Sunday, October 12, 2014

Route 66 : Illinois Part 1

We've spent quite a bit of time over the years (especially the last two years) in Chicago where Route 66 starts so we will skip ahead a little other than to say...the route starts in downtown Chicago  (Lake Shore Drive) which is a great city with lots to do favorite is CIA and the Aquarium along with the Day of the Dead Museum...

Route 66 marker
As most of 66 has been replaced by interstate highways that parallel it...we tried when possible to travel on one of the many older versions of Route 66. In Illinois most of the route is paralleled by highway 55...

Markers show the way and most of Route 66 manifest itself as the business loop through the series of small towns that you can exit to off of the main highway...

Many of these towns were created and then decimated when Route 66 rerouted. All have iconic images, and give a favor of small town Americana in days gone by...There are diners, prisons, factories, schools, farms, stables, city halls, theaters...everything you find in towns and cities...and many restored but many neglected and abandon.

Along the way you will find similar to what we found...lots of buildings especially gas stations, murals, roadside attractions, and signs and historic markers:


Along the way...there are lots and lots of gas stations...given that were talking about a had to be fueled so a gas station was the one thing that HAD to exist. Given the size, shape and material, most gas stations can be pinpointed as to age and  type of service provided.

newer 1960's gas age canopy can be seen further down the road and often times was lined with neon lights. This same canopy design can be found on drive-in diners. They can be found both still used and abandon.

This is an older building that features several different gas tanks from earlier eras...

Gas stations could be easily identified as to type by the iconic sign.

Many of the older stations have been re-purposed as visitor centers or museums.
MURALS and Buildings
I've always been a fan of graffiti...murals are a more acceptable and developed form of graffiti...they serve as a cultural icon. the artwork is painted or applied directly on a wall, ceiling or other large permanent surface like the street. One of the distinguishing characteristic of mural painting is that the architectural elements of the given space are harmoniously incorporated into the picture.

A mural that works as the town marker for route 66

Many of the murals reflect the theme of Route 66 like this one showing the route through Illinois
This mural shows the history of the building it's painted on

During the heyday of Rt. 66, travelers passed hundreds of signs, murals and other forms of advertisements hoping to grab attention. Among the more famous is fiberglass giants... created during the 60's by International Fiberglass of Venice, California.

The Gemini Giant is a landmark statue by the launching pad drive-in on U.S. Route 66 in Wilmington, Illinois. The 30 foot tall statue is one of many giant "Muffler Man" advertising props found throughout the USA in the Sixties. The Gemini Giant is named after the Gemini space program and holds a silver "rocket ship" in his hands, sporting an astronaut's space helmet that looks like a welding mask. 

Originally designed to hold an axe, the first giant was 'Paul Bunyan'. The axe was changed out for the hot dog when done for the Paul Bunyan Cafe on Rt. 66 in Flagstaff, AZ in 1962. It's now stands in Atlanta, IL, on Rt. 66, Located in Springfield, IL is the 'Lauterbach Tire Man' at the entrance to Lauterbach Tire and Auto Service. True to his name, he holds a full size tire in his left hand. 
Located in Springfield, IL is the 'Lauterbach Tire Man' at the entrance to Lauterbach Tire and Auto Service. True to his name, he holds a full size tire in his left hand. 

A giant Elvis greets you at the Polk-a-Dot Drive-In...with Sky

Mural at gas station along Rt66 near speedway

A replica Blues Brothers car at a gas station near the Chicago land Speedway along U.S. 66.
Blues Brothers along the side of first Diary Queen in Joliet, IL
On drive-in roof in Joliet, IL...home to the first Diary Queen

Route 66 : The Beginning

All good stories have a beginning...most times they start at the end of a previous story and I guess that would be the case with us (Sky-CoCo-Jane)...lots of previous stories but this one starts with our journey across America via Route 66...

Route 66 beginning sign
Route 66 contains much of what is America from mom and pop businesses, early history, culture, farming, industrialization, and iconic architectural changes. There are funky roadside attractions, neon signs, and what can only be described as living art dotting the length of Route 66. It's a reminder of where we started, how we evolved and a possible end...It's also reminder of all the people who went before us during good times (mining booms) and bad times (dust bowl and depression) .

Families, businesses, robbers, lawmen, service workers, farm workers, transitives...all traveled down Route 66 looking for America and it's opportunities...and at the end of the day, I guess we three muses are not much different than those that came before us...we too are looking for what America can offer.

For those that don't know...a very brief history...

Route 66 was established November 11, 1926. It ran from Chicago, Illinois through ...Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona before ending at Santa Monica, California...covering a total of 2,448 miles.It has served as a major path for anyone moving westward during the following 70-80 years...

