Entries in San Diego Miata Club (4)
Springfield, IL to St. Louis, MO
After a three-month sabbatical I finally got myself motivated to continue with updates on our Route 66 adventure. My thanks to everyone for hanging in there and not nagging me too much in the interim.
Our day one overnight was at the fabulous State House Inn in Springfield, IL.
The State House Inn is located along a pre-1930 alignment of Route 66. The hotel featured beautiful and very comfortable rooms, as well as much-needed laundry facilities (many of us were on our sixth night since leaving home, those of you with Miatas will understand the limited trunk space available).
Lincoln's Home and Tomb
While I thoroughly enjoyed each and every day of our 14-day Route 66 adventure, day two was particularly special for me because we visited President Lincoln's Home, a National Park Service Historic Site and a real highlight of the trip.
Lincoln lived in the home from 1844 until 1861 when he and his family moved into the White House. His home and the four blocks adjacent to his home have all been restored to their 1860's appearance. It is literally like stepping back in time.
Follow the Red Brick Road
Continuing on the pre-1930 alignment of Route 66 out of Springfield led us to the famous 1.5 mile Red Brick section of Route 66 north of Auburn, IL. Easily, one of the most scenic and all-together-too-short sections of Route 66. It's a must-see on every Route 66 itinerary.
A Slight Detour for Lunch
One disadvantage of following the pre-1930 alignment of Route 66 out of Springfield is that it passes west of the town of Litchfield, IL. Litchfield is home to the famous Ariston Cafe, located on the post-1930 alignment of Route 66. The Ariston is on the National Register of Historic Places and is the longest-operating restaurant along the entire stretch of Route 66. A detour east to Litchfield was deemed a must-do by everyone in our group.
We were very glad we drove that 10 miles east to Litchfield! Our lunch at the Ariston Cafe was fabulous! Owners Nick and Demi Adam treated us like family. The Ariston is another must-stop for every Route 66 traveler regardless of which alignment you are following.
It's Rabbit Season
After lunch we headed back west to the town of Gillespie to rejoin the pre-1930 alignment. That brought us to the town of Staunton, IL, which is where the pre-1930 and post-1930 alignments converge. Staunton is also where you'll find Henry's Rabbit Ranch. The Rabbit Ranch is owned by Rich and Linda Henry and is home to rabbits of many shapes and kinds. Most famous of which is their whimsical tribute to the famous Cadillac Ranch (more about the Cadillac Ranch in a future update).
The Henry's humorous nature is also evident in this yard sculpture tribute to the movie 'Cars'.
Turn 22 Degrees to the Right (wish we could have)
From Staunton it was only 34 miles to the Mississippi River and the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge.
The Chain or Rocks Bridge was built in 1929 and became part of Route 66 in 1936. The bridge is famous for its 22-degree turn in the middle. The Chain of Rocks Bridge was closed and abandoned in 1968 but a refurishment project in 1997 eventually reopened the bridge to pedestrians and bicycles.
Our group visited both sides of the bridge and while we didn't venture very far onto the bridge (it was getting late, rain was threatening, and we had one more stop to make before our hotel), we did take the time to grab a few photos with our Miatas included. A nice couple from the Netherlands shot this one for us.
Meet Me in St. Louis
From the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge we followed the "City 66" alignment of Route 66 toward downtown St. Louis. Per the recommendation found in the fabulous EZ66 Guide we left the old city route and briefly joined I-70 southbound to bypass the downtown area. Shortly after hopping onto I-70 we were treated to our first view of the beautiful Gateway Arch.
A few miles after I snapped that photo of the Gateway Arch it began to rain. Hard. All of the Miatas were top-down but we reminded each other (over the CB) that if we kept moving we'd be O.K. That's about the same time traffic on I-70 started to build and we had to slow down. Fortunately, the rain stopped just as quickly as it started and we exited I-70 and made our way to the south side of St. Louis and eventually onto Chippewa Street—the continuation of The Mother Road—still relatively dry and cozy.
