Get Your Kicks On: Facts About Route 66, Illinois’ Most Famous Highway | Story

BLOOMINGTON – It’s been nearly 100 years since Route 66 was built as the main thoroughfare between Chicago and California. Although the original causeway is no longer in use, traveling along the historic route is the quintessential American road trip. Here are some things you might not know on the road trip through central Illinois:

19

Height, in feet, of the Paul “Bunyon” Hotdog statue in Atlanta.






In this September 2016 file photo, volunteers with the Illinois Route 66 Preservation Committee helped repaint the 19-foot-tall fiberglass giant Paul Bunyon in Atlanta. The sculpture is a tourist stop along Old US Route 66.


STEVE SMEDLEY, THE TROUSER


1926

Year Route 66 construction completed. By 1985, most of it had been replaced by new highways, and Route 66 was removed from the United States highway system.






The largest covered wagon in the world

The Railsplitter boxcar, pictured here in July 2015, is the largest boxcar in the world. A tribute to Abraham Lincoln, the wagon has been certified by the Guinness Book of World Records.


KEVIN BARLOW, THE TROUSER


24

Height, in feet, of the Railsplitter covered wagon at Lincoln. It was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest covered wagon in the world. The site also houses a large statue of Abraham Lincoln.

301

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Miles from Route 66 in Illinois. In total, the route stretches 2,448 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica, California.






Road 66

The Route 66 logo fills the wall behind the Hall of Fame and Route 66 Museum in Pontiac.


AP FILE PICTURE


1966

The year of Bob Waldmire’s renovated school bus — the “Road Yacht” — on display at the Route 66 Museum in Pontiac. Waldmire was known as a Route 66 artist and curator, and visitors can tour his bus from May through October. The museum complex also houses some of Waldmire’s artwork and his iconic VW van.






THE CITY DEDICATES ROUTE 66 PARKLET

Karen Stailey-Lander, center, former president of the Mid-Illinois Realtors Association, speaks to fellow realtors and Bloomington city officials as they dedicate a future parklet on Main Street in downtown Bloomington November 18. The parklet will honor the 100th anniversary of historic Route 66 and will feature a unique, steel-shaped park bench inspired by a pickup truck. A new sidewalk extension will allow the parklet to be located just north of the Route 66 marker at Jefferson and Main streets. The project is funded by a $4,000 Placemaking Grant program from the National Association of Realtors.


DAVID PROEBER, THE TROUSER


2026

In honor of the 100th anniversary of Route 66 in 2026, a “parklet” will be installed at Main and Jefferson streets in downtown Bloomington. Scheduled for completion in 2022, the site will feature benches sculpted from recycled truck parts, as well as a bike rack and planters emblazoned with the Route 66 symbol.

3600

HR 3600 was introduced in the US House in November. If passed, it would create the Route 66 National Historic Trail and give the National Park Service authority to help communities preserve the causeway.






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Burma Shave style signs line Dead Man’s Curve in Towanda along old US Route 66.


LENORE SOBOTA, THE TROUSER


18

Width, in feet, of the Dead Man’s Curve at Towanda. The sharp bend and narrow roadway here has resulted in many traffic accidents for Route 66 travelers. Also in Towanda is the Geographical Journey Parkway, a walking tour with educational kiosks for each state along the Route 66. There is also a collection of Burma Shave panels here too.






RT 66 TOURISM 3 SAS

A reproduction neon sign is on display at the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum, Pontiac.


STEVE SMEDLEY, TROUSER FILE


2005

Year Illinois Historic Route 66 has been designated a National Scenic Byway by the US Department of Transportation.

1939

Year John Steinbeck’s novel “The Grapes of Wrath” dubbed Route 66 as “The Mother Road”. Springfield now hosts a Route 66 Mother Road Festival each September.

1824

The year Isaac Funk chose the location of a well, setting in motion what would become Funks Grove Pure Maple Syrup.

1980

Year Carl Garbe established Carl’s Ice Cream, which grew to include locations in Bloomington and Normal.

100

Interior height, in feet, of the rotunda at the center of the McLean County Museum of History in downtown Bloomington. The former courthouse now houses Cruise with Lincoln at 66 Visitors Center.

Contact Robyn Skaggs at (309) 820-3244.