Chicago. Is. Awesome!

Hey Dad,

I actually got some sleep! This hotel may have been expensive, but it was worth every damn penny! I know I am on a budget, but I can’t believe how much better I slept in a nice hotel. It’s not like this is five star luxury, but it’s comfortable, quiet, pet free and clean! Guess I better not get used to it though. I’ll be back to budget when I leave Chicago.

Staying near the centre also meant I could walk into the city. I had already planned to get the hop on hop bus bus around the city, it was so easy in Dubai! First task was however to walk to the bus. Walking to the bus was cool, I got to see a lot of ‘real Chicago’ walking though blocks of apartments and residential streets. People doing non touristy things like exercising and walking dogs. It was all really clean too! 

To get to the bus I walked over an overpass and though a large green area. Within this area was Soldiers Stauium, a huge stadium dedicated to the armed forces. It was huge! 

After Walking for nearly an hour I finally found the bus stop. Phew. 

My first stop was Navy Pier. A huge building which houses a load of different things. The building also had flags on the top, which included two rainbow pride flags. First pride flags I have seen on a building. I like Chicago already! I walked right to the end of the pier, past a children’s museum, bars, restaurants, boat tours, a pirate ship, ferris wheel, an indoor maze and even a rolling Stones exhibition! At the end of the pier were even more American flags mixed with pride flags. 

Back on the bus, the route took us down ‘miracle mile’ basically a shopping district full of designer stores. Not caring much for the shops, I got off the bus and walked uo the street just to see the buildings above the shops. Beautiful. A mix of modern and historical. The guide on the bus explained about a huge fire which devastated the area, so everything other than the old water tower had to be rebuilt. I wandered into the Water Tower for some lunch. I finally found salad! I have never been so happy to see salad. I filled a bowl from the buffet, and had a mini stroke when I was told it was $15!! I was just so happy to see food that was not beige I didn’t care!

The bus then went past the John Hancock Centre, down toads lined with beautiful buildings, along with some not so beautiful, the McDonald’s for one. Back over the water to the next stop.

The Trump tower is the second tallest building in Chicago, and with its design sort of looks like a tiny Burj Kalifa. Walking back over the water I headed into a chocolate shop called Ghirardelli. With my bus ticket I got a free chocolate. It was good! I think this hocklate would have even passed mums exacting chocolate standards. There was also a river flowing though the area, with water taxis and tour boats. No time for those though, off to my next stop!

I have wanted to see the Willis Tower for quite some time. Once the tallest building in the world. There is also a skydeck at the top, Well you know me, tall building; must go up! The sky deck is 103 storeys up and looks over the whole of Chicago. On a clear day you can see over four states, and today it was pretty clear! The view from the top was awesome. There was also ‘the ledge’ which is a glass structure spanning about one Meter away from the main building with a glass floor. So of course I jumped on it.  Oh, I was warned before I entered the queue was going to be an hour. Which after the Burj Kalifa experience I knew would mean queuing for an hour to come back down. The queue was no where near that going up. Even stopping to watch a short film on the construction, it took less than 20 minutes. The queue coming down however was a different storey. The queue was already around the inner perimeter of the building when I got up there! So u was naughty. I slid into the queue while a family were engrossed in there phones. Bad I know, but I was on a time limit, the busses were going to stop in an hour and a half! 

My next stop was back near the waterfront. Millennium Park  is half built on land created by the rubber of the great Chicago fire. According to the tour guide anyway. They didn’t know what to do with the wreckage, so they dumped it into the lake, expanding the city. The park was great. Inside it was the Jay Pritzker Pavillion designed by Frank Gehry. Next to that was what looked like a giant jelly bean, with a mirror finish. Really random piece of art, but I liked it. 

There was one more reason for this stop. It is the official end of Route 66! I walked a couple of blocks one found the sign. Just a small street sign on a lamp post. Nothing special, no fanfare, just a sign. I guess that’s how route 66 started on Santa Monica pier.  

All down the road were people handing out free bags of malteasers. They are introducing them into thee USA. I didn’t realise they didn’t have malteasers here! I of course grabbed a bag from everyone I saw. Then one of the guys asked where I was from, said he lived in London for a while and gave me a whole handful of packets. Result!

