Beryl’s Route 66 – Fall 2012

Editor’s note:  We thank Beryl Staves for taking us along Route 66 this far…  imagine, we do not pay for gas or motels, but we can sit back and enjoy the ride!

Beryl’s conclusion to this part of her journey along Route 66 

When I do historical research, I like to get under the skin of the era I am working in, but Rte 66 has covered so many decades and been witness to so many changes on the American landscape, it is difficult to pinpoint one specific era !! I have travelled on parts of the Route before, but it is truly an ideal experience to begin at Mile 0, and (on this trip) to carry on West !! To go from the metropolis of Chicago out across the plains and prairies, and on to the mountains of the West Coast is just an awesome opportunity. There is so much to see and do and eat, a person could probably spend a few weeks out here, and still not see it all !! I’m really looking forward to getting back to Williams, and continuing to Santa Monica to the western Mile 0 !!

Tuesday, November 6 – Election day 

Election Day in the United States…and I have some trivia….last week when I was at Wilsons Creek Battlefield in Missouri, one of their plaques outlining major events and dates in Missouri history said Abe Lincoln elected Nov 6, 1860. When I pointed that this year the election was also on Nov 6, the question arose….How many times has this occurred?So off to Google i went and have answers I insist on sharing with you !! Since 1860, America’s election day has only happened 7 times. In 1860, Abraham Lincoln, in 1888 Benjamin Harrison, in 1900 Theodore Roosevelt, in 1928 Herbert Hoover, in 1956 Dwight D Eisenhower, in 1984 Ronald Reagan, and in 2012 Barack Obama. Anothe bit of trivia is that all except Obama were Republicans.

Anyway, I took a scenic route from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon, and the road took me through a National Forest with magnificent stands of Ponderosa pine trees, their greeness broken up with clumps of birch trees, whose slighter trunks and white bark made me think of feminine figures among the masculinity of the pines. Honestly !!

The San Francisco Mtns in Flagstaff were behind me, and I was looking at flatter land with road signs warning of roaming cattle….as if the deer and elk signs weren’t enough !!

After I paid my $25. to enter Grand Canyon National Park, I went straight to the Visitor Center. The rangers there are ready to answer all sorts of stupid questions, of which I had several. And I guess I might as well confess right now…..I suffer from vertigo…so much , that I get dizzy watching roller coaster rides on Youtube !! (I was testing out my tolerance levels) So for me to be walking up to the edge of the Grand Canyon…a challenge !! At the visitor center, there was a lovely film explaining how the canyon was formed, and the pictures were somewhat calming, so I got on the blue route shuttle bus to the Grand Canyon village. I was interested in seeing the log cabin train depot, in use since 1910. Then I walked up an embankment to see the El Tovar Hotel, still operated by the Fred Harvey Company. He’s the guy who saw a need for train passengers to have access to food and lodging for the new trains that traversed the US, and staffed these places with women who became known as the Harvey Girls. And a millionaire and legend were born !! As I looked at the front of the hotel, I realized it was built on the rim of the Grand Canyon, so I sauntered over to the stone wall. Other people were there, so how hard could this be? Yep….there was the Grand Canyon…and it looked quite breath taking and awesome !! So I decided to take the red shuttle that travels along the rim and drops folks off at various points so they can walk out for a better look. I really had NO intention of getting off this bus, but did….although it was not comfortable, and I was always conscious of the drop ! When I eventually got back to the visitor center, I left. Been there and done it !!

The further south I drove, the easier my breathing got. At Williams AZ, a cute town with the distinction of being the last Rte 66 town bypassed, I had promised an oil change to my vehicle. Yeah that’s right, I talk to my vehicle. I feel it garners a certain respect in our relationship. When I had stopped at the Williams visitor center to get a recommendation on where to get the above mentioned oil change, I discovered I was only 3 hours away from Mesa (my ultimate destination). Now I was torn – should I continue on my Rte 66 quest or head south for a break ? Taking a break won out…..which is why this story will continue later !!

Mesa AZ is going to be home for a bit, but I do intend on driving back up to Williams and picking up where I stopped. Many thanks to everyone for being with me. I have photos to post eventually.


