Route 66 updates:  Chicago’s looking better, Lagunitas-Chi brewpub opens and more

Who knew that Chicago would be getting so much attention lately?  First TripAdvisor’s consumer reviewers’ poll judges Chicago #2 among best destinations in the U.S. and #18 among world destinations.  Then we score again on three other TripAdvisor rankings!  The bean-shaped CloudGate sculpture by Anish Kapoor in Millennium Park ranked #6 among the Top 10 U.S. Landmarks, whereas Millennium Park itself ranked #3 among the Top 10 U.S. Parks and a surprising (and gratifying) #4 among Top 10 World Parks, ahead of places like the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris (which only ranked 10th)!  Whoa — and how timely:  this summer’s special activities in Millennium Park, many of which are free, honor the park’s 10th anniversary.

Anish Kapoor's scupture CloudGate reflects the city's skyline at dusk in Millennium Park.  (Photo courtesy of the City of Chicago)

Anish Kapoor’s sculpture CloudGate reflects the city’s skyline at dusk in Millennium Park; and in a pinch, it can also shelter people from a storm.  (Photo courtesy of City of Chicago dept. of tourism)

Now the business magazine Fast Company tells us that a British real estate management and investment research group analyzed 50 cities around the globe to determine the 10 Most Resilient Cities in the World — and Chicago ranked #4 behind three Canadian cities, Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary (i.e., we’re the most resilient of all U.S. cities, and New York didn’t even make the list!).  Mind boggling.  But we’re glad somebody finally noticed us (maybe the park(s) had something to do with it, you think?).

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Route 66 update:  more on Rich & Creamy; we make the news (well, in Elmhurst, anyway)

So:  yours truly decided last week that the best way to figure out exactly what Joliet city manager Tom Thanas meant by that $30K figure for redoing the Rich & Creamy ice cream stand’s roof was to write to Thanas and ask.  What a novel idea, you say (no, not really; just comes from me being a journalist for lo, these many years).  I also mentioned to him that the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway Authority had a grant program, as does the National Park Service, for rehabbing historic sites and official roadside attractions along Route 66 (which information I received from Stacy Conn over at the byway; thank you, Stacy!).   And Mr. Thanas deigned to reply!!  Imagine that.

The historic Rich & Creamy ice cream stand on Broadway St. is an official Route 66 Historic Attraction in Joliet.   Photo copyright 2012 by M.R. Traska; all rights reserved

The historic Rich & Creamy ice cream stand on Broadway St. is an official Route 66 Historic Attraction in Joliet. Photo copyright 2012 by M.R. Traska; all rights reserved

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Joliet, IL: Route 66’s birthday + St. Martin’s Day = PARTY!!!

What could be better to offset the approach of winter than a saint’s feast day that also provides a national excuse for a party?  And what if that saint’s day just happens to coincide with Route 66’s birthday – and the party’s down on the route itself??  Excellent!!!

November 11, 1926 is when Route 66 – and most of the rest of the U.S. Route system – was born.  It’s also the feast day of St. Martin, the Roman soldier who became a monk, and Slovenes everywhere celebrate St. Martin’s Day (Martinovanje) annually on November 11th.  That’s when the harvest is finally in, the winter wheat is planted and the fattened cattle are slaughtered.  In Slovenia, it’s also the time when wine matures (okay, there’s a reason to party all by itself!).

Accordingly, the Joliet, IL chapter of the Slovenian Union of America had a big shindig over at the Slovenian Heritage Museum at 431 N. Chicago Ave. in Joliet back on the evening of November 10, the night before Route 66’s 76th birthday.  My co-author and fellow foodie Joe Kubal and his wife Susan had the honor of attending, and we finally have photographs.  Take it away, Joe …

Slovenian Heritage Museum, Joliet, IL  (photo credit:  Keith Yearman)

Slovenian Heritage Museum, Slovenian Row, Joliet, IL             (photo credit: Keith Yearman)

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Book update: unexpected help always eases the pains of being an author

So we blew off the blog between Halloween and Hanukkah – it got busy … (’scuse usYou try maintaining the daily 9-to-5, family life, and writing a collaborative book manuscript all at once and see how well you do.)   No, really:  between family stuff like one of our mom’s houses being broken into, losing not one but two of our video editors for the IGS film projects to new jobs, and trying to get the Lawndale film DVD out and publicized, the time just got away from us.  Honest.  And now it’s the holiday season, and we still have one-quarter of the book to finish.  Yeah, good luck with that.

Well, to be fair, we did leave most of the difficult stuff for the end (no, we’re not doing this in order: it’s not a novel), so we had to expect that the last part would take the longest.  But, thank heavens, it’s still fun – and sometimes the coolest things happen when you least expect them.  Like yesterday.

old Peabody farm outbulding, Lemont, IL - blog (JDK)

The ruins of an outbuilding on the former Arrow Brook Farm (the Peabody horse farm), last known as Hillcrest Park, Lemont, IL (Copyright 2012 by J.D. Kubal; all rights reserved)

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Route 66 book project leads to … a documentary about Jewish Lawndale – ? Who knew!

The former Reformed Jewish synagogue of north Lawndale; when Lawndale was the Jewish West Side, this was the only reformed shul among a host of Orthodox ones.  (Photo by M.R. Traska)

We just became video documentarians.  Yikes!  How did that happen??

There we were, just going about our business and doing research on Lawndale, where Ogden Avenue/historic Route 66 is one of the main streets, if not the main street.  Next thing you know, we had a video premiering last week at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn – a half-hour documentary film about the Jewish West Side called “Remembering Jewish Lawndale” – and an eager potential audience on our hands.    We’re so proud!!!  If I were Jewish, I’d be kvelling.  Oh, what the hell; I’ll kvell anyway.

We don’t have a PR or marketing plan for it yet, which we needed, like, yesterday.  I’m breathless from it all.  I already know at least four people who want to buy it, and COD hasn’t figured out a price for the DVD yet – !  (Just pick a price and SELL IT, already; sheesh.  Such yentas.) Continue reading

The Berwyn Route 66 Museum get its groove on

My colleague Joe Kubal and I were in Berwyn yesterday when we thought we’d stop by the Berwyn Route 66 Museum and see what’s up with Jon Fey and his staff. Glad we did.

WOW – what a difference inside from 10 months ago! Those folks have really made progress in organizing the materials and putting up displays. It really looks like a museum now. Someone’s been putting a lot of sweat equity into this and deserves credit.

Copyright 2012 by M.R. Traska; all rights reserved

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You’re doing what?? (Or: that’s what my relatives asked before I explained and they said: Oh. Cool.)

Greetings, gentle readers and devotees of U.S. Route 66!

We are (most of us) low in profile but legion in number.  The historic highway, once the only winter-safe road between Chicago and Los Angeles, retains its reputation and its romance with freedom and the allure of the open road despite having been officially closed by the mid-1980s.  That both its myth and its appeal endure this long should tell you something of its importance, not just because it was one of two major cross-continental highways at the time (the other being U.S. 30, better known as the Lincoln Highway, now replaced by Interstate 80) but because of the indelible mark it left in the hearts and imagination of the American public.

The purpose of this blog is to introduce you to a new book on Route 66 that is being researched and written as you read this – namely, The Curious Traveler’s Guide to Route 66 in Metro Chicago – and to some of the interesting things being discovered in the process.  The blog is also a partial record of our progress on this project, which we consider a labor of love but one that also has to be useful to other travelers.  So this will be our way of keeping you up to date on our inquiries.  But I’m getting ahead of myself; gentle readers, please bear with me. Continue reading