Arizona Route 66 Museum: Wagon Trail to Mother Road

Arizona Route 66 Museum: Wagon Trail to Mother Road

Long before Route 66 was commissioned in the 1920s, settlers used the Beale Wagon Road to move west. Route 66 traced the same route used by the Beale Wagon Road through Arizona. The Arizona Route 66 Museum, located in a former Kingman power plant, recalls the history of the route from horse-and-buggy days to the Route 66 heyday in the 1950s and ‘60s. Read more

Kicks on Route 66

Kicks on Route 66

Editor’s Note: Following are links to Route 66 articles that first appeared on our U.S. Long Cuts blog. We are merging U.S. Long Cuts with Midwest Wanderer, adding a “Beyond the Midwest” menu.

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Cozy Dog: Home of the Route 66 Corn Dog

Cozy Dog: Home of the Route 66 Corn Dog

The corn dog, a hotdog on a stick dipped in cornmeal batter and fried to golden crisp perfection, is found at fairs across the United States. But the original corn dog wasn’t on a stick. Nor was it fried. Rather, it was baked and took quite a while to prepare. The inventor of the modern delectable staple of Americana is disputed, but everyone agrees it was invented in the early 1940s. Ed Waldmire Jr. claimed to have come up with the idea in 1941. Five years later, while Waldmire was in the Air Force, a friend whose father was in the bakery business developed a mix that would cling to the hotdog while being fried. Waldmire experimented with the corn dogs in the U.S.O. kitchen, and they became big sellers. After an honorable discharge from the service, Waldmire and his wife went into business selling them, and the Cozy Dog was born in Springfield, Illinois. Cozy Dogs are still popular over 60 years and three generations later at the Cozy Dog Drive In on Route 66. Read more

Funks Grove: Pure Maple Sirup on Route 66

Funks Grove: Pure Maple Sirup on Route 66

Drop by drop sticky sweet sap falls into the metal bucket hanging on the spout inserted into the maple tree. On a good day a bucket fills in 10 to 12 hours. It takes 30 to 50 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of maple sirup, something the Funk family has been doing since the 1820s. They began selling it commercially in 1891, 35 years before Route 66 was commissioned. Located near the midpoint of Illinois’ portion of Route 66, you can visit the Funks Grove farm and pick up some sirup for yourself if your timing is right. Read more

Beyond the Midwest: National Route 66 Museum, Elk City, Oklahoma

Beyond the Midwest: National Route 66 Museum, Elk City, Oklahoma

We expected to see the National Route 66 Museum. What we got were four museums in one:

  • National Route 66 Museum
  • National Transportation Museum
  • Old Town Museum
  • Farm & Ranch Museum

The National Transportation Museum keeps to the nostalgic Route 66 theme. Here you’ll find vintage cars cut in half. Slide behind the wheel or in the back seat and watch classic movie trailers at a Route 66 Drive-In theater.

Behind the wheel of a vintage carRte 66 drive-in 2Don’t miss a Midwest Wanderer post.  For a FREE subscription, enter your e-mail address in the Subscribe2 box to the left and click Subscribe.

A vintage trailer, motorcycles and an airplane are displayed, as is a 1917 fire engine complete next to a fireman’s pole. I was tempted to slide down the pole until Skip reminded me that I’m still getting over an ankle injury.

vintage rv trailerTrans museum - motorcycleAirplaneFire engineI’m not sure how the Popeye collection fits in with transportation, but it’s fun.

Popeye collectionPopeyeThe National Route 66 Museum was the highlight for us, as we followed the road from Chicago to California.

Chicago Theater signRoute 66Route 66 - 3Route 66 - 4Route 66 - 5Route 66 - 2The Old Town Museum is made up of several buildings, some facades and other full buildings that have been moved to the site.

Opera houseMove room to room in a Victorian home to see dioramas and displays of early-day western Oklahoma, Native American culture, military and rodeo history.

Dining roomBedroomrodeo museumI thought the old perm machine looked more like the woman was being electrocuted.

perm machineI’ve been to farm museums before, but the Farm and Ranch Museum includes displays I’ve never seen before, like a colorful tractor seat collection and a barbed wire collection.

tractor seatsbarbed wirewindmillWe spent over an hour in the complex but could have spent at least double that time to see everything. What a bargain at only $5 per person ($4 for seniors, AAA members and children 6-16; free for children 5 and under).

The National Route 66 Museum Complex is located at 2717 W Highway 66 in Elk City, Oklahoma. Check the web site for hours.

