Route 66 follows two routes out of Springfield. The 1926-30 route is now Highway 4 and zigzags through little country towns. The post 1930 route parallels I-55. We decided to drive on the older route and then drop down to the newer route at Litchfield.
About 4.5 mile south of Chatham a short detour leads to 1.5 miles of the nicely preserved Auburn brick road.
In the late 1800s the little towns strung out along Hwy. 4 were all coal mining camps. Poor working conditions and low pay led to unionizing efforts by the miners, strike breaking maneuvers by the companies and violence on both sides. One of the worst confrontations happened in Virden in 1898. Eight miners and five company guards were killed. A monument in the town square in Virden commemorates the incident. The parking around the square is diagonal pull-in but RVs can be parked on the side streets.
Another short detour of off Hwy 4 along a narrow, little used section of road leads to turkey tracks made when the concrete was poured in 1926. Look for the sign and the white square painted on the road.
The magnificent Maricopa County Courthouse in Carlinville was supposed to cost $50,000.00 when construction began in 1867. By the time it was finished in 1870 $1,342,226.31 had been spent! The 1869 jail across the street in being restored for tourists to visit. RVs can be parked in the lot beside the old jail.
Sky View Drive-In – opened in 1950 and is the last operating drive-in on Illinois Route 66.
The Ariston Café has been on Route 66 in Litchfield since 1935. RVs can be parked on the street.
Right across the street is the new Litchfield Museum & Route 66 Welcome Center. The museum has a every little detail of Litchfield history but not much on Route 66. RVs can be parked on the street or on the south side of the building.
Mary Harris Jones, affectionately know as “Mother Jones” was a very influential union organizer. She’s buried, as she wished, in the Union Miners Cemetery in Mount Olive, Illinois, alongside the miners who had died in the 1898 Battle of Virden. The miner’s union raised the money to build a monument for her. There’s a plexiglass covered bulletin board with space to add your own union button or label. The pull-off at the walkway to the monument is large enough for RVs.
The Soulsby Service Station, built by Henry Soulsby, was in operation from 1926 until 1993. It’s been restored to it’s 1930’s appearance. The bare wood interior contains a random collection of old items. The parking area is large enough for RVs. The interior of the gas station is not accessible due to steps.
If you really want to feel like you’ve gone back in time as you drive along Route 66 stop at Country Classic Cars and buy a period car. Or for just a dollar admission you can browse through the several hundred cars and trucks stored in four metal sheds. To our untrained eyes most of the cars look pretty good however they also seem to be project cars that will need quite a bit of work to be showpieces. Plenty of room for RVs in the lot. Some of the aisles are very narrow so wheelchair access is limited.
Rich and Linda Henry’s Rabbit Ranch has both live bunny rabbits and Volkswagen Rabbits. The bunnies live in cages in the gift shop and the VW Rabbits are stuck head first in the ground just like the Cadillacs at Cadillac Ranch. The Henrys are Route 66 enthusiasts and the rabbit ranch/gift shop (built by Rich in 1995 to look like an old gas station) is a hobby so stop in for the stories or to pick up a souvenir. RVs can fit into the parking area but turn around space is tight. The gift shop is small and cramped.
Take a side trip to see the pink elephant and the two story high beach guy at the Pink Elephant Antique Mall - exit 37 on I-55. Plenty of room for RVs to park. The mall has three floors. The first floor is accessible but not the second or basement floors.