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Route 66, 2012

Trudy’s version with a little help from Chester

Route 66
          map.The idea to ride Route 66 all started after talking to Russell Harrison about his ride on Route 66 in 2011.

This is our experience:
After some 30 hours of travel we arrived at our hotel at Niagara Falls just before midnight Sunday 23rd September. We decided that a couple of days RNR was needed to get over the long flight. We arrived at the Falls about midnight. What a sight we saw when we opened the curtains in the morning. We were directly opposite the falls the rising mist and the roar of the water. Our next 2 days were spent just taking in the beauty of the area and resting.

On the 26th it was onto another plane at Toronto flying to Chicago on Lake Michigan. This is where our Eagle Rider Tour was to start. We had an extra night so that we could take in a few of the local sights. First thing we did after breakfast was hit the pavement and didn’t take long to realise you had to walk on the right side, just like driving!

Our hotel the Palmer House was only 2 blocks away from the Sears Tower (now called Willis Tower) which gave 360 of the surrounding area. From the top floor you could see all the roads leading in and out of the city. What a maze it looked and tomorrow we would be on one of them heading West on Route 66. The start of the road is just below the tower we were in.

Next we went down the lift and hopped on an “on-off double decker” tour bus taking in the history and looking at all the different architecture. Chicago is the setting for lots of movies. It will be fun trying to spot the landmarks in movies we watch in the future. In the afternoon we decided to visit he aquarium to see the Beluga whales (white in colour with a large looking bubble on their heads) which were going to perform some tricks.

Chester checking-out the Harley.What are the chances of meeting some one you know in 3 million people? Well we bumped into a young lady at the end of a queue who we knew from Mt Barker. She had left home about 3 months ago tripping about USA. We hadn’t seen any Australians up till then. Small world!

Back at the hotel that night we met all the other riders and organisers of Eagle riders. 33 riders in all which were broken up into 2 groups European (English) and Brazilians (Spanish speaking). We were originally booked to ride with the Brazilians, but this was changed at the last minute. It was decided that we would be the only English speaking people in the group. The change was good and we ended up with a really good mix of people. The evening was spent eating pizzas and getting to know our fellow riders.

Heading off at the start of the ride.
DAY 1: The following morning was the start of the adventure with a bus trip out of the CBD to an original diner and bowling alley for breakfast then onto the Harley Davidson shop. Here we signed up and took possession of our transport for the next 2 weeks. Chester was a little disappointed to not get a Gold Wing but had to settle for an Electra Glide HD. Not much to be done about that, but we wouldn’t let that spoil our ride. The seat’s not as comfy for Trudy. She’s a bit spoiled with the Wing.

Our group had 17 riders plus 3 passengers (8 Brits, 2 Scots, 2 Americans, 2 Swedes, 4 Aussies and 2 Russians). All but one of us were on various models of HD’s. There was one lonely but lovely Gold Wing which was ridden by another Aussie.

Our tour leader was LaLa, a pretty wild looking woman. It was LaLa who put together the Route 66 tour for the Eagle Rider Company. With every trip they find new things to improve on it.

Ty’s Support vehicle.
All of our luggage was transferred to a van which was towing a trailer with a spare HD inside. Ty was our support man. He was a dab hand at fixing problems and making sure no one got lost by taking up the rear. Ty and LaLa were in radio contact all the way. The weather was looking dark and threatening as we saddled up and hit the highway, but fortunately that was the only time we had bad weather for the whole trip. How lucky were we?

It was pretty intense riding straight out into what appeared to be busy traffic that’s on the wrong side of the road. And they drive fast. On the interstates and freeways the speed limit is 75mph and they all drive at that and more.

We were told there is a minimum speed limit too. It keeps the freeways moving. So it’s best to just keep up otherwise one might get flattened. It was a real worry when the pack got split up by merging traffic and you had to make a decision to pass or stay put until the vehicles in front moved off. We usually tried to pass and catch up, often reaching speeds of 90mph and more.

It was white knuckles for most of the first day. Our first stop was in Dwight, Illinois. This was the site of the last gas station to close on Route 66. The local historical society manned it for the tourists. They would sit out front in deck chairs waiting for customers. None of them were younger than 80.

Giant at the
          Launching Pad.We travelled 324kms on to Springfield, birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, stopping at the Route 66 museum in Joliet, Illinois, lots of memorabilia. There was a brief stop to see Gemini Giant standing guard at the Launch Pad, a diner in the town of Wilmington.

Lots of the diners and stations used to stay open day and night servicing travellers heading west. The Polka Dot diner was our first lunch stop. It is set in the 60s and had statues of Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Blues Brothers, James Dean and many others. On the walls were lots of old pictures and in the gents loos there were Marilyn pictures looking at you every which way (took a while for the young fellas to vacate.) Trudy said Elvis was everywhere in the ladies! Great food and plenty of it made us decide to share our meals from here on.

