Aug 272015

One of the challenges of motorcycle road trips is trying to find nightly accommodations, you never know where you will be one day to the next.  There are so many variables that effect your timing, so trying to book a motel a day or two ahead is somewhat pointless.  You have to go with the flow and often times, the closer you are to a big city, the more challenging it becomes to find vacant and affordable rooms without reservations.

Route 66, Busier than Ever

Five or ten years ago, it was easy just to roll into town and take your pick, these days the world is a more crowded place and you have to settle for less.  Markus and I had some challenges trying to find a place to sleep the previous night.  Most of the hotels and motels just outside St. Louis were booked or were too expensive.  Eventually after an hour or so of searching, we had to backtrack about 10 miles east of the city and found a dodgy place off the interstate.  It was a motel of last resort, scraping the bottom of the barrel.  On the outside it looked decrepit, on the inside it was actually decent.

When I woke up and was loading the bike, I found the biggest moth I have ever seen walking up the outside wall.  I have no idea what species this is, but damn, it’s big and furry.  I estimated it to be about 11 centimeters across.

Giant Moth

Giant Moth

Old Chain of Rocks Bridge

Our first Route 66 site was old Old Chain of Rocks Bridge which spans the Mississippi River in North St. Louis.  The bridge was built in 1929 to carry motor traffic across Route 66 until it was closed in 1970.  One its most noted features is a 22 degree bend in the middle.

Historic photo showing the 22 degree bend in the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge

Old photo showing 22 degree bend in the Chain of Rocks Bridge

The bridge’s name comes from a large shoal, or rocky rapids, called the Chain of Rocks, which made that stretch of the Mississippi extremely dangerous to navigate.  Because of a low-water dam built by the Corps of Engineers in the 1960s, little of the Chain of Rocks is visible today except during extreme low water conditions.  Today the bridge is open to pedestrians and bicyclists.  It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.

Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, St. Louis, MO

Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, St. Louis, MO

No doubt the most iconic and recognizable feature of St Louis is the 630 foot high Gateway Arch built along the waterfront.  Since this was my fourth time motorcycling here, I thought it’s about time I visit the arch and even take one of the elevators to the top.   Too bad this was not meant to be.

Sorry, No Arch for You

Much to our chagrin, Markus and I encountered a series of road closures and construction as we made our way to the arch.  The labyrinthian path took us into old St. Louis, a quaint, antique and picturesque section of town with gnarly cobblestone streets.  My bike shook like hell trying to get over these streets designed for horse and buggy.  Eventually we learned the Gateway Arch park was closed.  There was no way to get to the top, let alone even find a place to park and get a good photo.  So, I had to settle for this crummy image, which I tweaked a bit.


Gateway Arch, St. Louis, MO

Not The Right Ted Drewe’s Frozen Custard

By mid-morning the 100 degree heat and humidity was in full effect, I suggested to Markus we make our way to Ted Drewe’s Frozen Custard, a long standing landmark on old ’66 in St. Louis.  Markus punched it into his GPS, said he found the location and I agreed to follow.  As his car meandered through the streets, none of it looked familiar to me.  I’ve been to Ted Drewe’s three times before and something did not feel right.  Eventually, we arrived at Ted Drewe’s, but NOT the one on Route 66.  There are two locations and Markus’ GPS selected the other one.  Bugger.  No matter, they still serve really good frozen custard, so we had a our treat and moved on.

Ted Drewe's Frozen Custard

Ted Drewe’s Frozen Custard

Riding Through the Ozarks to BBQ Heaven

It was time get out St. Louis and head into the Ozarks for a beautiful drive.  As we made our way along the Mother Road, Markus and I found an abandoned motel and took a few snapshots.

Abandoned Motel, Route 66

Abandoned Motel, Route 66 in Missouri

As our timing was good and I suggested we grab an early supper in Cuba at Missouri Hick BBQ, by far my favourite BBQ place on Route 66.  I always make it a point to eat there and once again, it was incredibly tasty.  Markus and I ordered the sampler plate with smoked beef brisket, pulled pork shoulder and ribs.  He was really impressed with the food and said it was the best he had eaten in America.  In fact, my mouth is watering as I’m writing this paragraph, it’s that good.