The Route's start is downtown much of Route 66, it has had several 'rebirths' where the road is moved to accommodate local growth, economical needs and political mongering...and the beginning of the route is no different in that aspect... Originally, the Mother Road (Route 66 nickname as well as Main Street America) began on Jackson Blvd at Michigan Ave., but in 1933 the start was moved east to Jackson and Lake Shore Drive....because the first route was reclaimed for the worlds fair.

It's easy to find as the transportation department on a whole in Illinois has marked both old, older and oldest route 66 (or what still exist of it). Early on we also learned that looking for old telephone poles or railroad tracks would often put you on the Mother Road (or very near it!)...most time it also mirrors a near by highway that replaced it like 53 or 55 or 366...there hasn't been one time that we were 'lost', just a tad off course but backtracking and looking for clues always put us back on the right road.

One final note on finding the Mother Road...While much of the road in many of the states it passed through was moved, asphalt over, upgraded, or simply left to farm can easily recognize some sections of the route by the Portland cement which in some places was done 10 feet thick...there's no missing the whitish cement.

CoCo and Sky at RT66 Sign
So our story begins...

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Route 66 Bound: Wisconsin

We (Sky, Coco and me) are Route 66 bound...again, more about the journey than the final destination (Santa Monica CA)...Each of us will post and blog along the way (or more like after the fact)...
CoCo and Sky posing with well to WI sign between MN and WI..
Burrito and Dot are in pic too!
Yes, I know WI isn't on Route 66 but when you live in MN, you do have to pass through WI so the trip of RTE 66 starts with our journey through WI...

Right across the bridge on the WI side is a diner (not really old but in keeping with the RT66 look) so I took a pic...Besides it's a Denny's...which brings back lots of memories from high school. 

The diner concept design that Denny's uses started in 1997. The diner resembles a classic 1950s diner with a great chrome mirror look and lots of neon...Today there are about forty Denny's Dinners in the US...including this one in WI. For the most part they are wildly popular give the number of cars out front and people taking pictures of them!
Denny's 1950's diner look
Across WI there are lots of interesting photo opportunities that include older buildings and cows...but I like the simple things that show indirectly where we are and what's it like...going into River Falls I spied this mail box and think it really says all about the area...a little run down, but still proud and functioning...

 No one can really leave WI without visiting the cheese rooms, the dells, and of course the "House on the Rock". The House on the Rock was opened in 1959 and is a complex of architecturally very unique rooms, paths, gardens and shops containing very unusual collections...designed by local farm boy Alex Jordan, Jr. As its name infers, it's built on and into a very large rock formation. More information and a video is at their website here.

Sky and Coco at the end of the triangle bridge that jets out over House on the Rock...

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Me and Minne-me in Minneland

Salaam Alechem!
Here in Minneland everyone is born a Lutheran or Catholic.
The only real exception to this is those of us that come from outside.
We're tourist (short term, meaning just visiting the Mall of America)
or survivors (long term, veteran shoppers at the Mall of America.)
Or, as in my case, I'm the latter with a mixing in of equal parts
sarcasm and cynicism.

Ya sure,ya can be born Minnesotan
but you can't be born a cynic.
Still speaking for myself, in my most incoherent manner,
I was born a cynic with a dash of fire.
However, I'm digressing from the subject(really there is one!).

According to Coco (my youngest girl who is just as sweet as me,
but 1/8th the size, I shall call her 'mini me'),
Camp Snoopy in the Mall of America is the place to go.
As there are lots of shops (as well as the 'Snoopy' playground),
I couldn't agree more.

While most Minnesotans (let's call them Minnes!)
would snowshoe in a blizzard or shoot the rapids in the Boundary Waters
or ice fish or attend church on Sunday,
not me (or the mini-me)!

My idea of the great outdoors is the distance between the car
and the front door to the Mall of America.
And the only wild life I want to see is the Mall's south side walkway
on the third level after 9 PM.
Oh sure, mini-me and I could be swatting mosquitoes and picking ticks off
while tramping through some flooded wetland in search of loons;
Or, we could be sleeping with the rest of the Minnes
in the back pew of the Church; But, call us crazy,
we'd rather run up the visa card while downing lattes a
nd eating cinnabons in search of the perfect zen experience at the Mall!

So thinking of joining us at the Mall?
If so you should know that the mall receives more visitors
than any other site in the nation averaging 750,000 tourist a week.
It even beats out Disney World and the Grand Canyon
as the most visited attraction. It needs no heating in the wintertime
because visitors bodies and miles of lights keep it warm enough.
It has over 500 shops, 49 restaurants, 8 nightclubs and 14 movie screens.
(,,,yes we've been to every shop!)

It has Camp Snoopy (a theme park located in the center of the mall),
Underwater World (a 1.2 million-gallon aquarium
located in the lower level of the mall),
a Lego Imagination Center (even adults can play with the toys!)
and anchor departments like Macys, Nordstrom's, Sears and Bloomingdale's.

