Along Route 66

Text: Christian Neuhauser • Photography: Christian Neuhauser

You may know how it is. You're sitting through a long, cold winter evening beside the fireplace and dreaming about tours while the bike hibernates in the garage. Years ago I was in this situation. The fire crackled and Pink Floyd played in my headphones while I read an article about Route 66 in a motorcycle mag. The whole theme immediately captivated me and that very same evening, Christa and I began planning a vacation, our first in the States on a motorcycle.

"Fasten your seatbelts, please," the public address system blares. "We're landing in 30 minutes at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport." Holy Moley, it's happening. I'm nervous and hope my VN 1500 survived the trip. It's been sitting here, waiting on me for three days in Lufthansa's Chicago warehouse. Immigration goes smoothly and picking up the bike is a breeze. Interfracht did a great job and all I have to do is sign three sheets and we're on our way.

Illinois

Chicago welcomes us with all the friendliness imaginable. Easy immigration, fast processing when we pick up the bike, a deep blue sky above, temperatures in the 80s, and a smiling motorcycle cop waving for us to go faster. I do exactly 55 miles per hour, but that's too slow for the busybodies on Interstate 90. The flowing traffic carries us right downtown to a nice place to stay in the Holiday Inn close to Wacker Drive.

The next day we figure the best way to win the battle with jet lag is to set about exploring the city. But I'm not in the best of moods because I'm itching to get underway and roll on down the "Mother Road."

That journey starts the following morning. We begin as Tom Snyder's guidebook Route 66 Traveler's Guide says we should - at Mitchell's, a famous stop for 66 travelers heading west. The diner is packed and the waitress finally seats us. But of more concern to us than the menu choices is the thought that stop-and-go drudgery awaits us if all of these patrons choose to travel 66 simultaneously.

Christa takes her place on the backseat, and with the guidebook in her hands, she steers me through this huge city toward Joliet. It's easy to communicate through our half-shell helmets from Shoei. The real adventure has begun. First, Historic Route 66 matches up with 53 south. The Route 66 Association has marked the road very well, so it's easy to follow the right track. Soon it heads into a remote area and the road changes. Bumping along over cracks in the concrete, we pass dilapidated gas stations and grocery stores. Curves are a scarce commodity, but it doesn't matter because there is plenty to see. The only biker challenge is the varying surfaces. For a while, cobblestones in all shades of red bounce us to our lunch break at the Dixie Truckers Home, which includes a 66 museum, and there's no question whether we should stop or not. After a tremendous special something-something burger we roll on in the afternoon to our motel, the Carlin-Villa.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the May/June 2003 back issue.