It has begun. The drive from the east coast (Brooklyn, to be exact) to the west coast (California, then up to the top of Idaho) and back again, in this here Mustang, is well underway. Much beef jerky will be chewed and many coffees will be slurped in the pursuit of a great American road trip. As I type this, I’m already a few days past the initial part of the journey depicted here, but it has been a challenge to drive, eat, shoot photos, maybe sleep, and then have any brain power left to post… WAHH!! I’m a baby. Let’s do this!
Not sure how much brainpower I had to begin with, because I decided it would make tons of sense to start the trip – a straight, solo blast directly to Chicago, from Brooklyn – at 10:30pm. I would skip NYC traffic, make good time, then by the time I was totally exhausted and started hallucinating the sun would come up and at least maybe it would look cool.
At the first gas stop somewhere in Pennsylvania, it started to sink in that I just drove away from my home (including, crucially, my bed) and I wouldn’t get to see it again until I drove over 6,000 miles. No turning back now.
My eyeballs stopping doing what my brain told them to around 4:30am, so I pulled into a hotel parking lot somewhere and grabbed an hour’s sleep. But it was fitful as I kept jolting awake and checking the mirrors for pervs. As the sun came up it brought with it rain that would last all morning, and across the rest of the state.
Ohio… I think. Still raining. I was mainlining This American Life and cooking Red Bull in a spoon at this point.
Finally I was delivered into rain-free, picturesque, rural Indiana. I paid lots of tolls. One would think that the tolls charged on the highway would help to make the highway not fall apart. One would be mistaken about that. One would think there might be more than McDonalds and a single Waffle House within a 100 mile stretch. Another mistake. Also, more than one person asked me to “take them with me”. I’m sure that was less of a compliment towards what a fascinating and handsome person I am, and more of a statement of how shitty life in small town Indiana appears to be.
I discovered during the night that the washer jets were suddenly kaput on the Mustang. I filled the reservoir, and pulled the hose out of the hood, which still squirted like a race horse, so I surmised that the jets were clogged. Seizing the opportunity when I drove right past a Ford dealership, I ran in and asked if they had the jets in stock. Nope. I asked them to look at the problem anyway. Long story short, they said we could fix it, but it’s gonna take an hour, and it’s not under warranty (I have an aftermarket hood). I said, no, thanks anyway, and jumped back on the road. Suddenly, the jets were now working perfectly. Have no idea how that happened. I’ll take it.
Made it to Chicago at around 1:30pm, about 15 hours after I left Brooklyn.
The main reason I drove to Chicago was to pick up my dad from O’Hare, who would join me for the whole Route 66 part of the trip to Santa Monica. But I left a couple days early to go see some music. My friend plays in a band called Empress Of, who was playing at Pitchfork Festival that weekend in Union Park, and he got me a VIP pass for the weekend. (Thanks, Spencer.) No sleep, but free beer, and it was totally worth it. Highlights included the amazing St. Vincent, Hudson Mohawk, and I unfortunately missed Beck. Lowlights included watching Grimes (above) lip syncing.
Downtown Chicago is awesome. It feels so much different from New York, more urban planning, the parks, and the huge public spaces.
Stayed near Logan Square all weekend, and ate twice at Lula’s. It’s worth the wait. The sausage patties are bonkers.
Obligatory Chicago bean pic.
Here’s me and Pops. Don Burnett, Jr. Obligatory Chicago bean selfie.
I happened to park near this clean 5.0 fox body in Chicago. Look at all that real estate to park in. It’s absurd!
It was a hot, clear day. Kids playing in the fountains.
Here it is, the official starting point of Route 66 on Adams street in downtown Chicago. Exciting. My dad was armed with a lap full of guide books. I had an iPhone. We have a Go Pro mounted on the windshield. We’re ready. I have to pee.
The first landmark we had been ready to see was Henry’s Drive in, a hot dog stand, and as we pulled in, so did this very clean factory air 1967 Mustang GT. What a beautiful car. The owner was cool too, he told me about the car, popped the hood, asked where we were from. I asked what brought him down today, and he said, “uh, I wanted a hot dog.” Fair enough. First Route 66 stop and already meeting guys with awesome cars.
We then grabbed a late lunch at the famous Del Rhea’s Chicken Basket on Joliet Road. This place has been serving fresh fried chicken for decades, and even though the Route doesn’t really exist here anymore, the food keeps it alive.
These were literally the best chicken tenders I’ve ever had. House red ale, too.
Here’s my pops again. We were having such a good time stopping at these little joints along the road.
Del Rhea’s is still family owned and operated, and we got a grand tour from Del’s son, Pat. Definitely check this place out.
One of many classic garages on Route 66 in Illinois. Some are props at this point, but this one advertised a still functioning repair business.
Route 66 is called “The Mother Road”. This sculpture can be found outside the Route 66 museum in Joliet.
This is a beautifully restored period gas station just down the road from Joliet. I was stuck behind a huge RV coming here, full of Australians.
The iconic Gemini Giant. This son of a bitch is taller than the houses surrounding him. So cool.
Fans of Route 66 lost a legend in 2009 when artist Bob Waldmire died. He is known as the most important Route 66 artist; you’ll see his artwork – particularly his weird, psychedelic maps – all over the place. This mural dedicated to him is in the amazing town of Pontiac, Il.
We got here a little too late to go inside, but Pat from Del Rhea’s Chicken Basket told me that you can still smell the pot smoke in Bob Walmire’s old school bus.
Yours truly, posing with the Mustang before a mural that is seemingly designed for travelers to park their cars in front of in order to take cheesy pictures. I am powerless to resist this type of thing.
Pontiac’s Livingston County Courthouse is beautifully restored.
This very well executed life size sculpture of a young Abe Lincoln gets a lot of attention outside the courthouse. Honestly – I saw at least five people in all of downtown Pontiac total, and at least two of them walked over to this sculpture. The closer we get to Springfield, the more Lincoln-y it’s gonna get. Stay tuned.