Friday, May 29, 2015

A Quiet Day

Nissan Versa
We had a slow, lazy start to our day, so lazy in fact, we didn't go over to the hotel for breakfast. Jean actually slept in. I returned our car rental to Enterprise at 8:30. We drove 137 miles, one day rental for $27.88 and bought  $10 gas to refill what we used. The same excursion would have cost much more if we had driven the motorhome. I didn't have to wait long for a return ride to the RV park. Skies were threatening and the humidity building as I washed the windows and windshield of Harvee Too.
It did rain for a couple of hours but no storm. We studied the travel guide of Indiana, checked out some attractions on the internet, then checked for Enterprise locations and mapped out a route into Indiana.
Jean was on a mission and worked all afternoon on editing her pictures while Hunter and I had a nap. There was a lot of activity at the RV park as several more rigs arrived.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

You go, Moe!

Our sleep was disrupted by a few passing trains, something we didn't experience last time we stayed here. We did manage to get back to sleep 'til 6:15 am.  It was a much cooler and pleasant 14º and NO wind.  We enjoyed another buffet breakfast at the hotel. There were more RVers  this week.
An Enterprise employee picked us up at 9:20; the paper work was completely quickly and we were on our way in a Nissan Versa by 9:45.  We drove approx. 55 miles west on I 80 to La Salle, a small town founded in 1852 but dating back as early as the 1830s when labourers settled in the area to begin construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal.
We stopped at the Lock 16 Visitor Center, Cafe and Gift Shop to buy our tickets for the 11:30  boat canal ride. Only $24 (2 x $12).
Our boat ride began at Lock 14, one of 15 original locks  installed to manoeuvre boat traffic up and down the 140 foot elevation grade from Chicago to La Salle.
Construction of the 96 mile canal began in 1836 and was completed in 1848.  Most of the canal was only 60 feet wide and 6 feet deep. Aqueducts carried the canal over rivers and creeks.
Our boat was an 1848 Replica Canal Boat  crewed by three boatmen in period costume.
Aqueduct over Vermillion River
The tour guide was very knowledgeable. The  boats were pulled by mules and travelled less than 5 m.p.h.. The trip from Chicago to La Salle took  22 to 26 hours. The canal closed in 1933.
Lock 14
Moe, a 28 year old mule, pulled our boat, The Volunteer. We entered the aqueduct over the Vermillion River to experience how tight the fit was. The handler hitched Moe to the opposite end of the boat for our return to the lock.

We ate our picnic lunch at the lock and then drove a short distance to Starved Rock State Park, named after a 1760s incident in  which a tribe of Illinois Indians took refuge on top of a 125 foot sandstone butte and perished there.

 The park was very busy. We visited the Visitor Center where we watched a 15 minute movie on the history of the 2,630 acre park. The park features 18 sandstone canyons, seasonal waterfalls and many forested trails. While Jean stayed at the Visitor Center, I climbed the trail up Starved Rock. There was an impressive view of the Illinois River, lock and dam. I also walked a trail to the French Canyon. Both walks were a real workout.

 We drove back to Joliet and made one stop at Malnati's  pizza
 to pick up a deep dish Chicago pizza.  We couldn't leave
 Chicago without trying one.
 We returned to the RV park at 5 pm. and enjoyed the pizza.
 Jean did some emailing while I worked on my blog.
 Our canal boat ride would certainly be one of our trip's highlights. It would not be a late night.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Pontiac to Joliet

It was partly cloudy,  a refreshing 18º when we got up, a good morning to do our Molly Maid chores which took us less than 1/2 hour. Nice to have only a 30 ft. home away from home.
We left the campground around 9:30 and drove into Pontiac to see the swinging bridges.  There are three unique bridges for pedestrian traffic across the Vermillion River. We saw two of the bridges dating from 1898 and 1926 in Chautauqua Park. There was a good spring to our step as we crossed one of the bridges.
 Also located in the same park is a pool which opened in 1925. It cost $45,000 to build and accommodated 800 bathers. It closed in 2001.
Today was a much shorter drive, only 93 km. We arrived back at the Hollywood Casino RV Park in Joliet around noon and picked an even nicer site shaded by two trees for the next four nights. We have a car reserved from Enterprise for tomorrow's excursion to La Salle.
We spent a relaxing afternoon. Jean started editing  her pictures on her lap top. I caught up on my blog. We had our first bbq dinner, pork tenderloin as the wind had finally died down.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Heading North

View across river from RV park
We woke to overcast skies and sure enough, within the hour the rain started, at times quite heavy. We waited out the rain, made the most of the secure Wi-Fi for the first time this trip and didn't head out 'til 10:30.
It was a challenge to find the  last  attraction on Route 66 in Illinois, the Chain of Rocks Bridge. We asked a passing motorist for help and eventually found the bridge. It was worth the effort and time it took us.  We had to cross a single lane bridge on Chouteau Island to access the bridge.
The Chain of Rocks Bridge opened in 1929 and was the primary river crossing  for Rte 66 from 1936 to 1955. At 5,353 feet, it is the longest pedestrian-bicycle bridge in the USA. The bridge is unique because it has a 22º bend in the middle of the river crossing. I walked half way across to see the  Mississippi River.

From there we drove to a suburb of East St. Louis, Collinsville to see the Brooks Catsup Bottle which served as a water tower for the catsup maker since it was built in 1949. The 170 foot tower was saved from demolition  in 1995  and restored. The property and bottle are now  for sale.

