Saturday, June 13, 1992...
The Illinois Route 66 Association caravan was scheduled to leave Chicago at 8:30, I reached the starting point, the corner of Jackson and Columbus just off Lake Shore Drive, just as the first wave of drivers was heading off. By the end of the day there were over 160 cars in our procession, split about evenly between modern vehicles and classic cruisers.Lots of convertibles, which produced some interesting moments when a thundershower passed overhead, and a whole bunch of personalized plates, both auto- and 66-related. I especially liked Laura Meyer's MRS RT 66, someone else's KIX ON 66, and -- on a huge early-Sixties Cadillac -- MR BULKY. Illinois had also made available special commemorative Route 66 license plates earlier this year, which not surprisingly proved hugely popular within the Association. The police stopped traffic for us at major intersections until we were clear of downtown Chicago. When we reached Berwyn, a hundred or so people watched from the side of the road; the town had planned its own Route 66 celebration to coincide with our drive-through.
Unfortunately, road construction on the way to Joliet delayed everyone by 10-15 minutes, causing us to fall behind schedule from the start. I arrived about half an hour after I theoretically should have, missing the scheduled tour of an old theater in Joliet. Didn't fully appreciate how many people were participating until the next stop, a picnic luncheon in Chenoa, a town of 2,000 along the route. In addition to our 160 or so cars, all the locals brought their classic cars, and many sat around watching us parade through.From the looks of the town, we're the most exciting thing to hit the area since well before World War II. We were joined here by a vintage hearse (complete with wooden casket in back!), license plate VAMPYR and with window sticker from Transylvania University. I bought over $40 worth of 66-related paraphernalia, even though I already owned all five of the books they were selling -- after all, I didn't have the postcards, or the collection of hand-lettered maps, or the tour T-shirt, or a mug, or....
At the next major stop, the induction ceremony for the Route 66 Hall of Fame at the Dixie Truckers Home in McLean, I parked near a bewildered-looking young woman who was taking notes and talking to a companion with large camera slung around his neck. Didn't take too long for me to realize she was covering the affair for a nearby newspaper (Peoria, as it happened). I gave her a bunch of my surplus literature, suggested whom to interview, and provided background information. Left to her own devices, God only knows how bad the article would have been -- she didn't have a clue about Route 66. Also met Rob Waldmire, the man responsible for a new series of hand-drawn Route 66 maps and postcards -- he's a remnant of the Sixties, an long-haired, beared hippie complete with beat-up VW van, and Earth First! literature.
The day concluded with a motorcade through Lincoln, IL, ending with a big party in the town square. As at our luncheon stop, local churches and other charities turned out in force to make some bucks cooking for us all. The festivities promised music until 10:00, but I wasn't about to stick around that long. I headed to a motel in Springfield, 30 miles south, planning to visit some of the local Lincoln sights before rejoining the tour in the morning
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