Back on the bus again! There is one thing that has to be done while in chicago; a proper Chicago pizza. I asked the tour guide the best place to go, he said a place called ‘Giordano’s’ back at Navy Pier. Back I went!

As I got there I was told a table would take 45 minutes! Really! Then I was told the pizzas take 45 minutes to make and cook! One awesome little plan though is you can pre order, so your pizza is cooking while you wait for a table. No need to wait twice. With aching feet I was not willing to walk anywhere else! So I waited. 

Chicago pizza is interesting. It is more like a pie. It was good, but I could not cope with the fact the cheese and toppings are underneath and the sauce is on the top. Think I’ll be sticking with what I know. 

Well my feet were killing me, and the hotel was a good 5 miles away. Taxi! 

Back at the hotel I am exhausted again! Hopefully an early night I can catch up on all the missed sleep. 

I love Chicago Dad, I know I keep saying it, but it’s one of my favourite cities. The atmosphere, the cleanliness, the architecture and buildings, everything is just amazing! I wish I could stay longer, but another day on the road tomorrow!

Night dad x

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My last day on Route 66

Hey Dad,

What a night. I am not impressed. So much for an early night.

I went to bed quite happily, when the room next door put their TV on. I didn’t know a TV volume could go up so high! It was so loud I could hear every word of the film, for the record it was Harry Potter. I would even hazard a guess it was one of the later films. I am not even a huge Harry Potter fan and I knew what it was! 

I kept thinking the film will end in a minute, and it would. But it would then go straight into the next film. Yep, a Harry Potter marathon! Wonderful. 

I found I was sleeping for a bit, but getting woken up everytime there was a fight, or a bang in the film, which seemed to happen more and more as the night went on. 

By 5am I was done! I had hit my limit. I phoned the front desk and explained what was going on. Get this, the woman replied ‘because I booked online I was unable to change anything’ what?! Trying to keep my cool, while exhausted at 5am, I said I didn’t want to change anything I just wanted to get some sleep. The woman on the desk said she would see what she could do.

I was so tired by this point I was freezing cold. The room dudnt come with a duvet, just a thin blanket. After a quick hunt; there were no additional blankets in the room. I ended up folding the blanket on the bed in half. 

Mercifully the TV got turned down 15 minutes later. Not off, but down enough. 

I was then woken up less than three hours later to banging. Like hammer to a wall banging. The pipes to upstairs also seemed to run straight through my bathroom. Clearly I was done with sleep. That’s day three of no quality sleep! 

I went to check out, and was asked if I had paid. I said yes, as that is what I was told when I checked in. Apparently not. The woman on the desk was saying that my card had not been charged. I really tried to keep my cool. She was not the most polite either, which makes it even harder to not fly off the handle. The possibility of being charged twice for a hotel room which was already more expensive than a motel and where I didn’t get any sleep, I was really struggling.

By the time I got in the car I was shaking, my heart was pounding and my head was killing me. Not exactly how I wanted to spend my last day on route 66.

Anyway, I stopped in a small town called Pontiac, which was really cool. The town was small, but beautiful. It had murals and paintings on brick buildings, which were dotted around an old style town centre, it was really lovely.

The main reason for the stop was the route 66 museum. The first floor held memorabilia from route 66 seperated into into all of the different states. There was also an old VW camper which was the inspiration of Filmore, one of the characters in the Pixar film Cars. 

The next floor was a small gift shop. The old man behind the counter was fascinated with my accent, and asked me to pick out on a map exactly where I was from.  I showed him and he marked it with a little dot. There surprisingly not many UK dots. The next floor was more of old route 66, from the roads first origins. Old clothes, and children’s games surrounded bits of old cars. Across the hall was a photo gallery. It was really cool walking through the gallery seeing all these images of things I have now also seen along the way, and some things I missed. 