We left East St Louis at noon and motored north on hwy 55. We stopped at a rest area on the hwy for lunch, made another stop in Litchfield for gas  @ $ 2.44.9 and a few more groceries at Walmart. We tried one more time to buy a Rte 66 pizza from Vic's Pizza in Springfield but discovered it had gone out of business.
The skies darkened as we travelled 363 km north. We drove through an intense but brief squall (rain and wind).We stopped at 5:30 at a campground, the 4 H Campground outside  of Pontiac. A real deal, $20 for water and electric. We were the only overnighters with a few seasonal rigs. A very quiet night and thankfully no more storms.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Stormy Weather Ahead!

We had a period of heavy rain overnight but no storm. It was 20º and very windy when we got up at 6 am.. Looking at a forecast of stormy weather all week and continuing severe weather in Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas,  we decided to change our itinerary this rv trip. This was not the spring to cross the USA on Route 66. At least we finished 66 in Illinois. We left the RV park around 9:30 and continued south. We travelled some very rough road in stretches. There was hardly any traffic so we could slow right down, take it easy.
Our first stop was in the town of Litchfield to see the Sky View Drive In which opened in 1950. It is the last remaining  original drive in on 66. We hoped to eat lunch  at the Ariston Café which opened in 1924 and has a reputation as "the best the old road has to offer." Unfortuately it was closed for the holiday. We ate our lunch while parked in their parking lot, stopped to do a little shopping at Walmart and continued on our way.
We made one other stop in Staunton to see Henry's Ra66it Ranch featuring all things about rabbits, both furry and VWs at a vintage gas station. It was full of memorabilia.

 We took Route 66 into East St. Louis to the state line, crossed the Mississippi River into Missouri before returning to East St. Louis to
 the Casino Queen RV Park for one night. We have full hookups, cable, Wi-Fi for $49 with our Good Sam discount.

We motored 165 km and have two more  Rte 66 attractions to see in the St Louis area tomorrow. Although we made only two stops at attractions today, there were lots of sights along the way. Jean was clicking away.

After supper we went over to the Casino Queen to try our luck at the slots. I managed a few small wins but eventually fed it all back into the machines. Ditto for Jean. We were back by 9:30 and in bed by 10 pm. No weather warnings tonight.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Route 66: Chenoa to Chatham

We had a much earlier start, left the campground at 7:25 and stopped for gas @ $2.63.9 / gal. along hwy  24 before turning south on Route 66.
It was another very hot, humid day, 29º and very windy. We were broadsided by a strong wind out of the east. Two hands on the steering wheel!
We travelled 183 km. Our first stop was in the town of Lexington. Residents who served  in the Armed Forces and were killed were remembered on telephone poles down the main street. A couple sitting outside their home offered us a coffee. We stopped at Memory Lane, an original stretch of Route 66 pavement now for walking or biking. Of course, we had to walk on it. Another 2.2 mile  section of the original highway has been paved as a walking and cycling path.
We stayed on Route 66 through downtown Bloomington  as it zigzagged right, then left, several times. We drove past Funks Grove and the famous  Maple Sirup sign.
We stopped in the communities of Atlanta, Lincoln, Elkhart and Williamsville to see unique attractions like "Tall Paul" and  the largest covered wagon in  the world. We ate lunch while we were in Elkhart.
We were very disappointed to find Vic's Pizza in Springfield closed. It first opened in 1948 and serves Route 66 shaped  pizza to this day.

We continued south  to Double J Campground and RV Park in Chatham, "the only Illinois campground on an original piece of Old route 66.". It is a very nice RV park. We have full hookup with cable and Wi-Fi for $43. We stopped at 1:45, didn't want to be motoring as we are under a tornado watch 'til 1 am. Monday.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Route 66: Joliet to Chenoa, Illinois

 We slept in 'til 6 am., enjoyed another buffet breakfast at the hotel and  spent some time studying our literature on Route 66. We didn't want to miss any of the numerous attractions en route.  At 9:30 we checked out at the hotel, used the dumping station and returned to Joliet where we picked up Route 66.
Illinois has approximately 300 miles of Historic Route 66, a.k.a. State Highway 53. There are 31 Wayside exhibits in 17 communities along the Mother Road in Illinois. The motorcyclists easily  outnumbered  cars and we were the only motor home doing Rte 66.
 We encountered road construction in Wilmington where Jean got a picture of the Gemini Giant. We stopped in the towns of Gardner and Dwight to take in a few of the attractions. There were so many photo ops. We ate lunch in Dwight before continuing south. 
We drove past  an old car show in Odell. Our longest stop of the day was in Pontiac. We took an informative 35 minute trolley tour of the town and saw  the twenty "Murals on Main Street." Route 66 boasts 1000 miles of murals  through six states from Pontiac to Tucumcari, New Mexico. We visited the Route 66 Hall of Fame in the historic firehouse. The two storey  museum is full of Illinois artifacts.
It was a  hot, humid 29º by midday. We travelled only 153 km with all our stops. We had to leave hwy 53 at  Chenoa to find a campground approximately 30 km west  near Secor on hwy 24.  We stayed at Hickory Hill Campground in a rather unique site, the road between two regular sites.  We had water and electric for $30. The  family campground was jammed with people from Illinois away for The Memorial Day long weekend.  We were treated (??) to a show, a live band, The Forgotten Biscuits who played from 8 to 10 pm.. We did eventually get to sleep. It rained overnight.