Paul Bunyon Statue, Atlanta IL

This 19 foot “muffler man” is a Paul Bunyan woodsman statue (for those who don’t know, Paul is a character from American Folklore), who stands alone without his trusty side-kick Babe the Blue Ox…. and is holding, instead of an ax, a hotdog.

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The Statue was built in 1966, and stood initially on the roof of a hotdog joint on Route 66/aka Ogden Ave in Cicero Illinois. The owner intentionally misspelt the name as Buyon instead of Bunyan in order to avoid any copyright infringements. After a while the statue became such a tourist draw that the owner moved it down to ground level, so that children could climb on it

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When the business closed in 2002 the beloved Route 66 landmark went up for sale and was purchased by the city of Atlanta (a one stoplight sort of a town), as a tourism draw.

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Anyone reading my posts about traveling Route 66 knows one of my pet peeves was most of the gift stores along the route sell generic stuff you could buy on Amazon. The gift stores in town do have some of that stuff, but they’ve also got clothes and towels that have been embroidered with the statue, and even with some of the buildings in town. Didn’t buy any, but seeing these made me very happy. One warning about the town is that during the ‘off season’ which is when I was doing 66 — late October, most of the shop owners just can’t be bothered to keep their shops open. There are two museums in town, both were closed, and there’s a restaurant that’s supposed to be pretty good, and it was closed as well. And there were shops that, according to the signs in the window, SHOULD have been open and where not… the place was bit like a ghost town.

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The Gemini Giant: Wilmington, IL

UPDATED: I first visited here in August of 2018, came back again two months later:
The Gemini Giant is 28 feet tall fiberglass “bit Thing” named after the Gemini space program of the 1960’s, located on Historic Route 66, (it was one of the very first major highways in America, was built in the 1920’s … and is also known as the Will Roger’s Highway, the Main Street of America, or the Mother Road). 
 This roadside attraction was built during the very beginning of the space race as a way to lure travelers off the road with a photo opportunity, in the hope that they’d stay long enough to buy a hotdog or a drink.

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The statue stands directly adjacent to Route 66 (yes, really, it’s the nondescript two lane road in the picture)

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and is in the parking lot of the Launching Pad restaurant (which was once a drive-in)

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The restaurant was built in 1956 at which point it was a 600 square-foot shack…they actually hired Hopalong Cassidy (well, the actor who in the 1950’s played the character in a series of sixty-six movie serials based on the character, William Boyd) to come and cut the opening ribbon (Boyd is the one in the cowboy hat)

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(According to the owner of the Launching Pad, who was thrilled to share the places history with me, after the show ended Boyd had gone to the studio and bought the licensing rights to the name Hopalong Cassidy for $450,000, a lot of money in those days… and in a few short years turned it around into $5 million by putting his picture and name on lunch boxes. I will note that Wikipedia disputes some of this but hey…)IMG_2160.JPG The new owner went on to tell me that the same family owned it for the next 50 odd years, passing it through the generations (and it was always wildly successful that whole time, open from around 7am to midnight — at least I think that’s what he said — with a staff of 20, and always doing good business) until 2010 at which point they sold it to somebody outside of the family who ran the business into the ground in the course of two short years (by buying cheaper ingredients, refusing to run the air conditioning, etc, all in an attempt to increase his profit margins I assume). As such, this Route 66 landmark business quickly went broke as its bread and butter local customers abandoned it, and has stood empty until this new owner bought it in 2017. The new owner is financing it solely from his own pocket and with any money he’s made by merchandising the image on T-shirts and bumper stickers and what not.