What was amazing though, was the too floor. The top floor was a war museum. One room was full of mannequins wearing old service uniforms, each with a card around its next with the name and rank, and brief description of the person that wore it. It was amazing seeing these uniforms up close, and the Styrofoam faceless mannequins added a eery quality to them. You could almost feel the presence of the people who wore them; but in a ghost like way. Weird. As I was leaving there was an old man with medals on. Next to him was a box of plastic army men with a sign. The sign said to take an army man home, and place it somewhere to remember those who serve. I took an army man, and know which little boy at home will be looking after him!

After the museums I went for a walk around the town. It’s Sunday, and everywhere is closed.  The town is also empty. No one walking around, or spending time outside, nothing! The pavement had painted footprints on, so I blindly followed them. They lead me to a Pontiac car museum.

The museum was pretty cool, it was filled with old cars, including racecars and old NASCAR cars. It was not very large though, so I was in an out in under 10 minutes. 

Back to the car to head into Chicago. It was pretty plain sailing, with only a little traffic getting into the city. The Chicago skyline is awesome! You can see the Willis Tower for miles in the distance.

Getting a hotel in chicago was not the easiest. Shockingly enough, Chicago is expensive! Finding something cheap, with parking is not easy. I also wanted to be close to the centre so I didn’t have a repeat of St. Louis. Turns out cheap does not exist in Chicago! Oh well. I found the hotel and checked in. I instantly relaxed. This had 3 stars, and a thumbs up. The reception area smelt nice, and had mellow piano music playing very quietly in the background. I checked in, parked up the car in their secure car park and headed to the 4th floor. Finally a room that’s not at ground level. The hotel room was like walking into a palace! The room is lovely, and so very very quiet! 

After an hour of laying down in a dark room trying to get my headache to go away I decided I needed to eat to take some tablets. I asked at reception if there was any food in walking distance.  She said no, and then handed me some leaflets of places that deliver to the hotel. Result! I ordered online and they delivered it straight to the hotel reception. 

A seriously good nights sleep is needed. One very early night for me! I want to see as much of Chicago as possible tomorrow!

Night dad x

Driving to Lincoln

Hey Dad,

Well last night was no better. I did not sleep at all, especially knowing that those weird catapillar things were on the floor when I came in last night. I picked them up and put them outside, but if they got in before, they could get in again. My room was also outside the dog ‘exercising’ area. Basically where people take their dogs to do their business. Dogs bark. The dog upstairs will also not stay still. I have not felt this tired in a long time.

I packed up as soon as I could and got the hell out of there. I also booked into a hotel for tonight. I needed an upgrade. This place has a whole two stars! Now I just needed to get there.

I headed out of St. Louis, passing the chain of rocks bridge to get to the interstate, where I ended up in the most crazy ten minutes of driving ever. I was following a truck, at fortunately a good distance back. His tyre then suddenly blew out, scattering rubber everywhere! I had enough time to swerve into the other Lane and dodge all the rubber flying around, paranoid about my own tyres. Amazingly this truck carried on. It had two tyres on each wheel base. Then  it even five minutes later another tyre blew out. This time though there was no Lane to go into. I managed to swerve onto the sort of half lane next to the central reservation and zig zag through tons of flying rubber. The truck then finally pulled over. Phew. For a whole minute I had a clear road in front.  Up ahead however was thick black smoke. With that the traffic came to an immediate stop. After 15 minutes of sitting in traffic, and police and two fire trucks flying up the hard shoulder, I passed a burnt out mini van with a handful of 19/20ish year olds standing by it. Amazingly there was a pile of luggage on the side of the road, do they must have just had time to grab their stuff. 

I drove through a handful of small towns, mixing the interstate with route 66 where the road still existed. I stopped in a place called Springfield  (yes another one) to go to the cozy dog drive in. It’s hailed as the plane that invented the cozy dog, or as the rest of America calls it, the corn dog. Basically a hotdog fried in batter on a stick. I went to pay when my heart stopped. My credit card was missing.  Instant panic!! I left the motel do quickly I was worried I left it there. After thinking for a few minutes, emptying out my bag and searching the car, I thought to check the pockets of the clothes I was wearing the day before. I was feeling so tired, and with the two hours of driving is had already done I just could not think straight. Thankfully I found it in the pocket! I never just put my card in a pocket like that! Again, over tired.

