Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Route 66 - Joliet Area Historical Museum


  Joliet was named The City of Stone and Steel because of it’s limestone quarry and steel mill. This nicely done, little museum  tells the early history of these industries and the stories of the immigrants from Great Britain and Eastern Europe who came to Joliet to find work and raise their families. The museum building was once a Methodist church and still has beautiful stain glass windows.


The building also houses a visitor center with Route 66 information and photo opportunities.


  The museum is accessible. A short film is shown in a mockup of a street car. The street car is accessed by steps only but the film is also shown in another location that is accessible.

The museum parking lot is large enough for small RVs. Larger RVs can park on the street.  Museum   66 Map

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Route 66 Chicago to Joliet

  We’ve wanted to travel along the entire length of Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica for several years but it hasn’t worked out until now. So finally – our first day on Route 66!

  The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1921 was responsible for establishing Route 66 and many of the other numbered highways that are still in existence today. The act provided federal money to the states to help create a coherent highway network, using number routes rather than names which were confusing since they often changed as the roads passed through different states. East to west roads use even numbers, north to south use odd numbers. The act also marked the beginning of standards for road construction and road signage.

   Besides connecting two major cities, Route 66 provided an easy route through the Rocky Mountains attracting truckers, job seekers, and families on vacation. As it’s popularity grew, small towns along the way vied for the tourist traffic by building fancy motor courts, restaurants of all kinds, and unusual attractions.  By 1953 four lane, limited access roads began bypassing towns along Route 66  and in 1985 the route was decommissioned. It may have disappeared altogether if it weren’t for a few people dedicated to it’s preservation. It’s still possible to drive on 85% of the original route and many of the old iconic gas stations, restaurants, bridges and motels are being restored or are finding new life as more travelers chose to go back in time and travel slowly along the two lanes.

   Travelers on Route 66 need to do some research and have a good guide book. We bought EZ 66 Guide for Travelers which has very detailed, easy to follow directions. These websites are good too - Historic Route 66, National Park Service Route 66 Corridor, and Road Trip USA.
  So (after that little history lesson) Route 66 from Chicago to Joliet!

  The beginning of Route 66. Route 66 originally followed Jackson Blvd. but by the 1950s Jackson was one way eastbound and Adams St. became the westbound route.
  Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant and Bakery, a family business since 1923, is a favorite with both locals and tourists. Breakfast seems to be the most popular meal but we arrived in mid afternoon and weren’t hungry so we had pie and a small salad. Mediocre at best so maybe stick to breakfast?
The Cindy Lou Motel, once billed as “the last motel before the city”, is a relative newcomer - opened in 1960. It looks a bit rundown and seedy but I like the primitive, homemade sign.
  Apparently Chicagoans put fries on top of their hot dogs. Henry’s Drive-In has been in business since the 1950s and has a very cool sign. Large lot with room for RVs.
  The Berwyn Rt 66 Museum is a tiny gift shop and museum. Not much to see but the volunteers are very friendly. On the street parking.
  Side trip to the Chicago Portage National Historic Site. The portage, which provided an easy connection between the Atlantic
and the Gulf of Mexico by linking Lake Michigan with the Mississippi River, allowed Chicago to become an important port. The site has a large statue, interpretive signs, a short paved trail and a longer gravel loop trail.  Large lot with room for RVs.
  Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket has been frying up chicken since 1946. Unfortunately the opening of I-55 cut off easy access to the restaurant and it takes some effort to find it.  RVs will fit on the edge of the lot.
  White Fence Farm which opened in the early 1920s is more than a restaurant. It’s also a museum with antique cars, clocks, motorcycles, dolls and other memorabilia, plus a petting zoo and quarter games. We didn’t get to see any of that or taste the chicken to decide if it is wonderful or flavorless ( differing internet reviews) because the restaurant is closed on Mondays. Large lot with room for RVs.
  Kicks on 66 Park is a great photo stop. Look for the ice cream stand with the Blues Brothers dancing on the roof  (Jake Blues was released from Joliet Prison in The Blues Brothers movie) and pull into the parking lot. Across the street is Dick’s Towing with old cars on display. Follow the paved trail to a big Kicks on 66 sign. The park also has two nice sculptures. Large lot with room for RVs.
  It’s only about 40 miles from Chicago to Joliet but if you stop for everything it’ll take a few hours. We drove through downtown Chicago at about 10:30 on Monday morning and had no problems with traffic or finding our way. It’s actually marked pretty well with Route 66 directional signs. Unless you’re determined to drive every inch of the original road the first eight or so miles can be bypassed by taking I-55. Very little of the original character is left on this section of road.  Map