Missouri Hick BBQ, Route 66, Cuba, MO

Missouri Hick BBQ, Route 66, Cuba, MO

The Wagon Wheel Motel and Cuba Murals

Right next door to Missouri Hick BBQ is another Route 66 legend, the Wagon Wheel Motel, Café and Station, which has be meticulously restored to its glory days.  The motel is alleged to be the longest continuously operating motel on Route 66 and it has been in business for over 75 years.  Originally constructed in 1936 as a cafe, the motel has been welcoming visitors since 1938.  As of 2010, the new owners have done a great job refurbishing the buildings and the courtyard.  Since my last visit in 2013, they have added a few touches, such as antique cars and a few more neon signs.

Wagon Wheel Motel, Cuba, MO

Wagon Wheel Motel, Cuba, MO

Wagon Wheel Motel, Cuba, MO

Wagon Wheel Motel, Cuba, MO

Like many Route 66 towns, Cuba is known for its historically themed Route 66 murals.   Over the years I have collected my share of mural photos from Cuba.  For Markus, this was all new fodder and I had a cigar while he went about photographing several murals.

Amelia Earheart Mural, Cuba, MO

Amelia Earheart Mural, Cuba, MO

World’s Largest Rocking Chair

Less than 20 minutes west of Cuba, we stopped in Fanning to see the World’s Largest Rocking Chair.  Measuring 42′ 1″ tall and 20′ 3″ wide, it is a roadside attraction designed to attract visitors to the Fanning Route 66 Trading Post.  Unfortunately, the trading post closed at 5 PM which is a shame since it sells a wide variety of Route 66 themed clothing, souvenirs and hunting supplies.  They even have an indoor archery range.

Fanning Route 66 Trading Post

Fanning Route 66 Trading Post

World's Largest Rocking Chair, Fanning, MO

World’s Largest Rocking Chair, Fanning, MO

Rolla: Historic Mule Trading Post and an Interview

It was already late in the day and we knew businesses would be closing, so Markus and I decided to head out to the Mule Trading Post in Rolla, MO. Frank Ebling founded the Mule Trading Post in Pacific in 1946. Ebling moved his business to Rolla in 1957 after Interstate 44 bypassed Pacific.  This one of a kind store, owned by Carl and Zelma Smith, has been in continuous business at this location since 1957 and offers an incredible array of products.  This store has everything such as gifts, antiques, toys, food, collectibles, clothing, footwear, knives, swords, Route 66 memorabilia and more.  If  I was driving a car and had trunk space, I would have gone on a shopping spree.

Mule Trading Post, Rolla, MO

Mule Trading Post, Rolla, MO

A kind gentleman named, Carol Carr, was gracious enough to grant me an interview and talk a bit about the history of the the Mule Trading post.  I made this little video about the store and inserted the interview.

Right beside the Mule Trading Post is another Route 66 fixture, the Mule Tobacco Barn, made famous by the giant hillbilly with rotating arms.  By the time we left the trading post, the business had closed for the day and the arms were turned off.  I guess I’ll have to wait for my next Route 66 trip to visit the Mule Tobacco Barn and see the hillbilly’s windmill arms in motion.

Windmilled Arm Hillbilly, Mule Tobacco Barn, Rolla, MO

Windmilled Arm Hillbilly at the Mule Tobacco Barn, Rolla, MO

Great Neon at Munger Moss Motel

We drove along the Mother Road to Lebanan, MO, home of the historic Munger-Moss Motel.  The most striking feature of this place is the impressive neon sign, which has become a tourist attraction and a lure to photographers worldwide.  The impressive sign was constructed in the 1950’s to help compete with corporate motel chains, such as Holiday Inn, which were taking business away from independently own motels.  The neon sign was fully restored in 2010 with a grant from the National Park Service.  This sign really looks impressive at night and it’s not too bad in daylight either.

Munger Moss Motel, Lebanon, MO

Munger Moss Motel, Lebanon, MO

Here’s a little video of the motel sign just as it was turned on.  I wish it was just a bit darker outside when I shot this.

Route 66 Rail Haven Motel.  A Corporate Motel with a Soul

From Lebanon, Markus and I made our way to Springfield, MO and booked rooms at the Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven Motel.  I was really impressed that a corporate chain restored this motel to its former glory days and remained faithful to the spirit of the Mother Road.  The original buildings date back to 1938, when it was known as the Rail Haven Motor Court.  What a treat to stay in such a unique and beautiful place, a fitting way to end the day Route 66 style!

Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven Motel, Springfield, MO

Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven Motel, Springfield, MO

So, going back to my first paragraph on this post about finding accommodations on road trip, it’s just a matter of timing and good luck 🙂

Aug 182015

This day was a real treat indeed.  Markus and I were stoked to see Bob Waldmire’s bus and van at the IL Route 66 Association Hall of Fame Museum in Pontiac.  We explored Route 66 as far as Mount Olive, IL,  before booking a motel in St. Louis, MO.

Bob Waldmire and the Wild Buses

In case you have never heard of Bob Waldmire (1945-2009), you really should.  He was a remarkable man who lived a life of genuine freedom and creativity.  Bob was an American artist and cartographer known for his whimsical, unique and amazingly detailed drawings and maps celebrating Route 66.  He lived the life of a nomad and toured the USA inside an old school bus that also served as his home and Route 66 information center.  Perhaps that in and of itself is quite remarkable, but the way he lived and how he lived is even more so.  In every sense of the word, Bob Waldmire was an American original.

Insanely detailed Route 66 map drawn by Bob Waldmire

Insanely detailed Route 66 map drawn by Bob Waldmire

Artwork by Bob Waldmire featuring his 1972 VW Minivan

Artwork by Bob Waldmire featuring his 1972 VW Minivan

Waldmire’s famous school bus is unlike any other vehicle I have ever seen.  Like Bob, it is a true original and one cannot help to be in awe of his trippy, artistic and idiosyncratic life style.  The interior of the bus is a marvel, one that could only take shape from the soul of free spirited American artist who lived life on his own terms and bucked the system.  He drew deep inspiration from Route 66 and his art manifested a fun and almost child like innocence.  There is nothing at all malevolent or depressing about the art and the bus and van he left behind.  I find his story and life far more inspiring and enviable than people who are filthy rich.  Oh yes, one more thing, the bus still has the lingering odour of marijuana.

Bob Wildmire's Famous School Bus and Home

Bob Wildmire’s School Bus and Home and Route 66 Information Center

Inside Waldmire's School Bus

Inside Waldmire’s School Bus

The following video takes you inside Bob’s school bus.  It is incredible to think everything he needed for his lifestyle resided in this one of a kind mobile home.

Waldmire was a man who lived life on his own terms.  He had true integrity and was never a sell out to popular fashion or tastes. In other words, he was not for sale to big corporations.  From wikipedia:

One of Waldmire’s modified vehicles, an orange 1972 Volkswagen Microbus, was the inspiration for the character “Fillmore” from the 2006 animated motion picture Cars. Pixar abandoned a proposal to name the character “Waldmire” as Bob was unwilling to sell marketing rights to Disney for a series of toys which would appear in McDonalds Happy Meals.

Wildmire's 1927 VW Bus

Waldmire’s 1972 VW Minibus.  Screw you McDonald’s and Disney!

Inside Waldmire's 1972 Minibus

Inside Waldmire’s 1972 Minibus

I also have to give a nod to the wonderful volunteers who help out at the Route 66 Association Hall of Fame & Museum.  They are good people who are gracious, helpful and knowledgeable.  Southern Illinois has some of the best people on earth and it is inspiring to see them preserving their folklore and history.  The museum relies entirely on voluntary donations and as far as I can tell, the patrons have been relatively generous (myself included).

Swinging Bridges and Lunch in Pontiac

After the museum, Markus and I took time to visit the Pontiac Swinging Bridges and grab lunch at Bernardi’s Restaurant.  I had an excellent Reuben sandwich that I washed down with a pint of Sam Adams Boston Lager and some iced tea.

Swinging Bridge, Pontiac, Illinois

Swinging Bridge, Pontiac, Illinois

Bunyon Giant aka Cicero’s Hot Dog Giant

Next stop was Atlanta, IL, home of another “muffler man”, the Bunyon Giant aka Cicero’s Hot Dog Giant.  This roadside statue was originally situated at “Bunyon’s” a hot dog establishment located near Chicago that was in business for over 40 years until owner, Hamlet A. Stephens, closed the restaurant in 2002.  In 2003, the statue was loaned to the quaint little town of Atlanta as a way to promote and celebrate Route 66.