Monday, November 5

Part of the Rte 66 experience is to go to the Rte 66 Casino just west of Albuquerque. Totally outrageous and yet so perfect.

The landscape is all about red rock mesas…endless miles of red rock mesas……but I had the radio on to keep me company. And then the stupidity began ! I think I can clearly state that the politicians of New Mexico have been living under the rocks. Apparently they are still arguing about whether or not women should be paid the same minimum wage as men in the state. Seriously? In this day and age? So I changed radio stations …and got a DJ who decided to use his position to suggest anarchy! It just seemed to go beyond his job description ! It went from bad to worse!! Time to turn off the radio.
Besides, I arrived in Gallup, and the Hotel El Rancho was waiting for me. It’s claim to fame is that it was a popular haunt for h\Hollywood stars back in the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s when Hollywood was making westerns in the area. Gallup’s main street was also filled with all sorts of old motels, and the neon signs were really neat. For example, the Blue Spruce Motel’s sign was in the shape of a tree outlined in blue neon, and they advertised they had steam heating !

By 9 am I was at the Arizona state line and stopped at the visitor center. When they told me Window Rock was only 30 miles north, I knew I had to see it. Ever since I read all the Tony Hillerman novels with Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee as Navajo police, I’ve wanted to see the settings used. So I headed north to the Navajo Reservation. One of the first things I saw were wild horses, which was cool. Then I came across a dozen sheep grazing along the side of the road. Wow!! When I got to the village, I cruised the main street to see what a Navajo reservation is like, in comparison to a similar situation back home. They had a small zoo, so I spent most of the morning there, and I now know all about animals honoured by the Navajo, and local to Arizona. They had cougars, an elk, bighorn sheep, wolves, coyotes, black bears, eagles, red tailed hawks, owls, tarantulas, snakes, bobcats – so neat !!! I stopped by a local market, and one of the sellers let me sample pinon nuts. Pinon nuts are the fruit of the pinon pine tree, and are like sunflower seeds in how they are treated and eaten.

On my way back south, I came across the sheep again, but now they were grazing on the opposite side of the road.

Back on I-40, aka Rte 66, I ccouldn’t wait to get to Holbrook, and the Wigwam Hotel. The hotel used to be part of a chain of Wigwam Hotels across the States, and the 15 in Holbrook are the only ones left. Even Oprah Winfrey has stayed here.

From there it was a short trip to Winslow Arizona – made famous by the Eagles song. The town has the bronze figure of a guy and his guitar standing on one of the downtown corners, with a mural of a young girl in a pickup truck giving him the once over !! The souvenir shop across the street was playing the song on a loop. I could only imagine how irritating it must be for folks who work in the area. I wanted to take my picture with the statue, but with no one around to assist, I got creative, and took a couple of shots of our shadows.

Just down the street was another gorgeous old hotel called El Posada that has been rescued from obscurity, and having a successful second life.

It was too late in the day for me to get into the Meteor Crater, which kind of sucked because its image on Google Earth is pretty impressive ! But as a consellation prize, I got to see yet another Rte 66 oddity – the abandoned Twin Arrow gas station/cafe with 2 tall arrows still stuck in the ground. And from there, it didn’t take long to arrive in Flagstaff. Tomorrow I will carry on to the Grand Canyon.

Meantime, I am at the Hotel Monte Vista, built in 1926 to accommodate Hollywood actors who were filming in the area, some of the doors have the names of the actors who stayed there. My door does not have a name on it, but on my floor, the previous guests have included Michael J Fox, Bob Hope, Esther Williams, Bing Crosby, Linda Ronstadt, Michael Stipe of REM, and the Governors Suite. Hunter, the genius behind the front desk sent me to the Diablo Cafe for the most perfectly cooked burger ever !! Good night !!!

Sunday November 4 

Today, being Sunday, and a traditional day of rest and relaxation, usually with a drive in the afternoon, I decided to take a drive as well, although mine was west across the Texas Panhandle. I have gone from A to A (Amarillo to Albuquerque, New Mexico) and am going to try for the “B” cities tomorrow !!

I’m now about 4000 km away, and into the land of clear blue skies and warmer weather. Houses are less Victorian and more adobe style. Cowboy boot shops abound, and I mention this, as I felt compelled to go into another one today – just looking !

