Having seen the sign proclaiming the start of Route 66, today was the day to collect the wheels and start the drive. Easy? Well, fairly, but first a taxi to Chicago Midway Airport to pick up the hire car, which involved being dropped at the terminal only to find you needed a shuttle bus to take you to the car rental facility. So far, so mostly good and we cleared the desk fairly quickly to ‘go find’ the motor. Ouch! They gave us a Toyota Yaris. We had booked a compact which specifically provided boot (trunk!) space for all our luggage, but this one could hardly take a single suitcase. Back to the Dollar desk to be assured that a Yaris is classed as a compact and it would take two suitcases. Finally, we were offered a Hyundai Accent and with everything securely in the boot, we were off.
The first port of call was Joliet, home of the correctional institution featured in The Blues Brothers and I was totally excited to see the first of the Route 66 signs, advertisements for the museums and special places of interest.
In Wilmington, we were suddenly face to face with a giant spaceman holding a rocket whilst up the road we ran into Elvis, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Betty Boop hanging out at a drive in. We then began to eat up the miles on our way to the delightful Springfield, Illinois. In the 192 miles travelled, we followed the old Mother Road as faithfully as possible but had to resort to Interstate highways in part to cross the endless flat plains under vast skies. In spite of the sun and intense heat, it was windy and the car reacted occasionally with a shudder as we caught the full brunt of the crosswinds. Eventually, we rolled into Springfield (Illinois), the most delightful town with magnificent buildings from an age of formal elegance. It is a town dedicated to Abraham Lincoln and, because we arrived very late in the afternoon, it is somewhere for further exploration in the morning.
Dinner was a real event. We found a Route 66 quirky cafe, The Cozy Dog drive in. It was full of memorabilia and served awesome corn dogs on sticks (a bit like a battered sausage). Posh it was not, but fun and great food were on offer. No doubt the indigestion will kick in at some point but for now it was a perfect end to a great day.
Today’s quirky bits? Dogs featured… Chicago Midway Airport had signage for dogs and Kath and I ate dogs. In fact, I had my first corn dog and a hotdog.
We covered about 100 miles of our journey today without sign of a single hill or of many trees. The most prominent vertical features being the ubiquitous Golden Arches logo atop poles seemingly every mile or so. Interesting!