Illinois Route 66. The Kicks Start Here!


Route 66 parade, Springfield, Illinois

Illinois Route 66 Road Trip & Reunion:
Caravan to Collinsville 

Caravan to Collinsville

Trip notes about a road trip and scavenger hunt test-driven
and found suitable for families and friends – including pets – or anyone
with an adventurous spirit. Get away from it all
and rediscover a time when the open road called and life seemed simpler.

Chicago to Collinsville/St. Louis on Illinois Route 66

Pass or be passed! Follow the classic cars and fellow time-travelers to Route 66. Ragtops down, radio up. Fast enough to win the scavenger hunt. Slow enough to read the Burma Shave signs and visitors-log comments left by visitors from around the world.

The Caravan to Collinsville adventure began as a family reunion/scavenger-hunt/road-trip, but you can drive it anytime.

It begins in downtown Chicago, the official beginning of Route 66. Or, you can bypass Chicago and choose the alternate starting point at the Joliet Route 66 Welcome Center and Museum. Take the scenic route to Springfield, IL, home of the annual Route 66 Festival, classic car night parade, and other Route 66 attractions and historic sites, including President Abraham Lincoln’s old stomping grounds.

Ride on to Collinsville/St. Louis where Steinbeck’s “Mother Road” heads west to California.

Take time to tailgate under the stars. Bring a blanket, lawn chairs and room for hot-buttered popcorn at the Route 66 Drive-In Theater. If you time it right, you’ll see some of the region’s best fireworks – the show before the show.

Exhibit A: The missing fuzzy dice

Soda fountains, frosty malts, root beer floats, whistle stops, ma ‘n pa shops … impromptu detours … kitschy roadside architecture … friendly folks … a taste of maple “sirrup” … retro halls … the thrill of the open road.

This site, like Route 66, is a work in progress.
Check back now and then. Or, follow the nearest vintage car to get your kicks on Illinois Route 66!

See also The Dog Blog … an unauthorized autobidography co-edited by a couple of cute and personable (pup-able?) shelties.

Visit – too – because, well, I like Abe.


Springfield’s Breakfast Horseshoes: Charlie Parker’s

hashbrownbeef400In the 1940s, the original Springfield, Ill., open-faced sandwich was served for lunch. Today, area restaurants serve breakfast horseshoes, too.

Springfield’s famous “horseshoe” open-faced sandwich originated as a lunch menu novelty. It was first served at the elegant and historic Leland Hotel in Illinois’ capital city. The horseshoe was presented on a metal plate representing an anvil. It included horseshoe-shaped ham on toast, Welsh rarebit, and potato wedges that represented nails.

Today, most Springfield restaurants have horseshoes on the menu. Many have super-sized the ‘shoe to the point where it bears more resemblance to a haystack than a horseshoe.

Horseshoes have evolved into breakfast fare, too, and Charlie Parker’s serves up one of the most beloved breakfast horseshoes according to locals and road-food pundits.

Some restaurants serve a no-frills version with toast, meat and canned, boxed or bottled cheese sauce. But other Springfield restaurant chefs remain quite creative and competitive in the city’s culinary horse race for the best ‘shoe. Local contest judges, participants, self-appointed ‘shoe shoppers and national food experts routinely weigh in on the debate.

Try Breakfast Horseshoes at Charlie Parker’s, Voted “Best Diner”

Charlie Parker’s Diner is located in a vintage Quonset Hut building at 700 North Street, Springfield, Ill.

The eat-in or carry-out diner routinely picks up local awards for “best breakfast” and “best diner.” Breakfast is served past noon, so it works for breakfast, brunch or lunch. The restaurant’s “Eat it & Beat it” slogan reflects the crowd appeal of one of Springfield’s best restaurants.

The diner serves up plenty of piping hot meals in a fast and friendly fashion. It’s widely known for its one-of-a-kind style and generous portions of genuine comfort food.

Patrons often line up outside this unique Springfield restaurant. Most don’t mind the wait. They’re typically pleasantly distracted by visions of breakfast horseshoes with hash browns and gravy; blueberry stuffed French toast casserole, or that famous stack of 16-inch, saucer-sized pancakes with a pitcher of syrup on the side.

