Costco in the Greater Sydney area of Australia… an observation

Well this is going to be a short post. The day I arrived on this most recent trip to Australia I dragged my travel partner out to Costco (which is pretty far out in the Sydney suburbs) to load up on groceries because our Airbnb wasn’t all that convenient to the local stores… and spotted this:

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I’ve only seen these things before in the U.K., you stick in a $1 coin (Australian Dollars, its the gold looking coin) and it unlocks your cart from the others,

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like I said my travel buddy REALLY didn’t want to be there so I couldn’t give it the full appreciation of what’s different from in the USA I would have liked. That said, they did NOT have the Kirkland brand smoked salmon… I ended up buying smoked trout that looked like smoked salmon… didn’t really enjoy it.

 

 

 

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Route 66’s Chain of Rocks Bridge, Madison Illinois

Privately built as a toll bridge across the Mississippi River in 1929, The “Chain of Rocks” was part of the designated Route 66 city bypass beginning in the late 1930’s, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. When you see it, the reason why the bridge was retired is obvious, it’s only wide enough to allow a single line of cars headed in one direction to pass over it at a time. As vehicles are no longer allowed over the bridge, it is now (by default) one of the world’s longest pedestrian bridges.

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It’s name comes from its location along the river. Previous the 1960’s when the United States Army Corps of Engineers built a low water dam to correct the problem, this area was actually the sight of river rapids that made navigating this stretch of Ol’ Man River very dangerous indeed.

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That said, when the bridge first became the designated bypass, the Route 66 traffic that WAS willing to pass through downtown initially took the more southerly MacArthur Bridge, located just south of where the I-55 crosses the Mississippi… although that only the first of the bridges, as route 66 traffic was continually being re-routed….

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As I’ve said repeatedly, when you are in this part of the country, being able to “drive 66” becomes a questions of WHICH 66 you want to travel on… there is not just one… simply to cross the river there are FIVE different options.

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… the best place to access the bridge is on the East/Illinois side of the Mississippi rather than West/Missouri side. On the east side there’s easy parking dedicated to those wishing to walk across the bridge (with I might add police protection there around sundown), while on the west side there is no dedicated parking lot

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When you first approach this area (heading west) you’ll pass over a shorter, cars traveling in one direction at a time, bridge that is still functional. This one takes you from the Illinois side to Chouteau, a man-made Island that when I was driving through it seemed like it was being used as garbage dump, but apparently its being converted into a recreational area. You then drive to the other side of the island, directly into the parking lot for the Chain of Rocks bridge.

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If you look at google maps, the area directly after the gate (behind me) is green on the map… it’s not land so much as it’s swamp. As I mentioned before this section of the river was called chain of rocks because it was shallow enough that it had rapids before the corps of engineers fixed things… this was done in part by digging out the middle of the river, and this island was created with the mud …. but the first section of the Chain of Rocks passes over “land” that is still shallow and swampy

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After you’ve walked for a bit — and its was a very lonely walk (it actually made me very nervous walking across it by myself, as it could have just been me and G-d knows whom else on the bridge, in a location where there’s no one to hear you scream) you finally pass the swamp land into the wide River

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A 2nd word of warning… This bridge see’s so little traffic that the spiders seem to have taken over ownership of the place and humans are just intermittent visitors. It’s not just spider webs along the sides, as that is to be expected.

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Rather, it’s that as you along it every second or third step you find yourself walking into yet another strand of spider silk … as in THOUSANDS of them live here — this is NOT a place for anyone suffering from Arachnophobia.

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Over the course of the whole walk I saw only 6 people… one middle-aged woman walking alone (which made me feel much more secure) the group of three young people walking towards me in this shot, and then as I was leaving, middle aged couple who were smoking pot.

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And from the above photos you get a sense of just how far from downtown St. Louise the bridge is…. that odd-looking thing is the Gateway Arch from a bit of an angle.

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And no, I didn’t get all the way to the bend, the sun was going down and I was worried about getting caught out there when it started going dark.

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Wagon Wheel Motel Cuba Missouri

The Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba Missouri is both one of the oldest historic motels along Route 66, and of them the only one to have been continuously operating since its opening. From the outside is actually pretty idyllic. It is built in the Tudor Revival style out of Ozark sandstone. It opened initially as a cafe and filling station in 1936, and then expanded into a motel in 1938; and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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The motel consists of a collection of very cute looking homes with stone exteriors, that sits behind a larger main house

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In front of which are some historic gas pumps (but gas is no longer sold here.