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Field Museum

   In five hours we managed to see just two exhibits – The Ancient Americans and Evolving Planet. Both are excellent. Ancient Americans explores the history of North and South American native cultures. The exhibits are very good and the quality of the artifacts is wonderful. The Evolving Planet exhibit does a great job of explaining 4 billion years of the Earth’s history - the beginning of life, the rise of dinosaurs and the emergence of mammals. We’ll definitely be back again to see everything that we missed on this visit.
  Everything is accessible. Enter the building at the east entrance.

   RV parking is available at the Adler Planetarium Lot but it’s very expensive. We walked/rolled along the Lakefront Trail from our overnight spot at the McCormick Place Truck Marshalling YardMuseum
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Friday, September 25, 2015



   Chicago is a wonderful city to visit but a bit tough if you want to stay in your RV. The closest RV parks are about 30 miles away and  the availability of overnight RV parking at an outlying Walmart is always a gamble plus the drive through traffic twice a day gets tedious.  But there is a rather unorthodox alternative -  the McCormick Place Truck Marshalling Yard. McCormick Place is the largest convention center in North America and has a huge parking lot for trucks. There’s also a section set aside for RVs. It’s just an asphalt lot sandwiched between US 41 and the railroad tracks and is expensive at $35.00 a night but you can’t get any closer to the city.


  Walking is an ideal way to see the city but there’s also a good bus system or you can rent a bike and ride along the scenic Lakefront Trail. The RV parking lot has in-and-out privileges so if you tow a car you can drive around the city but parking is limited and expensive.

  Getting to the trail or the city streets from the RV lot is a little tricky. Walk north along Moe Street, which goes under McCormick Place, and look for the pedestrian entrance sign. You must go through the buildings to get across US 41 to the trail or across the train tracks to the city streets. This is complicated so ask for directions if you see anyone. It’s kind of quiet and creepy inside the buildings if there aren’t any ongoing tradeshows.


We love the miles of park along the lake and spent a good part of two days on the trail and in the parks enjoying the sights.





We found the city to be very wheelchair accessible. For more information download Easy Access Chicago and the Chicago Official Visitors Guide.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Taltree Arboretum & Gardens


  Taltree preserves natural prairie, wetlands, savanna, and a large stand of oak trees. About six miles of interconnecting trails ramble through the fields and forest. A large, elaborate outdoor model train layout uses miniature trees and small plants to create realistic scenery.


The Train Garden is completely accessible. Most of the trails and gardens are not accessible. Part of the Heron Trail is paved. The Rose Garden can be viewed from the road. The Adventure Garden has mulch paths and can be viewed with assistance. Accessible parking spaces are located at the Train Garden and at the beginning of the Heron Trail.

The parking lot is large enough for any RV.  Garden



Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Johnny Appleseed Festival

  The Johnny Appleseed Festival is a bit different that other community festivals because all vendors must dress in period clothing, prepare food as it would have been prepared in the 1800s and use only natural materials such as wood, tin, brass, iron, steel, glass, rope and cloth in the construction of their handmade products. For the most part the vendors complied with the restrictions but we did see tennis shoes and some polyester.
  The first Johnny Appleseed Festival was held in 1974 with only 20 vendors. It’s grown to become a very popular festival with over 200 vendors and attendance by several 100,000 people so expect crowds. The festival area is large with period camps, entertainment stages and rows of booths strung between them.
  Much of the festival is spread out on grassy hills so it’s not very wheelchair accessible. The eastern half takes over the campground (closed during the festival) which has paved roads so that section is accessible. Two stages, the settler’s village, and many vendor’s booths are located in the campground.
Two free parking lots with shuttle service are provided by the festival but the most convenient parking is at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum lot which is just steps away from the festival grounds. Arrive early to get a close up spot. The fee is $5.00 for cars, $15.00 for RVs.  Festival
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