Day 2 – Joliet Illinois

Joliet Illinois

Today’s recap starts in Joliet Illinois, which is just south of Chicago.  It is host to a very nice museum.  It is also home to Route 66 Soda.  Yes, they make Route 66 Beer (a play on words – it’s root beer).

The owner, Alan Bruggeman, of Route 66 Soda met us at the museum.  He shared his knowledge of Joliet history with us, as well as insights about Route 66 Soda.  Alan also gave us a 4-pak with grape, orange, root beer and cream soda.  (Their cream soda is the best.)

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Alan From Route 66 Soda Presents Brent and Paul with a 4-pack of Soda

Route 66 Diners

We ate at our first Route 66 diner today.  At the recommendation of the lady at the museum gift shop, we walked over to a diner that was obviously proud of its Route 66 heritage.

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Entering the Route 66 Diner in Joliet

Drive Towards Normal

The Joliet Museum has a very cool mural depicting many Route 66 landmarks.  It was cool to look at before leaving Joliet.

I think Normal, Illinois, is such a funny name.  It was our destination this night.

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From Chicago…

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… to California

One of the first things we hit as we left the city of Joliet was the Route 66 Raceway.  This is quite the race venue – two tracks and a dragstrip, or so it appears.  The grandstands are huge.

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Route 66 Oval Track and Grandstands

As you drive Route 66 it is important to watch for the brown & white signs, as well as painted shields on the street… like this…

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Route 66 Shield Painted on the Road

There are also brown & white signs, but be warned… they get stolen a lot!  One property owner told us they remove the signs and then mail them to Europe where the go for quite a bit of money.

The moral of this story is, don’t expect a turn-by-turn throughout Route 66.  You need to rely on printed and on-line resources every step of the way.

Historical in Many Ways

Route 66 is historical in many ways.  It is not just the Mother Road, but a lot happened along this route.  Travel routes are also commerce and industrial routes.

Here’s a great example, the Elwood (another Blues Brother reference!!!) Arsenal was along Route 66.  We all know Rosie the Riveter.  While fictional, the Elwood Arsenal employed many women during the 1940s.

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Elwood Arsenal (Don’t you love Illinois’ Route 66 markers?)

While in Elwood I mailed postcards to a few of my grandchildren.  I asked them to hand cancel the stamps (that way, they aren’t postmarked Chicago, but Elwood).

Land of Lincoln

Lincoln is referenced all along Route 66.  This National Cemetery is named after the famed president, but it is not where he is buried.

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National Cemetery Named After Lincoln

Launching Pad

It was a real treat today to find the Gemini Giant.  This former Muffler Man, turned space man is icon.  However, it was sad to see the restaurant associated with it closed.

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Gemini Giant at the Launching Pad

On the other hand, I was glad to see it is for sale.  I was even more glad to see the Realtor was there showing the property.  Even more exciting, we met the potential owners (as of this writing, they are the OWNERS!)

We instantly became friends with Tully and Holly (the new owners).  The shared with us their dreams and aspirations for the place.

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Me, Holly, Paul and Tully – Holly and Tully purchased the Launching Pad

To me, listening to people talk of their dreams and aspirations is fun.  I wish Tully and Holly the absolute best as they turn the Launching Pad into their dream business.


Another thing that is iconic along Route 66 are the movie theatres.  These old theatres bring back memories for anyone who grew up before Beta Max, VHS, DVDs and the Internet.

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The Mar in Wilmington, Illinois

Obviously, this one is restored and in operation.  I’m glad they kept the old marquis and ticket booth.


I’m a foodie.  I wish I had time to visit every diner on Route 66.  (Hey, History Channel!  Want to work with me on a series of the Diners of Route 66?)  So, don’t be surprised if I show lots of food pictures, as well as old diners.

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Nelly’s on Route 66

Since we can’t eat at everyone, we only dropped in to eat when we were hungry.  In this case, we weren’t, so we just took some pictures to show we were here.

The next diner we come to has this big Elvis Presley statue out front, and then all of these movie icons along the side. Another Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Betty Boop line the side of the building.

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The Polka Dot Drive In in Wilmington on Route 66

We went in and had a shake.  While there, who do we run in to again?  Tully from the Launching Pad.

Service Stations

Today we have gas stations.  Service stations were places where they’d wash your windshield, check the oil, put air in the tires, top off the radiator and more.  They are icons of Route 66.  Some are abandoned, some restore and some are just for looks.

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Dwight, Illinois, Texaco Service Station

You can’t drive too fast along Route 66 because you will be making frequent stops.  Some of these sneak up on your, while others you can see for miles to come.

I’ve only shown you the cool Illinios signs that are horizontal.  The vertical ones stand tall so you can see them while driving.  Next to them are the horizontal ones to read about that location.  The tall ones show maps as to where you are.

I wish every Route 66 state had these.

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Cool Illinois Signs

Stopping Here

I’m stopping here and will continue Day 2 in the next post.  I don’t want these to get too long, so I’m breaking it up in to small chunks.  Come back tomorrow night!