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2009 Michiana Brits Fall Trip - Route 66 to Springfield and Beyond
report by Keith Wishmeier, Fearless Leader

The brave drivers and their cars:

  • Keith & Mary Wishmeier 1984 Mercedes 190E
  • Randy & Bev Glanders 1974 Triumph Spitfire
  • Roger &Ruth Deacon 2006 Mini
  • Larry & Deb Palguta 1972 MGB
  • Kai & Michele Shepherd 1974 Triumph TR-6
  • Jim & Kim Betz 1964 MGB
  • Ken Bransky & Renie Williamson 1980MGB
  • Paul & Janet Dillon 1973 Triumph Stag
  • Chuck & Blanche Knight 1966 MGB

We all met on Thursday September 17 at Jennie Rae’s Restaurant at the corner of Rt. 2 and Rt. 20 at 7:30
am for breakfast and great homemade jam. We were on our way before 9:00 am down Rt. 2 through
LaPorte, then Valparaiso where we picked up US 30 to Joliet, Illinois.

We gathered at the Route 66 Welcome Center near the corner of US 30 and Route 66 in Joliet. Using our
trip packets (created by Fearless Leader) consisting of a Route 66 Illinois map, 37 pages of turn-by-turn
instructions retrieved from the internet (sorta like Tea at the Vicarage but without the crazy questions),
street maps of Springfield, Illinois, our primary destination and a standard AAA map of Illinois and
Indiana just in case someone found themselves lost, we headed off down Old Route 66.

In Wilmington we stopped at the Launching Pad drive-in for a photo-op at the Gemini Giant. Our first
lunch was at the Polk-a-Dot drive-in in Braidwood where Jake and Elwood were dancing outside of the
restaurant. I think we saw the historic two cell two story jailhouse in Gardner, not sure.

We mostly tried to follow the older 2-lane routing of Route 66. Much of the route follows the frontage
roads that parallel the I-55 Interstate. There were many twists and turns crossing back and forth across I-
55. Route 66 has been re-routed at least three times. The first routing from 1926 to 1930, the second from
1930 to 1940, the third routing from 1940 to the closing of 66 in 1977. This created most of our challenges
as often the route was not clearly marked. We passed through many of the often missed small towns to
find the old historic Route 66 points of interest.

In Dwight we passed the Ambler-Becker Texaco and the Marathon Oil Stations. In Odell the old Standard
Oil Station, which operated from 1932 to 1975, where we inspected a tiny 1953 Winnebago camping
trailer. Atlanta featured beautiful wall murals and the Bunyon Giant where Ken Bransky was
photographed standing on Bunyon’s foot! In Lincoln we saw a phone booth on top of the City Hall, then
the Mill Restaurant with broken windmill blades and apparently under perpetual restoration (still closed).
We tried to find a dead-end alignment between the Old Union Cemetery and the Holy Cross Cemetery.
There used to be a bridge carrying Route 66 across Salt Creek. Really messed up here and only found the
cemeteries and a locked and rusty gate.

Finally about 6:30 pm we arrived at our lodgings, the Route 66 Motel and Conference Center in
Springfield, Illinois. After settling in with one old 5-speed manual transmission Mercedes Benz 190 and
eight Little British Cars of various ages we were off to dinner at a local pub-like BBQ restaurant, selected
byMary, of course. A bit of a note here. Mary and I were driving the Benz, our Spitfire engine having
exploded a piston and twisted a connecting rod twelve hours before the start of the trip.

Springfield, the destination also chosen by Mary, was the main goal of the trip. What a great city for all
things Abraham Lincoln. After breakfast on Friday we all drove into downtown Springfield, parked in the
underground garage and split into several groups to see the sites, and great sites they were. We had an
hour plus guided tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Dana House, observing pure Wright architecture and
learning the story of the Dana family. Then lunch downtown (always eating!). Then the new Lincoln
Museum. We needed more time than available as it would take several days to do this outstanding
museum justice. The Lincoln Museum is a must see. Randy and I visited Bill Shea’s Gas Station Museum
(closed). Many of us also visited Lincoln’s office, Lincoln’s home, Lincoln’s tomb and the Old State
Capital. At least another full day in Springfield would have been great.

On Saturday after breakfast all but Paul and Janet (a bit of car trouble) headed down Route 66 to St. Louis.
From here on the Route 66 signs became very confusing. We started out on the 1930's route, some of it 4-
lane. But often we could see very old original segments of 66 off to the side with piles of dirt heaped up to
keep us from driving on them. (There was a bit of cheating here!) Much of this part of the trip was also
driven on frontage roads.

Where do you find a steamboat on a lake in the middle of Illinois farm country? In Raymond, Illinois, of
course, at an independent Holiday Inn. Litchfield, Illinois found the Sky-View Drive-In Theater, the
Ariston Café and the Route 66 Café. In Mt. Olive we checked out the Old Soulsby Shell Station with gas
at 33.9 cents per gallon!

Just before Hamel the group split up with six LBC’s getting on I-55 and heading to Kai Shepherd’s
brother-in-law’s place to visit and see his awesome car collection. The Glanders andWishmeiers continued
on Old 66 heading to the Chain-of-Rocks Bridge over the Mississippi River. For the four of us this was the
best road of the trip with hills and curves and beautiful scenery. For several hours we followed this Route
66 segment catching all of the original, some abandoned, Route 66 sections. We crossed the Chain-of-
Rocks Canal, created to bypass the chain-of-rocks rapids in the Mississippi, and drove onto Chouteau
Island. Then on to the Chain-of-lakes Bridge over the Mississippi. We walked the one mile crossing, no
cars allowed, past the bend in the middle of the bridge and on into St. Louis, Missouri.
On our drive back to Springfield along Route 4 (Old 66), the mad group of 6 flew past, only to see us
driving across a CLOSED Route 66 bridge!

On Sunday we all packed up, celebrated breakfast at Sgt. Pepper’s, then drove off along side railroad tracks
on Routes 54 and 24 in Illinois and 421 in Indiana, and back home driving our own personal routes. The
Dillon’s Stag was giving them some running problems, but they made it home. Ken and Renie’s MGB
seemed to need a lot of oil. Chuck and Blanche occasionally drove like they were in a rally, getting lost
once in Springfield. But we all made it home and have now completed the first of eight legs of Old Route
66.

Below is a few of the many photos that was taken on this trip:

 
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