On the Road Again

We headed out of Springfield with St. Louis in our sights. Rather than jumping on the highway to get there as quickly as possible, we decided to take the more rambling drive through Route 66. While there are some very fun stops on Route 66, in many places it seems to merely be an excuse to leave old junk and call it nostalgia simply because you put up this sign.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Still, the route was beneficial for two reasons. First, the weather was terrible and during periods of heavy rain we were happy to be driving the slower, less populated road. And, second, well, sometimes kitschy is fun.

Our first stop was more on the somber side, however. We took a few moments to visit the Mother Jones Monument in the Mount Olive Union Miner’s Cemetery.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Born in 1830 (or 1837 depending on the source), Mary Harris Jones, the sometimes teacher/sometimes dressmaker, would become one of history’s fiercest labor activists. Mary led a difficult life. Married in 1861 to George Jones, she would lose her husband and all four of their children just 6 years later to yellow fever. After the loss of her family she opened a dress shop in Chicago only to have it (along with her home and all of her belongings) burn to the ground 3 years later. In a ten year span, two tragedies had taken everything from her.

But it was that brief marriage to Jones, an iron worker, that would first spark her interest in unions and unfair labor practices, an interest that would become part of a life-long crusade. Mary fought tirelessly for safe working and living conditions for miners and was so instrumental in their fight that she is buried along side them in the miners’ cemetery with the monument serving as a tribute to those who lost their lives in the fight.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Our next stop was far more lighthearted and frivolous. It was actually just a drive-by at the Soulsby Shell Station, the oldest remaining service station on Route 66. Originally opened in 1926, it remained in business until 1993 (the pumps were closed in 1991, but the station still provided oil checks, soft drinks and a fun stop for tourists). Today it has been restored and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Further down the road we passed by this giant chair (explanation unknown):

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

And then, of course, our trip wouldn’t have been complete without a stop at the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The catsup bottle (actually a water tower), built in 1949, stands 170 feet tall and was saved from demolition 20 years ago. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2002, and even has its own fan club.

That’s it for the road. Meet me in St. Louis for the next installment.

All comments and questions welcome.

Advertisements

Illinois: Eats and Treats

Our time in Illinois was limited. All said, we only spent about 24 hours there. Still, we managed to get in two noteworthy meals, though for two entirely different reasons.

American Harvest Eatery
Springfield

We have often used Open Table on our trip to find interesting places to eat. American Harvest Eatery turned out to be quite the gem. The “about” info on Open Table began with, “Our goal at American Harvest Eatery is to offer our guests a dining experience that uses only the freshest ingredients, sourced from local farmers right here in Illinois.” That was enough for us to want to give it a try, and it did not disappoint.

Sadly, I did not take a photo of the menu, and as it changes frequently (sometimes daily), I can’t do much to describe most of these dishes, as my memory is not that good and the menu is completely different now. I’ll simply let the photos speak for themselves and tell you that the food was absolutely as good as it looks, and that the menu was so wonderful we ordered quite a bit. I will also note that we did indeed begin and end the meal with cheese – starting with the seasonal “cheese pot” and ending with an artisan cheese plate.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

It was definitely a wonderful dinner, and one of the highlight meals of the trip.

The next day, after touring the Lincoln Museum and visiting the cemetery, we couldn’t resist a stop at a Route 66 classic before heading out of town.

Cozy Dog Drive-In
Springfield

We didn’t need Open Table to find this gem as it was listed in our faithful travel companion, Road Trip USA. Home of the original corn dog, the Cozy Dog Drive-In certainly didn’t look like much from the outside:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

A Rte 66 marker greeted us at the door, and the restaurant was full of fun memorabilia (though to our great disappointment, no cozy dog bumper sticker for our roof box).

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

We settled on a a couple of dogs and a basket of onion rings. Not exactly gourmet food, but it was a fun and tasty lunch stop. We’re off to St. Louis now. See you again soon.