Once my heart stopped racing I felt ill. I couldn’t work out if that was tired, panic, or the corn dog. I ended up paying cash in the end, but I did not enjoy it. 

At this point I was half an hour away from the hotel, so I decided to just head there, check in and relax. The hotel also had a pool. 

I checked in to a very nice room, the biggest sigh of relief ever! I drove through Lincoln on the way in and quickly decided an afternoon around the pool would be the best use of my afternoon. 

The pool was freezing! I didn’t even bother getting in, I just set up camp on a sunbed, and read a book. Having a nap was out as there were kids in the pool. 

Probably not the best way to spend a day dad, but whatever. Too tired to worry about it. 

Last day on route 66 tomorrow, I’ll be in Chicago. 

Here’s to an early night!

Night dad x

A day walking around St. Louis

Hey Dad;

So I spent the whole day today in St Louis. A day that didn’t mean hours in the car was needed. Unfortunately I am staying so far out of the centre I needed to drive in. It was only 20 minutes.

My night was not the most comfortable, this motel room is awful. The smell is just unreal, and you can see marks on the skirting where animals have sprayed. The bed is uncomfortable, and the room above must have a dog because something was running around on the wooden floor all night. Not sure I got much sleep really, and feeling pretty tired this morning. 

Anyway….

You can see the arch the whole drive into the centre, it was pretty cool. It also meant I knew where I was going, let’s face it the arch has to be the first stop. 

I still remember you running us through the St. Louis airport to get a quick glimpse of the arch before grabbing a connecting flight. It’s quite nice to see it for more then a split second. 

First challenge was parking; ouch. $3 flat then $3 for every 20 minutes! Suddenly this became an expensive day. 

It was also really ice to actually walk around, I have not done much walking recently.

I headed towards the arch, but there was some construction work so I had to walk the long way round. I got in the queue for tickets, and people were kicking off as they were so busy. I got to the front of the queue and told the woman behind the desk I was travelling alone. She gave me a ticket and said to head straight there, they were always looking for single riders. I walked over to the entrance and through security. I gave another woman my ticket and got in the very long queue. Not even two minutes later a guy asked me if I was travelling alone. He gave me a big plastic ticket with a number on and ushered me to the front of the queue. Result! Walking past all the other people took ages, I would have been in that queue for hours, it was the Burj Kalifa all over again. We were asked to queue up outside our designated numbered doors. The door was 4 feet high and 1.5 feet wide. Tiny. The reason why became very apparent. 

The ‘pods’ we were travelling to the top in were tiny. Like little capsules. Inside were 5 bucket style seats. It was very very cozy. We started the accent; which was a weird feeling! It’s not an elevator, it’s a travellator. It’s an arch so it can’t go straight up. As it goes up, it rotates to keep you level, kind of like a bumpy sway motion. It was a very long four minutes climbing. It was worth it though to see the view from the top! 

There are tiny windows at angles looking down over St. Louis, pretty cool looking place. It also gave me a great view of the Cardinals baseball team warming up. Going on the amount of red shirts around today, there is a game on tonight. 

Back on the ground I went into a small theatre and watched a movie on the construction of the arch. It was really fascinating. The whole structure had to be self supporting, and according to the movie, no one lost their lives in the construction! Back in the 60s health and safety was not exactly a thing! They even had to separate the two sides by four feet to place the last piece in. Similar concept to a key stone.

After the film I went for a walk around even more of St. Louis, which was now crawling with red shirts heading to the baseball game. You could hear the music blaring from the stadium and people had set up stalls selling merchandise on the street. 

My next stop was the Old Courthouse. Inside it had loads of different American flags, all with different amounts of stars handing from a big dome ceiling. The building was beautiful. I wandered around a little bit, but walking around felt a little strange, almost like I was not supposed to, or I should have paid.  I then came across a guy working as a tour guide. He asked all the standard questions and I explained about driving route 66. Then he gave me something I have been looking for since I set off. A full pull out route 66 map. Detailing exactly where the road is! I could not believe it! I have looked at every stop for something similar, even in gift shops. Nothing. He just pulls out a map and says it’s free. Yes!