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When I arrived, the main building was undergoing some regular maintenance/cosmetic upkeep repairs, which is in keeping with the whole “Viva Cuba” project that I discussed in my recent post about the town of Cuba itself. Inside the main building was a check in counter, and an unusually large gift store — taking up the area that I’m guessing originally housed the cafe.

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The Motel was apparently fully renovated in 2010, but looking on-line I found some very mixed reviews… A lot of folks love the place, but those who didn’t were vitriolic, saying that it is one of those motels that looks a hell of a lot better on the outside than supposedly it looks on the inside. But like I said, MIXED reviews, and I haven’t stayed here so I can’t comment personally.

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I asked the woman who seemed to be the owner “are you renovating the interiors too or just the exteriors?”, and she said “yes, you can go inside and shop” ….  On the upside, the gift store was selling route 66 T-shirts that were specific to the location, rather than the generic crap that has annoyed me for most of the my route 66 Trek

Cuba Missouri, The Mural City of Route 66

Cuba Missouri is yet another small town that has discovered the economic value of public art. It is the largest city in its county, with a population smaller than my high school had when I graduated, and yet it’s on every “MUST SEE” list for travelers traversing Route 66.

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A local bank funded the “Viva Cuba Project” in 1984 because while trying to lure potential investors into the town, that they were being turned off by the high percentage of eyesores… and realized that a city beautification project was needed in order to spur economic growth. This initially involved businesses investing in beautifying their business and the city investing in trees and shrubs and various landscaping projects. So for instance check out this incredibly cute cafe, The Fourway (Kabobs, salads and fresh foods) in what has to be the cutest re-use of a historic gas station that I’ve seen so far.

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I can’t review it as a restaurant’s food as I didn’t eat here, but I was tempted, SO CUTE

IMG_0660The Mural phase of the city’s beautification project began in 2001 and was completed in 2007. It was the Missouri legislature which designated the city the Mural city or Route 66… which I think a lot of the other small towns on 66 in other states, that have also gone this route, may take issue with.

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I noticed however that the murals, for the most part, face east…. so the artist is assuming that most visitors who are traveling Route 66 are headed west.

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Betty Davis Apparently visited the town once, and this mural honors that visit

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Ted Drewes Frozen Custard on route 66 in Saint Lewis, Missouri

Ted Drewes is a family owned Frozen custard business and a Saint Lewis Missouri institution. Founded in 1929, it’s Route 66 location is historic, and it has been included on Food shows by the likes of Alton Brown and Bobby Flay, and in 2017 was awarded the title ‘Best ice cream shop in the world’ by Soolnua, a company that every year produces a world-wide “best ice cream” index. (Wikipedia)

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If you’ve never had frozen custard you really need to try it. While the rest of the world is only now discovering it, its capitol” if you will is Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and it is a fairly common treat all throughout American’s Midwest.

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It’s essentially ice cream with egg yolks, and as such has a creamier texture, and can be kept at a warmer temperature without melting than ice cream… all while still managing to have a denser consistency. AND Frozen Custard is lower in fat than Ice Cream is, and as such is a lot lower in calories, while having more protein. Seriously… it’s a win win

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Frozen custard comes in vanilla only… any flavors are added after the fact, cherries, nuts, caramel, what ever you want from their available list… with each extra adding to the price…

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… or from the flavor combos they suggest…

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and then, if you’ve chosen to have a concrete (rather than a sundae or malt, etc.) then, just like in a milk shake, the flavors are blended into the vanilla custard, served in a cup and handed to you…. but they hand it over up-side-down, in order to prove to you just how THICK your treat is

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I ordered the Cardinal Sin, it was very tasty

One thing that I found personally amusing was that Ted Drewes Frozen Custard is KOSHER…  well… most of what they serve is….

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Ariston Cafe, Litchfield, IL

Built in 1935 (and on the National Register of Historic Places), the Ariston Cafe located on Route 66 in Litchfield, Illinois is the longest continuously running cafe along the route’s whole stretch. So I planned my trip so as to include a meal here.

