The first week in February is not generally thought to be ideal for roadtrips, and still that’s what I found myself doing in Illinois this year.
It was quite unexpected that I had this opportunity to take my first trip to the US so I wasn’t exactly planning to do a winter roadtrip but I got lucky: that week was cold but sunny, and I had snow only the last 2 days. If I were to advise when to to take this route, I’d definitely tell you to wait for the spring – even if it had a magical feeling to it in the winter, it’s easier to take walks in better weather.
I took a rental (free upgrade to Cadillac, no doubt thanks to the quiet season) around a triangle in the state: from Chicago to St Louis on route 66, from St Louis north by the Mississippi scenic highway and finally back east to Chicago on the Lincoln Highway.
Part 1: Route 66
I guess everyone who grew up on American movies and literature, has this dream of driving on the Mother Road of America. It’s something that businesses on the route count on: the nostalgic styled, quirky little stops make it truly enjoyable to drive this road. It’s extremely well signed in Illinois, even without a GPS it’s possible to follow it.
It gave me everything I expected it to:
- classic diners where your kind lady walks around refilling your cup with coffee whenever you need (let’s not start on the definition of coffee though),
- motels where it’s easy to imagine criminals in hiding (well, I do like crime series, it couldn’t be helped that they influenced my thinking),
- seemingly endless roads with classic farms, small towns and small businesses as I have seen on TV before.
It also surprised me:
- the gazebo I thought was unique in Stars Hollow of Gilmore Girls, is actually in the middle of every town;
- the distances were a lot bigger than I expected, making me understand why America relies on cars so much;
- there were plenty of inexplicable statues made of plastic that gave a level of quirkiness to the trip I was not expecting;
- the houses displayed a difference of wealth in different areas that took me by surprise – from this side of the world America is the “land of dreams”, where everyone lives well – it was not what I saw driving around.
For all who is taking this route, I’d recommend getting this Travel Route guide from Jim Hinckley – it was a great help to select where to go exactly, what to see and learn a little about the history of the route and its sights.
After 3 days, I said goodbye to route 66 in St. Louis where I spent a day resting my introvert soul from all the impulses it was exposed to on the Mother Road.