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Note the high quality Route 66 paraphernalia, MOST of which name the store or have the image of their iconic rocket man

He told me he has licensed the image of the giant (something the previous owners never bothered to do), so that nobody else can replicate it and he has tracked down all the old recipes for their dishes and intends to have the kitchen up and running in about two months. Till then, he’s filled the restaurant with a random collection of memorabilia intended to keep visitors happy. IMG_2164.JPG

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Even without the restaurant up and running, he told me that nn a slow day he says an average of about 200 people showing up in the store/resturant, while on a fast day it’s 500 to 800 people coming in from all over the world because they’ve heard about this place. Just during the time I was there, for about half an hour at about 2:30 in the afternoon on a Wednesday, I saw a Chinese guy and a French couple stop in to check the place out, all of whom were folks that were road-tripping Route 66 on motorcycles.

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Return 2 months later:

Full circle achieved. Stopped here the first time while driving from Pennsylvania (Pennsic) to San Francisco via I-80, and came back two months later while doing Route 66 in Atlanta, IL, where I came across this sign about an hour down south of here.

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Had a nice long talk with the wife…. last time I met the husband… and bought two T-shirts from they. While these guys have a lot of the same Route 66 stuff other people do, the wife has also put in the effort to have a whole SLEW of T-shirts made up that commemorate THEIR store, the Giant out front and route 66 all at the same time. (My major complaint with businesses/cities along the route is that most are just lazy and order stuff that I could easily and cheaper buy from Amazon).

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She apparently recognized me (although we had not met) which makes me think they saw this blog post…. and talked with me about the renovations that they’re doing. One of the things I noticed immediately was that the front rooms, which on my last visit were CRAMMED with stuff so that the tables rather than being available for customers were instead covered in collectable chachkies that were NOT for sale… which included a whole collection of expensive guitars and Blues Brothers dolls had now been cleared out… (see images from my first visit). I asked her what had become of them, “didn’t these tables used to be covered in stuff? Where did it all go?” and she took me into a back where they are creating a dedicated museum space in the back of the restaurant… which was not there last time I came.

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I remembered see almost ALL of this stuff crowded into the front room my last visit

Then she talk with me about what they’re doing redoing the plumbing and the timetables for that, and how they didn’t did not want to get funding from the 66 foundation in order to be able to pay for it, and why… but would rather do it out of pocket and owe no one. That said, she said that had done a REALLY good business this season in the T-shirts and collectables.

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She said that their timetable currently is to be serving food by March, but it will be simpler stuff like hot dogs and ice cream and things of that sort, while they continue to renovate the kitchens… and that they hope to be back to full diner status maybe by November of 2019. Since that’s the end of the tourist season, they’ll be able to start up slowly, serving the local community, and then be “ready” when the tourist season begins the following spring.

Henrys Rabbit Ranch, Staunton, IL

Located in Staunton, Illinois, Henry’s Rabbit Ranch really is one of the route 66’s “must sees” and it’s one that lives up to the promise … mostly because of the owner. Remember the Cadillac Ranch and the Slug Bug ranches in Texas? Well this is the Rabbit Ranch…

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In the USA and Canada the Volkswagen Golf is marketed by the name Rabbit

That said, Henry, the owner of this place, who is a lover of rabbits (he told me that at one point he was fostering 27 rescues) really is why you come.

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When you first approach the place it looks like run down pile of junk that’s trying to take advantage of some of the 66 trafficIMG_1266.JPGBut when you get out of your car and start really looking, you realize this is one of must see stops (with accolades from both the route 66 landmark group and the state of Illinois

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Among his “junk” he’s got a sign from a depression era WPA project on the route!!! (this should NOT be outdoors in the elements, it should be in a museum)

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Inside you’ll find Henry. I had read this over and over again but it’s true, he is a ridiculously sweet guy who takes joy in helping 66’s travelers, and will talk to you all day if you let him. All of his bunnies are rescue bunnies and he told me that at one point he had like 27 of them.

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After talking to me for a while, he took me around to see his property, including the fairly large a Rabbit cemetery along the side of the house (each stone marks multiple rabbits), which includes a MASSIVE fiberglass rabbit he insisted of photographing me on top of IMG_1262.JPG

To be honest, I almost missed the place… the two images on the left side of the picture above is what the place looked like approaching from the north bound route 66. NO references are made to it being the Rabbit Ranch… all of his signs assume those sorts of tourists (on 66) will be going south bound… starting in Chicago and heading to LA.

