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.
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.
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).
Yes indeedy, fellow roadies, the long weekend of the dog days is gone. August with its humid but confusing weather this year is defunct, only a sleepy memory. We’ll celebrate that yet with our Song Of The Week below, but for now let’s take a moment to remember what a great weekend it was with the Chicago Jazz Festival on tap! Buoyed with a little of that leftover energy, we thought we’d update you on what’s ahead in the near future and then throw in an appropriate song, too.
To start, we have two Route 66 car shows coming up in September in Illinois. First: The Berwyn Route 66 Car Show is this coming weekend, Saturday Sept. 6th, from 10am to 4pm along Ogden Avenue in Berwyn. It’ll be held between Oak Park Avenue on the west end and Ridgeland Avenue on the east. Admission is free, but there’s a registration fee for cars that will be exhibited; registrants can get their cars lined up starting at 7am. Food vendors and live music will be on site, and parking is wherever you can get it, but try the municipal garage on Oak Park Avenue, a few blocks north of Ogden Avenue. Please DO remember to bring a few dollars for the Berwyn Route 66 Museum’s artifact restoration fund; no doubt museum director Jon fey will have the kitty set up at his usual tent.
Second: The International Mother Road Festival is at the end of the month, starting at 5pm Friday the 26th through Sunday the 28th, in downtown Springfield, IL. Admission is free, but there’s a registration fee for cars that will be exhibited. Food vendors and live music will be on site, and parking will be available in the garage on 7th Street at Washington Street, next to the DoubleTree President Abraham Lincoln Springfield Hotel, or wherever else you can find it in a public lot (the streets nearby will be taken over by the fest all weekend long).
Whoa. This year’s Illinois History Conference will have a panel on Route 66 – sounds like your scriveners here are going legit! Yes, fellow roadies, friends and neighbors, Joe, Keith and I had our proposal for a panel on Route 66 in Illinois accepted earlier this spring, and now we’re busy oranizing that for the history conference that will be held on Thursday and Friday, September 25-26 in Springfield, IL. Wheee!!! We’re so excited that the route is getting scholarly Respect in this manner (not to mention that we get to put in a modest plug for our in-progress Route 66 book). More important, it’s happening right before the International Route 66 Mother Road Festival car show in Springfield (it’s that very weekend), and anyone who’s coming to that and wants to attend our session at the conference can still register for it (see p. 2 of the downloadable PDF conference flyer).
Our panel session on Route 66 is scheduled on Friday, September 26 from 1:45 pm to 3:15 pm at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in downtown Springfield, just west of Historic U.S. Route 66/Business Interstate 55. That puts us just down the street from the Adams Street headquarters of the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway. One-day registration for Friday’s sessions, which begin at 8:30 am, is $50 in advance, $55 on site. If you wish to attend the luncheon that day, that’s another $25; see the conference flyer for further details. But look at it this way: if you’re already going to be in Springfield for the Mother Road Festival, why not take in a session about Route 66, too? After all, how often do you get to do that?