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 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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Route 66 holidays:  Wreathed lions, Marshall Field’s Christmas windows, Rudolph, and more

It’s Twelfth Night, fellow roadies!  Are you having revels and drinking wassail?  Thank heavens for 12 days of Christmas:  it means you still have time before the Epiphany to see those Christmas windows on State Street!  You may not be aware of just how much Chicago has contributed to some of those traditions we commonly associate with the winter holidays, but we’re here to fix that.

For many people throughout the Midwest – and Midwestern expatriates all over the globe – the Christmas season in Chicago always meant a trip downtown to see the window displays at Marshall Field & Company’s State Street store, usually followed by lunch at the store’s famous Walnut Room.  Many are those over the last century and more for whom this is a treasured childhood memory.  Sure, they hung around to check out the windows at other stores like Carson Pirie Scott, Wieboldt’s, Montgomery Ward’s, and the Fair (and, much later, Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor on North Michigan Avenue across the river), but Marshall Field’s windows were always the big deal.  Those were the windows that began the tradition here and set the standard.  And there’s nothing else like the Walnut Room for a follow-up.

Marshall Field's flagship store at Christmas time, circa 1999, State Street, Chicago

Marshall Field’s flagship store at Christmas time, circa 1999, State Street, Chicago

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Route 66 Song Of The Week:  OMG, it’s Cadillac Ranch & Berwyn Rt.66 Car Show news!

Well, blush – we’re just overwhelmed by all the attention we’ve gotten lately!  This could turn a gal’s head, fellas.  Thanks heaps to Hertz NeverLost’s Tweet and mention of me, complete with a pix from last year’s Berwyn Route 66 Car Show, in their “Route 66 Road Trips” blog post and on their Twitter feed.  With this year’s car show coming up soon on Sept. 6th (the weekend after next), we here are getting in the carmania mood.  Come to think of it, this just seems to be a day for all things automotive.

Which just happens to be timely, because our fellow 66 blogger, Ron Warnick of Route 66 News, just passed along a Hertz NeverLost Tweet about Texas Monthly’s recent article on Amarillo’s famous Cadillac Ranch.  If you’ve never seen it, the Cadillac Ranch is a kind of linear vehicular Stonehenge and celebration of automobilia, smack in the middle of a field just off Route 66, that is both a pop-art installation by the 1970s artists’ collective known as Ant Farm and a form of performance art, in that it invites participatory graffiti from its visitors.  The 10 Cadillacs are all of tail-fin vintage, had to be relocated once due to the city’s expansion, and the whole thing is 40 years old now.  Whoa.

Cadillac Ranch - distance shot (via Wikipedia)

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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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Route 66 quick update: Lagunitas-Chicago grand opening, tour hours

In case you don’t follow Lagunitas Brewing Company’s CEO, the Chicago born-and-bred Tony Magee on Twitter, tonight is the new Douglas Park brewery’s grand opening for its tap room & beer sanctuary at 1843 S. Washtenaw Ave. in Chicago.  The tap room entrance is through a cool high-tech, LED-lit tunnel that has programmable colors.  Yowza!  Should be quite a party — there’s a live band scheduled, but you never know:  Magee’s own garage band, Alice Drinks The KoolAid, may jam as well (the group played one of the side stages during the recent Chicago Blues Festival).  Tour hours for the new brewhouse, meanwhile, are Wednesdays through Sundays, 11am-9pm.  Mondays and Tuesdays will be reserved for private parties, charity events, etc.

Lagunitas-Chicago has the largest brewery in the state now, which has resulted in the creation of thousands of local jobs, says a very happy Gov. Pat Quinn, who was at the chain-cutting ceremony last week.  The brewery is over on the former Ryerson Steel campus, in a warehouse under long-term lease from Cinestage Chicago, a rentable film production facility that shares the campus.

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