Sunday, 15 October 2017

2017 Road-trip day 12

Day 12: Saturday

We started the final day of our Route 66 adventure slowly, spending time lounging in our 'Mad Men'  style room before heading downstairs to a  have a rather splendid breakfast in the hotel. Plenty of hot and cold foods that we both could enjoy and a rarity in hotels in the USA, coffee that was drinkable.

Back to the room, we packed up our things and after checking out and loading up the car, headed off on foot towards the State Capitol building a few blocks down. We were able to leave our car at the hotel parking which was super convenient as we were just a block away from the Capitol building.

It was a glorious day and the sun shone down on the Lincoln statue. We walked around the outside of the Capitol, passing the replica Liberty Bell. It's a lovely building which reminded me of many Georgian building back home in Blighty. I must say that I do think our State Capitol in Madison is nicer though!

We continued our walk into the downtown area, wandering around the farmers market and finding the old or 5th built Capitol building in Illinois which served as the State house between 1840 and 1876 before becoming too small, leading the way to the building of the 6th State Capitol which we had just visited.

It was now time to hit the road for our final leg, so heading back to the hotel we jumped in the car and after only a couple of minutes drive had picked up Route 66 and passed the State fairground and were heading out of Springfield towards Williamsville.

During our drive we passed many spots relating to Honest Abe including driving thought the town named in his honour. We also passed the yellow water tower with a high smiley face as we drove into Atlanta where we stopped so we could have a look at the Bunyan Giant with his giant hot dog, we meet a great local character who offered to take our picture and we stopped to chat for a while with him.

This is what I've loved about Route 66, that it takes you though these small towns which are full of interesting people who are keen to spend time taking about themselves and the area.

Back on the road heading to Funks Grove, we were getting down and funky hoping that they hadn't sold out of this seasons maple syrup harvest, unfortunately they had. Continuing on past the Nestle factory at Bloomington - home of the sole source of Beer Nuts, no we didn't know what they were either before doing a Google search. But we are informed that they are a salty sweet nuts that are an ideal partnership with your beer. 

We soon came across the town of Normal, well that seemed like a place we could fit right in to! We had read in our trusty EZ guide that there was a bit not to be missed at a restored 1931 Sprague Super Service Station and Cafe, we thought this would be the idea coffee stop. The station looked very much like a home and indeed the owners would live above the station and cafe.

When we got there though we found there was no cafe but it did house a very nice gift shop championing local artists. However the manager did tell us it is planned to open a cafe soon after the last part of the restoration had been done.

Our plan had always been to not continue along the whole of Route 66 into Chicago, but at some point in Illinois head west into Wisconsin and home to Madison. With around a 130 miles of the Mother Road left, we bid a fond farewell to Route 66  at Linden St, Normal and picked up the I.39 towards home. It felt strange to no longer be driving this road that is embedded with so much American history and quirks, no longer were we finding ourselves on the concrete roads and the now familiar thumping noise as we ride it.

I also felt suddenly unemployed in my role of navigator, I didn't realise just how much I enjoyed following the directions and using my trusty high lighter to mark of the sections as we went. We just continued to head straight on the road, stopping only at Starbucks for refreshments till we found ourselves back home in Middleton, Wisconsin.

You don't just drive Route 66 you become part of it, the community of people who have had the pleasure to say "yep, we've done the Mother Road". Never did I think I would become so attached to it, I now understand what all the fuss is about. It was truly a magnificent adventure.

Todays miles:  295
Total miles: 2668 < see how we got a '66' in there

Monday, 4 September 2017

2017 Road-trip day 11

Day 11: Friday

Much better nights sleep, no trains hurtling past.

First things first, we have to book a place to stay tonight in Springfield Illinois, that is quickly sorted and we went to get some breakfast, despite plenty of choice there wasn't much I fancied and after finding some mouldy you bread decided to give it a miss.

Back in the room we packed up our bags and bid our goodbyes to The Rail Haven and headed a short way down the road to Starbucks for coffee and bagels - I really don't want to know how much money we'll have loaded onto our Starbucks card this trip.

Soon we are back on the road again heading to Springfield, Illinois, farewell Springfield, Missouri! Heading away from the city we find ourselves driving across picturesque bridges and over hills and through woods and meadows. We were astonished at just how like the English countryside today's drive was proving to be.

Continuing on some lovely parts of old Route 66 road, we passed numerous small towns as we we looked out for some featured landmarks. A small green painted girder bridge over the Niangua River, a 1925 cottage style gas station and the Munger Moss Motel at Lebanon. Just before joining the I-44 for a few junctions we decided to drive up to a dead end Route 66 road to an endangered 1923 bridge over the Gasconade River.

