The End of the Road at the Beginning of Route 66.

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Sunshine and 28 degrees! Four layers of clothes above the beltline and three layers below. Fifty five miles from this point to Buckingham Fountain, Grant Park, North Shore, Chicago, Il. I had made a personal vow to ride this last stretch regardless of the weather, so, it could have been worse!

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I had never seen this statue in all the times we have visited Chicago, so I don’t have the name or recognition for it. It did appear to me that she was doing a golden “High Five” for my entry. Very shortly afterwards, I rounded a bend in the bicycle path and could see the high rise buildings of Chicago on the skyline.

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No epic journey should end without some unexpected adversity. This clear cut example of “Beaver terrorism” fits the adversity category. This quite large tree (I couldn’t even begin to budge it from where it lay across the bike path) had been very recently felled by a true “eager beaver”! There were many other smaller trees felled nearby as well. It is in Cook County and the beavers clearly needed a “permit” to carry on such activity. And a pre and post felling inspection. And an environmental impact statement. None of which I’m sure they had. Probably all Republicans.  🙂

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A huge crowd on hand in Grant Park, but, they weren’t there to cheer a lone Route 66 rider with chapped face and needing a shave down the home stretch. The only two people that counted were my wonderful and supporting, long suffering wife, Cathy, and daughter-in-residence Kelley who braved the weekend traffic to come fetch me. Another of the little disappointments was Buckingham Fountain being closed for repairs and access to it (and the marker for the Route 66 Starts Here) not allowed. You will note that all the outer clothes I started riding with today were still being worn. Even though the ride was long enough and strenuous enough to work up a sweat, it never got warm enough to shed any outer clothing. I admit to being completely lost twice while navigating the labyrinth of bike trails into the City Center. Only by riding BACK down the trail until I could find a reference point on the map could I start out again. Hey, it’s an adventure, right!

And with that, dear Friends, another PFJ adventure comes to a satisfactory end. Colin, the Keeper of All Data, reports that I rode 1411 miles on my bike. The Adventure Cycling Map Distance says the Route is 2499 (with all optional loops). So, around a thousand miles aboard Bridget acknowledging the weather is the Boss, but still seeing all, ok, mostly all, of the wonderful and nostalgic sights of the Mother Road.

All safe and well, all body parts in tact, and Bridget unscathed and triumphant.

It’s been great having you all along. Drop in anytime. We’d love to have you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Illinois Countryside, Chicago Just Over the Horizon.

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Colin was all in favor of replacing Bridget with this mobile extravaganza. There would be no end to the things he could tinker with and “fix”. Until 2012, it was supposedly in operation moving from town to town, mostly along Route 66 in Illinois. I personally think the driver would need very close “connections” in the Dept of Transportation Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division to pull that off. It was truly unique!

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We have seen some remarkable county courthouses along the Way, but this jewel in Pontiac, Ill set the standard for Victorian splendor. It has been lovingly and meticulously maintained and the local townsfolk are justifiably proud of it.

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David Davis was appointed to the Supreme Court by his long-time friend, Abe Lincoln. His mansion and grounds in Bloomington, Ill are open to the public and are the pinnacle of style for the late Victorian period. The house contained all the latest “high tech” innovations of the time, including flush toilets, a personal sink in every bedroom, hot water heat throughout the house, gas lighting in all lights and chandeliers, and a recirculating air system for cooling in the summer. The kitchen had the most up-to-date combination oven/cookstove available, which allowed the cook to dispose of the coal ashes directly out the bottom to a collection bin in the basement! No mess, no fuss, no nasty coal dust in  this kitchen! We were amused by the placement of the servants quarters floor in the house, which was intentionally built three steps lower than the other rooms, to remind the staff of just where they ranked. They were, after all said Mrs Davis, “only Irish Catholics”.  😉

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The hottest selling items in many bike shops these days are “battery-assisted” pedal bikes. I’m not sure if the actual intent is to make them look like “regular” pedal bikes, but it is difficult to tell with just a cursory glance. I’m pretty sure this combo with pedals and gas motor would stick out as a “not-your-normal-bicycle.” I thought it looked pretty cool, nonetheless.