There is a FLW house in Amarillo, but the address given was only a street name. Some of you are aware of my super hero ability to find anything – so I went out to the street, drove north until the street name changed, re-read the description of how the house is situated on its site, turned back south, and success !! Found it !!

Amarillo also has a lovely historic Rte 66 area. Both sides of the street have lots of old buildings re-done with charming and clever shops to go in and out of. Definitely a must do!!

Next stop was the Cadillac Ranch, west of town. Originally it was a clever idea by a local man who supports the arts in
, but after looking at them, I couldn’t have told you that these were Cadillacs from 1949 to 63. They were so covered with graffitti, and while that is encouraged, I’m not sure it added to the charm of the piece.

Just a bit down the road was Vega Texas, who claim they are the half-way point between Chicago and Los Angeles. I was under the impression there were several places to eat in town, but after taking a cruise, all I found was an announcement for a “concealed handgun class”, and the Boot Hill Saloon. The Saloon wasn’t overly busy so it was easy to find a spot at the beautiful wooden bar, watch some football (the Washington Redskins deserved to lose their game) and check out the trophy heads on the wall. Javelinas are always in season to hunt. Deer aren’t really in the area, but antelope are. And once I was back on the road, I saw 2 herds out in the fields. Due to the lack of deer, the antelope were not playing , but looked at home. (and if you got that, you might be old).

The landscape was quite flat, and I was going to comment that although back in Illinois one could see their dog run away for 3 days, out here one would be able to see their dog run away for a week. The road was flat and straight, just like in Saskatchewan, but suddenly there was a curve in the road, a downward turn, and mesas on both sides. A couple more miles and there was the New Mexico border (and Mountain Time Zone which is 2 or 3 hours different than Ottawa), complete with a lovely welcome center to dole out new maps to me. And only another mile down the road at the next exit was Russell’s Travel Center – a travel plaza with a free car museum!! The first thing I spotted was a 1959 baby blue Corvette Convertible, which I like to think my minivan is – of course this only occurs when I’m channeling Walter Mitty !! (I will eventually get the pics uploaded from my camera to here.) Art, the museum guide, had a sweet story about the 1956 Ford Fairlane Sunliner Convertible. When Mr and Mrs Russell were first dating, this was the year and model car they drove. Years into their marriage, Mrs Russell mentioned she would like to have that car, so Mr Russell went out and found one, had it refurbished fender to fender, and gave it to his wife as a birthday gift !

Next stop – Tucumcari – and it’s Main Street looks more like what one would expect to see on Rte 66 – all sorts of abandoned motels, empty restaurants and cafes, wonderful old signs !! The Bluebird Motel has been completely re-done and looked so charming, even to the neon bluebird shining over every door. I got pics of a souvenir shop, now closed, that has a teepee for a front entrance; and another building, also closed, that has a giant sombrero as the roof for its entrance.

The sun was setting, and it appeared to be behind one of the mesas – but it gave the illusion of the mesa having a neon orange line outlining it – really cool !!

With the sun gone, it’s pointless to try and stop at any other small towns along the way – too bad, but could mean another trip back here!  Mostly looking forward to seeing what tomorrow holds……

Saturday, November 3

Hi Y’all…..the last couple of nights, I have shared my day’s adventures with you, then carried on down the road. Tonight I decided to settle into Amarillo first, and then catch my breath from today !! A few days back I developed the drawl and associated language intonations that go with it. I have since been taken for a local, which is a tad disconcerting, but I’ll live with it.

Last night when I was driving, I caught animal movement on the side of the road and managed to stop and watch a huge red hawk at a deer carcass.

This morning in Oklahoma City, I was up before the dawn – which was annoying as I didn’t have to be…but today I had to make some tough choices – what to focus my time on !!

I went to see the Ninty-Niners Museum of Women Pilots. This organization is so amazing because for many many years women were not encouraged to be pilots. In 1929, 99 of the 103 women licenced to fly organized themselves, and Amelia Earhart became the first President of the group. Today they have chapters all over the world. My “pen name” Beryl came from one of my heroes, Beryl Markham. She was the first woman to fly east to west across the Atlantic Ocean. Her whole life was one adventure after another. I have always admired her spunk. So I went to the museum to see if they had any info on Beryl. They do, but I never got around to seeing it, as I spent so much time chatting with other women there, and making notes about some of the other stuff I learned. I have a new hero – Carol, 75 yrs old, and still flying her own plane all over the States to visit her grandchildren, and my guide this morning !! She is definitely my idea of what a granny should be !!!

