We get our kicks on Route 66. Not “kicks’, exactly, but Kix Cereal. You see, about a mile or so from the Cutoff, sitting on old Route 66, is a store where we buy groceries. Another mile or so east sits one of the many Historic Route 66 signs that dot the United States. As we hit a slight rise in the pavement, the magnificent skyline of Chicago comes into view. Some twenty miles away sits Buckingham Fountain, the gateway to Lake Michigan and the symbolic beginning of Route 66.
This now historic two lane highway once took travelers from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California, ending in Santa Monica. Route 66 was the 2,451 mile Mother Road to a better life for many and the great migration west; those escaping the Dust Bowl of the Great Depression, seeking jobs in the fertile fields of Southern California, looking for wartime employment, or the glamour and excitement of Hollywood.
Route 66 wound around and through small towns and large, from the midwest to the southwest and the Pacific Coast, It brought tourists to their diners and motels, offered a place to settle down and start a family, or provided the opportunity to see local attractions as more and more people began to own cars. This long stretch of highway and the cars that rode on it helped support the economy of many towns. When the interstate highway system was completed and Route 66 was decommissioned as a highway, many towns and villages suffered economically, changing the way of life for many.
Then there were these two fellows on the television series, Route 66. They made young girls’ hearts go pit-a-pat each week as they drove the cars that all the fellows longed for – and still do.
When I first left home for college, we drove Route 66 to Normal, Illinois. I will always remember that first trip to school, my dad behind the wheel, my mom trying to keep a stiff upper-lip, my own mixed emotions at leaving home for the first time. We drove out of the Chicago suburbs, past cornfields, Joliet, more cornfields, on and on. It seemed forever, until we approached Dwight and the first stop light from Chicago. There was a diner at the light were we often stopped for coffee and a piece of pie.
As long as I’m riding along on the memory lane of Route 66, I should mention the Dixie Truck Stop near Funk’s Grove. Heading toward Springfield, they had some mighty tasty hamburgers and interesting people to watch. I believe it is still in operation, though with new owners. More “kicks on Route 66” through part of Illinois. The phrase was first made popular by Nat King Cole. It is fun to listen to as he sings about all the places the Mother Road passes.
Do you have any memories of Route 66?