Route 66 Song Of The Week, bonus edition:  Nat ‘King’ Cole


Hello again, fellow roadies!  Welcome to the holiday bonus edition of the Route 66 Song Of The Week.  Only a few days ago, we treated you to Natalie Cole’s take on her daddy’s big hit and our favorite road anthem.  But no sooner had we posted it than a hue and cry went up for Daddy Dearest.  Well!  This being the ultimate All-American Weekend, what with The Fourth, and it being the height of the road-trip season as well, how could we refuse? After all, who could beat the guy who held the title of King long before Elvis?

So:  by popular demand, we give you the definitive Nat King Cole and King Cole Trio’s YouTube version of “Route 66,” as uploaded by Gene Vincent’s Official Nat King Cole Fan Club.  This is clearly a filmed/videotaped version meant to look like a club date but is most likely a performance the group did for television.  It may even be from Nat Cole’s own brief TV show, which ran in 1956 and 1957.  It seems Cole was much more popular as a guest on other people’s TV shows and specials, at least where TV sponsors were concerned.

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Route 66 Song Of The Week:  Natalie Cole


Howdy, road music lovers!  We’re overdue for an installment of our favorite road anthem, and this week it’s Natalie Cole’s turn.  Given that her dad, Nat ‘King’ Cole, made this tune a big hit only a few weeks after Bobby Troup and his first wife Cynthia wrote it while driving down said route on the way to L.A. (Cynthia suggested the title), it seems only appropriate to feature the lovely Ms. Natalie right before the July 4th holiday.  Nat and his King Cole Trio were playing in L.A. at the time (yes, now you know how he got his nickname); before that, he and the trio spent a while making music in Chicago, a city to which Nat and his family had moved when he was four years old and to which he often returned.

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Route 66 update: Schustek Pond in Burr Ridge to be dedicated next week


It’s happening:  Schustek Pond will be officially dedicated to a hero of Route 66 next Monday, July 6, 2015, on the 85th anniversary of the selfless act during which Bruno Schustek lost his life.  The pond was named by the USGS’s Bureau on Geographic Names in April (that’s when we received the notification).  There are so many wonderful stories that have happened along Route 66 over the years, and it’s time for this one to be told to the larger world.

Starting at 10am, we and the staff of the North American Spine Society (NASS) will remember and honor this fallen pilot on the western shore of the pond.  The NASS headquarters stands next to the pond, about two miles northeast of another Route 66 point of interest, the historic Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket on Joliet Road/N. Frontage Road in nearby Willowbrook.

Schustek Pond in Burr Ridge, IL from Joliet Road/N. Frontage Road (Google street view)

Schustek Pond in Burr Ridge, seen from Joliet Road/N. Frontage Road  (Google street view)

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Route 66 calendar update:  Rivet Motors’ land jet takes off, car shows, cruise nights & more


Hello again, fellow roadies!  Well, we didn’t expect to be updating the calendar again so soon, but there have been more events added – and one change.  As you may already know if you tried to attend (as we did), the Romeoville Route 66 Car and Bike Show a few weekends ago was postponed due to the rainy weather.  Wow, there’s been so much of that here lately that Chicago is beginning to look like Seattle.  We’re waiting to see if Showcase Classics, the organizer, will reschedule the Romeoville show within the foreseeable future, most likely at Romeoville High School again.  Watch this blog for further details.

Also:  Did you know that the irrepressible actor and motorcycle fan William Shatner (yeah, that William Shatner, the one from the original Star Trek TV series and films, The Practice, Boston Legal, etc.) will begin a cross-country tour on June 23rd down the length of Route 66 on a new vehicle dubbed the Rivet One ‘land jet’?  Yes, indeed:  it’s a kind of streamlined, steampunk-style trike, with a detachable cockpit cover for bad weather.  Very different from anything he seemed to have piloted/helmed for the Star Trek franchise!

Apparently, all the futuristic stuff is under the hood this time.  The three-wheeled bike, which has some serious power (a V8 engine) between the driver and the front wheel, was designed by the folks at Rivet Motors – with input from Shatner – and American Wrench, an Aurora, IL-based custom motorcycle firm.   American Wrench has built bikes for others, including rock singers (e.g., Creed) and the guys on the Chopper cable TV program.  American Wrench is, in turn, owned by Illinois Auto Electric Co. (founded 1915), for which American Wrench’s Kevin Sirotek is VP of marketing and a fourth-generation stakeholder (that tells us it’s probably a family firm).  Their shop is located in an industrial area near IL 59 and Liberty Street, only a few blocks from Aurora’s Fox Valley shopping center.