From aviation I moved on to the 45th Division Infantry Museum. They had all sorts of Civil War munitions, and a list of 27 battles fought in Oklahoma I had never heard of. They also had a large collection of Hitler’s effects liberated at the end of WWII. They also own over 200 original cartoons drawn by Bill Maudlin. Bill was a soldier with the 45th, who became known for his cartoons of army life in combat as lived by his two characters Willie and Joe. He won two Pulitzer Prizes for the Willie & Joe cartoons. Although my military experience has only come about because of the historical research I’ve done, I understood the black humour used in the cartoons.

On reading about the city’s origins, I learned that oil wells had made the state prosperous, and encouraged growth, and that there were so many oil wells around, there was even one on the grounds of the State Capital building. This I had to see to believe !! Not only was there an oil well, but storage tanks too – not what one would expect but there it was!!

Then I went to see the chairs……in April 1995, the Alfred P Murrah building was bombed and 168 people were killed, including 19 children. Two men were arrested and later found guilty of this act of terrorism. One was executed and one is serving life in prison. The bombed building had to be torn down, and in its footprint a memorial was built. Part of the memorial are the 168 chairs that sit in rows – one for each of the victims. It was very moving to walk around the memorial area….one can still see damage to other buildings the bomb made. But most of all, those empty chairs that will never be pulled up to the family dining table ripped my heart out !!

I was heading out of town, when I realized I hadn’t eaten, and if I did, I would have to choose between two recommendations given to me….so I went with the Rte 66 place called Ann’s Chicken Fry House. It had a big old 59 pink Cadillac parked out front, and loads of kitsch !! Opened up the menu, and there it was on the 1st page…..Frito chili pie. It’s a simple yummy recipe – get a chili bowl and fill 1/3 with Frito chips. Fill the bowl with a thick chili (with beans) and top with shredded cheddar cheese. Serve with a small bowl of diced onion in case you want to add that in. While I tried the house specialty, peach cobbler, the waitress told me how this January the place will be celebrating 43 years with the same owners. Life is good !!

I carried on down old Rte 66 through Yukon, home of Garth Brooks, and Elk City, home to the National Rte 66 museum.

Not too far out of Amarillo, I got stopped by a County Mountie……not for speeding….one of my headlights is out.

Must make getting that fixed a priority !! Need to sleep now !!

Friday, November 2

Thanks for your feed-back !! I am really glad I drove on last night so I could be in Springfield Missouri this morning.

Several publications mentioned that Springfield is the home town for Bass Pro Outdoor stores, but I only went over to it to see if it was as wonderful as the Cabela’s store in Nebraska. OMG OMG OMG

First of all, the store was the size of a medium-sized shopping mall and four stories tall. Whoever designed this place took some lessons from Disney, and there was not a single spot that wasn’t decorated !!

I think its always necessary to dress appropriately – so I felt badly I wasn’t wearing a plaid shirt or something in camo – but then when I looked around the store, I realized I could buy ANYTHING in camo – even onesies came in camo, although there were no baby sized ballcaps with a fish on the front. Now I’m wondering how they missed that one !! I headed past the 4-storey waterfall to catch an elevator to Hemingways Restaurant. It was decorated in the style of his Key West Florida home (saw that last year). They offered a breakfast buffet that was quite good – especially the kiwi and mandarins.

In the home decor section, I saw bottles labelled “bubble bath” and filled with 3 kinds of beans. The Christmas stockings came in camo, or shaped like moose heads or giant fish. One tree ornament was a shotgun with a small sign that read “I got a new gun for my wife. Best trade I ever made”. (even I couldn’t make that up) There were massive industrial sized containers (waterproof, so the snacks inside don’t get wet when out camping) !! Down in the boat/ATV section, an area was being decorated for Christmas. They had a child-sized carousel with deer and bears to ride. A child-sized carousel is larger than those ones you see in malls, but not quite as large as a full-sized carousel !! But perhaps the best part were the tanks with snapping turtles of all sizes and alligator gars. The gars looked to be as short as 4 feet, and as long as 6 feet. One tank had a catfish in it as well, and I feared for him. He was a good eating size !!