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According to Wikipedia, with the exception of having added a banquet room and a few other minor tweaks, the interior of the Cafe has not been altered substantially since it first opened. In most other locations would be a bad thing, but on Route 66, it’s a selling point.

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As restaurants go it has a highly confused menu; they have: Mexican, Greek, Deli, classic American, Southern, Italian, Steak, and Seafood … with 7 different kinds of fish — where most places would do one or two

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but I guess if you’re a restaurant in a small town you sort of have to be all things to all people. That said, they also have an all you can eat soup and salad bar which had some tasty stuff on it… even if it is kind of seriously old-fashioned.

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I asked the waitress what the difference was between the pond and fillet catfish dishes. The pond catfish is two big catfish served on the bone for $15, while the fillet is one catfish filleted for $14… as two would have been too much food me, I got the fillet… but if I lived nearby I’d have ordered the pond for $15 and taken home leftovers.

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That said, the Catfish was rubbery and had a funny after taste …which I think the chef was trying to hide with all the spices. But with seven different kinds of fish, unless fish is VERY popular in this town, I don’t see how they can be serving anything remotely close to fresh.

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There was a large selection of HUGE slabs of various kinds of cake… but passed. When the owner noted that I was keeping notes about meal, posting to social media, etc., he came over and gave me two postcards and a refrigerator magnet.

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The Route 66 Welcome Center & Museum in Litchfield, Illinois

This is NOT one of the better museums along the 66 route, but it’s free. Its more of an excuse for a museum like they felt they had to have one in order to qualify for matching funding from some organization that gives grants to cities wanting to set up Route 66 stuff.

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I’ve seen places like this before, in Georgia, where there’s this one museum to a local African-American musician by the name of Royland Hayes, who had grown up in that town; where you can tell they wanted the funding for and “Arts center” essentially a ladies social center, but could only fund it by having the museum for the local guy most of them probably couldn’t name… so it’s an excuse for a museum shoved into a side room… while the population that uses the building is 90% upper class white ladies.

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That said, this museum is not actually OFFENSIVE, like that one was… (where the white community applied for funding in support of an African-American History — which they clearly could not have cared less about, when what they really wanted was the cash to fund something for themselves). In this case, it’s pretty clear what this community wanted was to build a building for their chamber of commerce and their genealogical society, on a lot that had stood empty for 20 years.  As a result, its less a full fledges museum than a book with its pages placed on horizontal surfaces, so if you wanted to you could spend a few hours standing there, in effect reading said book…. well a book, interspersed with a handful of large items, and a few display cases crammed with smaller items. But mostly, it’s a book.IMG_0562.JPG

Outside of museum along Route 66 is a neon sign for a gas station that had been on this property in the past, but that no longer exists…

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Route 66’s original Brick Road in Auburn, Illinois

This original bit of, hand-lain in 1931 brick, Route 66 in Auburn, Illinois, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and as such is protected from ever being paved over with boring old concrete.

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Interestingly you can in fact drive on it, which is kind of surprising… so they must do regular upkeep to keep it traffic ready.

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Abe Lincoln and the watermelon baptism, Lincoln IL

This monument, a few blocks away from Route 66 and in the middle of Lincoln, Illinois marks the spot where Abraham Lincoln himself christened the town with his own name, using the juice of a watermelon to do it.

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Lincoln, IL is in fact the first town in America named after him. He was only a lawyer at time, and it was well before the election. Lincoln had, as lawyer been involved in helping to deal with the legalities of laying out the town’s plans and breaking up the ground into lots for sale. He client was in fact the railway that was laying rail in the area and had decided to put a town at this location. According to tradition he was present at the towns naming, only one hadn’t been chosen yet. So the other men there, for whatever reason, suggested he name it with his own name, which he had at first advised against, with the quote mentioned below…

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Years later, then President-elect Abraham Lincoln came here to speak, and after his assassination his funeral train stopped here

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Cows in the Corn, Route 66 sculpture, Lincoln, IL.

More than a few sites, particularly the Illinois centric ones pointed to this piece of art as Iconic to route 66… no idea why. Seriously, don’t bother… it doesn’t even show up on google maps.

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A sculpture is a 3-D object and should exist in 3D… this one is fairly 2D and photos of it tell you all you’re going to need to know… nothing to be gained by seeing it in person. (Seriously, paintings in person never look like they do in photos… this sucker does)

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