Photos by Larry Nutson
The inaugural Route 66 Motor Tour is on the road. On October 9, under slightly hazy skies and mid-50 temperatures, approximately 25 vehicles departed Joliet, Illinois on their trek south and west.
Following the Illinois Historic Route 66 signs along with the aid of a map and route instructions handed out at the morning driver’s meeting, the first overnight stop was Litchfield, Illinois. That’s about a 240-mile drive that the “Route 66-ers” have all day to complete.
Along the way they’ll pass the Blues Brothers car, Gemini Giant in Wilmington, the Polk A Dot Drive In, as well as a very historic Texaco gas station. The Pontiac-Oakland Museum is a must stop as well as the Cozy Dog Drive-in in Springfield, home of the corn dog.
Event organizer Craig Parrish says that about 80 cars have preregistered, of which 40 or so plan to drive the entire route. Many cars will join along the route; the total number is an unknown. Leaving Joliet were cars from Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Dakota, and Florida.
Steve Wild of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and his mother Ruthann are driving Ruthann’s 1961 Chevy Impala that she bought new. Steve and his mom were looking forward to the drive in their “survivor” with an expression of hope that they encounter no car troubles.
Brothers Tom and Wally Bailey of Lansing, Michigan, are driving their 1953 International Harvester Travelall that’s powered by a 403-cubic-inch Oldsmobile engine. Jan Miller of Ovid, Michigan, is driving her customized peach colored ’47 Olds convertible. Jan’s husband passed away four years ago and she is now doing the driving, as he would want her to, she said.
Two sisters, Pearl Cooper of Orland Park, Illinois, and Bonnie Stump from Florida are Thunderbird collectors. Bonnie has a ’56, ’62 and a ’65. Pearl has a ’56 and they are driving her turquoise green ’02. She recently sold her ’65. Pearl’s T-bird love started with her now -eceased husband. Bonnie says she has a following of about 100 folks that she will be e-mailing a daily travel log.
Jerry Mattson and his wife are driving their tribute dirt track racer. It’s a ’39 Plymouth body mounted on a ’56 Chevy pickup chassis and powered by a 350 Chevy small block. The car has no heater, no A/C and Jerry just put in a blower to help defog the windshield instead of his wife wiping it with a towel.
John Weiss is the director Of preservation for the Illinois Route 66 Association and the author of a three books on the Illinois section of the “mother road.” He is along for the trip and will be providing lots of insight and history on the world famous Route 66.
Day one was planned to end with a visit to the Sky View Drive-In for a two hour cruise and then viewing “American Graffiti” on the big screen.