Hoping for decent weather to do one more full day riding into Chicago. The route is primarily along hard-surfaced bike paths, so the traffic into the Windy City should not be an issue.

Nearing the End of the Mother Road.

Thanks for coming along.

 

 

Home Ground of The Great Emancipator

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In the last blog, I had declared The Gateway Arch as my favorite of all America’s monuments. In this blog, I will claim Abraham Lincoln as my favorite of all America’s Presidents. His humble origins, his self-taught skills, his steadfast beliefs in the most basic and important values of both humankind and American ideals are all things that put him in such high esteem for me. It is the strength of these convictions that saved our Country in its hour of most peril. And he had to simultaneously deal with the loss of three of he and Mary’s four sons, a crushing loss for any father.

The house shown above is the home he lived in in Springfield, Il for 27 years. The place that give him some of the happiest days of his life, and also the anguish of the loss of their son, Eddie. Walking through his home and seeing so many of the mundane things that were a part of his life for so long was very moving. The two block neighborhood around this home has all been restored to the same condition it was when the Lincolns lived here. It is all administered by the National Park Service.

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An incredibly life-like depiction of the Lincoln family as they were at the time they left Springfield to move to Washington to begin his Presidency in 1860. With wife Mary and sons Robert (back), Willie (in front of Abe) and Tad. Many of the tableaus in the museum were of this same type, making for an amazing personal connection. One of the reproductions depicted a slave auction at the moment the mother of a young child was being sold to one owner and the father to another. Even with dozens of people in attendance, there was utter silence in the exhibit area.

Six blocks north of the home is the Lincoln Museum and Library. When we entered, the very helpful Volunteer signing us in “guaranteed” that our time there would be the most enjoyable and rewarding of any we had ever spent in a museum. A little over five hours later as we were leaving just as the doors were being locked, we sought her out to confirm that her prediction was correct.

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For all us Americans now living that have President Lincoln portrayed in a near god-like manner, it is a veritable shock to see how he was pictured, caricatured, pilloried, and disrespected for a good share of his Presidency. The ugliness and hate-filled language is really hard to imagine. He remained true to his ideals, and overcame almost universal resistance within his own cabinet when he personally wrote the Emancipation Proclamation. It was this manifesto of human rights and dignity that essentially signed his own death warrant. His assassin, John Wilkes Booth was maniacally convinced that Lincoln’s edict would spell the end of the white race.

 

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As you can see, Lincoln is “Big”, in all ways in this part of the country. Kids provide some scale, and their coats are required at all times outside of Bridget.

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In most of his years at Springfield, for three months out of the year, Lincoln would ride “The Circuit”, representing clients at the Court Houses in the eight counties that were his territory. This is the only one of those original court houses and is in the town of “Lincoln”, named for him while he was President. It was named Postville at the time he was working there.

Nearing the end of Mother Road. And the cold and adverse wind remain constant.

Thanks for coming along.

 

Dreamers, Doers, and Detours

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I have been fortunate enough to visit many of our country’s major monuments, and I rate the Gateway Arch at St. Louis as my hands-down favorite. I have been there several times, the first as a wide-eyed youth in 1968, not too long after the structure had been completed. It is visually captivating, and its 630 feet of height and breadth awe inspiring. I’m equally impressed with the skill and daring it took to dream, design, and build this monument dedicated to an ideal. When the design by Saarinen (a Finnish immigrant, by the way) was chosen over the hundreds of others submitted, the board of approving architects were unanimous in their agreement that it probably couldn’t be built. The thirty minute documentary showing that it was, in fact, doable is one of the most significant parts of the visit to the very popular site. This being the first visit by the kids was special in its own way, especially sharing their reactions to the ride to the top and the stunning views available there. The mechanics involved in the “trolley system” taking passengers to the top totally mesmerized Colin and monopolized the conversation for most of the .visit. 😉 As a person who has helped in various types of construction in my life, the skills and guts employed by the crews turning this design of art into reality have my utmost admiration, and more than a little jealousy. Mr. Saarinen didn’t live to see his dream completed, a victim of disease at the young age of 51.