Photos by Skip Reed and Connie Reed

Thank you for reading Midwest Wanderer. Don’t miss a post. Enter your e-mail address below and click Subscribe to be notified whenever I publish another post. Subscription is FREE. After subscribing, be sure to click the link when you get the e-mail asking you to confirm.   – Connie

Other articles that may interest you:

A Nostalgic Stay at the Route 66 Rail Haven Motel in Springfield, Missouri

Pontiac Oakland Museum, Pontiac Illinois: Auto Nostalgia along Route 66

Oklahoma’s Charlie’s Chicken and Barbeque Offers Rotisserie Chicken as Alternative to Fried

Isle a la Cache Museum: Discover the Fur Trade on the Island of the Hiding Place

Isle a la Cache Museum: Discover the Fur Trade on the Island of the Hiding Place

Isle a la Cache-3919“Island of the hiding place” is the literal translation of Isle a la Cache, a tiny island in the DesPlaines River in Chicago’s suburban Romeoville. The fur trade was a huge industry in the 1600s and 1700s, and Illinois’ abundant interconnected web of waterways made the area a focal point for trade. Isle a la Cache was a middle ground for trading. It was here that voyageurs often camped, stored goods and traded with the native Potawatomi. A rendezvous took place annually at Isle a la Cache, a big event in which traders met with Native Americans for trading.

The museum begins with the voyageurs, whose trips would often last about eight months. They plied the waterways from Canada down into Illinois in canoes. They carried all the provisions they’d need for the entire trip, plus items for trade. Their loads could weigh a few thousand pounds. They’d often bury some of their provisions in caches and come back for them to be used on the return trip.

Isle a la Cache-3921Voyageurs brought with them steel tools, firearms and other items Native Americans didn’t have the means to produce themselves. They traded for some food but mostly for fur, specifically beaver pelts. The beaver population was abundant in the 1600s to 1700s, and their water repellant fur was ideal for hats. The Potawatami could predict when the beavers would be in their lodges, so they were easy to trap. The voyageurs sent the pelts to Europe where milliners transformed them into hats. By the early 1800s the beaver population had declined to near extinction.

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The museum segues to the life of the Potawatami. A Potawatami wigwam is on display, as well as tools, clothing and other day-to-day items.

Isle a la Cache-3928Often French traders would marry Potawatami women, giving them easier access to trade items. Their children were referred to as Metis. Although Metis had insight to both cultures, neither culture fully accepted them.

The museum exhibits ends with a recreated French hat shop with samples of hats and muffs that may have been made of beaver fur. You can learn more about the area’s past in the museum’s library.

Isle a la Cache-3931Isle a la Cache-3932The Isle a la Cache Museum is located at 501 E Romeo Road (135th Street) in Romeoville, just east of Route 53 (the Historic Route 66). The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday. Check the web site for hours.

While you’re there, drive an eight of a mile farther east to the Centennial Trail. On the north side of 135th Street, check out the old swing bridge, built in 1899. The bridge spanned the I&M Canal until 1996 when a stationary bridge replaced the swing bridge, and the swing bridge was relocated to the trail.

Isle a la Cache-3937Isle a la Cache-3944Thank you for reading Midwest Wanderer. Don’t miss a post. Enter your e-mail address below and click Subscribe to be notified whenever I publish another post. Subscription is FREE. After subscribing, be sure to click the link when you get the e-mail asking you to confirm.   – Connie


 

Other articles you may enjoy:

White Fence Farm, Romeoville IL: Popular Chicken Restaurant on Route 66

Hiking Starved Rock State Park in the Winter

Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket: A Route 66 Icon

Pontiac Oakland Museum, Pontiac Illinois: Auto Nostalgia along Route 66

Pontiac Oakland Museum, Pontiac Illinois: Auto Nostalgia along Route 66

What do you do with a collection of 20 restored Pontiacs and Oaklands and more memorabilia than you have room to store?  Open a museum, of course.  And what better place to open the Pontiac Museum than Pontiac, Illinois, a popular stop along the historic Route 66?  That’s exactly what Tim Dye did when he and his wife Penny pulled up roots from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and moved their collection to Illinois.

It was less than a year from the time that Tim Dye first visited Pontiac and mentioned an interest in opening a museum to the day that the museum opened in 2011.  Since then, more than 33,000 people, from all over the world, have visited the Pontiac Oakland Museum.

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Besides Dye’s personal collection, ten cars and other memorabilia have been donated to the museum. Cars are on loan to the museum, too, which means ever changing displays.

You’ll see the first model of Pontiac ever made, which was actually a buggy dating back to the 1890s, original right down to the upholstery.  The buggy is pulled by fully restored Old Jim, who stood at the Maple Brothers Harness & Horse Goods Store in nearby Fairbury from 1890 until 1950.

Buggy

See old cars like the 1929 Oakland Roadster…

1929_Oakland_Roadster

…or the 1934 coupe.

34_coupe

Some of the cars are set up in scenes, like the 1948 Pontiac convertible in a service garage, where 1,450 oil cans are also displayed, about half of Dye’s collection.  Even the garage door is authentic; it’s the door from a former Pontiac dealership.

garage

You’ll see shiny big cars…

Bonneville

…flashy racing cars…

Pennzoil_Grand_Prix…and a 1931 Oakland Sport Coupe, the last year that model was made.