Route 66 traveler or not, no self-respecting visitor to St. Louis should leave the city without stopping at Ted Drewes Frozen Custard. Ted Drewes is located right on The Mother Road and it's a very popular spot. The place was hopping on this Friday night with a large crowd at the order windows as we pulled into the parking lot. Our little caravan of Miatas was greeted with friendly hoots and hollers from the many people scattered about enjoying their cups of frozen custard heaven.
The frozen custard was tastier than I imagined and I'm glad I don't live in St. Louis or I'd probably be at least ten pounds heavier! Looks like Jill might have had a bit too much.
Sun Sets on Day Two
Following our delicious treat at Ted Drewes we continued west on Route 66 before eventually breaking away to drop south to our hotel for the night. We'd traveled approximately 120 miles and it had taken eight hours, an average of about 15 miles per hour. So much to see and do along Route 66!
Blog and Photo Site for the Full Story
Many additional day two photos can be found on my photo site, The Photo Booth.
Click >>>HERE<<< for the start of day two photos!
First, My Apologies
Our Route 66 road trip was truly the trip of a lifetime. We experienced about a year's worth of fun and excitement, all crammed into a couple of weeks. Most of the days were about ten to twelve hours long, even when we only traveled about 100 miles. We still didn't have the time to see and do everything. Happily, that gives us an excuse to visit The Mother Road again. And we will.
Our nights were busy too. Once our group of Route 66 adventurers arrived at our stop for the night, more often than not we'd find ourselves sitting together on the "stoop" enjoying a beer or other beverage and reminiscing about the day. Before we knew it, it was time to get some sleep for the next day's adventures.
Unfortunately, our busy days and nights also meant that I simply didn't have the time to post blog updates and photos as I had planned. It didn't help that we didn't have decent WiFi in some of the motels. Before I knew it, I was hopelessly behind. Rather than stress over trying to catch up, I decided to wait until we got home.
Please accept my apologies for the delay. I am hoping that I'll be able to make up for the wait by having the time to do a better job of sharing the stories and experiences from the trip. As a way of thanking everyone for their patience, I'm going to start with one of the coolest things we experienced during the trip.
Bob's Gasoline Alley
On our third day on Route 66 we stopped in Cuba, Missouri for the night. Cuba is famous for their many murals to be found around the city.
While out photographing the murals, a man and woman in an SUV approached our group of Miatas and struck up a conversation with me and Cathy. They had noticed our custom San Diego Miata Club Route 66 magnetics and asked if we were enjoying our trip on Route 66 and our stay in Cuba. We answered affirmatively to both questions. They introduced themselves (Bob and Darlene Mullen) and made a recommendation for a mural a few streets over. We thanked them for their friendly suggestion and our group headed to the mural they had recommended.
While at the mural a few streets over, Bob and Darlene approached our group of Miatas again. Now, I will admit that I was starting to feel (just a bit) like we were being stalked. But that didn't prevent me from walking over to their SUV to continue the conversation. That's when Bob mentioned that they had a collection of automotive and roadside memorabilia. They asked if we'd be interested in driving out to take a look. I told them I'd have to check with the group. Bob said he understood. If the group wanted to do it, we were more than welcome. He explained they lived about three miles south on Route 66 and told me he'd put out his sign for 'Bob's Gasoline Alley'. He instructed me to turn right at the sign and drive until we came upon their place. He said we wouldn't have any trouble finding the place.
When Bob and Darlene drove off, I used the CB radio to explain what had just transpired. Everyone was game for a visit so, after a few more pictures, we were heading south on Route 66. Along the way, the jokes were flying over the CB about hightailing it out of there if we spotted a barber pole or heard certain banjo music. :) (I mean no offense to Bob and Darlene. They were nothing but gracious and friendly and did nothing to give us an uneasy feeling. The situation was, well, just a little "weird". In fact, even Bob later mentioned that we were probably wondering what we were getting ourselves into as we drove toward their home.)
