The Beginning (or The End, depending on your perspective)

18 Dec

Today we began our Route 66 journey on foot. The traditional start of the Route used to be at Michigan Ave. and Jackson Street, but now Jackson is one way going the wrong way, so the Route begins on Adams Street. If you are on the steps of the Art Institute looking west you are looking down Route 66. To be sure we covered the old alignment and the new, we began on Jackson Street and worked our way east to Michigan Avenue before doubling back down Adams. We started off at a traditional stop for Route 66 travelers, Lou Mitchell’s restaurant. Lou’s has been there since 1928 and is a haven for locals – we were the only people at our counter who had to place an order. Everyone else walked in, sat down, and was brought his or her choice of breakfast without saying a word. The waitress was addressing everyone by name. It was packed to the rafters with a line out the door and was an absolutely wonderful place to eat a hearty breakfast and get in some good people watching. The neon sign outside if the restaurant is sure to show up in at least one painting. And if you look closely at the photo above you may notice a Project 66 sticker on the sign marking the beginning of the route.

It was game day, so as we wandered the streets of Chicago we encountered festive pedestrians decked out in their finest Bears gear. They were a lot happier before the game than they were after. We made our way up to Michigan Avenue and took a slight detour north to see the “Bean” and the Gehry-designed amphitheater by the lake before heading back down Adams for the first leg of our tour.

We walked about 3 miles until we were out at the edge of the loop and saw many interesting sights along the way. We covered a lot of territory pretty quickly, so once we hit a freeway and the obvious edge of the ‘burbs we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon in the Art Institute and caught a cab back downtown. We spent about 3-1/2 hours wandering around the displays and saw some great works including a few of my favorites that I haven’t seen in person before. Highlights included Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks and a couple of gorgeous Rothko pieces. There was also this interesting Dali piece which seems to have some subliminal idea it is trying to convey. Can’t quite figure out what he’s getting at with it, but there is a “smoking gun” sticking up through the top of the tower.

After the museum we headed back to my uncle’s condo to change and then went back out to meet my cousin and her boyfriend at a great vegetarian restaurant in Wicker Park. The meal was fantastic – even JJ enjoyed it. We passed two great neon liquor store signs on the way but of course did not have a camera – I guess we’ll have to come back to Chicago soon so I can get photos!

Tomorrow we’re planning an early start to St. Louis and are looking forward to all the great things we’ll see on the way, including the Gemini Giant statue in Wilmington, IL. If you backed the project and received a screen print you already have a good idea of what he looks like. There’s also something called the Rabbit Ranch along our stretch tomorrow that I can’t wait to check out. And at the end of the day we’re looking forward to some of the famous frozen custard at Ted Drewe’s in St. Louis with JJ’s cousin Brenda.

Updates tomorrow night!


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