31_Oakland_sport_coupe

There is even a library with volumes upon volumes of manuals, magazines, maps and drawings.

libraryAdmission is free at the Pontiac Oakland Museum, located at 20 N Mill Street in Pontiac, Illinois.

Thank you for reading Midwest Wanderer. Don’t miss a post. Enter your e-mail address below and click Subscribe to be notified whenever I publish another post. Subscription is FREE. After subscribing, be sure to click the link when you get the e-mail asking you to confirm.   – Connie


 

 

Livingston County War Museum on Route 66 Honors Veterans

Livingston County War Museum on Route 66 Honors Veterans

Most of the museums in Pontiac, Illinois, a Route 66 town, relate to Mother Road nostalgia, a fond memory of the past.  The Livingston County War Museum, though, stirs different emotions, a mix of patriotism, sadness, and awe, because this museum focuses on the people side of war.

 war_museum_1

You’ll see some war memorabilia, like this AT-4, produced near Wilmington, Illinois, another Route 66 town, in the early 1990s.

AT-4But most of the museum is made up of stories, stories from veterans from every branch of the armed services.  Mannequins throughout the museum wear uniforms donated by veterans or families of veterans.  Those who were killed in action are denoted with a gold star.

war_museum_2

The veteran’s story is attached to the uniform, and sometimes other personal memorabilia is displayed, too, like this display about Bill Voorheis, who was shot by machine gun, and though severely wounded, lived through it because the bullet that would have killed him was deflected by a religious medal that he wore around his neck.  His daughter wears that medal around her neck today.

Bill_Voorheis_memorabiliaThe Livingston County War Museum was the idea of Del Estes (1917-2005), WWII veteran.  Most of the volunteers who staff the museum are volunteer veterans whose uniforms are displayed, like museum president Jack Murphy.

Jack_Murphy

Ask volunteer Bill Hall to tell you the story of how a crab saved his life.

Bill_Hall

You can hear additional information about some of the displays through a self-guided cell phone tour.

The Livingston County War Museum is located at 321 N Main Street in Pontiac, Illinois, adjacent to the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum.  Admission is free; donations accepted.

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Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket: A Route 66 Icon

Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket: A Route 66 Icon

Family road trips were in their heyday.  Route 66, the 2,448 mile two-lane Mother Road connecting Chicago with Los Angeles, was completely paved by 1938, making cross country travel a popular family vacation.  Stops at kitschy roadside attractions, small motels and family friendly diners were as much a part of the adventure as the destination.  One of those diners was the Chicken Basket in Willowbrook, Illinois, still in existence today as Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket.  One taste of the fried chicken, crisp on the outsider, tender, juicy and flavorful on the inside and you’ll know how Dell Rhea’s has survived the rerouting of Route 66, the subsequent decommissioning of the road, and difficult economies.


When a rerouting of Route 66 bypassed the Chicken Basket in the early 1960s, the restaurant almost closed.  Instead, Dell Rhea and his wife purchased it and brought it back to life.  The restaurant is still in the Rhea family today, with grandson Patrick at the helm.  The original fried chicken recipe is still used, the one given to the first Chicken Basket owner in exchange for being the exclusive chicken supplier.  Although fried chicken is what Dell Rhea’s is known for, there are lots of other chicken dishes, too, from appetizers like chicken wings and fried chicken livers to healthier main chicken dishes like roasted chicken or char-broiled chicken breast, or your choice of seven different chicken sandwiches.

Chicken isn’t the only thing on Dell Rhea’s menu, though.  Beef, ribs, fish, salads and the popular baked macaroni and cheese are available, too.  Everything is made fresh at Dell Rhea’s, even the salad dressings (except French because Chef Patrick doesn’t like French dressing and refuses to make it).

Wash your meal down with custom brewed Route 66 root beer, or choose another Route 66 soda flavor, like black cherry or cream soda.  For a more adult palate, enjoy a glass of wine instead.

Be sure to save room for dessert, like the chocolate raspberry cake or a personal cherry pie—ordered with a scoop of ice cream on it, of course.

Despite now being off of the main road and a little hard to find, Dell Rhea’s continues to bring in Route 66 nostalgia seekers and those just looking for good food.  Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket was featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives show with Guy Fieri a few years ago.  For two weeks following the airing of that episode, the line of people waiting to get into the restaurant wrapped around the building.  You shouldn’t have to wait as long to get in anymore, so plan on stopping when you’re in the area of I-55 and Route 83.  Whether you need to satisfy your taste buds or your yearning for nostalgia, Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket will fill that need.

Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket is located at 645 Joliet Road, in Willowbrook, Illinois, and is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday.

Rt_66_roadside_attraction

Enjoy this post?  Click the Subscribe2 button to the left to be notified whenever I publish another post on MidwestWanderer.com.  (Be sure to click the link when you get the e-mail asking you to confirm.)  Visit the Midwest Wanderer Facebook Page, and check out my Examiner.com page, too, where I’ve had over 70 articles published.