Bunyon Giant

Bunyon Giant, Atlanta, Illinois

Too bad there was no hot dog vendor nearby, the effect of this roadside attraction led to some food cravings.  At our next stop in Springfield, there are corn dogs for sale at the legendary Cozy Dog Drive In, unfortunately, time was not on our side.

I want a hot dog

I want a hot dog now

A Random Discovery of Vintage Stock Cars

As Markus and I made our way towards Springfield, we did our best to avoid the interstate and stay on old Route 66.  It may have cost us time, but the rewards of a more relaxed road paid off.  Along the way, somewhere near Chenoa, we stumbled upon a roadside collection of vintage cars, which were used in stock car races.  It made for some interesting photos and some of these cars would seem right at home in a Mad Max movie.  I did a bit of research and most likely, these cars once raced at the nearby Fairbury Speedway.


This car would be right at home in a Mad Max world

Shea’s Gas Musuem, a Route 66 Icon

We arrived in Springfield around 5 pm and paid a brief visit Shea’s Gas Museum.  For years, I  wanted to visit this quintessential Route 66 roadside attraction, unfortunately the owner, Bill Shea, had passed away in 2013 and the property was closed.  Today, the property is fenced off and its future uncertain.  The museum contains an eclectic mix of vintage gas station memorabilia collected over the last fifty years including the original gas pumps, wooden phone booths, signs, photos, and other mementos reminiscent of old Route 66 service stations.  I had to settle for a few photos taken with smaller lenses poked through the fence links.   I really hope the city of Springfield takes measures to ensure that this property is preserved as is and reopens for business.


Shea’s Gas Museum

Abraham Lincoln’s Tomb

In addition to being the capital of Illinois, Springfield is also the home of Abraham Lincoln’s Tomb at the Oak Ridge Cemetery.  We agreed it was worth a stop to see the final resting place of this great President, who also happens to be one of my heroes.  The tomb was closed to visitors when we arrived, but that made little difference to me.  It was quite humbling and special to stand so close to the final resting place of arguably the greatest American President.

Lincoln's Tomb, Sprinfield, Illinois

Lincoln’s Tomb, Sprinfield, Illinois

A long standing visitor tradition is to kiss the nose Lincoln’s bust.  Apparently it is supposed to bring good luck to the superstitious and others do it, well, because everyone else does it.  I have too much respect for Lincoln to engage in this low brow tradition.  However, it does leave a nice sheen on his nose and makes for a good photo!

Everybody Keeps Kissing Abe's Nose

Everybody Keeps Kissing Abe’s Nose

Markus suggested we stop in Litchfield to grab dinner at the iconic Ariston Cafe.  It was only 45 miles away, so off we went.

Finding a Dinner Spot in Litchfield

The Ariston Café was built in 1935 and although the architecture of the building is utilitarian and does not reflect any particular style, it is noted for being the longest-operating restaurant along the entire stretch of U.S. Route 66.  The Ariston Cafe was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on May 5, 2006.

Ariston Cafe

Ariston Cafe, Litchfield, Illinois

Unfortunately, the Ariston is closed on Mondays, so we had to look elsewhere to eat.  Markus and I found an out of the way “Ma and Pa” restaurant, the “Route 66 Cafe” where we had a few brews and some down home cooking.  This place was so much better than the fast food chains we had to suffer the previous two nights.

Last Photos Of The Day

A fitting end to the day was Soulsby’s Service Station in Mt Olive, Il.  It was already nighttime and the station was lit by a single street light.  Behind it, a dark blue sky and a crescent moon peering through the trees.  Markus and I grabbed our cameras and tripods and set about to make some long exposure photos, which produced very distinct, but somewhat eerie images.

20150720-212001-72-PENTAX K-3-

Soulsby’s Gas Station, Mount Olive, Illinois

The Soulsby Service station was the longest operating service station along Route 66.  Originally built in 1926 by Henry Soulsby.  After World War II, the station was owned and operated by Henry’s son, Russell.  The station pumped gas until 1991 and was closed in 1993.  Renovations went underway and today it operates as a museum and roadside attraction.

