LTV Route 66 Tour 2023

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In late June, I photographed several Route 66 landmarks in Illinois, including my 2019 Unity, where possible. This is a brief story of my day, starting in Dwight in the north and finally completing my day in Staunton.

Nearly 100 years ago, in 1926, the Bureau of Public Roads in the USA launched the Federal Highway System, and Route 66 became a part of it. It became very popular as the shortest and most scenic route from Chicago to Los Angeles.

However, as the Interstate highway system came into existence, bypassing the entire Route 66 by 1984, it was decommissioned in 1985, and there was no longer any funded highway maintenance. By 1990, several groups around the country saw the historical importance of Route 66, and this eventually resulted in the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, which provides financial and technical resources for the restoration of historical sites along the route. While I have traveled in multiple RVs on virtually all of Route 66, the Illinois sites are some of my favorites. Before heading into Illinois, I wanted to wash up at the Blue Beacon Truck Wash at the Iowa80 Truckstop, the largest Truckstop in the world.

Our first stop in Illinois is Dwight, which has only two buildings from the 1850s. Like most towns built as railroad stops, Dwight slowly grew. In the mid-1920s, when Route 66, “The Mother Road,” came to Dwight, it passed around rather than through. The Ambler-Becker Texaco Station, built near Route 66, operated from 1933 through 1999, longer than any other service station on Route 66. It has been nicely refurbished and, in 2004, was donated by the Becker family to the citizens of Dwight. It is one of the finest examples of the businesses along the first paved road from Chicago to Los Angeles. It is also the location of the last gas pumps used on Route 66 before decommissioning in 1985.

The Ambler-Becker Service Station
The Ambler-Becker Service Station is the location of the last gas pumps used on Route 66 before decommissioning.

Heading southwest, the direction Route 66 traveled in Illinois, we arrived in Odell at the Standard Oil of Illinois Gas Station. Built in 1932 along “The Mother Road,” this station has been meticulously restored. It is also one of the great examples of the resurrection of the businesses along the first paved road from Chicago to Los Angeles.

As we continued on Route 66, we found ourselves parked in front of the Pontiac Museum Complex, which includes the Route 66 Museum, Visitor’s Center, and Route 66 Association of Illinois. If you park legally, this is a several-hour stop, but it is quite enjoyable. Here, it is possible to examine the entire Route 66 via many different perspectives and to view multiple room scenes from the 1920s through the 1950s, including a radio station. For Route 66 fans, this is a definite must.

Back on the road, we head to Normal, where we see the only two-story Tudor Revival service station on Route 66. Sprague’s Super Service Station was opened in 1930 by William Sprague and has living quarters upstairs for the family.

Another attraction a mile or so away is the Normal Theater, which opened on November 18, 1937, as the first theater built in Normal to offer movies with sound. Not only did it have the very latest technology for reproducing sound motion pictures, but it also had air conditioning, a rarity in those days. Although It closed in 1990, the town of Normal purchased the theater and restored it to its original condition and functionality, and today offers movies in air-conditioned comfort to its patrons.

Next stop, Atlanta, the reopened Route 66 Memories Museum. My photos were taken on September 24, 2023, just a few hours after the new owners reopened the museum, and our conversation was interesting, along with the various displays inside. Everything I experience along Route 66 takes me back to the days I traveled on this in a Volkswagen Beetle in 1965, and some of this venue’s offerings were no exception.

There are some very interesting things to see here, and the folks who run it are great.

In August of 2015, my first tour along Route 66 in Illinois, the Palms Café was open with full meal service but has since been changed into a bakery only, but if one happens to catch the bakery open, rumor has it the results are excellent.

Across the street is one of the Paul Bunyan statues.

Continuing down old Route 66 to Springfield, the Cozy Dog Drive-In. The history, as briefly told to me by Josh Waldmire, the grandson of the originator of the Cozy Dog, is that the recipe was worked out in a U.S.O. kitchen during WWII. It took some research to find how to make the batter stick to the wiener on a stick to be deep-fried. Eventually, the Cozy Dogs were sold commercially in the original Cozy Dog Drive-In. The current location, on Route 66, was opened in 1949. It is great food, even if one is not into hot dogs.

After something to satisfy our palates, Soulsby Service Station in Mt. Olive is our next venue, one of my favorites. The pictures are the best way to capture the history of this one, and many great articles on the walls tell the stories of the original Route 66. One can go right in and view many of the items one would see in the old days.

Our final stop for the day is Henry’s Rabbit Ranch in Staunton. It’s not what I expected; the large ones lack all fur, as the Rabbits are from Volkswagen, as in VW Rabbit. But, also, hopping around the grounds is the real thing that is important to watch out for while navigating in your LTV, and the grandson of the originator of the ranch is in attendance often and very good for a conversation.

These are some of what I photographed in one day. My suggestion would be to expect to spend at least two, if not three days, on Route 66 in Illinois, as there is so much to see. This blog is only a taste. If one wants to see many more Route 66 images, visit and click on the “Photos on Flickr” link; find the Route 66 Album, and you can view over 180 photos from Historic Route 66. Thanks for the opportunity to share what I enjoy doing so much in my Leisure Travel Van, and my sincere thanks to the folks at Triple E for producing what is, in my opinion, the perfect recreational vehicle.


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