Rivet Motors land jet, made in Aurora, IL  for a Route 66 road trip with William Shatner (no, seriously).

Rivet Motors land jet, made in Aurora, IL for a Route 66 road trip to be undertaken by William Shatner (no, seriously). (Illustration courtesy of Rivet Motors and American Wrench)

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Route 66 activities:  CAF’s The Devil in the White City tour


The Chicago Architecture Foundation tours are one of the best things you can do if you‘re visiting the city.  In fact, Trip Advisor, the formidable travel website, gives the CAF tours its Certificate of Excellence.  Of course, Joe, Keith and I have long been fans of the CAF tours and highly recommend them to others.  But there’s one tour in particular that might interest you – especially if you’ve read Erik Larson’s magnificent book, The Devil in the White City about the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, its builders, and the man who might have been the city’s very first serial killer.  We went on the tour in late March with a group from the Illinois Geographical Society – this was a special field trip for the IGS that CAF organized just for us – and we thought we’d tell you about it.

You’re probably wondering what on earth a serial killer and the Columbian Exposition have to do with Route 66.  Fair enough (pun intended):  the serial killer is gruesomely interesting but irrelevant to Route 66.  But the Columbian Exposition and its director of construction, architect and city planner Daniel Burnham, are not.  Stand at the intersection of Jackson Boulevard and Michigan Avenue – the Gateway to Route 66 – and take a look around.  Daniel Burnham is directly or indirectly responsible for what’s on all four corners; and this intersection is essentially the same as it was in 1926, when the route began.

Jackson and Michigan looking west, Chicago (Google Maps street view) - blog

The Gateway to Route 66 at Jackson and Michigan, looking west  (Google Maps street view)

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Route 66 Sunday update:  BluesFest, Maggie Daley Park and more


Happy Flag Day, fellow roadies!  Are you at the Chicago Blues Fest tonight?  You can still get there.  Seems like Chicago’s been having a lot of rain lately, but the good news is that it’s been keeping the high heat at bay.  Luckily, it’s dry out right now – which is a good thing, because today is the third and closing day of the BluesFest, being held at the Petrillo Band Shell in Grant Park (right off Route 66!).  Wouldn’t want the rest of that rained out, like the Cubs game nearly was last night.  So if you’re around downtown tonight, make sure you check out the rest of the BluesFest – it’s free.  See tonight’s schedule here.  There will be centennial tributes to both Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters.

BTW, last night the BluesFest celebrated the life and music of the recently deceased B.B. King, a guy who really knew the blues inside and out (nearly all of whose albums I have, including the one he did with Louis Jordan’s jump-blues hits; so danceable!).  You might want to read this post about him on Pitchfork.

Chicago Blues Festival at Petrillo band shell (City of Chicago DCASE)

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Route 66 news:  Hero of Stinson Airport tragedy honored by USGS


Hey roadies, remember several months ago when we got previously unrecognized little Canyon Creek in Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve an official name?  Well (blush!), we’ve done it again.  And now we’re trying to organize a dedication ceremony early next month for the newly named Schustek Pond on Route 66.

Bruno Schustek, hero and victim of the Stinson Airport tragedy, Route 66, July 1930, McCook IL

Aviator and hero Bruno F. Schustek

For nearly two years, we’ve been looking for a way to honor a hero of Route 66:  aviator, parachute jumper and World War I pilot Bruno Frank Schustek (1899-1930).  Next month is the 85th anniversary of his death.  Schustek died on July 6, 1930 in what is known as the Stinson Airport tragedy, while trying to save the life of a novice parachute jumper.  Her chute had been caught on the wing of her plane as it circled 1,000 feet above Stinson Airport on Route 66, in what is now McCook, IL.  For two hours, several other pilots attempted rescue with rope ladders and failed, while the girl dangled in midair above and horrified people watched below.  Then Schustek got into a plane with his fellow pilot Charles ‘Bud’ Geiger to make yet another attempt.  As Geiger maneuvered his craft above the other plane, Schustek climbed down a knotted rope to try to free the girl.  The novice made it safely to the ground, but the weary Schustek – an experienced parachute instructor who, ironically, was wearing neither a safety harness (they didn’t exist yet) nor a chute at the time – lost his grip on the rope before he could climb back up and fell 600 feet to his death.  (Listen to our podcast about the tragedy here.)

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