Aug 102015

After riding 850 kilometers the previous day from Ajax, Ontario to Chicago, through heat and rain, I woke up tired Sunday morning in a low budget motel.  Much to my chagrin, I discovered the night before that my brand new camcorder microphone was defective.  If I was going to interview people, I need a decent microphone as the in-camera microphones are crap.  I spent over an hour on the internet looking for a store in Chicago where I could purchase a new camcorder microphone.

The Hancock Center. There's a Best Buy in Here.

The Hancock Center. There’s a Best Buy in Here.

After almost 90 minutes of searching, the only place open on a Sunday where I could buy a new microphone was Best Buy, right in the heart of the city inside the Hancock Center.  I really dislike dealing with Best Buy and the morning ahead would serve to remind me why. According to their website, they had one in stock, so all I would have to do is show up at the store, give them the model number and buy it.  Simple, right?  It’s never that simple with Best Buy.

Chicago Nightmare Traffic, Parking and Best Buy Hell

Driving through downtown Chicago was awful.  The traffic was insane and there was nowhere to park.  There seemed to be a lot of tourists and events that day.  I located the Best Buy and none of the adjacent parking lots allow motorcycles, since they are valet only.  I went around several blocks to look for street parking, no luck.  An empathetic doorman at a high end hotel (The Drake?), said I could park out front for a half hour.  So, I walked to Best Buy, just two blocks away and figured I would be in and out in 15 minutes.  Ha!  Not so!

I went into the store and waited 10 minutes for a clerk.  I showed him the item number and naturally, they could not find it on the shelves.   Next, they dispatched another employee to look for it in the stock room.  20 minutes later, nothing.  I was losing patience and then asked again for the item, again, no one can seem to locate it, despite it showing in stock.  About 40 minutes in, I gave up.  They would not even sell me the floor model.  Same bullshit service they give you right here in Canada.  I did not want to risk a $120 parking ticket, so I left the store frustrated with no microphone.

Finding Mile Zero of Route 66

Half my day was already wasted, it was time to get back to business!  Before leaving Chicago, I was determined to find the beginning of Route 66.  Over the years, this location has been bumped around and it is currently situated near the intersection of Adams St and South Michigan Ave, just down the street from the Art Institute of Chicago.  I had also planned to eat lunch at Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant on Route 66, one of the oldest classic diners still thriving in Chicago.  Alas, that was not meant to be.  When I got to the diner, there was nowhere to park and there was a line out the door.  It did not make sense to waste another hour or two.  So, it was back to finding the “official” start of Route 66.

Lou Mitchell's Restaurant. A Route 66 Classic

Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant. A Route 66 Classic

My GPS was having a field day in Chicago.  It refused to believe I was traveling on the right roads, the damned thing kept trying to put me on road I’m already on.  Every 5 seconds or so, it just brain farted and said “recalculating”.  I went old school and referred to a paper map I sketched in the morning.   Eventually I found my destination on Adams St:  a little park with the Route 66 begins sign, but the park was closed!  If that was not bad enough, there was a gaggle of beggars around the park.  Trust me, I’m not the sort of person to give those bums any money.

One should not laugh at the misfortunes of others, but that day I made an exception.  No, I was not laughing at the bums.  Some fool was trying to take a selfie at the Route 66 park with his iPhone and dropped over the fence!  He tried to climb over the fence and nearly face planted.  This brought a smile to my face and helped alleviate the frustration I was feeling from the morning’s misfortunes.  Idiocy is always good fodder for comedy.

Route 66 Begins!

Route 66 Begins!

Despite the park being closed, I managed to take a few photos and make a short video of my visit.  Mission accomplished, I found mile zero of Route 66 and would continue from there.  Somehow this legitimizes a cross country trip to California.

I had a quick lunch across the street at a little Italian Cafe. Quite a nice meal actually, Tuscan Chicken sandwich, San Pellegrino soda and an Espresso.  Very tasty, very reasonable.  After this nice treat, it was time to get the hell out of Chicago towards greener pastures.

Looking down Adams Street from the start of Route 66.

Looking down Adams Street from the start of Route 66.

Onwards To The Magical Mother Road

It took me a while to get out of Chicago because of congestion on I-55.  I kept asking myself, “Where’s the magic of the Mother Road?”  I really needed to get away from urban environments and traffic, I was at my wits end.  What kept me going was the promise of small towns, open roads, quirky places and kinder people who live life at a slower and simpler pace.

