Friday, October 15, 2010

66'n in Illinois - Day 1

Luna Cafe in Mitchell, Illinois
We're off to travel Route 66 through Illinois, starting at Mitchell, about 20 miles north of East St. Louis. Here, we start at Mitchell's most famous icon -- the Luna Café. Built in 1924, the café once allegedly hosted a gambling operation, provided "ladies of ill-repute,” and was a favorite hangout of Al Capone and other mobsters.

We pass several old motels and the old Bel-Air Drive-In sign before getting side tracked by a historic site sign to nearby Glen Carbon, and just have to see. The city today has a population of over 10,000 people, but still provides peeks at its rich coal mining history.

Henry's Ra66it Ranch in Staunton
Headed back west over I-55, we make our way through Edwardsville and Hamel, to Staunton and Henry's Ra66it Ranch. It was great meeting Rich Henry and his rabbits and taking a look at his all of his memorabelia, including Bob Waldmire's old car that he owned in the 1970's. As a special bonus, we also met Jerry Law of the Illinois Route 66 Association, as well as his "brand new" vintage Ford Fairlane.

On down the historic path, we take pics of Soulsby Shell Station in Mt. Olive and check out Mother Jones Memorial and grave. Mary Harris "Mother" Jones was a labor organizer who championed the cause of social justice and devoted herself to the struggle against the poors' hours, pay and working conditions of railroad, textile and mine workers.

Ariston Cafe in Litchfield
We then move North for one of the highlights of our day -- lunch at the historic Ariston Cafe in Litchfield. First established in nearby Carlinville, it was moved to Litchfield when Route 66 was rerouted. Family owned and operated for more than 80 years, it still serves up the same wonderful food and great service that it has for generations. It is the longest-operating restaurant along the entire stretch of Route 66.
Carllinville's Million Dollar Courthouse
We head back west to take the very old alignment of the Mother Road through Carlinville, where we check out the Macoupin County "Million Dollar" Courthouse and the old County Jail, which was open from 1869 to 1988.
Then, we just gotta see this original piece of pavement on our way to Nilwood that features turkey tracks that were imprinted in the 1920's when the original concrete was poured. While interesting, me thinks this is going on our Quirky Illinois page.

Deck's Pharmacy Museum in Girard
At Girard, we visit Doc's Soda Fountain/Deck's Pharmacy Museum. A great stop, the pharmacy museum features items dating back to 1884, while still serving up icecream and old fashioned treats. However, we were still so full from lunch, we didn't partake, but did have a great visit with some of the locals.

Becky's Barn north of Auburn, Illinois
After traveling through Virden and Auburn, we make a stop at Becky's Barn, which is filled with antiques, Route 66 memorabelia, the "Cool Bus," which serves as their guestbook, and a reconstructed old-fashioned diner. Becky, and her husband Rick, are great folks who love welcoming Route 66 travelers. They are located just off the historic brick road, which runs 1.4 miles. Why is this the only piece of Route 66 that is bricked? Legend has it that a high level politician owned a brick plant -- so... the brick road. Some things never change.

Sugar Creek Bridge near Glenarm, IL
It's getting late -- gotta find a hotel room, but, just can't resist when we see a historical sign for a historic covered bridge near Glenarm. The Sugar Creek Bridge, built in 1880, was a great stop. This last stop, no doubt, caused us a few problems in finding a hotel in Springfield, but it was well worth it. What beautiful bridge.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We have traveled Route 66 before I 40 went in. We had many experiences along that road. Some good some not so much, I have never made the 66 trip north, We traveled from Arkansas to California.