Branson is about an hour south, and after listening to their dedicated radio station – that’s right folks, 24 hours of all Branson promotion all the time !! I could have headed down to their welcome center, and picked up my free copy of a Milt Crabapple comedy CD, and a free coupon booklet for the outlet mall. And yet, I didn’t !!

Instead I went to the Wilson Creek National Battlefield – Missouri was one of the “border” states whose residents couldn’t decide if they were going to go with the North or the South, so they had a few battles against each other, and never did make a true decision either way. The interpretive center had a super diorama and film outlining the details of the battle, which made the 5 mile drive around the area easy to follow. I found a cemetery not indicated on the map, so headed back to their library to ask about the Edgar family I had seen gravestones for. Turned out their homestead was just west of the battle area. The research library was quite large, so I asked if they might have the 2 volumes of Vermont and the Civil War (I’m still missing Volume I), and they did !! Huge thrills for me – so I took the time to read the part where Chas Gould (Vermonter) was the first man to jump the battlements at Petersburg, for which he posthumously won the Medal of Honor.

Then I drove west to Carthage to see their battlefield, and by chance found their Civil War museum. When the Union soldiers retreated through the town, they burned and pillaged, and one of the display cases held all manner of charred timbers. There were also a couple of other stories to demonstrate the behaviours of folks in those days. A group of guerillas took a man from his home for not having any money to give them, dragged him behind a horse until he was about to drop from exhaustion, then hung him from a tree. His wife was able to come out and cut him down. He lived but his neck was injured in such a way, that he carried his head to the side ever after.

The 2nd story had to do with a family who were pro-North. The daughters made a US flag, but fearing its destruction if found, one of the daughters wore it as a petticoat. When Sigel’s troops came by on July 4, 1861, she stood on a fence stile, pulled off the “petticoat/flag” and waved it to the great delight of the soldiers.

Made my way through Joplin, which appears to have recovered from the tornado that went through there last year. Somehow I missed a corner of Kansas I expected to cross, and have landed in Claremore Oklahoma – where almost everything is named after Will Rogers, who came from here. Had an amazing dinner at Hammett House – recommended for its pies – but even better they offer “lamb fries” and “turkey fries”. I was asking the waitress about them, and asked if they were like Prairie Oysters, and then she asked me if that was the same as Rocky Mountain Oysters. How many ways are there to say testicles ? Anyway, I got 3 new pie recipes !!

One of my favourite western performers, Michael Martin Murphy, has been in there a couple of times, and his autographed photo was by the front door. I meant to leave one of mine, but I’m fresh out of 8 by 10’s !! Gosh, I hate when that happens !

Must carry on to Oklahoma City. There are so many things I want to see there, that I may have to stop a couple of days !!

Thursday, November 1

What a super place St Louis is – and I barely scratched the surface of things to see and do !!
The smartest thing I did was to put all the addresses of where I wanted to go into Gert (trusty GPS), then I just kept going from one place to the next. I got a recommendation from a local to visit St Genevieve, but it will have to be another time.

The most important thing to see was Ulysses S Grant’s farm. It was actually the farm of his father-in-law, but he met his wife there, they lived there several times before and after his service in the Civil War, and Grant actually planned on retiring there after his presidency to raise horses. He didn’t get to retire there, but settled in New York City, where he wrote his memoirs, finshing the manuscript just prior to his death !!

Just down the road were the barns and horse paddocks for the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales, and I saw about two dozen of those gorgeous horses just enjoying the day. I also got to see a couple of them in training pulling an odd looking sled around one of the paddocks.
Just down the road in another direction was Grant’s Farm – nothing to do with US Grant, except that the land originally belonged to his father-in-law. Now it is an animal preserve of some sort. It was closed for the season, and the animals I did see apparently get moved to winter quarters – but it was certainly a surprise to me to see (in a residential neighbourhood) long horned steers, buffalo, deer, horses, antelope, and who knows what else.