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From the premier location of the Arch along the Father of Waters, we traveled along its flood-stage banks down river. Our destination was another man-made marvel of an earlier age, The Chain of Rocks Bridge across the Mississippi carried Route 66 traffic across its more-than-a-mile length for over 50 years, until the size and speed of modern traffic made it obsolete, and thus dangerous. Its main claim to fame was the built-in 22 degree curve near the center of its span crossing the river. The engineering necessity putting the curve there was the need to have that support piling sunk all  the way to limestone bedrock. One of our most oft used sayings is “Timing is Everything”. That was certainly the case here as we discovered the much looked forward to  bike ride across this structure was not going to be, due to some construction on the approach roads.

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The bottom of the poster below has a fairly good picture of the bridge from above.

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We consoled ourselves with a visit to the longest running restaurant along the entire Mother Road, the Ariston. We had assumed it would be on of the “workaday” type establishments that we had become accustomed to; Ah Contrare!! We were met literally at the door by a tie-wearing hostess and escorted to a white tablecloth covered table. Yes, we did feel a bit out of place with the better-dressed-than-us crowd, but our waitress made us feel very welcome. As with a  few of the other eating establishments along this Way, the restaurant had acknowledged its existence was inextricably tied to Route 66, and had moved at least once to stay tied to the road. Operating continuously since 1924, it has claimed the title  of longest running restaurant for the entire Route 66.

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I was surprised at the intensity of my reaction to viewing the quickly appearing flat and fertile fields of Illinois as we left the River Valley. It felt very much like Home calling.

Thanks for coming along. It’s been a great trip so far.

Ozark Encounter

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My “regulars” will recall the “VW Bug Ranch” as the only thing remotely alive in Conway, TX. But here in Conway, MO, the Conway Bears proudly display their name (I was hoping for a mascot as well!) on the city water tower. In other words, this Conway town is alive and well! We recall that if you stop on the I44 State Rest Stops, they include a map engraved in the marble floors that includes “Conway”.

We found our preferred “local” cafe/eatery at the edge of town for a good lunch and inquired if anyone knew just which Conway was responsible for getting the town named for them. Blank looks all around, so that mystery remains a mystery.

The hills are the predominant feature of all the Route 66 roads in this part of the state. I have confirmed my early postulation of “Conways First Law of Bicycling”: i.e. “Any downhill road that crosses a body of water that is flowing will be more than offset by an equal or longer uphill at an even greater slope”.  Not a complaint, just a (firm) observation.

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A few small towns up the road from Conway is Marshfield, MO. A nice little town whose main claim to fame is its being the birthplace of Edwin Hubble. To commemorate that little bit of fate, the town has erected a one quarter scale model of the famed Hubble Telescope. The kids needed a little primer in recent history to appreciate the value of this amazing technological and engineering accomplishment. A quick “aside” here; Cathy has been reading an excellent resource book to the kids entitled: “101 Facts About Catholic Church History”.  A Belgian priest named Fr. Lematre advanced the theory of a “primeval atom”, stating that the cosmos originated from an initial burst of light and has grown outward in a constant state of expansion ever since”. And he stated that in 1927! Hubbell referenced the good Friar’s work in much of his own writing.

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And now from the expanding cosmos to the proliferation of watercraft! I’m a pretty good judge of acreage, and I estimated that this is an 80 acre field (that’s 80 football fields to the rest of you) that was covered wheel hub to wheel hub with brand new pleasure boats, all made by just one manufacturer. Can there be that many customers that are in the market to buy a new boat this year??? I was agog, and I don’t agog very often.

