polk-A-Dot Drive Inn in Braidwood IL is a superb although simple snack bar, the 50. style. There are Blues Brothers characters outside at the driveway…

…and inside ladies’ room full of Presley photos and men’s room full of Marilyn Monroe photos. On each table in the bar stands small jukebox, where you can throw a coin into and play your favourite song.

Polk-A-Dot Drive Inn, Braidwood IL

Gemini Giant, Wilmington IL

Gemini Giant in Wilmington IL is another Muffler Man. It stands at Launching Pad Drive-In. That’s why this over 26 feet high (8 meters) giant has a rocket in his hands. He is named after the Gemini space program of NASA which was conducted in the years 1963 – 1966 (the restaurant was opened in 1965). Gemini was the first program to let the astronauts go for a space walk. Gemini in Latin means twins, and the spaceship – space capsule used in this program was two-seater.

Rich & Creamy in Joliet IL is an ice cream shop where they serve huge portions of delicious ice cream with most varied toppings.

Rich & Creamy, Joliet IL

Dick’s on Route 66, Joliet IL

On the other side of the street there’s Dick’s on Route 66 – road service and towing. Even though they work mainly on the road, their office is decorated first rate! It’s so nice to look at it eating ice cream at the same time – you have delicious taste and great view, all in one.

I’m afraid we are coming to a close of our journey. We reached Chicago. Big, beautiful, “windy city” (that’s right, there is a strong wind) and… so what? This is the end of our great adventure.

Chicago IL

Buckingham Fountain, Chicago IL

Wonderful Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park, near to the shore of grand Lake Michigan.

Huge silver sculpture Cloud Gate, that is a metal bean – the entrance gate to Millenium Park.

Cloud Gate, Chicago IL

Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Chicago IL

Untypical concert hall in the open air Jay Pritzker Pavilion, designed by Frank Gehry, in Millenium Park.

Crown Fountain consists of two blocks with led displays. Sinking in the water it shows faces of Chicago inhabitants.

Crown Fountain, Chicago IL

Mosaic by Marc Chagall, Chicago IL

Mosaic by Marc Chagall among sky-scrapers – office blocks, precisely at Chase Tower.

Sculpture by Pablo Picasso at Daley Plaza.

Sculpture by Pablo Picasso, Chicago IL

The Loop, Chicago IL

The Loop is a center of the city, bounded by elevated railroad. It is seen very often in American movies shooting in Chicago.

Navy Pier on Lake Michigan with many attractions, restaurants, cruises and so on. In the distance on the right side you can see John Hancock Center with 360º Observatory and the fastest elevator in the USA which rides almost 21 miles per hour (that’s 33 km/h).

Navy Pier, Chicago IL

Willis Tower, Chicago IL

Ahead of us Willis Tower arises from a cluster of sky-scrapers (formerly known as Sears Tower, built in the 70.) – the highest building in the city, and till 1997 the highest building in the world. It’s a 110-story building and in the USA it is second only to One World Trade Center built in 2013. On the 103rd floor there’s a Skydeck with The Ledge – three glass balconies(!). I suppose that some of the people need to walk on it on their knees…

Water Tower and pump station on the opposite side of the street, are the only structures which withstood the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.

Water Tower, Chicago IL

Lake Michigan, Chicago IL

On Lake Michigan you can spend your time like you were at the seaside. The city beach stretches for miles (one part is only for dogs), recreation and sports grounds – you won’t feel here a hint of a big city. But you will feel a strong wind from the lake.

The cult Lou Mitchell’s restaurant – if you start your journey on Route 66 from Chicago, you need to start with breakfast in Lou Mitchell’s.

Lou Mitchell’s, Chicago IL

Adams Street, Chicago IL

Right here, on Adams Street, Route 66 has its official beginning.

But we were finishing our great journey on the whole Route 66 in Chicago. So we finally reached Jackson Boulevard.

Jackson Boulevard, Chicago IL

Route 66 map in Illinois

Length of Route 66 in Illinois is ca. 301 miles (ca. 484 km).

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