Moving along – I passed two more of Frank Lloyd Wright’s houses – never get tired of looking at them! I found a refurbished Dentzel carousel, and got to ride one of the deer (there were 3 of them and a goat). Carousel aficionados know that animals other than horses are rare, so to find four on one carousel was super !! I took some time for retail therapy – a couple of local businesses whose advertisements caught my eye. And I can never seem to get past cowboy boots, although how I managed to not buy another pair is beyond me. Seriously !!!

My final stop of the afternoon was at the Kemp Automobile Museum. They were closed to prep for some event tomorrow night, but the receptionist let me into the main building, and also the 2nd building to get a look at the cars moved for the event. I got photos for you Bruce. Hope you like Mercedes-Benz (gull wing from 1954), Crossleys (1951), Rolls Royce (1938) and Jaguars (1939 & the last XKE III from 1972).

I felt it was important to get back to Rte 66 and carry on west . I haven’t seen too many oddities that I know exist – but then again I also know the further west I go, the crazier it will get. I made it to Cuba Missouri just at sunset, and luckily got to see some of their outdoor murals before it got too dark. In Winnipeg and Boissevain Manitoba, artists have created extraordinary collections of outdoor murals. When I was on the judging team in Winnipeg, there were always upwards of 20 new murals each year. It’s such an easy way to keep the history of an area alive !! Anyway, the murals in Cuba were quite clever and well done !! I am going to have to google them, and see if I can learn more.

My destination for tonight has not been determined. I feel like driving further – westbound on I-44 – and I am anxious to get to Springfield Missouri. The weather was warmer today, and I actually took off my parka !! Woo Hoo !!!!

Wednesday, October 31

Sorry I am writing so late…had a super day in Springfield Illinois then drove down to St Louis Missouri, where I am stopping for the night.

Breakfast at the Hen House – the biscuits were PERFECTION !! The scrambled eggs I could have done better, and I don’t cook.
Next stop was the Dana House, and I took most of the morning to tour it. The place was over 12000 square feet, with 16 levels, and I lost track of how many rooms there were. Although the house was built in 1902, it has had only 3 owners, so the original furniture was never lost. it was awesome !!!

I headed over to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. The library holds not only reference material from Lincoln’s presidency but from the Civil War and Illinois’s history. I checked out an exhibit they have celebrating the Illinois soldiers who fought in the Civil War. There was a cabinet housing first editions of Uncle Toms Cabin, as well as copies in Dutch, Hungarian, Russian, Italian, German, and French. Pretty amazing. Something else that impressed me – even before the war was declared (pre-1860) newspapers and citizens were debating the reasons for secession. Across the street from the library was the museum, and it contained all sorts of original belongings of the Lincoln family, as well as a couple of films about Lincoln’s time in office and the Civil War. The museum shop was really good, and it was tough to not pick up all sorts of souvenirs !! I was going to stop at that point to get back on the road, but felt I should see Lincoln’s Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery. I took lots of photos, and had a great chat with a staff person on site. A person can actually walk inside the tomb, (I know that sounds weird) and view the massive headstone over Lincoln’s grave ( reminded me of Napoleon’s tomb in Paris). Sorry that the photos don’t seem to want to download !

South of Springfield, the landscape was flat, so flat a person would be able to watch their dog run away for 3 days !! Night fell by the time I got into St. Louis and now I was relying on Gert to direct me to a hotel. She did good… good that I was right across the street from a local BBQ place. That’s right – pulled pork sandwich with lots of bbq sauce and slaw on top !! and baked beans and potato salad they make on site – MORE PERFECTION.

My list of places to see tomorrow includes the Budweiser clydesdales, and U.S. Grant’s farm, and a museum full of Mercedes autos !

Tuesday, October 30

Today began with UGLY weather – the flags were flapping like crazy and even the flag poles were moving more than I think they should ! I stopped to get gas, and just after I finished paying for it, the power went out – so the folks standing outside pumping gas suddenly couldn’t…they did not have happy faces !! I set Gert, my trusty GPS, to go to the corner of Jackson Blvd and Michigan Ave in downtown Chicago, the traditional start of Rte 66….and she didn’t fail me.