The was another couple viewing the bridge when we arrived who immediately said that we must be 'roadies' if we are coming to photograph a bridge. Yes we are now officially part of the  Route 66  club, they had done the trip previously, but taking advantage of doing part of this drive on their way back from vacation. Bidding goodbye, we stayed a while at the bridge taking in the sights before heading back to join up with I-44 - the bridge being out was the reason we had to spend a short time on the interstate wheer you can view the old bridge from the elevated section.

After getting off at our exit we spotting the strange pairing of a giant bowling pin along side a huge sign advertising an 'Adult Superstore', welcome to roadside America in the Bible Belt folks!

Passing through another Devil's Elbow, this time named for a bend in the river that caused logjams,  sitting below the picturesque 200ft tree lined bluffs, we headed on towards Hooker. The very first stretch of four-lane 66 in Missouri, it was built for wartime traffic and at 90 feet Hookers Cut was the deepest road cut in Missouri at the time. It was indeed a very pleasant drive.

We stopped at the roadside to buy fresh off the vine grapes, lovely, but Paul not so keen!

As it was getting past lunch we decided to stop in Cuba and grab a bit to eat at Shelly's Route 66 Cafe, nice little place where we had eggs and toast.

Then it was on through Bourbon with its water tower emblazoned with the towns name, through Grey Summit and the Indian 'tepees' and some interesting limestone bluffs at Pacific then onward towards St Louis.

Now, we weren't planning to go through St Louis at rush hour so we left Route 66 and took the bypass North to skirt around the city. Passing the Chain of Rocks bridge that the old Route 66 crossed the Mississippi into St Louis, it's no longer driveable, but you can park up on the Illinois side and walk it. We decided as it had been a long days drive already and we still had about 100 miles to go, that we would leave getting back on Route 66 and drive straight to Springfield, passing over the State Line of Illinois and on to Engrained Brewing Company for dinner before reaching our hotel for the night.

Engrained Brewing was lovely, we were shown to our table and order a flight of beer to share and an appetiser of banana beer bread, very nice and not at all sweet, washed down with some great beers.

Time for the main - entree to the locals - we both were craving salad so we ordered the Greek Salad and a Grilled Peach Salad with peach saisson vinaigrette. Naturally another flight was ordered and being up to now so virtuous with the vitamins, we shared a huge piece of chocolate stout cake, delicious!

Then it was a short drive to our hotel - The State House Inn - not on Route 66 but a recently refurbished 1960's hotel, done in the original style, one block away from the Capitol building and where all the politicians stayed. With only a minor hiccup checking in (our key didn't work first time) we settled into our very 60's inspired businessman's room for our very last night on the road.

Although coming out of the elevator it does seem reminiscent of the Hollywood Tower Hotel.

Todays miles: 350
Total miles: 2373

Friday, 1 September 2017

2017 Road-trip day 10

Day 10: Thursday

So tired this morning. What little sleep we both got was continually interrupted by trains hurtling past, honking their horns, crossing bells ringing and windows rattling, -how anyone who lived there got and sleep is a mystery to me - it was a truly awful nights sleep.

Seeing as we were awake and needing to get to Tulsa Airport to swap cars, we thought there was no point hanging around in Stroud. Quickly packing up our things, we got in the car and made the decision to head directly to the airport rather then spending the time going through the city and trying to figure out were Route 66 went through Tulsa, whilst navigating rush hour traffic. Our journey was uneventful, only stopping for petrol and a McDonald's coffee for breakfast.

In just an hour we were pulling into the Hertz drop off point and explaining the situation we were told that we could leave our luggage in the car whilst we got allocated our new one. The gentleman that sorted it was very apologetic and offered us an upgrade for the inconvenience, erm a Hyundai no thank you, we've had one of those before and never again. No worries he said we could have a Nissan Versima.

Very quickly, we were on our way again picking up Route 66 heading out of Tulsa and towards Catoosa. We passed the giant Blue Whale sculpture on the other side of the road but didn't stop. Passing through Claremore, Foyil and into Chelsea. We were looking for the vintage Seers catalogue mail order home. During the period 1908 - 1940 you were able to choose one of over 400 designs of homes to be delivered, they included everything you needed flooring, paint, fittings even the nails. If you get a chance, have a read about them it's fascinating.  The only information we had was that it was at 10th and Olive St, well on arriving there we noticed that a house stood either side of the road and we wasn't sure which one it was, so we took pictures of both and planned to google search a picture to see what one it was.

