Route 66 news:  Chicago’s Adams Street Bridge to be closed 13 months for repairs


As of Monday night, the Adams Street Bridge across the South Branch of the Chicago River is closed to car, truck and bike traffic for repairs for more than a year, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation.  Pedestrians will still be able to use the bridge most of that time, but there will be two 30-day periods later this year when even they will have to cross the river elsewhere.  The closure will affect the two-block stretch from Wacker Drive on the east across the river to and including the Canal Street intersection near Union Station on the west.  Westbound motorists on Adams will be able to either 1) turn north on Wacker and cross over the river at Madison Street, then return to Adams via Clinton Street, or 2) turn south on Wacker, cross the river on Van Buren Street and return to Adams via Jefferson Street.

Route 66 roadies, this affects YOU, so keep the bridge repair in mind from now through February 2017 – and plan accordingly.

Adams Street Bridge in winter  (Photo copyright 2013 by M.R. Traska; all rights reserved)

Adams Street Bridge in winter (Photo copyright 2013 by M.R. Traska; all rights reserved)

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Route 66 news:  events calendar update & Lollapalooza in Chicago this weekend


Hello again, fellow roadies!  Instead of the ghastly Chicago summer humidity of the last two weeks, we had a nice, dry sunny day on Friday.  Excellent weather for starting a weekend road trip!  But there is one good thing about warm weather, even with a bit of humidity:  eating and listening to music al fresco, whether it’s at your favorite grill or tavern, neighborhood street fest/art fair, or a downtown extravaganza like the gargantuan music fest descending upon Chicago this weekend.

I mean Lolla, of course – short for Lollapalooza, the event that will be monopolizing a good chunk of Grant Park, starting immediately south of Jackson Drive/Route 66 and centering on Congress Plaza and Buckingham Fountain (with all the stages, scaffolding and speakers, you’ll be lucky if you get so much as a teensy glimpse of that fountain before next Monday or Tuesday).

We recommend that route-roadies heading for Chicago this weekend bunk down north of the river or perhaps further down the route (like on Jackson or Adams in the financial district, or in the West Loop/IMD – there’s a Marriott on the medical campus, for example), or even in suburban Countryside or Willowbrook (it might be worth it just this once to sleep outside the Loop, if you want to get any sleep at all: those Lolla folks party hearty, no matter where they’re staying).  On the other hand, if you don’t intend to sleep, by all means: hang around.  But expect to pay for the privilege – all too many hotels, restaurants and bars downtown will be capitalizing on the event and charging up the wazoo for whatever.  Don’t even dream about street parking.

Buckingham Fountain:  get a good look at it now, because you won’t see much of it behind all the stages, steel lighting scaffolds and thousands of sweaty, overindulging bodies surrounding it for three days.  (Photo courtesy of Alanscottwalker via Wikimedia Commons)

Buckingham Fountain:  Get a good look at it now, because you won’t see much of it during the 3-day Lollapalooza bash behind the stages, steel lighting scaffolds and thousands of sweaty, overindulging bodies surrounding it.  (Photo by Alanscottwalker via Wikimedia Commons)

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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 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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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 road trip, part 2:  maple sirup, Towanda’s historic trail and Lexington’s Memory Lane


Hello again, fellow roadies!  Welcome back for part 2 of last weekend’s road trip to the greater Bloomington-Normal area in Central Illinois that brought me, Joe and Keith in search of a picnic and maple sirup, among other things.  The great irony of that statement is that we didn’t go into either Bloomington or Normal last weekend:  instead, we focused on Funks Grove to the south of B-N and then hit Towanda and Lexington on the way back.  And as you may have noticed in our last post, yours truly took plenty of pretty pictures.

Let’s take a look at a local map first, so that you can get your bearings.  Going from northeast to southwest (westbound), Lexington and Towanda come first on Route 66, then Normal, then Bloomington, and then Shirley and Funks Grove.  The next town over is Atlanta, where there has been significant preservation and renovation, but we’ll save that for another trip (ditto Bloomington-Normal and Shirley).  If you look at the map below, Lexington is the first crescent-shaped bend on I-55 in the top right of the map, and Towanda is next flattened-crescent bend before you hit Normal.  Funks Grove is toward the lower left, just above U.S. Route 136, at the oval light green patch that represents the Thaddeus Stubblefield Grove Nature Preserve and the other preserves of the ancient trees that make up the entire grove.  Atlanta is the last shallow crescent on I-55 near the bottom of the map.

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