Sunday, 28 April 2019

Driving Old Route 66 from Chicago to St Louis.

Driving Route 66 has always been a dream of mine, but it's an incredibly long drive and would take weeks to complete, which isn't really feasible with work. Therefore I came up with a plan to do part of it, which fitted into out roadtrip from Chicago to New Orleans! A few years ago I went to Los Angeles and actually stood at the very end of Route 66, so it was crazy now standing at the very start of it (and also super cool)! The Old Route 66 road from Chicago to St Louis is easily do-able in one day and is well worth it for all the Americana you'll experience.

Driving Old Route 66 from Chicago to St Louis

Chicago

After 36 Hours in Chicago we began our day bright and early at 8am by picking up our beautiful brand-new Chevrolet Malibu from Hertz, which was handily just round the corner from our hotel, the Langham Chicago, and then we drove over to the Chicago Google office. I work at the Google office in London and was super keen to see our Chicago Office, so we popped in there to take in the view of Chicago's skyline from the roof terrace, pick up a few American snacks (helloooo Ghiradelli chocolates), and see the games room (sadly we don't have a games room in London, sob).

Google Office Chicago
Google Office Chicago
Google Office Chicago Roof Terrace


Wilmington

After that we hopped back in the car and drove over to Wal-Mart to stock up on fruit and drinks, and then we hit the open road! Driving through Illinois was actually horrible because the roads are in a horrific condition. There were pot-holes everywhere and I was VERY happy we had such a nice car with decent suspension - I hate to think how uncomfortable the drive would have been in an older car. Eventually we reached our first stop after about an hour of driving; Wilmington. The town is full of cute antique shops, a Route 66 mural, and the Gemini Giant and Sinclair Dino.

Wilmington Illinois Route 66 from Chicago to St Louis
Wilmington Illinois Route 66 from Chicago to St Louis
Wilmington Illinois Route 66 from Chicago to St Louis

Dwight & Odell Gas Stations

After Wilmington we then went on to Dwight, which is where one of the famous gas stations is; Ambler's Texaco Station. In the summer months the gas station opens up as a museum, but sadly we were visiting in March when it was still closed for the season. I totally fell in love with all the gas stations - they literally looked like they were straight out of an old fashioned movie!

Our next stop was Odell, the home of the Historic Standard Oil Gas Station (and the prettiest one IMHO). Odell is a tiny little town that's more like a hamlet, so we just stopped at the gas station for photos and then kept driving to our next stop; Pontiac.

Dwight Ambler's Texaco Station Illinois Route 66 from Chicago to St Louis
Odell Historic Standard Oil Gas Station Illinois Route 66 from Chicago to St Louis
Odell Historic Standard Oil Gas Station Illinois Route 66 from Chicago to St Louis


Pontiac & Atlanta 

Pontiac is one of the largest towns on Old Route 66, and has a couple of museums. We quickly browsed the Route 66 museum there, but sadly didn't have time for the Pontiac Auto Museum. We also took some snaps with some of the awesome street art!

Now, our next stop was supposed to be a milkshake at Palms Grill Cafe in Atlanta Illinois, which is a traditional old cafe/diner, but unfortunately when we got there we discovered they close on Mondays...and yes, we were travelling the Route on a Monday. Sadly many places are closed on Mondays, so my best advice would be don't do the journey on a Monday! However, we did get to see the gigantic Button with a hotdog, which was super random, but there we go haha.

Pontiac Illinois Route 66 from Chicago to St Louis
Pontiac Illinois Route 66 from Chicago to St Louis
Pontiac Illinois Route 66 from Chicago to St Louis
Atlanta Illinois Route 66 from Chicago to St Louis
Atlanta Illinois Route 66 from Chicago to St Louis

Springfield - Cozy Dog & Lincoln's Tomb

On our way into Springfield we stopped off at Cozy Dog for lunch as we were getting quite hungry at this point (around 3:30pm), and Cozy Dog Drive-In is famous for being the place where Corn Dogs were invented. I've never had a Corn Dog before, but they've always intrigued me, so where better place to have my first one? Well, turns out I LOVED it. It was essentially a frankfurter sausage wrapped in a thick sort of bread and then deep fried, but it was glorious. Also Cozy Dog is awesome and a proper old school diner, and they have a small gift shop with Route 66 postcards etc.

We then drove into Springfield itself to have a look around, and were in awe of the pretty main street - it genuinely looked like the main street in the town in the film, The Notebook! It was probably one of the prettiest towns/cities I've ever seen. We then drove over to Lincoln's Tomb and paid our respects to President Lincoln just before it closed at 5pm.

Cozy Dog Springfield Illinois Route 66 from Chicago to St Louis
Cozy Dog Springfield Illinois Route 66 from Chicago to St Louis
Springfield Illinois Route 66 from Chicago to St Louis
Springfield Illinois Route 66 from Chicago to St Louis
Lincoln Tomb Springfield Illinois Route 66 from Chicago to St Louis

Soulsby Service Station

After Springfield we continued our drive on to Soulsby Service Station, which is the famous Shell gas station in Mount Olive, and managed to get there just as the sun was setting which made for some very pretty photos!

Driving Old Route 66 from Chicago to St Louis
Shell Soulsby's Service Station in Mount Olive Illinois Route 66 from Chicago to St Louis
Shell Soulsby's Service Station in Mount Olive Illinois Route 66 from Chicago to St Louis

St Louis

By this point we were pretty close to our final stop of St Louis, which is where we were staying overnight before our 5-hour drive to Nashville the following day. We did stop very briefly at the Luna Cafe which was Al Capone's old hideout, but it's in a pretty rough part of St Louis so we literally just drove past it and continued on to our hotel. We stayed at HoteLumiere at the Arch in St Louis, but it was nothing like what it looked like in the photos and was actually very tired and not particularly nice. It was also nowhere near the Arch! 

Anyway, after checking in we literally just got changed and then went to Mango Restaurant to meet my cousin Wendy for dinner. This was my very first time meeting Wendy and I only knew of Wendy's existence about two months before we met! We're third-cousins, which means our Grandfather's were First Cousins, our Great-Grandfather's were brothers, and we share the same Great-Great Grandfather. Because of our family moving around so much we had no clue Wendy existed, and she didn't know anything at all about her Lux side of the family or that she even has British and German ancestors! 

My Dad and I have been doing our family tree for the past twenty years or so (since I was 7 years old), and it's literally taken all this time to try and find out what happened to my Dad's Grandfather's 7 siblings and their descendants. We met one of our cousins in Phoenix back in 2012, and over the past few years we've managed to find some of the others including my Dad's Second Cousins in California! To put that into perspective, it's basically the equivalent of your cousin having a kid and you never knowing or meeting that kid, and then your kids meet your cousin's kids when they're in their 50s. Insane, right?

So Wendy and I had dinner with her husband and my friend (and travel buddy) Clare, and it was amazing! She's just the most wonderful funny person and Clare and I DIED when she casually said "Oh he's such a schmuck!" haha, we were like "That is SO American!". We had lots of hugs, and the waitress got very over-excited when she heard the story and was squealing and taking photos and videos for us which was absolutely hilarious!


Hertz Car Hire Fact Box:

Car hire in Illinois with hertz.co.uk starts from £33 a day. For further road trip inspiration, head to Hertz American Road Trip Planner and discover iconic and off-the-beaten track routes, downloadable maps and insider guides.

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*Hertz provided us with complimentary car hire for the duration of our roadtrip.


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