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We don’t stray from the Route very often, but when we do it’s for a good reason. We have occasionally been in this part of the country on family reunions and other vacation related trips, and on each of them Cathy has remarked that she would like to go to Ha Ha Tonka State Park. Other than some really spectacular Ozark scenery, its main attraction are these ruins from the first decade of the 20th century. As with so many very wealthy Americans in this pre-income tax era, Mr. Fred Snyder of Kansas City had literally more money than he could spend. His visits to Europe convinced him that he needed a “home” like the royalty had there. He hired a Scottish architect to draw up plans for a “castle”, bought up more than a thousand acres of land in the Ozark mountains, and set about building his dream. Scottish quarrymen and stonemasons were also brought from abroad to do the work and train the American laborers. A quarry was hewn out of the hills about two miles away from the site of the house high on a promontory cliff and the quarried stone was hauled to the site on a light rail pulled by mules.

All this great effort and expense, but the finger of fate was poised against the family. Less than a year into the project, My. Snyder was killed in, of all things, a car wreck, and this in 1906! The project languished for a decade until his sons were able to continue. When the roaring 20’s turned into the depression 30’s, the scope of the plans contracted with them.

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That statement may seem to be contradicted by these photos, but much more was planned than was actually built. There was an elaborate water pressure system that brought water up from a spring 250 feet below and stored it in a tower to provide constant water for the house and outer buildings. 20190318_163159

World War 2 derailed the completion as workers went off to fight or work. And then, as if to punctuate the star-crossed nature of the entire endeavor, the manor house burned to the ground in 1947. We were all glad that we had taken the side trip to visit, but the sad events of it all left us with a case of melancholy.

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A perfect antidote to melancholy is the quality reading/studying time with Izzy. She has been composing a story for one of her “Home School” classes and she has a superb tutor in Gramma Cathy.

Hoping there’s enough wifi power to get this out to the ethernet tonight! I’m still a .day or two behind, but I don’t want to press my luck.

Thanks for coming along.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Good. The Bad. The Ugly. Oh, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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It’s always preferable to start with “The Good”. And that was an easy choice for today. This completely isolated section of a very old stretch of Route 66 only runs for about a mile along a “bottoms” area of the Spring River. The very same river that sees the shadow of the Rainbow Bridge featured in yesterday’s blog. A very rare event that the kiddos can join me on even a small part of the ride, but today was that rare occasion. All the hallmarks of the early road are here: Narrow, rough, winding, picturesque. Izzy has been doing more riding on this (ad)venture than she has for years at home. Her helmet remains where she left it in Arizona. Colin would be happy to ride “for a while”, but none of this all day nonsense. 🙂

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It’s St. Patrick’s Day! So it’s not surprising that we get a “double-dose” of Good today. The visually astute will note not only his “old Corps” utility cover (cap, for the Army and Navy types), but the Sergeant Chevrons still proudly displayed front and center. My USMC jersey got his immediate attention and the obligatory “Semper Fi, Marine!” The Ol’ Sarge runs a very nice gift shop and period-correct display yard and cordially greets all comers. That “old section” of the Mother Road shown in photo one continues on sporadically, and his shop is on one of those original sections. By the time we stopped by today, we became his 102nd visitor. Lots of folks out traveling on the Mother of Roads on this beautiful Sunday. We enjoyed an on-board lunch while parked in the road frontage of this friendly fellow Marine.

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Depending on the severity of the need, this could represent either “The Bad”, or “The Ugly”. Suffice to say that for today at least, it was just “The Bad”.  🙂 The trees grow fairly close to the right of way of this old road, so options are available to the needy.

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As for “The Ugly”, perhaps only regular, frequent road bikers will get this. The area TO THE RIGHT of the “rumble strips” is “my portion”. On this stretch of a very heavily traveled (both big trucks and cars) portion of the road (12 to 15 miles), this was my fare. That free zone varied from 6 inches as in this photo, to maybe 12 inches for short stretches. Riding to the LEFT of the white line will get you honked off the road, and scares the hell out of me anyway. Believe me when I say it takes some constant concentration to navigate this little strip of asphalt. Escape mode is to the right on to the gravel. Hitting the rumble strips will put you out of control almost immediately. Ugly.