Blue Whale, Catoosa, OK

For the life of me I’m not sure WHY the Blue Whale of Catoosa, Oklahoma has become one of Route 66’s must see locations.IMG_1145.jpgIt’s noted on ALL the lists. But, it was built in the early 1970’s, so it’s not even concurrent to the route’s hay-day, and on top of that it’s not even particularly impressive. IMG_1226It started off as a roadside attraction, a sort of very low rent amusement/water park…. (the whale offers multiple ways to slide in to the water) …. but when compared to pretty much ever amusement park or water park out there… I’m talking really really low rent.IMG_1225

AND, considering it’s supposed to be a water slide type thing, you’re not even allowed to swim in the water there anymore…

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It’s fairly close to The Nut House, which also for the life of me doesn’t deserve its acclaim. All I can thing of is that folks traveling the route are sort of desperate for things to see along it at time (there’s really NOT much in the way of mother nature to look at along this stretch of the road) and were grateful for almost anything diverting where they could stop and stretch their legs.

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That said, according to wikipedia it’s actually made it on to TV more than a few times (usually as part of a reality TV show).

World’s Largest Catsup Bottle, Collinsville Illinois

This Big thing just south of the town of Collinsville, Illinois has actually managed to make it on to the National Register of Historic Places, as a prime example of 20th century Americana.

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According to their web site, among its other claims to fame, it is one of the weird places, mentioned in the movie Twilight: Eclipse, where Bella and her mom had traveled to, and that her mom turned Bella’s t-shirts from those places into a keepsake quilt for her daughter.

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When I saw I wondered, was it just an oddly shaped water tower? Apparently I was right, according to this discussion of the bottle’s history. Where I was wrong was when I opted to go here (World’s largest… so duh) I assumed I was going to a place NOT on Route 66, but it turned out that as far as the state of Illinois is concerned, it is.

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Pops soda ranch, a service station with a difference, in Arcadia, Oklahoma

While a 66 roadside attraction, Pops Soda Ranch, having opened in 2007, is most clearly NOT so much an icon of Route 66’s heyday, so much as one of its rebirth. This ultra modern ode to the soda pop includes a 66 foot bottle of pop, in Neon (would love to see it at night, but didn’t manage that, maybe next time).

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Pops has a fairly impressive selection of of drink options (I didn’t see any alcohol)

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They have these 6 pack cases, and you can either buy 6 of one or mix and match them as your heart desires

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I’m sad to say these were the ONLY ginger beers I found that weren’t diet… the Sioux city one was a bit better (more ginger burn) than the “extra ginger” Cock and Bull, ironically enough. And for those who really don’t want soda there’s hot chocolate or mocha coffee

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Of course the place sells gas (I only saw a handful of folks filling up there) and they have a large selection of things to eat (I didn’t eat there)

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odds and ends you can buy (many of them route 66 oriented)… but let’s face most people are there to try all the different flavors of pop.

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A VERY big historic gas pump: Sapulpa, Oklahoma

Located directly in front of the Heart of Route 66 Auto Museum, is a VERY big gas pump, but of the sorts that used to be used back when Route 66 was a thing.

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The gas pump stands along side car museum. I found the juxtaposition of the very OLD fashioned gas pump with the Tesla charging stations amusing.

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Unfortunately the places closes at 4pm and I got there at around 6pm… At first I thought it was open because so many cars were the parking lot and people were standing around, but it turned out to be a high-school reunion for the class of 1968 from the local high school

The mega Cross in Groom Texas

This Mega Cross belonging to “Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ Ministries” is located directly between I-40 and Route 66 in Groom Texas, is impossible to not see from either. That said, even as a Jew, the artistry of some of these things tends to impress me… whoever did this installation was actually pretty gifted, and has a tongue in cheek sense of humor, that I have got to wonder if the owners of the property who paid for it actually get.

