After our lazy day yesterday, an early start today wasn’t too much of a problem, and considering that we had a fair way to go, was probably our best bet. We left the Heart O’Chicago Motel at 9.30 having programmed our first destination into the GPS. (We will be using maps and a Route 66 book to follow the route, but we needed to find the start of it first… I think at this point it would be prudent to explain to those of you that don’t know, Route 66 was gradually replaced as the US Interstate System was built, with the final section in Arizona being bypassed in 1985 at which point the route was officially decommissioned. In short, it no longer exists. Luckily for us however, due to the huge history surrounding the route, much of it still survives and people have seen fit to write books to guide people like us along what remains of the route, pointing out interesting sites as they go, very useful. Our early start, while in theory a good idea, put us in the middle of Chicago in rush hour, which wasn’t great. It was also rather foggy, and as one might expect of the “Windy City” a little breezy. Since we are planning to come back to Chicago, we decided to visit the Buckingham Fountain in the summer when we return, as we drove past it, this appeared to be a good plan since it was turned off and closed of for some sort of construction work. On to our next stop, Lou Mitchell’s restaurant, which gives you donut holes as you arrive, and a free box of milk duds (female customers only). Unfortunately, there were quite a lot of roadworks going on, which meant that it was difficult to find and then even more difficult to park.

The Gemini Giant.

We eventually got parked at about 10.40am and walked over to Lou Mitchell’s. Breakfast was great, we had both ordered two eggs, which came with toast and hash browns. What we weren’t expecting however, were the two extra eggs each hidden under the hash browns, having finished our breakfast and vowed never to eat again, we headed back to the car. By chatting to the guy clearing our table I had clearly made a friend as he handed me several extra boxes of milk duds as we left. After taking the obligatory pictures outside, which happened to be our first on Route 66, we hurried back to the car to begin our long drive. After our earlier experience we were somewhat reluctant to attempt too much driving in central Chicago, the weather was also awful, with the fog covering many of the taller buildings, so we decided to come back to our next two landmarks (both purely photo opportunities) on our return to Chicago, where we would have a chance of taking a decent picture. Over breakfast we had also discovered that Lizzie’s phone was missing, and not finding it in the car, called the motel, they had found it, so we drove back to collect it. Liz apologised several times for this before I reminded her of the huge detour that we had to take back to Boston when I forgot my phone! Rather than fight our way through the traffic for a third time, we picked up Route 66 from I-55, just south of the city centre. After following a short section of interstate, we were able to pick up the old road near the town of Joliet, where we pulled in to visit the Route 66 museum and visitor centre. The lady in the shop was really helpful, giving us loads of free flyers and maps as well as letting us use the bathrooms without paying museum admission. After purchasing some necessary Route 66 souvenirs, including Route 66 branded sodas, we returned to the car to continue our journey through Illinois. We started playing one of the travel games listed in the EZ66 travel book, which involved trying to spot the Historic Route 66 signs, and the first person to spot each one gets a letter of the word “HISTORIC” the winner is the one who finishes first. There were a few problems with this game, all arising from the fact that we are both very competitive, my excited shouts distracted Lizzie from driving, Lizzie distracted herself from driving by looking for signs and we both managed to give ourselves slight headaches from trying to spot signs before the other.

Abraham Lincoln on the largest covered wagon in the world.

After one round of the game (I won) we decided that it was a bit too dangerous to play when one participant was driving. Following the route in the EZ66 book, our next point of interest was the first of three Illinois giants, the Gemini Giant, advertising a drive in restaurant. Still full from breakfast, we didn’t go in, but stopped to take photos of the giant. While in Wilmington, we also stopped to get a picture of the Sinclair Dinosaur on top of the G&D tire company. We continued driving for most of the day, photographing some sights from the car, and stopping at others. Sights of the day included diners that have been open on Route 66 for years, more giants and old style gas stations, now all closed, but many have been restored as restaurants, shops and museums. In the town of Lincoln we pulled over to photograph the world’s largest covered wagon, complete with a giant model of Abraham Lincoln driving. By this point it was starting to get dark and we had long realised that we had overestimated how much we could cover in the first day. However, with our motel in Carlinville booked and paid for, we needed to press on. We arrived at the Cozy Dog Drive In about 10 minutes before closing, and were somewhat astounded by the rudeness of the staff when we asked about a vegetarian option. We decided not to eat there since we had food that we could make at the motel when we got there. Our final stop for the day was to visit the final giant of the three in Illinois, and while Liz waited in the car, I jumped out to take pictures. About 40 minutes later, just past 9pm we finally arrived at the motel. Independently owned and run it was really nice, somewhat dated, but clean and not too expensive. More importantly, the bed was comfy and there was a microwave to cook dinner.

Our first Route 66 sunset - all credit must go to Lizzie for this, I was driving.

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