Diner Décor in a Quaint Quonset Hut

Charlie’s military-style prefabricated Quonset hut is hard to miss. Inside the corrugated metal dome is a 1950s style diner. Retro bar stools, neon artwork and classic records add to the restaurant’s upbeat ambiance.

Charlie’s breakfast horseshoe comes with the diner’s choice of eggs – scrambled, over-easy or otherwise – on toast, topped with sausage, bacon or ham. Diners can also choose to have creamy gravy, a secret-recipe hot cheese sauce, or both on their ‘shoe. All of this is topped with hash browns or wedge-cut American-style fries.

Charlie Parker’s breakfast horseshoe sandwich is also available in the slightly less hefty “pony shoe” version. Or, restaurant patrons can split the standard-size horseshoe. Like the 16-inch, saucer-sized pancakes, they’re made to be shared. On the other hand, if restaurant patrons can eat the entire stack of four giant pancakes, the pancakes are on the house … (or hut!)

Road Food Junkies, Media Stars and Foodies Know Where to Eat Breakfast in Springfield

The Food Network and other culinary luminaries have featured Charlie Parker’s Diner. The Springfield restaurant was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and WGN America’s Sky Dives, among other media pit stops and spotlights.

Charlie Parker’s is one of many Springfield restaurants serving the breakfast horseshoe, in addition to the more familiar lunchtime horseshoe. From the restaurant’s unique hut exterior to the retro décor interior to the heavyweight “nobody leaves hungry” horseshoes and more, it’s a fun-for-all-ages dining experience.

Other Places to Try a Breakfast Horseshoe include:

  • D&J Café
  • Sgt. Pepper’s Cafe
  • Yesterday’s Restaurant in Route 66 Hotel
  • Lindsay’s Restaurant in the Abraham Lincoln Hotel

©2015 / Originally published at

Bob Waldmire – How the Artist’s Route 66 Adventure Began and Ended


Bob Waldmire – April 19, 1945 – December 16, 2009 (Photo/Waldmire Family)

Whether he drove a fastback Mustang or a squareback microbus, Bob Waldmire was in his wheelhouse on Route 66.

He first encountered the charm of the Mother Road as a boy on a family trip to California in 1962. Later, as a young man, Waldmire abandoned his college studies to heed the call of the open road. In the late ’60s and through the ’70s, ’80s and beyond, he followed his dreams, exploring and promoting America’s mainstreet, while developing and selling his remarkably detailed pen-and-ink artwork along the way.

Bob1975-1 003

A 1975 portrait of retro style and off-beat humor. (Photo/Waldmire Family)

His vocational U-turn began while studying zoology and art at Southern Illinois University (SIU). Waldmire was inspired by a fellow student’s detailed, bird’s-eye-view sketch of their Carbondale, Ill., college town.

He drew a similar perspective of his Springfield, Ill., hometown, on Route 66. He began selling locally significant designs in university towns and along Route 66. He sold space on his poster art to local businesses and sold the prints on-site at those businesses.

The income fueled his dreams, covering travel expenses and a leisurely, open-road lifestyle. He drove slowly to enjoy the sights and keep byways safe for butterflies and other creatures. He occasionally painted signs for local establishments and stayed at various Route 66 stops, greeting friends with a smile and time to chat. Much of his artwork reflected his advocacy for wildlife preservation, resource conservation, simple living and world peace.

Bob Waldmire Mayor, Ambassador and Naturalist of Route 66

Waldmire was born in St. Louis and raised in Springfield, Ill. Throughout most of his adult years, he traveled and lived in a station wagon or bus on Route 66, dividing time between Illinois and Arizona. His eco-friendly lifestyle included oil lamps and a wood-burning stove. Other off-the-grid energy sources included solar panels and windmill-powered electricity. He collected and recycled rainwater, and his extensive gardening included a hothouse for vegetables, herbs and contraband hemp.

He cooked meatless chili, stew and pizza, or baked brownies in a solar oven. Occasionally, he would eat eggs if they came from well-tended hens. He enjoyed sipping coffee or herbal tea, reading books, playing the flute, watching wildlife, feeding birds and sharing a smoke from his handcrafted wooden pipe. In a Chicago Sun-Times interview he admitted eating “too many” French fries, potato chips and other processed foods over the years.

