Route 66 news: new events calendar update, and photos!

Hello again, fellow roadies!  Have you shaken off the dust of winter yet?  It’s Memorial Day weekend, when the Route 66 cruising season here in Illinois begins in earnest, and we have an updated events calendar for you below.  Bring out those convertibles and dust off those bikes, because it’s time to hit the road! Even if you only warm up locally to start.  Which can be fun.  Just remember to buckle up wherever you go, because the Smokies will be out in force this weekend on all the major highways across the nation, making sure you use your seat belts and handing out stiff fines if you don’t.  Better safe than sorry, right?   Right.

picnic 1 - classic Rt.66 rides - a bike, a 'Vette & a ragtop Mustang - blog (MRTraska)

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Route 66 calendar update:  Wright Plus housewalk and another CBOT/CME memoir

Hi again, fellow roadies!  Yes, we know we gave you the spring-summer Route 66 events calendar for northern Illinois just two days ago, but you also knew there would be additions, yes?  Of course there are, and so soon.

Statue of Ceres, goddess of grain and the harvest, atop the Chicago Board of Trade Building  (Photo copyright 2014 by M.R. Traska; all rights reserved)

Statue of Ceres, Roman goddess of grain and the harvest, atop the Chicago Board of Trade Building  (Photo copyright 2014 by M.R. Traska; all rights reserved)

First, let me mention a must-read on another website.  It’s related to our recent post about the Chicago Board of Trade and the death of open-outcry trading at CBOT.  Open outcry, a system of trading using hand signals that the CBOT’s earliest iteration invented, will also die soon at CBOT’s sister market for agricultural commodities, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), aka the Merc.  A reminiscence of trading at the Merc ran in this month’s Chicago magazine online.  Ted Fishman does an excellent job on “What Chicago loses by closing the CME’s futures pits.”   Whereas my very brief memoir of CBOT came from a trading floor runner’s point of view, the Chicago mag piece is written from a trader’s viewpoint.  Fascinating and sad.  Don’t miss it.

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Route 66 news update:  Car show and event dates for spring and summer 2015

Hello again, fellow roadies!  Spring is finally here in Chicago, albeit grudgingly, which means a roadie’s attention turns to thoughts of road trips.  We have a partial list here for you of Route 66 events in Illinois (no, we didn’t just stick to our own neck of the woods in the NE corner of the state; we’re more broadminded than that.  Besides, a road trip requires putting on some mileage, right?).

We’ll have more details on these events and shows as we come nearer to their individual dates.  Please note:  the annual Berwyn Route 66 Car Show, which usually occurs on the first Saturday after Labor Day in September, will instead be happening two weeks early in late August.  We don’t know the reason for the change in date, but we imagine there was some kind of conflict with something else.  It can’t be because of the weather:  August is usually way too hot up here, whereas September has typically been just about perfect.  Oh, well …

Anyway, with the road shot below from our Funks Grove trip last summer on the day of the Route 66 Association of Illinois annual picnic at the Sugar Grove Nature Center to inspire you, please mark the following events on your Route 66 calendars; you won’t be sorry!

Route 66 southbound in Funks Grove  (photo copyright 2014 by M.R. Traska; all rights reserved)

Route 66 southbound in Funks Grove (photo copyright 2014 by M.R. Traska; all rights reserved)

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Seeing Route 66 by air in Illinois: Romeoville to Springfield-Decatur, part 2

Previously:  part 1 – Takeoff at O’Hare to Coal City

(Editor’s note:  As in part 1, for the convenience of readers unfamiliar with the route, I’ve added a few details here and there about precise locations and what else of interest to travelers is in the area that Keith visited; but this is Keith’s trip and his story, so we’ll let him finish his travelogue.  Here you go!)

From 8,000 feet up, the enormity of the Illinois prairie is really striking, with only occasional groves of trees scattered here and there amid the emptiness, which in summer will be covered with waving fields of wheat, corn and soybeans.  How startling to imagine that these empty fields will be different shades of green barely two months from now.  No wonder that the earliest settlers saw the enormous sea of grass that was the virgin Illinois prairie as the perfect place for farmland.  In fact, Decatur and Springfield lie in the center of Illinois’s agricultural heartland.  It’s no accident that Decatur is also home to a major outpost of agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland, aka ADM.

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Route 66 history:  Open outcry and The Pits vanish at the Chicago Board of Trade

Open outcry is dead, and the Chicago Board of Trade will never be the same.  Long live the CBOT.

