Entries in Gas Station (2)


Day 04 - Start of Route 66

OK... Today we are FINALLY hitting the road, and THIS is the actual start. 

Lou Mitchell's is a bit of an institution on Route 66 and rightfully so. The breakfast was great. Just sort of one of those things you need to experience. They don't take credit cards so you need to be prepared for that, sort of the same as the Artists Café in that regard.

We left Lou Mitchell's and back tracked a few blocks to go shoot some video at the official beginning of the Route. Jackson Street has always been the official path of Route 66 but years ago they turned it into a one way road, all but the last block of it before Lakefront Drive... go figure.

So, in order to drive out of Chicago "on" Route 66 you now have to go one block north and drive out on Adams Street. It has taken on the responsibility of being the new 'official' route. As it turns out this is a theme that you run into THE WHOLE trip.

As we drove out of town, this is what the Odometer read. Should be interesting to see what percentage over the "google maps" milage we drive with the side trips and mistakes we'll more than likely make.

These brown "Historic Route" signs will be our best friend for a the next 2000 miles. 

One of the first notable cities you drive through is Joliet Illinois. I'll always remember it as the location of the prison that Jake got out of in "The Blues Brothers".

Not an "official Illinois Giant" but a bonus giant right off the top. This guy is running a jack hammer because it is in the left field of a minor league ball park. The team is "The Jackhammers". The park was all fenced in but there was a gate open so we just walked in, walked out to the outfield, took the shot and left... easier to ask forgiveness then to ask permission.

Illinois has a few of these "giants" across the state. They use to be very popular to entice people to stop at their shops. We found this one right around the time for lunch. It worked... we stopped. The Gemini Giant as this guy is called is the first of the three 'official Illinois Giants'.

In the town of Odell there is an old gas station that is a historic landmark. Out front there is a button to push that plays a sound file with the details about the site. My mom told me that as a kid they always called the "fillin' stations".

The end of our first full day of driving brings us to Bloomington Illinois. Tomorrow we'll take a side trip to fulfill a desire that Chris has had for a few years now. Visit the childhood home of his mother.

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Day 12 - Gary Turner knows Route 66.

What an amazing day we had today and it was all about the road, slowing down and meeting amazing people.

We got up in Springfield Missouri and packed up. We had failed to adequately express our pleasure with the place we had been staying. It is a classic courtyard motor lodge. That's my term, I don't know if anyone else calls it that but I think its a good description.

The Best Western Coach House Inn is a single story motel, where you get to actually park in front of your room and basically toss your bags through your front door. It has two swimming pools and a play ground with a metal slide (I can't even imagine how hot THAT gets in the heat of summer). There is a restaurant on the grounds but we were way to enamored with the local Steak and Shake to try anything else. They also have the typical 'business man's continental breakfast" every morning till 10AM. But the place just had a great roadside motel feel to it. The only downside, 4:3 standard def TV… oh well.

Leaving Springfield we stayed on the older stretches of Route 66 until we got to a little speck on the map called Paris Springs and met Gary Turner at his Gay Parita Sinclair Station. Gary is mentioned by name in one of the guide books we have and we didn't even notice that until we drove away from his place TWO HOURS later.

We had almost missed his stop but Beth was driving and she yanked the car onto a side street and said, "We're going back, this is the type of guy you wanted to meet". Boy was she ever right.

Gary was fascinating. He knew politics. He knew religion. He knew economics. Within 10 minutes of meeting him I knew I had met a kindred spirit and 2 hours later, it was hard to say good bye. I won't go into too many details on what we spoke about but anyone who knows me, knows what floats my boat, knows what boils my blood, will know what type of conversation we had. 

Gary kept apologizing to me and saying, "oh I'm sorry to go off into all this…" But I keep telling him, "Gary, just so you know, you have not said ONE THING that I disagree with."

After maybe 45 minutes or an hour of sitting in his garage drinking free root beer and listening to this guy tell stories, he then began 'his pitch'. Gary is a master ambassador for Route 66. He makes you fall in love with this old road within minutes.

One of the most amazing things he did, and I mean like Patrick Jane from The Mentalist amazing, was that he opened up a picture book, Gary would call it a Photograph-y book (not photography), with all the sites of Route 66 and flipped thru the first two states we had been thru and pointed out EVERY SITE WE HAD STOPPED AT. And NO extra ones. 

Lou Mitchell's - Day 4

Odell Fillin' Station - Video

The Launching Pad

Funks Grove (a place we've barely mentioned)

Cozy Dog Drive In - Day 6

The St. Louis Arch - Day 7

and Ted Drewes Frozen Custard

It was UNCANNY, 7 for 7, he NAILED IT. I was soo impressed by it and it almost freaked me out.

All the while he is flipping thru this "photograph-y book" like 10 pages at a time, furiously! When he nailed all those sights I KNEW I was gonna buy the book, no matter what it cost. I was gonna reward him for being an excellent salesman, REGARDLESS of what he was selling. The book, by the way, is excellent.

I then was telling Gary that he was the reason I wanted to go on this trip in the first place and that THIS was the day I was hoping to have on Route 66. Beth chimed in and said, "yea, this is your second favorite day". 


"Tell him about Fithian", she said.

So I started to tell him about what an amazing time we had in Fithian but I decided I'd rather show him. So I walked across the street, grabbed my laptop and walked back and we plopped down on his porch and I played him the video from Day 5. It was so fun to share this story with him and he REALLY enjoyed the video. 

Eventually we had to go but seriously, neither of us wanted to say good bye. It was great and frankly a trip down Route 66 without pulling into Gary's old replica fillin' station would be just plain stupid.

But we weren't done. 

We finally made it to the state line, got into Galena Kansas and met Melba at the fillin' station where the original inspiration for Mater from Cars was found. John Lassiter and his team from Pixar had spent 2 months driving back and forth on Route 66 researching for the movie. She was able to show us a half a dozen bits of history that she could see from the front windows of her location on the corner that inspired various things from the movie.

But we still weren't done.

Eventually we made it to Baxter Springs where we got a room in the Café on the Route, the historical location of a bank that was once robbed by Jesse James (or so they say). We back tracked a bit to meet Don Karnes at his very own personal "Field of Dreams". Turns out about 10 years ago Don decided that the local high school needed a proper baseball field so he donated 12 acres of his own land and built a regulation size ball park. There's no fixed seating, as it saves a lot of money for the locals to just bring their own chairs, and he's $250,000 short of putting in lights for night games.

Perhaps the thing that impressed me the most about Don's Field of Dreams, is that he paid cash for every thing. He never borrows money, he never goes into debt, and he never rushes anything. I could only hope that people would look at this ball park and realize you don't HAVE to burn up your credit card by swiping it into hyper-drive in order to live a happy and fulfilled life.

I'm impressed by Don and as much as I like baseball (and I don't like it at all) I would love to see a game here one day in probably the only ball park in the US that was totally and 100% paid for with cash.

Good work Don. (if you want to contact him about contributing to the field you can contact him at coachkarnes@embarqmail.com)

Next we went to shoot an old bridge and then we headed back to the Café on the Route to write, process and post.

Its been a long day on Route 66, but a REALLY good one.