The Illinois triangle: a roadtrip

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

The route displayed on a mural

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.
Plastic statues are common in this part
Al Capone might have walked here
Prison from the movies
Quirkiness abound
You can’t miss the roadsigns
Gas stations of the past
One of the wall-sized murals on the road
Typical roadside motel

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.

Coming up:

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My soul breathes music and exhales words.

8 thoughts on “The Illinois triangle: a roadtrip

  1. I visit my brother in Iowa at least once a year. Distance is measured in the midwest like nowhere else on the planet. He will gladly pick me up at an airport that is three hours away from his house. I love roadtrips through the area. Great pictures and spot-on observations.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Dan, a lot of my colleagues (our company’s HQ is in the suburbs of Chicago) commute to work for more than an hour by car so I agree with their different perception of long distance 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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