A Collection Far Beyond All Expectations
Just as Bob promised, we came upon a portable folding sign with 'Bob's Gasoline Alley' on it. We turned right and followed the road for a bit. I kept wondering how we'd know when we found the place. We passed several homes and I was busy looking for Bob and Darlene's SUV parked in a driveway. It never occurred to me to look for the memorabilia collection outside of their house. I think it is fair to say that nobody in our group was expecting to see what we saw when we cleared the rise and got our first glimpse of their collection. Multiple full-size gas station signs—mounted to their original poles—all in pristine condition.
To put it mildly, those gas station signs were just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Bob and Darlene aren't just casual automotive memorabilia collectors, they are very serious about it.
Bob and Darlene welcomed us to their home and treated us like we were family. They proceeded to show us multiple barns that were filled to the brim with every sort of motoring or roadside memorabilia. All of it nicely displayed and in pristine condition. There was so much to see it was overwhelming. You could spend a couple of hours in each room and still not see every individual piece. I walked around in stunned disbelief muttering 'This is absolutely incredible!" to myself.
Thank You Bob and Darlene!
This is one of those times where being in the right place at the right time really paid off. Although Bob and Darlene host car clubs and Route 66 association meetings at Bob's Gasoline Alley, their collection is not open to the public. Visits are by invitation only. How amazingly lucky we were to have Bob and Darlene approach us in downtown Cuba! I'm convinced it was our custom San Diego Miata Club Route 66 magnetics that caught Bob and Darlene's eye and caused them to take the time to strike up a conversation. As a token of our appreciation, we presented Bob and Darlene with one of the logo magnetics.
Night had fallen so Bob and Darlene invited us to come back the next morning so we could take additional photos. When we got there we found our custom logo magnetic in a prominent spot on the refrigerator in Darlene's Diner.
My heartfelt thanks to Bob and Darlene for thoughtfully inviting us to visit their wonderful collection! It was a real pleasure to get to know them, even if for just a little bit. They were the epitome of the warmhearted friendliness we experienced throughout our adventure along The Mother Road.
More Photos at The Photo Booth
The story isn't complete until you view the rest of the photos! Be prepared to be blown away! I've created a separate gallery just for photos of Bob and Darlene's amazing collection. Here's the link:
In addition to being superlative memorabilia collectors, Bob and Darlene are quite active in their community. In fact, the day before our visit to Bob's Gasoline Alley the Cuba Area Chamber of Commerce named Darlene Mullen as Cuba's 2011 Citizen of the Year.
Darlene Mullen was chosen by the Chamber for the 2011 Citizen of the Year Award, in recognition for her dedication to the Cuba community and the Chamber. She is a valuable contributor to the Cuba Lions Club and a primary organizer of its annual car show in the historic business district. Mullen has helped manage the club’s catering of several events, including the Chamber dinner, and along with her husband Bob, has hosted events such as the Route 66 Association meetings at her home, Bob’s Gasoline Alley. She was a key organizer in the 2007 sesquicentennial celebration and the 2006 and 2007 New Year’s Eve parties in Cuba.
I successfully checked an item off of my bucket list today. On our way to Chicago (and Route 66) our contingent of San Diego Miata Club members took a side trip to the Field of Dreams Movie Site in Dyersville, Iowa.
Field of Dreams (the movie) was released in 1989. I thoroughly enjoyed its imaginative story and it has been on my list of favorite movies ever since.
Shorty after our arrival, everyone took to the bleachers to watch "the game".
The family that owned the property when the movie was made in 1989 are still the owners. However, the property is up for sale if anyone is interested in owning this bit of movie history.
Who am I kidding? We couldn't wedge a domino into our already-packed Miatas, let alone a baseball bat.