An addendum (un-pictured) occurred today as well. Leaving Joplin, there was a portion of road where the storm drain covers were diabolical  bicycle traps. The cover’s openings were half inch wide rails 2 inches apart, unconnected for the length of the drain and running PARALLEL TO THE DIRECTION OF TRAVEL. The first one I encountered my front wheel dropped straight down and had I been going any slower would have stuck fast in the gap. As it was, I nearly pitched off head over heals. After checking for a bent rim, I vowed to swerve away from the rest of the drains, of which there were many. VERY UGLY.

We are now using Map Booklet Number TWO! Having started with Map Booklet Number Six, that seems like we’re really making progress. It will guide us from Joplin to St. Louis. The terrain has definitely changed, and tomorrow will see us threading through the Ozarks. That sounds like “hills” to me!

Though sunny all day, the thermometer never got north of 55 degrees, and the steady northeast breeze was definitely on the cool side. And, yes, Northeast does mean Headwind. Notice I didn’t add that to the “Bad”or the “Ugly” categories. Some restraint in evidence there.

Glad to have you all along. I look forward to your comments, and try to get an answer back to them when I can. Wifi runs that part of our lives.

Erin go Braugh!  (Ireland Forever!)

 

 

Newsflash: Iowa Biker Races Across Kansas in One Day!

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I suppose I could just leave these pictures up and call it good, but I would start losing some credibility. The fact would remain in tact, I DID in fact “ride across Kansas” from the Oklahoma border and crossed into Missouri, where we remain tonight. It was a very short sojourn across the Sunflower State, a little less than 15 miles of the fabled road, and the most pleasant day of riding for weeks!

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A most graceful and long-lived icon of the entire Mother Road, known from end to end of the highway as “The Rainbow Bridge”, located just north of Baxter Springs, KS. And, unlike many of the Route 66 bridge ancestors, this one is still used on a limited basis. A perfectly beautiful day to ride my trusty bike across it and over the Spring River, about midway between Oklahoma and Missouri.

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Even after years of disuse, this Conoco Station in nearly deserted Commerce, OK retains an aura of respectability, and perhaps, hopefulness,  that someday things will go back to “the way they used to be”.  I’m sad and disappointed that a photo I took of the competing Phillips 66 Station just kitty-cornered across the 66 Highway from this one did not show up on my camera at the end of the day. That “Station”, has survived, but now its only product/service is the creation of “The Only Route 66 Hiway Marker Shaped Cookies” available on the Route!

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This morning’s highlight required us to return to this small city that has fully embraced its Route 66 dependence and love affair, Miami, OK. And PLEASE!! Pronounce the name Oklahoma “correctly”, as Mi Am MAH!

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The Crowning Jewel of Miami, The Coleman Theater, built in 1929 by a most generous lead and zinc magnate, Charles Coleman. A man whose income was measured in millions of dollars PER MONTH in the first decade of the 20th century, could afford the best of everything. This theater has NEVER closed in its nearly 90 years of existence. It has, not surprisingly, had periods of neglect and disrepair, but today is NOT one of those times. Considering that the first board of directors of “The Coleman” included Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, you could assume correctly that the place has “good bones”. The eleven hundred plus seats in this magnificent place are frequently ALL filled by eager viewers from the entire nation.

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The original “Mighty Wurlitzer” organ again graces the wings of the stage. It had “disappeared” for several decades, before being sleuthed out by a dedicated and determined member of the group of volunteers. It took several years of “negotiating” to coax this irreplaceable piece back into the hands of the those whose wanted it to complete the theater. It would make for a good novel to follow this entire subject to its present conclusion.

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Where Izzy visualizes SHE would be relative to this Theater situation.

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Where Colin visualizes HE would be relative to this theater. The tour guide even allowed Colin to flip a few switches. This “soundboard” reminded us all of the scene from The Wizard of Oz where the “Mighty Oz” was exposed as the shyster he was. One bit of minutia was the discovery of the original painted backdrop, now valued at a million dollars for insurance purposes.

There will at some point be a “Special Edition” to cover our visit to Claremore, the Museum dedicated to the life and times of Will Rogers.

It was a glorious day out here on the Mother Road. So glad to have you all along.