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)
(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.
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).