After leaving the Courthouse, I figured I would walk down to the baseball stadium and get a feel for the atmosphere. People were everywhere! Ticket to its were stopping me at every turn selling tickets out of their jacket pockets, music was blaring, and snack bars were lining the streets. Too many people for my liking, especially when I realised I would have to walk against all of the crowd to get back to the car. After eventually remembering where I parked, and taking out a second mortgage to pay for the parking I headed out of town. Fortunately I was going against the traffic. 

Back at the motel, and the smell of my room hit me like a baseball to the head. The floor also had weird crawly things over it, like small catapillars. Gross. A spray of deodorant fixed the smell temporarily. I really wish I had a plan B for this place. Debating sleeping in the car.

Oh well, wonder if I will get much sleep tonight.

Night dad x

To St. Louis! 

Hey Dad,

So another day another drive

My first stop was a place I had been seeing road signs from about 30 miles down the road.  A candy factory. It was straight off the road so I figured it was worth a look. It was also home to the ‘largest gift shop in the world’ the fudge looked pretty good to be fair, and the gift shop was your usual tourist trap. I didn’t stay long.

My next random oddity was a bowling pin statue. It was advertising for a bowling alley funnily enough. What made me laugh was it was right next to a sign for an ‘adult’ shop. Which also happened to be next door to the bowling alley. Not really two things you see together very often.

Further down the road I stumbled onto a place called Uranus. I pulled in to set the satnav, and to my amazement the little drive opened up into a huge courtyard with a car park in the middle.  There were loads of small shops, all looking like they were straight out of a multicolored western. It was very strange. The shops included a dinosaur play area, a tattoo shop, a burlesque saloon, a mexican restaurant and a fudge shop. Again, a weird mix.  The fudge shop had tshirt with slogans saying things like ‘fudge packer in Uranus’ made me laugh quite a little bit. 

My next stop was a small town called Fanning, which is home to the 2nd largest rocking chair in the world. It used to be the 1st, until 2016 when it was over taken, apparently. It was a huge red rocking chair. Every inch of me wanted to climb up it, but decided against it knowing I am not strong enough to climb a pole with no hand holds. There would have also been the issue of getting down! 

Next to the rocking chair was an old shop, which was up for sale. I had a sneaky look. The shop, barns, land, and even space for a night club were all up for sale as a package for $595,000. It was an unvelieveable amount of space for the money. It was however deserted. 

I then drove though a town called Bourbon, which I think was named after the liquor. I went on a search for the malt shop, but I couldn’t find it. The address I had led me to a garage. I gave up! 

Well after many hours on the road I made it into St. Louis, Well sort of, I am staying out of the centre; too rich for my lacking budget. I booked into the cheapest place I could find, which is something I have been doing for this entire drive. It’s a hit and miss plan, but I think it’s fair to say this one is a miss. The motel allows pets. Which of course meant as I opened the door to my room the smell of wet dog hit me like a brick. I knew I should have been worried when the sign behind reception said ‘no refunds after 10 minutes of checking in’. At least it’s only for two nights. I asked at reception if there was anywhere to grab something to eat in walking distance, I didn’t really fancy getting back in the car. She replied the only place was ‘Hooters’ on the corner. I was not hungry anyway…. 

I have a sneaky feeling tonight will not be the most comfortable stay. You would not be staying in it that’s for sure! 

Oh well, it’s all about the journey right! 

Night dad x

Going to Springfield 

Hey Dad,

So I got up and checked out easily enough and set off along route 66. Or so I thought.  The road signs just stopped! Because a lot of the road had been renamed, asking the satnav is pointless. After driving around in circles unable to find he road I concerned defeat and pulled into a McDonald’s to pinch the WiFi. 

Once I finally found the right road, I headed towards Catoosa it’s a small town along the old route 66, and it’s on the map for one thing; a huge blue whale! The whale sits on a lake. It is a jetty platform with slides into the water. You can walk straight into the smiling whales mouth and down to his tail. There you can climb up to his tail and jump into the murky brown water. From the top so you could see small fish and turtles swimming around. You could even climb a ladder into the whales head,making this structure essentially two storey. It’s nice to see that it is being up kept though, unlike a lot of the sights I have seen along the road so far. 