I learned a truly important thing today – it is impossible to jump up and down while your seat belt is still done up. I tend to judge a place by how its reality measures up to photos. For example, the Eiffel Tower didn’t impress me in person but photos of it are outstanding.  Today Chicago became my newest favourite place. The buildings, the architecture, the green spaces, the sculptures, the architecture, the museums, and all the red lights so I could get in as much gawking time as possible. Of course, there was that continuous embarrassing incident where my jaw kept falling into my lap !! First I did an east to west cruise along Michigan Ave, then found a place to get on to Lakeshore Dr and dodge the waves from Lake Michigan while I went west to east. I had wanted to stop by the Weber Grill – a restaurant in downtown Chicago where the decor is made of Weber grill parts, and all the cooking is done on Weber barbeques – it sounded like it would be lots of fun – but with the weather being the way it was, I figured it might be more prudent to keep driving. And so I began down Rte 66 (aka I-55)  which quite frankly wasn’t so exciting in the city, but as I headed southward towards rural Illinois, the weather improved and so did the driving.

And then I stopped to eat at my first official Rte 66 restaurant – this place has been around since 1930. They had an amazing beer menu with Hennepin Farm House Ale from Ommegang brewing in Cooperstown NY, Choklat Stout 11.0% from Southern Tier brewing in NY, and Wells Banana Bread beer 5.2% brewed with bananas in Bedford UK. (thats for you Conrad !!) The place got featured on Diners DriveIns and Dives for their Buffalo chicken wings, but my waitress recommended the buffet because that way I could try most of their specialties……..chicken dumpling soup, corn fritters, biscuits, fried chicken, green beans, red skinned potatoes with chicken gravy, corned beef hash with poached egg, a hermit cookie and a bottomless cup of coffee.  Yep, it was all yummy, and I could still fit behind the steering wheel to carry on down the road.

I had to stop at a few more Frank Lloyd Wright houses – this is Illinois afterall where the bulk of his work can be found. And that’s how I discovered Dwight, a small town with all kinds of charm !! The scenery along the interstate was all farmland, kind of boring, but all that changed when I got to Springfield – home to all things Abe Lincoln.

Made the decision to stop and take all the time in the world to see Springfield tomorrow. I am a nerd !!!

Monday, October 29

Of course I made it to Windsor last night !! 

The weather was so miserable – lots of rain, and it got real cold, but the wind wasn’t an issue !!  I had to unpack my parka and put it on while I was pumping gas – it was that cold !!  This morning I knocked on my friend’s door and at 8:30 am,  not only got lots of hugs but breakfast !!  And then we spent several hours catching up – best time ever !!  Thanks OA. I love you !!

It is only about 5 hours from Windsor to Chicago, so I figured this section of the trip would go quickly….but no !!! First I got grilled at the Ambassador Bridge from the US Border officer. He asked me to name all the cities surrounding Mesa – which of course I could do – and he took a cursory look in the back of my vehicle. Once I got through Detroit and out on I-96, the wind got stronger, and driving was definitely a two-handed operation. Fortunately the rain quit, and the further west I moved, the more the weather seemed to improve. the weather reports on the radio kept talking about snow coming !!  EEWWWWWW   !!  But then when the sun set, the sky was shades of pink and coral – which I think means tomorrow is going to be a great day. Fingers crossed.

So how come I only got to Benton Harbor Michigan? Well, I had to take a couple of turns off the interstate to see some homes built by Frank Lloyd Wright. They were all spectacular, and were wonderful examples of his genius !!  The horizontal roof lines built into the sides of slopes – so well they almost disappeared into the landscape, which is what FLW would have wanted to happen.    The homes took my breath away !! Wow !!

Most of tomorrow morning will now be spent getting into Chicago – and the start of Rte 66 !!  Good thing I don’t have a specific schedule – which is why I report to you where I am. Safety in numbers.

Saturday, October 27

Greetings Readers and Armchair Travelers…

Tomorrow I begin another trip South !! It is I, Susan, (writing under the name Beryl Staves) heading out on the highway again for Mesa Arizona. The next 2 or 3 weeks adventures are taking me from Ottawa Ontario to Chicago Illinois, where I will locate the traditional beginning of Rte 66, then follow it until I reach the end in Santa Monica (Los Angeles) California. Then I want to go north along the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco before coming back south and into Mesa. I’ve always wanted to take Rte 66 along its entire route, so this year I am crossing it off my Bucket List !!

