This road trip is not only an adventure twenty years in the making, but it’s a work research trip. Yes, work. Fingers crossed, tours will soon resume and I’ll have a coach loaded with travelers heading down the Mother Road with me.
Pizza. You can’t come to Chicago without eating pizza, but which kind? Wait, there’s more than just deep dish? Yep.
CLASSIC DEEP DISH: The pan is greased with oil. Then, the very delicate and oily dough. It is smashed into the pan until it pushes up against the walls. Slices of mozzarella, not shredded, go on the dough, then toppings and sauce on top.
STUFFED: These are larger than deep dish, although I’m not quite sure how that’s possible. The dough isn’t as oily, so it’s a little more dry. Some restaurants run the dough through a ‘squasher’ (sheeter) before it is placed in the pan. Now, these have shredded cheese, not slices. Here is the crazy part: a second, thinner layer of dough is placed onto of that! Then toppings and sauce.
PAN PIZZA: This pie is all about the dough. They prebake the crust, halfway, then freeze it. Some restaurants stuff cheese between the pan and the dough so it gets that crazy yummy crispy baked cheese love on the outside.
I’m leaving out the less-than-exciting drive from my home in Virginia to Chicago, Illinois. But this trip has been in the planning since the Covid-Pandemic-Mayhem left me locked in my condo dreaming of what I would do when I was vaccinated and let loose back into the world. That day is now, but as a masked bandit.
It’s hard to pass up driving through Joliet because of my childhood obsession with the Blues Brothers. If you have no idea who they are, please, put down the X-Box or TikToc and watch this movie. They were on a mission from God after all.
Joliet had the second-largest steel mill in the country (1870s), was a mecca for manufacturing companies and had a fabulous bluish-white limestone. It became known as the “City of Stone”. And yes, this is the stone. It has a yellowish hue. I don’t have those answers, but it’s gorgeous.
The Gemini Giant Muffler Man is in Wilmington. He’s fiberglass, like all of his other roadside friends that were popular in the 1960s as part of an advertising campaign. He’s over twenty feet tall and in the parking lot of the Launching Pad Restaurant.
But let’s really talk about what’s happening here. There’s a telephone pole that is protected by four two-foot tall bright yellow posts so people don’t back into it. Here’s the problem: I was the ONLY car in the parking lot. Literally, the only person there. Empty. I look behind me and back right into one of the yellow posts that had a freaking supernatural cloaking device.
I knew there was a reason I brought that hammer! I parked my car on a curb, climbed underneath and beat the living shit out my rubber bumper until it popped back into shape. A little Armor All, elbow grease, and good as new. I’ve had that car for 5 years and have never hit ANYTHING. Then a micro post nearly took me down.
The best part: While I was under the car, I noticed a pair of work boots standing next to the wheel. I climb out from underneath, filthy from shoving my hands into the nether regions of my Rav4’s backside, holding a hammer. He looked at me and said, “I love a woman with a hammer.” I’m still not quite sure how to take that, but Thank You, Sir.
These next few photos are the Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station in Dwight, Illinois.
Basil “Tubby” Ambler ran the station from 1938-1966. This building was constructed in 1933 in the cottage style so it would fit into the residential neighborhood. She ran as a gas station for 66 years.
This is the Standard Oil Gas Station in Odell, Illinois.
Built in 1932 and was in service through the mid 1960s and continued to work on cars until the mid 70s.
Pontiac, Illinois, is one of the coolest towns so far!
This mural is on the rear wall of the Route 66 Association Hall of Fame and Museum, which is inside a historical fire house. Win. Win.
Since this is a stop on my ‘real working tour’, I stopped inside and had an hour-long chat with the manager. Such a great museum! Two stories of Route 66 goodies and there’s a military museum upstairs. That will keep any of our guests happy for hours. I’m a serious dork and loved it.
Let’s talk about Pontiac’s FABULOUS Murals Project… Uh-Maze-Ing. The museum has a free color pamphlet outlining a walking tour to the 23 murals in town. Or, just follow the little red foot prints on the sidewalk.
This mural is special. It’s the Bob Waldmire Memorial Mural. He designed it, but passed away before its completion so 500 (Yes, I said five hundred) of his friends stepped up to complete it for him. Five Hundred Friends. I couldn’t fit the entire mural in the photo, but it’s 66 feet long with a map of every stop in Illinois. 500, people.
A few of the murals have matching little cars on the sidewalk. I fit. But it took a good 6 minutes to get out of it.
The town also has an Abraham Lincoln Walking Tour. Yes, Honest Abe hung out in Pontiac. He visited the town as a young lawyer, gave a speech to the Pontiac Young Men’s Literary Association in 1860, and was stranded here by a snowstorm in 1855 (could be local legend, but the town is sticking to their story). Apparently snow drifts were more than ten feet and his train could not get out of town.
I don’t remember where this was, but I took a side road to look at a cool barn and got wicked lost. Always get lost. You find the best spots.
When this Los Angeles City Girl saw a sign for a Grain Elevator Museum, I said, “Heck yes!”. But, I have a potty mouth and that quote is not accurate.
Built in 1903. That’s all I’ve got on this one. It was an elevator that had grain. The train indicates that a train was used to transport the grain. My deductive reasoning skills are top notch.
Windmills. My new obsession.
Ok, is it just me? Or is this guy super creepy? Look at his hands… He originally lived somewhere else and held an ax.
I’m not sure what his resume looked like after that, but he was later given a giant hot dog to hold in Cicero, Illinois, for Bunyon’s Hot Dog stand. He’s a smokin’ creepy 19-feet tall.
He moved here to Atlanta, IL, in 2003.
I’d like to think Abe is reading the most recent Game of Thrones book.
MORE ROUTE 66 ADVENTURES TO COME!