Route 66 (Part 1): Illinois, Missouri, Kansas & Oklahoma

One day in early 2014 while chatting about our holidays one of us said “lets rent a car and drive across the US”, and two hours later we had our flights booked. We were only going for two weeks so we spend a few days in Chicago and the rest of the time driving to LA on Route 66.

We planned two weeks at the end of September beginning with 2 nights in Chicago and then drive to LA along Route 66. We bought a travel guide, booked our car and off we went! You can find my entry on Chicago here. While driving out of the city we found Route 66 to be really well sign posted, but that didn’t last very long.

Illinois:

As we left Chicago we loved the outskirts of the city and the road was sign posted so that was easy! We drove through Joliet and on towards Pontiac. We saw the old road along the way and stopped for some photos. As we arrived in Pontiac, the town had a lot of lovely, bright murals around the town. We stopped for a photo and of course, an Irish guy offered to take our photo. We had a walk around the town, and it was our first experience of proper America (outside of the big corporate cities). The town hall in Pontiac was a beautiful building in the middle of the town. One thing I loved about here, was the 3D paintings on the sidewalk which included sharks swimming. On the way out of Pontiac we went to see the Old Livingston County Jail, which is a small old building that housed the first jail. We then decided to check out the bridges over the Vermilion River at Chautauqua Park. The bridge was really cool, and it was a quiet enough afternoon where we could get some photos and see all the squirrels in the park. We got as far as Springfield and decided to camp for the night. As we were in the state capital we thought it would be a great place, but it was pretty quiet. We drove around the city before we found somewhere to eat, Obed and Isaac’s Microbrewery was the perfect place! The beer was awesome and so was the food. After some great beer we went to find somewhere to stay and we found the Route 66 Motel just outside Springfield (where of course a group of Irish Bikers were staying!). This was a funky little place full of memorabilia of Route 66. The next morning before leaving Springfield we headed off to find Oak Ridge Cemetery to see Lincoln’s Tomb, which was impressive!

We set off then towards St. Louis!

Missouri:

We stopped off at the Chain of Rocks Bridge, which took a while to find, we fully thought we were lost when we were on Chouteau Island but eventually we got to the car park that was pretty much abandoned. We took a stroll over the bridge and there was no one else around. The view out over the river was amazing, and we got some photos of the Missouri – Illinois border. We only walked about 3/4 of the way across the bridge before heading back to the car. Our next stop was St. Louis and after lunch we went up the Gateway Arch, the little ‘train’ ride up to the top was creepy, mainly cos I’m scared of heights! The view from the top was amazing, you could see the whole city from one side and the Mississippi River from the other. We didn’t spend much time in the city and pretty soon got back on the road. The one thing we both remember about St. Louis was the crash that was almost caused by a port-a-loo that had fallen off a truck on the motorway, we almost hit. We followed the roads through Cuba, Fanning and some other small little towns on the road. Our second night we stayed in Rolla. We checked into a pretty bog standard hotel and went for dinner in the town, where I decided not to eat meat for the rest of the holiday (heavily processed Chicken is not chicken!). The following morning we decided to check out some things outside of Rolla. In our guide book we heard of an abandoned place called John’s Modern Cabins and we set off to find this (it was a lot harder than expected, eventually we gave up but across a large grass verge we thought we could see the old Route 66 road so drove to see it, where in the trees we found John’s Modern Cabins – which looked as creepy as the they sound. Next we headed towards Arlington, where a large resort once stood, now apparently only a small hotel and a few houses remain as the resort was demolished for construction of the I-44. We found Arlington, after a long search, but there was certainly no hotel or houses… just one creepy looking house located directly under the motorway bridge. We left pretty quickly. Next we drove through the mountains towards Devils Elbow. This was a really scenic drive through the mountains where we got to drive on large open stretches of the old road before getting onto small narrow stretches of road that went through the mountain. Our next stop was in Springfield for a Steak N Shake, which was recommended in our guide book and opened in 1953. I wasn’t a fan of the burger but the milkshake was well worth it! After lunch we got back on the road and came across a great little petrol station in Paris Springs, inside there was a photo of a yellow mustang parked outside, so we got a photo with our own Musty! The owner of the station was sitting outside chatting away and the station was full of cars from the 1930’s, just to add to it! Our next stop along the way was Spencer and Carthage (sadly I cant remember much about either, except for them being great for photos!). As we continued along the route we drove through Joplin, which had been badly hit by a tornado in 2012. Kansas: We travelled on towards the Kansas border where we came across Galena and Cars on Route 66, which is the real version of the movie Cars. Outside a gas station was the original trucks (Tow Mater?) from the movie. I got chatting to the lady in the station, who told me she was in the movies. The town was an old mining town with very little going on apart from the station and a haunted house across the road. Oklahoma: Our next state was Oklahoma where we stopped off at the Motorcycle Museum in Miami (yet again we met the Irish bikers). We kept going and bypassed Tulsa, when the sun was starting to set. We had an interesting experience in a trucker station off some highway, where I decided never to go near guys with tear drop tattoo’s. We both had a bad start in Oklahoma so we decided to call it a night in Stroud. We booked into the most miserable motel possible with shitty rooms but a new and modern bathroom (I don’t want to know why). To make ourselves feel better we headed into town for some food and came across a great Mexican restaurant. After a weird nights sleep we hit the road and headed towards Arcadia where we stopped to see the round barn and Pops, which had a huge, random mix of sodas – the huge soda bottle outside was pretty cool but we didn’t get to see it lit up. Our next stop was Oklahoma City where we made a successful trip to the outlets. Our next stop was Yukon, the home of Gareth Brooks so I got to get a picture beside the sign, yay! Our next stop was Erick,which was proper Hicksville and we got alot of looks when we parked in a convertible mustang. We took a quick walk around the town and then headed towards Texola, an abandoned old place at the border with Texas. After stopping to see the old abandoned shops, we continued our drive along the back roads until we came across the Texas border towards the end of the dirt road. We stopped to get some photos and noticed there were a lot of bullet holes in the sign, so we didn’t stay too long!

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