Roadside attractions still captivate travelers on Route 66

  • Before the interstate highway system was built, travelers going from Chicago to California would drive along Route 66. There are a number of roadside attractions yet to see along the nearly 2,500-mile route.

    Before the interstate highway system was built, travelers going from Chicago to California would drive along Route 66. There are a number of roadside attractions yet to see along the nearly 2,500-mile route. Courtesy of Prestige MotorCar Photography

  • The nearly 30-foot tall Gemini Giant in Wilmington enticed drivers to stop at a local cafe.

    The nearly 30-foot tall Gemini Giant in Wilmington enticed drivers to stop at a local cafe.

  • This former Standard Oil gas station in Odell was built in 1932.

    This former Standard Oil gas station in Odell was built in 1932.

  • Members of the suburban-based Midwest Firebird Club parked in downtown Pontiac while cruising down historic Route 66 this summer.

    Members of the suburban-based Midwest Firebird Club parked in downtown Pontiac while cruising down historic Route 66 this summer.

  • For more than 60 years, motorists on Route 66 were able to fill up at the Ambler-Becker Texaco station in Dwight.

    For more than 60 years, motorists on Route 66 were able to fill up at the Ambler-Becker Texaco station in Dwight.

  • The community of Pontiac features about 20 outdoor murals, including one that depicts a full-size streetscape.

    The community of Pontiac features about 20 outdoor murals, including one that depicts a full-size streetscape.

  • The Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac is a former firehouse built in the 1900s.

    The Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac is a former firehouse built in the 1900s.

  • The Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac is a former firehouse built in the 1900s.

    The Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac is a former firehouse built in the 1900s.

  • Ken Pitcher of Inverness drove his red 1968 Pontiac Firebird down Route 66 with other members of the Midwest Firebird Club.

    Ken Pitcher of Inverness drove his red 1968 Pontiac Firebird down Route 66 with other members of the Midwest Firebird Club.

 
 
Posted9/27/2014 6:00 AM

There's no doubt about it, cruising down Historic Route 66 through Illinois is a must for any auto enthusiast. The iconic highway starts right here in Chicago and you don't have to go far before you start encountering ultracool relics and reminders from the motoring heyday of years gone by.

Just south of Joliet, there's a corridor loaded with hidden roadside gems. Here's a taste of some of the sights you'll see and experience.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Gemini Giant, Wilmington

This towering space titan was installed in 1965 to boost awareness for a newly opened cafe called the Launching Pad. Dubbed the Gemini Giant, this fiberglass leviathan enticed passing motorists over the following decades to pull over, snap a photo or two and grab a bite to eat. The cafe has since closed but the nearly 30-foot tall space man still stands stoically watching earthly vehicles go by.

Ambler-Becker Texaco station, Dwight

This quaint fueling station was built in 1933 and is recognized as the longest operating service station to pump gas on historic Route 66, with more than 60 years of continuous service. During its heyday, it was open 24 hours a day. The facility was in use as a gas station until 1999 and then as an auto repair shop until 2002. The owner then donated it to the village of Dwight, at which point it was restored to its 1930s glory.

Standard Oil gas station, Odell

This gas station was built in 1932 and initially sold fuel and products for Standard Oil and later Sinclair and Phillips 66. The two-bay garage was added in the late 1940s to facilitate auto repairs and maintenance services. The station was in use until the 1960s and then was converted to an auto body repair shop. It closed in the late 1970s and then the property was renovated and reopened in the 1990s as a historical site.

Painted wall murals, Pontiac

Scattered throughout the city of Pontiac are more than 20 hand-painted outdoor wall murals, depicting the town's commercial, cultural and political history. The majority were painted over the course of four days in June 2009 by a collection of more than 150 sign painters and muralists. The vivid and colorful paintings include a life-size, vintage city street, complete with soda fountain and auto repair shop and the world's largest Route 66 shield.

Route 66 Hall of Fame & Museum, Pontiac

Situated in a historic 1900s firehouse, the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum houses one of the largest collections of memorabilia telling the story of the famed Mother Road. In addition to pictures, displays and artifacts, there are also a 1972 Volkswagen Microbus and a 1966 Chevy school bus camper. The vehicles were owned and used by artist Bob Waldmire for many decades. He spent his life traveling the legendary stretch of asphalt while creating his artwork.

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