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According to Atlas Obscura, this is the seventh-largest ‘freestanding’ cross in the world (at 190 feet)… so pretty frigging big. Like I’ve said before at other Catholic “Station of the Cross” tourist traps, Jews just don’t do shit like this… cause you know… the fourth commandment and all that good stuff.

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What I found kind of interesting was that at the base of the statue of Jesus on the cross, people had left engraved bits of stone

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As a Jew we place stones on graves, is this somehow related to that?

At the bottom of the hill is the last supper… And for reasons beyond me, into the dish from which Jesus is supposed to have lifted the bread, people were placing money

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surrounding the ginormous cross are the stations of the cross…. all of them impressive bits of work

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But what finally made me decide that I have to pat the artist on the back was the view as I walked towards the building with the gift store…. you don’t really get the full impact from a distance. Standing near the cross it’s just looks really pretty and inviting… but as you walk towards it, the impact hit me like a ton of bricks, so hard that it actually made me uncomfortable. I took a step back, looked again, and SURE enough I was damned sure the effect was intentional

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From about this position (and I’m not sure the photo does it justice) it looks like you’re looking between a woman’s legs into her vagina ….which is a paradise of gushing waters with the cross as her clitoris

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The alignment staying true even as you walk closer… wondering if Jesus is the G-spot

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… and note the placement of the huge phallic symbol. I’m sorry but there’s no way a professional artist did any of this by accident…. talk about the ecstatic moment of Christ’s love….

And of course inside you find a massive gift shop….

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Even the bathroom art made me giggle nervously… Seriously who was the artist and HOW in Christs name did he or her manage to convince the the folks footing the bill to allow any of this? Or were they THIS oblivious?

My ex-boyfriend who I was with in college …who my parents assumed would be the son-in-law, his mom was a painter who worked mostly in watercolors and used to do a lot of flowers along with Japanese inspired images (in spite of being Korean which I always found interesting). Anyway, my mom felt that she had to support this woman’s endeavors (since she might soon be family) and asked her to bring over some stuff that my mom could buy from her. I told her my mom liked flowers, so she brought a lot of those, and my mom looked through the pile, focusing ultimately on one image that she said called to her, but she wasn’t sure why. That’s the one she wanted….

I looked at my dad, who looked knowingly at me… and we both looked at Mrs Cha (my boyfriend’s mom), who was trying to smile. We all knew what she was drawn to even if she didn’t. Of ALL the images my mom had opted for the one with a massive phallic symbol in the middle. People do this all the time… artists know exactly what they’re looking at but the naive don’t see the hidden sexual messages in the art. THAT is what was going on here.

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These dish towels made me giggle

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I horrified this one nice southern lady by pointing out the art she was oggling (see above) because of what it cost for what it was, had to have been made in China. I’m serious, she dropped it like it was anathema, saying, “Oh you MUST be wrong, they wouldn’t sell that here.”… so I picked it up, turned it over and quickly found the “Made in China” mark… and showed it to her. Keep in mind almost all of these folks are the Pro-Trump, Make America Great sort.

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And then there was a movie theater showing a movie talk

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2nd Amendment Cowboy in Amarillo Texas

Why yes, I’m in Texas. This big guy stands right on route 66, in front of a small gift shop (with an unimpressive collection of things I’ve seen 100 times already) that visitors to the Cadillac Ranch from Amarillo have no choice but to pass, and also functions as the check in office for a small RV park.

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See the black box hanging from the fence?
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See the guy sitting in the car? He doesn’t look happy

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Remember that black box hanging from the fence in the picture above? I managed to sit my iPhone on that, leaning it back against the fence, walked over the spot, and then used my Apple watch’s camera app to trigger a three-second countdown… I was seriously impressed with myself.