The Mother Road, Route 66: Day 1 (Map)
Windsor, Ontario to Mooseheart, Illinois (via Michigan City, IN) - 580 km
U.J., my old traveling companion from journeys to Ohio & Baltimore, had long expressed a desire to follow old Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. Outside of reading The Grapes of Wrath (the Steinbeck tale of a depression-era family traveling Route 66 from Oklahoma to Salinas, California) I didn't know a thing about Route 66 when it was proposed by UJ.
That was fine with me though. I really couldn't care less about jukeboxes, diners, hip swiveling, malt shakes or any of that other old-timey kitschy junk associated with Route 66. What this trip would do, was give me an excuse to see a whole new whack of American States, while traveling off the beaten path & off the Interstate System.
I don't know if UJ thought I would be able to allot 2.5 weeks for this trip, but proposing the idea led to contemplating the idea, which lead to somewhat committing to the idea, which lead to studying of possible side-trips & then yadda, yadda, yadda...a flight to Windsor!
UJ & I have both drove I-94 across Michigan more than enough times. Since this trip would bring us to obscure and distant places where we may never return, we didn't want to dawdle in local places which we can normally reach.
It's still a 4 hour drive across Michigan & we would need to eat sometime. The plan was to stop in Benton Harbor as I had researched a place for us to call for take out. We would then take said food and eat by the Benton Harbor Lighthouse on the shores of Lake Michigan.
That plan failed when I asked UJ why we were on Interstate 75 halfway to Toledo. UJ had insisted that we could get to I-94 by going south, but by this point she figured out that wouldn't work.
It was no big deal though, I had never drove I-80 across Northern Ohio & Northern Indiana, so I was happy to see something new. In addition, I knew of Indiana's Michigan City, which had an equally appealing lighthouse & surely had some restaurants.
Initially, Michigan City was typical of that I-80 griminess which you find around certain parts of Indiana & Illinois, but after asking for lighthouse directions, the instructed route led us to a handsome town of interesting buildings constructed with plenty of brick.
We parked at the riverfront and made our way towards the lighthouse which we could finally see. Walking across the beach, we came to the breakwall with the elevated steel walkway above our heads. The walkway is closed to foot traffic nowadays, but the setting sun and minimal wind meant that I couldn't complain about having to walk on the breakwall itself. To add to the ideal conditions, every other person was there fishing, so we had the 1904 Michigan City East Pierhead Lighthouse to ourselves.
To add to the uniqueness of the lengthy breakwall out to the lighthouse, the Michigan City Generating Station stands a few hundred yards from the entire scene.
(I also appreciated the guy fishing in an awesome Kansas Jayhawks jersey.)
Walking from the car to the lighthouse, UJ noticed the above: "No tricks!"
Right next to our car was another lighthouse-looking building, so I wandered over while UJ muddled about in the trunk.
Reading a historical plaque, I learned that I had now seen 2 of the lighthouses in Indiana!
The Michigan City Lighthouse dates from 1858 and has been a lighthouse museum since 1973.
Since I didn't know we were going to Michigan City, it was a complete crapshoot as to our dining options.
We only drove a couple blocks before we found the Ritz Klub (see above).
The Ritz Klub looked like a locals-only spot, but the waitress was right over with our menus, and soon after some well-received Great Lakes Pints. We didn't get any vibes from anyone; even as we gawked at the tin ceilings and the classic Americana wood bar.
I believe UJ & I purchased the same thing and look at all of those pickles! Pickles are a staple to certain great meals & there were actually more than I could eat! The delicious burger was also so big that it was hard to hold and I think I finished about 60% after being absolutely starving.
Two thumbs up to the Ritz Klub!
The only other destination for the day was Buckingham Fountain in Downtown Chicago (this is the fountain from the opening of Married With Children).
Now we were supposed to sleep at my friend's house, so I wanted to get there early since he had to work the next day. On the other hand, it was important to UJ that we went to Buckingham Fountain, as that's the official start of Route 66.
So I called my easy-going buddy Whitfield and he was fine with our delays. Thankfully we got off the interstate and to Buckingham Fountain in record time (parking right in front of the fountain). There was a light/water show as we arrived, so we couldn't have shown up at a more ideal time.
Unfortunately there was a traffic jam leaving Buckingham Fountain. We tried to get off at an exit and go around the traffic jam, but that only succeeded in cutting off a tractor-trailer, who then proceeded to roll down his window and declare, "that was reeeeeeeealllllllly fucking stupid" while going about 10mph besides us on a Chicago side street.
Thankfully I learned that Whitfield had gone to bed when he learned that we'd be late. When we woke him, Budweisers were passed around and we chatted for a good hour or two. I particularly liked how his wife asked him why we were coming to Chicago and Whitfield didn't have a clue as to why I wasn't in Newfoundland.
Speaking of Newfoundland, I left there at 4a.m. and it was now 1a.m. in Illinois (3:30a.m. back in Newfoundland). Whitfield had to work the next day & we needed our sleep too.
Many thanks Whitfield for the accommodations & hospitality.
Onto Day 2.
Windsor,ON to Mooseheart,IL via. Michigan City,IN
St.Clair,MO to Bentonville,AR via. Cuba,MO & Mt.Magazine,AR
Conway,TX to Albuquerque,NM
via. Armadillo,TX & Tucumcari,NM
Albuquerque,NM to Williams,AZ
via. Flagstaff,AZ & Winslow,AZ
Williams,AZ to Rialto,CA
via. Oatman,AZ & Needles,CA
Rialto,CA to Pasadena,CA
via. Salton Sea,CA & Mexicali,Mexico
via. Big Sur,CA & Monterey,CA
San Jose,CA to San Francisco,CA
via. Lick Observatory,CA
San Francisco,CA to Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
via. Sacramento,CA & Carson City,NV
Hickison Petroglyphs,NV to Casper,WY
Casper,WY to Winner,SD
via. Keystone,SD & Oral,SD
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