The magic of the Mother Road started to take effect in Joliet, a little town with some good roadside attractions and no traffic.  Instead of minvans crammed with kids, this town attracted more bikers than soccer moms.  This was more like it! I cooled down with a sundae and root beer from the Joliet Route 66 visitor center. I felt like a kid again indulging in this simple pleasure.

Serving up ice cream and sodas in Joliet, Illinois

Serving up ice cream and sodas in Joliet, Illinois

After I finished the sundae, it was time for a brief stop at the Joliet Area Historical Museum to get some photos of kitschy figures and Route 66 related objects.  The museum also warehouses some authentic Route 66 memorabilia.

Route 66 Kitsch

Route 66 Kitsch

Joliet Prison And The Blues Brothers

I have motorcycled through Joliet twice before, this time around I was going to visit the Joliet Correctional Center.  Cue the Blues Brothers intro and all manner of paraphernalia associated for this legendary movie.   I arrived at the prison after 4 PM, so it was too late to go inside on a guided tour.  Nonetheless, it was worth the time to see it from the outside and get a sense of the place.

Joliet Correctional Center

Joliet Correctional Center

Where there is Joliet Correctional Center, there is the Blues Brothers

Where there is Joliet Correctional Center, there is the Blues Brothers

Something I did not expect on the way to the prison was a little taste of Mexico on Route 66. The road leading to Joliet prison is a predominantly Hispanic neighbourhood.  All the businesses and shops cater to this community.  In fact, it was the only ethnic place I recall seeing on Route 66 before entering Texas.

Feeling Good in Wilmington and a Japanese TV Crew

The magic of Route 66 was going to really reward me later in the day.  Things were taking a turn for the better and my perseverance paid off.  The next stop was in Wilmington, to visit one of my favourite roadside attractions, the Gemini Giant at the now defunct Launching Pad Cafe.

Gemini Giant, Wilmington, Illinois

Gemini Giant, Wilmington, Illinois

I met a Japanese TV crew shooting  a documentary on Route 66.  I chatted with them for a bit, they took a few photos of me as well as some video footage. I gave them my personal business card. Who knows, I may be on Japanese TV one day when they finish their documentary.  The director kept my card and said he would let me know.  My mood was changing, the Chicago traffic and the morning’s failure to locate a new microphone, were now fading in my mind’s rear view mirror.

Japanese TV Director

Japanese TV Director

Making a New Friend

After the Japanese TC crew departed, I saw this tall guy checking out my Harley and looks at my license plate.  He says in a German accent, “You are a long way from home!” I said, “So are you!”  He notices my Olympus OMD and says, “Nice camera!”.  His name is Markus Foerster, a freelance Swiss photo journalist touring Route 66 before heading out to Nebraska to cover an international volleyball tournament. I thought this fellow would make for a good interview and he obliged.  I had to use the crappy microphones built into the camera, but they were “good enough”

My next destination was the Polk-a-Dot diner, a classic 1950’s styled roadside attraction in Braidwood.  I suggested Markus should check it out as well.  Not only is the food good, the place is decorated with iconic figures from American Folklore. We sat down for a drink and snack, as we talked, I  realized we have a lot in common and a friendship started to develop.  He is also a Harley guy with three vintage bikes back home in Switzerland and he is also a shutterbug.  As this was my third time traveling Route 66 from Canada, I was happy to show him the sites and also give him the benefit of my experience.

Elvis at the Polk-a-Dot Diner

Elvis at the Polk-a-Dot Diner


Fake Celebrities at the Polk-a-Dot Diner

Our next stop was a brief visit to Gardiner to see the two person jail built in 1906.  You had to be pretty tough to last a few nights in this spartan place.  Your only bedside companion was a bucket and I don’t need to tell you what that’s for.

Your Room at the Gardiner Jail

Your Room at the Gardiner Jail

Ending The Day on Route 66 with Markus

The sun was starting to set and we made another stop in Dwight to photograph the famous vintage Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station, built in 1933.  We got there as the sun was setting during the golden light.  It was a real treat to get the warm tones and we had just minutes to get out our cameras and tripods to make some long exposure shots.  The sun dropped below the horizon around 9 PM and all the local restaurants had closed their kitchens by then.