Simply put, Mall of America is the Mecca of my religion.

They have trained guides (laymen for the shopping impaired)
or professional shoppers(apostles or any amateurs)
who can aid you with your buying trip.
They provide day care or motorized wheelchairs,
shuttle buses or taxi service.

From Planet Hollywood to the Virtual Juice Bar,
the MoA is the greatest monument and church to the yuppie generation.
Forget Mt. Rushmore, Washington's monument, St. Pat's Cathedral
or the Statue of Liberty,
come to Minneland to see the Mall of America…...
and me…..and mini-me…... Services 7 days a week.
Find me in the yellow pagers
under 'Born to Shop' or 'Mocking the Universe',
take your choice...

Ste.Jane with mini-me in Minneland

The Beginning

Late to my own funeral...start without me please!
We stayed a couple of extra days in Minnesota because no big adventure ever goes according to plan...or simply be an adventurer, you must be willing to 'go with the flow'. Schedules, reservations, appointments, and time certain events are nice in theory but expect life's shit to trump even the laws of the universe.

Now... with the shit is out of the way (or at least pushed aside),..we three muses (Sky, Coco and me) left Bloomington, MN heading into Wisconsin after a brief respite at Starbucks

Like all good adventures, we have a plan....diner on the pier at Santa Monica, CA. We'll travel via US Route 66...through a handful of states, back highways and experience Americana... but not to sound like a's more about the journey than the final destination...and always have a plan B and C...and bring a towel:-)

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Banjo Hell

When you get married, life becomes a series of compromises....sometimes a little sometimes a lot. Jeff and I were married for 36 years...he decided in 2008 to join the band of angels but prior to that...He talked me into Banjo Hell.... Ah, the things we're driven to do by love....

This week (march 26 2001) I attend a bluegrass festival in Zimmerman with Jeff and 5,000 other banjo players.

This time love drove me craze....

Just Jeff and me and mini-me CoCo..... in a tent among 5000 banjo players. And as if that wasn't enough...we camped out in rough camping...and it rained one of the nights, and every night there was music being played all around us all the time (by music I mean banjo or guitar that wasn't tuned but that didn't stop them from being played really loud).

Jeff (a banjo player) loved it, he jammed all the time...even Coco jammed with her fiddle. I mostly tried to keep my ear plugs in, avoid the rain and pretend I wasn't there....

What was that smell?
I spend most my time standing in line at the showers.
The place advertised that they had showers. And they did.... Two of them (however one was broken and didn't work). So unless you showered at 4 am, you waited in line for hours.

I'm not making this up! (okay do the math here, 1 shower, 5000 people....)
Needless to say, some of the banjo players didn't just stink as musicians!

A double latte of nothing
The foods available was terrible, one communal kitchen with water down, over cooked spaghetti, and fried cheese curds. But there was also a Java Joe's that seemed to open later and later every we (caffeine fiends) would stand in line longer and later every day.

Once while waiting in line with the other caffeine junkies waiting for Java's to open, & rumbling, grumbling about needing a coffee fix quick before the next off tuned banjo strums....
Well, an hour later the booth finally opens up amid the numerous taunts and we move up in a semi comatose orderly fashion, ....some lady in front of me orders a double caffeine free latte

At first I thought I misunderstood.
.... It's early, I haven't had my fix yet, my hearing is compromised by the sound of 5000 banjos playing all night long...But NO... She waited in line with us for over an hour just to caffeine!?

When I offered to spit in her cup and save her the bucks, she politely passed on that and put her purse between us I suppose servicing as a barrier. I directed the barrister to make mine first as mine actually called for coffee. He chose to ignore me after all... he was hired for his ability to ignore major coffee jones.

My last thought before gulping down my double latte was how she paid for a double nothing...only in America!

15 seconds of fame
Everyone here has a dream of being a famous...banjo player? Well famous something player.My mini-me, Coco took her fiddle everywhere. At a moments notice and with any encouragement she was willing to play. Heck, if you accidentally made eye contact, she would whip out her fiddle and start playing.

She told me next year she hopes to enter the talent contest. I'm not sure we wants to compete...she just wants to be on stage. Famous...

Jimmy Martin
Jimmy Martin was the headliner. He's from the 'good ole boys' school of music.
Want to know where Jimmy will be when he dies? Just click. . BTW, Sunny Side of the Mountain is a fav of mine...good ole boy or not, he had talent...and seemed to always play in-tuned unlike the 4999 banjo players that also attended the festival.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Minnesota - The State I'm in

I'm not native to shows...I'm too passionate, too loud, too opinionated, too rash...and thank goodness or it would be much more boring! I give others the promise of adventure just by being different. So starts my Minnesota residence.