Turns out it was neither, goodness knows what the owners of the houses would have thought if they saw us! Continuing on out of Chelsea we notice the town hall which was a little different to the one I'm used to seeing back in Chelsea, London.

As we neared Vinita, we were on the look out for some pecan groves, we never did spot them but we drove the tight curve of Dead Man's Corner and just after we spotted the Miller Pecan Company. Of course we pulled in, the lady serving us told us that her daughter would have loved hearing our accents and would be sad to have missed us. We made some purchases including a huge bag of pecans and some fudge for our journey, and we were back on the road.

Realising that it was 11.30 and we hadn't had breakfast, we stopped at the neon EAT sign and home to Clantons Cafe, the cafe having been in the same family since 1927. The menu didn't hold much for us vegetarians so I decided to have a jacket potato with sour cream and Paul choose homemade lemon meringue pie, both were very good and extremely reasonable in price.

Road side alert coming up in Miami, a giant Ku Ku posed as if it's popped out the building of Waylan's Ku Ku burger, we only saw this as we had stopped at Walgreens opposite to use the restroom and get some cash out.

It wouldn't be long before we were out of Oklahoma and onto the short 13 mile stretch of road in Kansas. We had done quite a lot in Oklahoma but the drive had been just ok, nothing spectacular like previous landscapes we had passed through.

Entering into Kansas first brought us to Baxter Springs and the restored 1830's era Phillips 66 Station and site of some Confederate treachery during the civil war.

We took the short loop over 'Bush Creek' on the historical Rainbow Bridge, the last of three Marsh Arch bridges that once graced 66 in Kansas.

Continuing onto Galena where the restored Kan-O-Tex gas station sits and the inspiration for Matter from the 'Cars' movie. Meet Tow-Tater at CARS on The Route.

Stopping to grab some photos and buy a postcard, we notice a restored Victorian house opposite, home to the 'Galena Murder Bordello'. In addition to this being a house of prostitution, it was were the madam and her accomplices robbed and killed many clients in the 1890's .

This was it for Kansas, and we were onto our penultimate State on Route 66, Missouri. Just over the State Line we past the now abandoned 66 Carousel Park, into Joplin where they seemed to enjoy enlarging items - big coke bottle at Woody's, big crayon at the local school.

Very soon we came across a diversion in the road, we seemed to go for miles before we returned to our route, never mind these thing are bound to happen and very soon we were driving into Springfield and to the Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven, just in time for our four o'clock check in.

We had been recommended this Motel by the couple we meet at the Blue Swallow back in New Mexico and as well as by the EZ Guide by Jerry McClanahan that we were using to plot our route. It didn't disappoint, first built in 1938 on Route 66 and expanded over the years. It had kept the earlier charm with classic cars parked outside the reception and a diner inspired breakfast area, the rooms had been updated without losing the nostalgia of the place.

We were offer cookies and coffee on arrival and as our room was opposite the pool area, after dropping off our luggage we headed straight there. It was good to arrive somewhere early, we first tried out the very warm hot tub before needing to cool off in the pool, wow it was like getting into an icy plunge pool, we soon got use to it.

After showers and sprucing ourselves up we prepared to head out for dinner for tacos, but before that we were going to 'Mothers Brewing Company' first. Unfortunately they were at the other end of town and too far to walk, so we took the car passing some lovely buildings in downtown Springfield MO that reminded us of San Francisco.

What a lovely little find Mothers Brewing was, a nice garden area where they had a couple of musicians playing. Inside the tasting room felt similar to the Junkyard back in Nottingham UK, only with a bit more space. They offered a good selection of beers, we decided on their 'year round flight' and also a glass of the peach sour.

We both could have stayed there much longer then we did, but our stomachs were calling to be fed, so sadly we departed but not before availing ourselves off some of the merch displaying the great logo. Off to the other side of Springfield and to 'The Great American Taco', we didn't know this was a chain but never mind we went in anyway. We started with a house margarita on the rocks and a corona followed by chips and 2 of the 4 salsas they offered.

As the tacos we were ordering came with avocado on them we declined the guacamole in place of a cup if queso. So far so good and we were looking forward to our mains, the vegan taco and vegetarian taco to share. These were big messy tacos, but yummy.

We passed on desert opting to stop at Braums for ice cream, we had seen quite a few of these the last couple of days and lured in by the special of the day - double dipped chocolate fudge Sundae - we placed our order and in return given a large sundae with the works! Heading back to the Motel, with the booze, I seemed to have morphed into Mickey Flanagan, which prompted Paul to fire up You Tube back in the room, where we watched many classic clips until we feel into the land of slumber.

Todays miles: 285 (58 in the Buick 227 in the Nissan)
Total miles: 2023