Restored Texaco Station, Dwight, Illinois

Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station, Dwight, Illinois

Last light of the day in Dwight.

Last light of the day in Dwight.

Dinner had to wait until we got to Pontiac and we settled for Subway.  Only fast food places stayed open after 9:30 PM.  We checked into a local motel and called it a night.  As it turns out, Markus would be my traveling companion over the next few days.

Leave it to Route 66 to turn a shitty day into a great one and make new a friend!

Aug 092015

Sometimes the best laid plans go to waste.

For months I was looking forward to spending two and a half weeks riding my Harley-Davidson from Ajax, Ontario out to Barstow, California via Route 66.  The plan was to take plenty of photos and try my hand at video logging and perhaps even use that footage to make a one person documentary about travelling this historic road.  Things turned out quite differently than expected and I am indeed lucky to be back home alive and in one piece, but that’s a story for another day.

Everything had be planned and packed up for my long trip.  I was supposed to get an early start and make a video of the departure.  That’s when things went awry.  While trying to video myself just before leaving, the expensive high speed 64 GB SD memory card in my camera failed!  I took it inside to check it out on my computer and the SD card was dead, nothing would bring it back to life.  Without such a specialized card, I could not record the videos at the highest quality possible.  So, it was a trip to my local computer store and I was lucky to find another suitable SD card, but that hurt the wallet a bit.

Not only did this bad SD card cost me time, I lost some trip related footage I recorded the night before.  Who knows if I’ll ever be able to restore those files.  I finally got rolling around 11 am, a full 90 minutes later than expected.  There was a heat wave in effect, the first time in years the greater Toronto area experienced temperatures over 30 C.  This was not a problem, as I don’t mind the heat.

As I made my way towards Toronto, I was prepared for the inevitable traffic on the 401.  The traffic was in full effect and it cost me even more valuable time.  I finally got a reprieve from congested roads towards Milton, Ontario.  After lunch, I crossed the American border without any problems and my goal was to arrive in the greater Chicago area by evening.   This meant riding over 850 KMs virtually non-stop with only the occasional break at a gas station.   This long ride took me across southern Ontario, Michigan, bits of Indiania and Illinois.

The weather was gorgeous when I left, but a combination of the heat wave and a cold front moving in meant there would be storms ahead.  The rain came down hard and fast in Michigan and my afternoon ride was a wet one.  The unsettled weather resulted in a swift drop in temperature and I had to wear a leather jacket underneath my rain suit to stay warm.

I made this video of my ride from Ajax, Ontario through Michigan in the pouring rain, followed by clearing of the skies and a dryer ride ahead to Illinois.  The first bit of the video is a time lapse sequence from home through Toronto.  The rest is real time footage as the storm worsened and then abated.

So, after a failed SD card, a late departure and crazy rains, I finally made it to the Chicago suburbs by mid-evening.  As it turns out, finding a motel was not so easy, everything was booked up and I had to check into to a really crappy one further outside the city.   I was exhausted and wanted to make another quick video before heading to bed.  That’s when I discovered my brand new camcorder microphone was malfunctioning, a mere two days after I bought it!  Bad omens indeed.

Trying to get another camcorder microphone in Chicago the following day turned out to be a real nightmare, but that’s for my next post.




Aug 072015

On Aug 4th, I made it home around 4:30 and the Harley had logged 8600 kilometers for my trip. Hoorah!  My trip took me from Ajax, Ontario to Barstow, California and back via Route 66.

Just as I got into Durham County and I got drenched by rains. As I was on the 407 during rush hour, pulling over to dawn rain gear was not a good idea. The weather finally abated once I rolled into Ajax, but I was soaked to the bone.

After a long and grueling ride home on a shattered and a battered motorcycle operated by a road rashed and bruised rider, there was this rainbow at the end of my street. My beloved girlfriend, Melissa, came out to greet me and my two parrots were super excited to have me home. I managed to quickly grab a shot seconds before the rainbow vanished.


Now I don’t believe in cheesy metaphors, pots of gold at the end of the rainbow, signs from above or any of that mystical BS*. That said, it was indeed a nice symbol to see as soon as I got home.

*Although I’d be satisfied with a drunk Irish leprechaun at the end of the rainbow.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting photos and videos from the trip.