Waldmire remained a vegetarian despite the fact that the family business revolved around the Cozy Dog – the original breaded “hot dog on a stick.” Bob’s father, Ed Waldmire, invented the Cozy Dog, popular at festivals, fairs and the family restaurant. As young boys, Bob and his brothers helped clean tables and cook hot dogs and burgers. Family members still operate the Cozy Dog Drive In near its original Route 66 location in Springfield, Ill.


Sharing Route 66 stories and artwork in San Bernardino. (Photo/Waldmire Family)

Each autumn, Waldmire followed Route 66 from Springfield to the sunny and scenic Southwest. He made even more friends and fans, sketching attractions, and peddling artwork at sites and events along the way.

In the early ’90s, Waldmire re-opened the Hackberry General Store as an information and souvenir stop in a deserted Arizona mining town. He eventually sold the store and moved to the Chiricahua Mountain foothills.

His artwork and maps often included handwritten notes and commentary. Waldmire drew regional flora and fauna, vintage motels, family-style restaurants, cars, trucks, buses and bikes, full-service gas stations and roadside architecture. He sketched the Rock Café in Stroud, Okla., Angel’s Barbershop in Seligman, Ariz., the Dwight Windmill in Dwight, Ill., and the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas. He created a series of large-letter cards spotlighting each of the eight states on Route 66, plus fold-out maps, a color Route 66 overview and more.

He captured changing regional landscapes, from Midwest grasslands to desert cactus stands to the coastline’s Santa Monica shore. His diverse subjects included raccoons and jackrabbits, songbirds and hawks, rattlesnakes, scorpions and lizards.

At times, Waldmire’s art incorporated his political opposition to nuclear warfare, petroleum-dependence, logging, hunting, animal confinement, industrial farming and over-regulation of hemp. Waldmire proclaimed himself a hippie and the Naturalist of Route 66. Others called him the Mayor and Ambassador of Route 66.


In addition to his rolling VW billboard-bus, his Mustang provided another canvas for his art. (Photo/Waldmire Family)

Enjoying the Road and the Ride

In 1985, Waldmire replaced his VW wagon with the orange VW camper bus that became his studio, business office, residence and ride. It had a bike rack on top and a side table where he displayed and sold his art.

Waldmire dubbed his VW bus a “billboard on wheels.” It was covered inside and out with cause buttons, peace signs and bumper stickers.

Waldmire the Microbus Meets Fillmore, His Movie Double

Bob and his “hippie bus” inspired the “Fillmore” peacenik character in the Disney/Pixar movie “Cars.” Fillmore was a 1960 Volkswagen bus and laid-back Route 66 hippie. Disney/Pixar creatives wanted to name the character Waldmire, but the self-proclaimed “ethical vegetarian” declined permission, including licensing income. Waldmire didn’t want his namesake used in the McDonald’s non-vegetarian Happy Meal toy promotions.

Waldmire had fun with the concept, though, drawing his “Waldmire and Fillmore: A Chance Meeting” postcard. It featured a surprised, anthropomorphized version of Waldmire’s orange microbus facing – bumper to bumper – the green Fillmore character. The script noted that the two hippie-bus characters had met “Somewhere on 66.” The colorful background includes detailed landscapes dotted with red Burma Shave signs. The characters also appeared in Waldmire’s sketch of the Rock Cafe in Stroud, Okla. Cafe owner Dawn Welch was the inspiration for Sally, the Porsche character in the “Cars” movie.

Waldmire’s Farewell Tour: “Come as you are. Leave different.”

Waldmire fostered an appreciation for life in the slow lane. He earned the Steinbeck Award from the National Historic Route 66 Federation for preserving and promoting Route 66. He was inducted into the Route 66 Hall of Fame.

On December 16, 2009, Bob Waldmire died at the age of 64 after a cancer battle that sidelined his travels, but not his spirit. Before he died, he hosted Bob’s Last Art Show at the Cozy Dog, and later welcomed friends who visited his schoolbus-home near his Springfield family home. After he died, his orange microbus and yellow schoolbus were moved to the Route 66 Museum in Pontiac, Ill.

