Today started out warm with some clouds but mostly blue skies as I motored out of Springfield, MO heading towards Illinois and as close to Chicago as I could get. I ended up in another Springfield -- Illinois, 200 miles shy of the end of the road. Riding out of town with my feet up on the travel pegs, wind on my bare arms in a sleeveless shirt, cruising along at 45-50 mph with my I-Pod as I ride the Mother Road -- well it doesn't get better than this. The road was quiet as it's Sunday and a holiday, the church parking lots full of morning service worshipers. I gassed up before leaving town and an older couple that were on a Harley Trike pulled in to the next pump. The wife reminded me of Ma Joad, very round and stout, about the size of a fireplug -- her husband the same. Kinda like toy weebles. She asked where I was going and I told her -- she grinned and asked about how the ride was. Her deep southern accent wasn't from Missouri, so I asked where they were headed. "Home to Tennessee". We wished each other happy travels and I pulled out onto the open road.
I've actually driven this section of Route 66 before -- its where I first got the bug in fact, since Missouri was the first state to mark up the historic road. It was as I remembered it -- playing tag with I-44, rolling through the Ozarks on a windy two lane, ducking through old bridges and past the relics of a bygone age, including a billboard for Meramec Caverns -- first one I saw in MO.
Along this stretch of the Mother Road, because of the population I think, many of the relics of the old road still exist in one form or another as still used buildings -- either as their original purpose or as a garage or storage or store. A lot of the motels are still in business (most now branded as "American Owned" -- another "so????" Guess we don't want to stay in no motel owned by no furriner.) But you have to be somewhat of an architect to find the clues of what the signs along the old highway -- sometimes they aren't as obvious as they are further West where the population is few and far between and there isn't a need once the original use is over.
I did have to jump on I-44 outside St. Louis -- the old road has been obliterated here, but in the outskirts you can pick it up again as it runs into the city and past another Route 66 icon -- Ted Drews frozen custard. They have been selling the most wonderful concoctions since the 1950s, and I had a peach concrete -- very thick custard with peaches in it. It was 90 something and I was hot on the bike so it was most welcome. The place was packed as always, and while I was in line I saw a guy looking at my bike and taking a picture. After I got my ice-cream I went back over and he said in a very thick accent -- "nice bike - I like", and his wife said "you very lucky". I asked where they were from -- "Bosnia". I asked if they were on the tour bus parked on the side street, but they weren't -- that was apparently for the horde of Japanese folks taking pictures of each other ordering custard. He asked me about my license plate -- C2C-B2B, so I told him "coast to coast, border to boarder", and it's for where I've gone on the bike. His wife then wanted a picture with me and her standing by it, so I obliged. I have to wonder how they'll explain that back home in Bosnia.
I had to jump on the freeway again at the Mississippi river just past the St. Louis arch and the big Bud brewery -- the Old Road went across a now condemned bridge. Once in Illinois I exited off and worked my way Northeast as the sun started to go down. It cooled off and riding was wonderful out through the farms on the other side of the river. I pulled up to a stoplight in the middle of a corn field where two county roads crossed and there was another biker in front of me on what I call a "Lhasa Apso" -- a Harley that has fringe around it's fender, floor boards, and bags, so it looks like the small dog with all the fur. As the light turned green we went through and his bike sputtered and died and he pulled over. I didn't want to leave him stranded so I pulled over too and went back to see if I could help. The poor chap had run out of gas so I ran up a mile or so to a station, filled up a water bottle with gas and rode it back. It got him enough to get to the station and fill up himself, so I'm hoping the karma rubs off -- rule one of the road is never leave a fellow biker stranded. I often get bikers to ask if I'm OK when I'm pulled over having a drink or looking at my map.
So now I'm on the downhill run -- 198 miles to Chicago. From one Springfield to another -- 356 miles today. I'm going to make it. I'll have done all of Route 66. Sunburned and tired -- on the road for 12 days now, and ready to go home.
More pictures are on FaceBook: www.facebook.com/album.php