Route 66 Photo: Microsoft clip art

Everyone knows something about Rte 66, but for those of you to whom this is new information, I decided to include a bit of background history. Reminder – you are receiving this email because you are on my group list; my adventures will be posted on, and on my Face Book pages.

Suffice to say, there has always been an east-west route crossing the USA. The early Indian trails, wagon trails, then dirt roads, and eventually Rte 66 beginning in 1926. John Steinbeck, in his novel “The Grapes of Wrath”, gave the highway its title “the Mother Road”; an appropriate moniker given its distinction of being the first and fully paved transcontinental highway. When one thinks of transcontinental, it conjures up the image of a horizontal line running from the Atlantic to Pacific Ocean, but Rte 66 began in Chicago Illinois then south to St Louis Missouri before turning west to Santa Monica California. 2448 miles / 3940 km – not just one state highway meeting up with the next state highway, but one continuous route; passing through numerous small towns, creating the rise of Mom & Pop business catering to the passing motorists. (McDonalds trivia – they began in 1940 on Rte 66 in California, and today serve over 58 million people/day in 119 countries)

In the 1930’s, the Great Depression became a further hardship for farming families already affected by the “Dust Bowl”. Rte 66 saw them heading west for agricultural jobs in California. During World War 2, migration west occurred because of war-related industry jobs in California. In the 1950’s, Rte 66 became the main highway for vacationers heading to California. Along the way they could stop at such natural wonders as the Painted Desert, Grand Canyon, & Meteor Crater. Also in the mid-50’s, sections of the original highway were re-routed to accommodate travelling needs (bypassing large cities to avoid traffic congestion). In 1984, Rte 66 was decommissioned and replaced by the Interstate system used today. What happens when a highway is decommissioned? Parts become bedrock for the replacing Interstate, parts become business loops, parts are abandoned, parts become placed on the National Register of Historic Places, parts become scenic byways, and one portion of pavement is a museum exhibit at the National Museum of American History (great museum!) in Washington DC.

In 1999, President Clinton signed the National Rte 66 Preservation Bill, which has led to an active regeneration on the historic features along the route. Future generations of tourists will be able to wonder at the Cadillac Ranch and the concrete teepees that were a hotel chain, and all the other kitschy roadside attractions that today’s Rte 66 seems to be about !

Why does Rte 66 interest me? Its big in popular culture – back in the 1960’s there was a TV show about 2 guys in a Corvette convertible who had weekly adventure on Rte 66. No one will mistake my minivan for a Corvette but it will do the job! In checking some background information, I discovered that Canada as well as Belgium, Holland, France, Hungary and Japan have Rte 66 Associations. What’s with that??

I don’t think anyone in Canada will ever get as excited about our TransCanada Highway !! (which I have travelled from Ottawa to Canada’s west coast, and it is a great ride!! )

Many thanks for joining me on the road again. I know I’m going to learn all sorts of new stuff, and as in previous trips, I will comment on anything and everything that catches my interest. Although I travel alone, I am never lonely; bringing all of you along with me adds to the fun !!


Sunday, October 29, 2012

This morning in Ottawa when I awoke, the skies were grey and there was a light rain falling. Several options came to mind – turn over and sleep all day, crawl to the couch and watch TV all day, or follow my original plan and get out of Dodge !!

Leaving Ottawa, October 28, 2012

By noon, the vehicle was packed, I said my last good-byes to A and D, and hit the highway.

A good thing about the grey skies is that the neutral colour makes the gold and red fall leaves really pop !! Something worthwhile to look at as I drove. Unfortunately the weather has worsened – something to do with Hurricane Sandy? – and I have only gotten as far as Kitchener….but I stopped to visist my Dad, and life is good.

The most excitement I have had was to snack on some Finnish sweet bread I received from friends…..and lot of Tim’s coffee. (Tim Hortons coffee – something you have to experience in Canada, for those of you who aren’t aware)

Maybe I’ll get to Windsor tonight, and maybe I won’t but it’s my next stop before I cross the border !!