Waldmire had requested that half of his ashes be buried near the gravesite of his parents, Ed and Virginia Waldmire, in Rochester, Ill. He wanted remaining ashes scattered along Route 66, by his second Route 66 home in Portal, Ariz., and at the end of the road in Santa Monica, Calif. His four brothers transported Bob Waldmire’s ashes as “one last ride” and planted Forget-Me-Not flowers on his gravesite.

Waldmire wrote “Come as you are. Leave different.” on his invitation to his last art show. Visitors can still find his artwork and memorabilia at The Cozy Dog and at In one way or another, most who encounter the man, the Mother Road and the memories, really do “leave different.”


Paws on Route 66

“Spunky would be so jealous.” – Jasmine

It’s a car. It’s a baby. It’s a convertible. It’s a convoy. It’s a dog. It’s TWO dogs. And maybe a small cat inclined to travel in cognito.

It’s all of the above. Joining the Caravan to Collinsville family reunion on Illinois Route 66.

A chocolate malt “to go,” please.

Route 66 is great for reunions – or anytime – you want to get away from it all and rediscover a time when life was a little simpler and the pace a little slower. It’s kid-friendly, family-friendly, adventurous-spirit friendly … and yes, pup- and/or kitty-cat friendly.

Not necessarily in that order. Or in the same car. Or hotel room. Or restaurant.

Cats will be cats. Dogs will be dogs. Babies will be babies.

And the writer of this blog cannot be held responsible for said paws, tails, tales and trails … or chocolate hand and paw prints.

Disney’s “Cars” movie soundtrack had it right. Life IS a highway. …

“Sometimes the road is ruff [sic] …” – Spunky

“[except for the pups] … it’s the cat’s meow!” – Grover (Jasmine & Spunky’s cute – but don’t tell him we said that – feline cousin.)

“Who invited the dogs?” – Grover

All creatures, great and small, who took part in the Route 66 Caravan to Collinsville road trip, had the requisite “roll with it” road-trip attitude. It worked.

Welcome Centers, retailers and other Scavenger Hunt participants along the way rolled out the proverbial welcome mat. Friendly folks, fellow Route 66 fans and small-town hospitality added to the fun.

The Mother Road still calls … drivers from here to California and beyond. Roadsters who ship their classic cars from Britain for the annual Route 66 Festival.

More on Route 66 coming soon. In the meantime, to learn more about Spunky and Jasmine’s on- or off-road adventures on Route 66, visit the dog blog.

Stay tuned!

Joliet Welcome Center Pit Stop

Life is sweet on route 66!

Rt66ojcrushGer100wIllinois Route 66 road trip early starters brake for breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s in Chicago. Others start in Joliet and stop for ice cream or banana splits at Rich & Creamy on the North Broadway road into Joliet. (Watch for the Blues Brothers statues on the roof!) Then, meet up at the Route 66 Museum and Welcome Center, where you’ll receive your first scavenger-hunt clue.

Enjoy snacks, a trip back in time, and Route 66 classic soda for official card-carrying scavenger hunters.

Reunion participants can pick up one clue for your official Route 66 Scavenger Hunt and a retro treat bag “to-go” on-site.

FLASHBACK: Take some Photo-Booth Mug Shots!

Enter the Joliet Welcome Center’s retro-style photo booth for a custom shot. Print out a strip of classic black-and-white or contemporary color digital photos. Create photos with the original three-image photo strip style or other creative and fun options:

Retro Photo Booth on Route 66

Do time in a Joliet prison cell by choosing a backdrop from The Blues Brothers movie. (Your photo will read: I came to Joliet and stayed for 10 to 20.)

Join a friend for a photo of a joy ride in Buzz and Todd’s Corvette from the Route 66 TV show.

Performing artists or fans of dramatic history and magnificent architecture can stage a photo with the famous Rialto Theatre backdrop.

You can e-send your photos on-site for free, or print them in the gift shop for a small fee.

Tour the Route 66 museum, watch a classic TV show on a black-and-white monitor in a replica motel room, or enjoy vintage ‘vettes and other blasts from the past.


Crimes of fashion on Route 66

Pick up some fuzzy dice, a vintage Route 66 road sign, or other memorabilia in the museum’s on-site shop.

Then get back on the road and follow the black ’57 Chevy, the blue, big-finned Buick or pink Cadillac convertible on the original Route 66.

Watch for more information and ideas coming soon about how to join or plan an event on Illinois Route 66.