Next it was onto Pontiac, where we witnessed a homecoming parade. Lots of mobile floats decorated up. It was a special occasion to see this. Kids from all the schools march to support their school football team that is playing at home that weekend. It was here at another great museum of Route 66 that the T-shirt collection started.

When it was time to get fuel, we all lined up either side of a bowser. One after the other Ty and LaLa filled our tanks. Quite a procedure that we got down pat by the end of the ride.

Trudy saw a lot more of the countryside than me the first few days. It was eyes front and on the mirrors. She gave me a commentary through the headset advising of the rich looking soils and condition of various crops. There was evidence of a dry season.

Late in the afternoon when we pulled up at our 4 star hotel, the Hilton. The bikes were all lined up and secured before we grabbed our bags out of the van. The esky came next and it was cheers all round before we set off in search of our rooms. As most of us were tired we dined in-house and hit the sack early.

DAY 2: Sydney won the grand final (that’s about the only news we got from home) Big deal! Off to St Louis today following the Brazilians (we alternate and stagger our departure time so as not to clog up diners and attractions) so at 8:30 it was stands up for us.

First stop was at a dinner “Cosy Dogs” famous for the corn dog, which is a sausage, dipped in corn batter then deep fried. Pretty tasty but not sure how healthy.

Route 66
          signs.We headed off to check out an old section of the 66 road which is made out of bricks. There is only about 1 mile still usable but as you can imagine it wouldn’t stand up to heavy transport like today but was an improvement from just dirt back in the early days.

Next stop was to visit Henry the rabbit man. Well he certainly was mad about rabbits in a different way to me. There was a huge statue of a rabbit out front plus lots of live ones (big pets of course) - even had a cemetery. Best place for them I reckon! He also had a few mini type cars half buried in a line. Art! Not sure. Sometimes I just don’t get it!

We drove off through cornfields and I felt at home. There were the odd farms growing pumpkins and no doubt they would have been doing OK with Halloween due. Quite a few houses had decorations on a big scale.

We stopped at a small town square “Carlinville”. The locals were very friendly at the commerce centre and offered us morning tea with homemade cakes. There was scandal in Carlinville about 1857. It seems the mayor took liberties with the town’s money and built himself a bordello with a few bricks he syphoned off the new court house that was being built. The $50,000 budget blew out to about one and a half million.

After a fuel stop we crossed the Mississippi into Missouri, big and wide as you can imagine. After being granted special permission we rode over one of the original bridges on 66, stopping in the middle to absorb the scenery, then it was on to St Louis.

It was a free afternoon so after checking in to the Hilton, Trudy and I walked down to the famous arch (like a giant horse shoe). We thought to take the lift to the top but the queue was a mile long. You need to book in advance for this, so we explored the museum beneath which depicted the history of the area.

After spending an hour or so here we took a walk along the Mississippi back to town. There were brides everywhere and a Cinderella carriage that you could take rides on. We ended up downtown where the jazz musicians gather - but not until late at night. So we dined with some of our crew and watched the squirrels under the tables.

Lots of people were eating out wearing footy colours as there was a big game in town that night. It ended up being quite late when we retired for the night. Arriving at the hotel we took the lift to the fifth floor and went to our room. The key card would not work. It must have been faulty. Just in case we had the wrong room, we tried every door on the floor before finally going to the lobby only to find out we had the wrong floor.

DAY 3: Big day today have to cover some 460km to Joplin so early away. We were the lead group today and headed off at 8am. LaLa had the music blasting from her bike and we were dancing in the street as we got ready to move off.

Chester and
          Trudy having a break on the ride. Fanning was our 1st stop to see the giant rocking chair which doesn’t rock! It is alongside a store which has an archery shooting range inside out back. The targets were deer and bears etc - stuffed of course, as well as the usual round targets. You could choose from all sorts of bows and crossbows.

On the bikes again we rode through some scenic country to the Ozark's and Devil’s elbow. This is where the film Deliverance was made. When someone said they could swear they heard a banjo playing we mounted up and moved back onto the freeway to Sweetwater BBQ. Here we had the best BBQ ribs in the country, their claim to fame! We shared one huge serve between us. Four giant ribs with sides for $11. Great tucker and plenty of it.

Next stop down the road was the Candy factory for dessert. This was alongside the largest gift shop in the world. It was big. As we were there before the Brazilians we got to choose. When we go second there would be very little left in the shops. They were continuously buying souvenirs and clothes and gifts and whatever they could get their hands on. I would hate to have to carry their bags. Thank heavens we had the support vehicles.

Sinclair was next stop. Gary and his wife own this restored garage and museum. They must be close to 90 or better and they love visitors. We all got a bottle of route 66 soda which we could keep. Just had to buy something so purchased a Gary bandana. It was here that we met the first character from the Cars movie.
The old police car had prime position in the yard.

Joplin was to be our stop for the night. The roads were pretty rough and varied as we were on quite a bit of the old road.

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