Day 2 – Chicago to Springfield
Drive down to Jackson Blvd, the original starting point and take some obligatory photos by the historic Route 66 signs. Drive up the street for a big breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s. You won’t regret it. Get there early, it’s been nicknamed ‘the first stop on the mother road’, so as you can imagine, it gets busy.
• 565 W Jackson Blvd, loumitchellsrestaurant.com
Drive out of the city past Joliet and along Hwy-53 to the town of Wilmington, a journey of a couple of hours or so. Stop at the Launching Pad Drive-In for pictures with the 10-metre tall Gemini Giant.
• 810 E Baltimore St
You may also want to visit the Polk-A-Dot Drive In. This 50’s Americana diner is the perfect stop off point for a milkshake and photos with the Blues Brothers, Marilyn Monroe or Elvis out in the parking lot.
• 222 N Front St, +1 815-458-3377
Further down Hwy-53 is the old Texaco gas station in Dwight. Opening in 1933, it continued to operate until 1999 becoming the oldest gas station on the mother road. After being beautiful restored it now serves as a visitor centre. If for any reason you miss this one, there’s another further along in the town of Odell.
• W Waupansie St, +1 815-584-3077
Stop in Pontiac to visit the Route 66 Hall of Fame Museum located in the old fire station, particularly interesting for its collection of art by Bob Waldmire, who dedicated most of his live to Route 66. His campervan and Chevy school bus can still be seen here.
• 110 W Howard St, +1 815-844-4566
Between Bloomington and Springfield stop at Funks Grove, where the Funk family have been tapping and selling delicious maple syrup for the last 120 years or so.
• 5257 Old Route 66, Shirley, +1 309-874-3360, funkspuremaplesirup.com
Arrive in the state capital of Springfield. If you have the energy there is plenty of Abraham Lincoln related sights to visit including the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and his tomb. If you visit in mid-August the city also plays host to the only Route 66 festival.
• 1500 Monument Ave, +1 217-782-2717, lincolntomb.org
For something a bit more light-hearted drive to the Lauterbach Tire and Auto Service Centre to see the giant fiberglass man that stands in the parking lot. In 2006 he lost his head to a twister but it’s been lovingly restored since.
• 1569 Wabash Ave, +1 217-546-2600
For dinner visit the Cozy Dog Drive-In on the old road. Started by Bob Waldmire’s father Ed, this is the birthplace of the corndog, a sausage on a stick covered in cornmeal batter. At just two bucks a go, they are also seriously friendly on the wallet.
• 2935 S 6th St, +1 217-525-1992, cozydogdrivein.com
Much as I dislike suggesting chain hotels, the Best Western Rail Haven has an Elvis-inspired room complete with a king-size Cadillac bed and jacuzzi.
• 203 S Glenstone Ave, +1 417-866-1963, bestwestern.com
Is there anything that does more for that nostalgic 50s feel than a drive-in cinema? Finish the day with a visit to the restored Route 66 Twin Drive-In to watch some of the latest blockbusters. Get there early to avoid the line and secure the best position.
• 1700 Recreation Dr, +1 217-546-8881, route66-drivein.com