I travelled through a few other towns, not much to report, businesses, schools, a beautiful church, fast food, the usual.

My next stop was just off route 66, in Foyil. Ed Galloway was a folk artist who built the world’s largest totem pole. It stands at 90 feet and it covered in Indian designs. Surrounding it are smaller poles in different shapes, a cactus and snorkel Arrowhead where the most impressive. There was also a round Hut which had been turned into a gift shop. I was expecting tacky souvenirs, but nope! As I walked in the place was full of fiddles! Only the backs of the mind. Turns out the Ed Galloway was a terrific artist who hand made all of the fiddles out of different kinds of wood. There was over one hundred on display, all with different patterns on them. I spoke with the woman in the gift shop who explained Ed Galloway didn’t even play the fiddle! He just loved the wood. He made over 3o0 of them! 

I drove through more towns then I could name, all with a similar feel to them. Thriving little communities on an historic road. All really pretty and quirky. Between the towns was just fields of green and hay bales. It is exactly like how it looks in pictures and films. 

I followed the road all the way in Kansas. I was only in the state for like half an hour though. I really wanted there to be a ‘leaving Kansas’ sign just so I could get a photo with the title ‘not in Kansas anymore’. However the one I found was on a main road with no where to pull over. Oh well. 

I got into Missouri, where I decided to stop for icecream in another little town. Just up the road I passed a little place called Webb City with a huge statue of praying hands. 

One last drive got me into Springfield. I booked into and non smoking hotel, imagine my disgust when I walked into my room and it smelt of stale smoke. Not impressed. At least it is only for one night! 

Night dad x

Driving to Tulsa

Hey Dad,

So once again I was woke  up by the dumpster being opened. I am done with dodgy motels for a while, I think by next stop I may he booking into somewhere a little more peaceful. 

Before I hit the road I headed back to Alamo to get the radio fixed. The guy sorted it after looking very confused and I set off along the road. The best bit about the drive today is I could do nearly all of it on route 66!

My first stop today was back to the round barn. It was open today! The barn inside is set up like a museum, it was full of old farming equipment, maps and drawings. There was also a scale model of the barn which was pretty cool. They were also selling random memorabilia; some of it completely unrelated to the barn, it was more of a car boot jumble. Sadly upstairs was just an empty void, but the roof structure was amazing. The original structure is on full view. It was a beautiful wooden dome! 

I carried on following the route 66 signs. This stretch of the road was so different to any of the other parts. This part still had life on it.  The road was well laid, with barriers and lines. There were also houses and farms all along the road. There were no ’empty’ sections of nothing. What did make me laugh though we’re all the pop up shops along the road selling fireworks. These pop up shops were in tents, wooden huts and out of the back of trucks, all covered in red white and blue. It seemed like such a strange place to buy fireworks! 

I also drive though many towns like Chandler and Stroud, which again were full of life. People actually lived in these towns, and had businesses.  The buildings were old and the art work was authentic to the buildings, yet modern and nd well maintained. It was really refreshing seeing these old towns breathe a modern life. 

Once I got Tulsa, I was hot and slightly confussed. The hotel I booked online looked nothing like the Internet. It was far more modern, it must have had a face-lift recently and the Internet has not caught up.  It’s very rare somewhere (especially a budget hotel) looks nicer when you get there then in the online pictures. The hotel also had a pool. Sold! I lugged my stuff to the first floor with no lift, grabbed a bikini and headed straight to the pool! Tulsa can wait, I’ll see that tomorrow. For this afternoon, the pool won! 

I was primarily on my own around the pool, then some woman joined me. She seemed nice, but hearing her life story was not on my list of things to hear. Once she started going on about how she had been single for 19 years, and didn’t ever want a relationship, but never had problem with finding men to take home I left. I probably should point out she seemed to be in her early 50s and carrying double the weight she should be. 

I hung around my room for a while hoping she would be gone by the time I went out for something to eat. She was, phew. I found a cheap pizza place, ate and headed back for a thrilling night of laundry. 

Let’s hope for a better nights sleep tonight!

Night dad x