June 13th, 2015
A mostly uneventful first day along Route 66. Starting off in the craziness of downtown Chicago, I found Lou Mitchell's Restaurant on Jackson Boulevard, open since 1923 and serving the historic Mother Road since it opened three years later. Lots of traffic, lots of construction downtown, people everywhere, so I decided to just head on out.
As I started to drive across a bridge over the Chicago River, suddenly a city pickup whipped across the street and parked in the middle, blocking traffic. What the hell is this? Then, railroad-type crossing gates came down, not only across the road but also blocking the pedestrian walkways across the bridge.
People started whipping out cell phones and taking pictures, and then the bridge slowly started to rise. Not long after that, a couple of tall sailboat masts crossed right to left. Bridge comes back down. Life goes on.
So, with the help of my trusty GPS, I escaped -- I mean, found my way out of -- downtown and took off, winding my way here and there, out of the city and through a network of small towns with names like Joliet, Chenoa, Braidwood, Dwight, Normal, Towanda and Romeoville.
Pretty cool stuff, really. The kinds of places that make this a great country.
Traveling the first leg of the old highway that starts in Chicago and runs 2,448 miles through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona to Santa Monica, Calif., strangely enough reminded me some of walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain.
I was driving instead of walking, obviously, but I'm on a long, historic path that was replaced by a more modern network, a guidebook in hand, and looking for signs along the way to help keep me from getting lost. On the Camino, it was mostly hand-painted yellow arrows, while on Route 66, it's the brown and white signs. But just like on the Camino, there were times when I wasn't quite sure I was headed in the right direction, and then I'd spot a sign. OK, good to go.
I'm really not sure exactly where I am right now, other than a little ways down the road from Funk's Grove, about halfway through Illinois, maybe. Time to go lie down.
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