Well, that ‘s what you might say, anyway, if you were a fan of that deafening roar that was once the trading floor.  All of that has been silenced by computers, which is where most of the trading has gone now for agricultural and other commodities.  This recent article buried on the New York Times’s Dealbook web page tells the story, which is also part of Chicago history and Route 66 history, as the CBOT has been located on Route 66 for decades before the route existed.

CBOT is also important to the nation’s economic history.  To quote Wikipedia:  “In 1864, the CBOT listed the first ever standardized ‘exchange traded’ forward contracts, which were called futures contracts.  In 1919, the Chicago Butter and Egg Board, a spin-off of the CBOT, was reorganized to enable member traders to allow futures trading, and its name was changed to Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME).”  Ever since its founding, CBOT has been an economic innovator.  To Route 66 fans, however, the end of the open outcry system at CBOT means visitors will never again get to see actual trading being conducted – trading that means billions upon billions of dollars to the world economy.  We, the public, will no longer get to see in action what it is that CBOT does.  And I’ll miss that.

Personal observation:  Once again, I wonder why I have to read the New York Times rather than the local papers if I want to get a thoughtful perspective on a local event or phenomenon.  Reuters weighed in with a story nearly two years ago when someone filed suit to keep open-outcry prices as the benchmark for end-of-day settlement prices instead of capitulating to electronic trading prices.  Modern Farmer ran a well done story three months later, and The Western Producer caught up in February 2015 after CBOT finally decided to close most of the pits; but the constantly shrinking Chicago Tribune merely ran the Reuters piece in 2013, then forgot about how CBOT was changing.  Typical.  And if there was any coverage of it by the Chicago Sun-Times, it didn’t show up in the search results.  Sigh …

Yours truly remembers a very different CBOT, one that reigned for 165 years under open  outcry (a system it developed, just as it did futures contracts) and will never return.  I saw it for myself, every working day for a year.

Trading floor at the Chicago Board of Trade in 1993  (photo courtesy of Jeremy Kemp via Wikimedia Commons)

The trading floor at the Chicago Board of Trade in 1993; note the brokers standing on the steps of the octagonal commodity pits.  (Photo courtesy of Jeremy Kemp via Wikimedia Commons)

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Seeing Route 66 by air in Illinois:  Romeoville to Springfield-Decatur, part 1

Route 66 is known around the world as the iconic American road trip – so why, you wonder, would anyone want to see it from the air?  The truth is an aerial viewpoint can give you a much better grasp and appreciation of the surrounding terrain, as well as a different perspective on our favorite road.

In northern Illinois, March is that dead space between the end of winter and the real start of spring, when the weather goes haywire and you never know what it’ll be like from day to day (never mind the calendar:  we locals know all too well that just because the thaw starts in March, that means nothing; we can get unexpected snowfall right up into May sometimes, even after the traditional April showers have brought out May flowers).

Nevertheless, it’s a better time to travel the route than you might think.  Even though March weather is highly changeable, March is, paradoxically, also when you might get a better view of the land itself (the same applies to early April; don’t let the rain stop you).  The fields and trees are barren, sure, but the lack of foliage lets you see the contours of the land and the rivers and streams more clearly, especially from the air.  Then there’s the fact that – let’s face it – flying low enough to see the layout of the ground beneath you in beautiful detail is just plain fun.  That is, assuming you don’t have a fear of flying (we do not).

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Route 66 events:  ‘Ghostbusters’ at Joliet’s Rialto Square Theatre

“I Ain’t Afraid a’ No Ghosts”
— Joseph D. Kubal *

What do ghosts and the Rialto Square Theatre have to do with Route 66?  Everything!  The famous Rialto Square at 102 N. Chicago St. in Joliet, IL is a well-known Route 66 ‘haunt’ and, supposedly, the building is haunted.  On Saturday, March 7, 2015, I set out to see if ghosts could really be found there.

You see, I have an open mind about such things and do believe that not everything can be proven with the science we currently have available.  Over the years, I have had several unexplained occurrences happen to me and my family.  it’s just the Eastern European gypsy blood in me, and I’m more susceptible to believing in the supernatural.  But ask around, and you may be surprised to learn that lots of folks have had unusual things happen to them over the years.  Often, people just don’t talk about those events openly, as they don’t want to be thought crazy, illogical, or as a “kook” by non-believers.

Rialto Square Theatre, Joliet, IL - blog (MRTraska)

The Rialto, the jewel of Joliet  (photo copyright 2014 by M.R. Traska; all rights reserved)

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