Pontiac Oakland Automobile Museum.

Located just off Route 66 in Pontiac Illinois, is the interestingly named Pontiac Oakland Automobile Museumthe name confused me a lot till I look in Wikipedia and apparently the Pontiac brand was originally called the Oakland, but was produced in Pontiac Michigan, and ultimately the name was dropped in favor of being called Pontiac. IMG_2297As I discussed in the post about the Gilding Museum, Pontiac Illinois has decided to turn itself into a tourist destination that people will actually stop at. To do this, they have offered empty store fronts to people with museum worthy collections, and are hiring people to come in to professionally set up the exhibits. Where gilding actually has nothing to do with the town, what could be more apropos than a museum dedicated to the Pontiac brand of car in Pontiac Illinois?

IMG_0266When you first enter it’s to what seems to be a fairly large gift shop, but one that’s reasonably sized once you realize how bit the museum space is.



The woman who owns it was working there and she says they’re opening up a second one in Flint Michigan and her husband also runs a magazine for Pontiac collectors


If you’re into cars, and even if you are not, this museum is well laid out and well worth a visit.


Museum of the Gilding Arts, Pontiac IL

The Museum of Gilding arts in Pontiac Illinois is a very high quality museum dedicated to Gilding (applying thinly beaten gold to things). Located just off Route 66, It’s located in an abandoned storefront in the city center. The Town of Pontiac, in an attempt to draw tourism offers these locations free to any small high quality museums that are willing to locate their collections here.


I’ll admit a bias, a very old friend of mine helped set this museum up. And when I say old I mean we’ve known each other pretty much our whole lives. When my dad was graduate student he did consulting work for her dad, our families went to the same synagogue, and then in high school we ended up hanging in the same click (I was a Freshman and the rest of them were Juniors. Growing up my friends were almost alway older than I was, and I didn’t tend to fit with kids my own age.)


The Docent walked me through the whole collection. She was very nice and helpful and probably could have kept talking … but I was on a schedule. First she showed me a very thin sheet of pounded gold, pounded so thin that you could the light through it… and then a box full of sheets of the stuff, where you can turn the box and see thing and light it is. I told her that in fact I’ve spent a lot time in Japan, where gilding is still a very active art, and knew all of this already. (In Japan I have eaten cakes topped with gild — very thin gold — and some where in all my boxes I have a little canister of the stuff should I ever want to put gold on a cake.)


According to the docent, … The Smithsonian wanted the collection that’s on display in Pontiac…. but they only wanted it for a temporary exhibit and the people who owned it — a family that had owned a now closed gilding company on the east coast — wanted a permanent space.

A recreation of gilding workshop

Then guilders who live in Pontiac, (hobbyists, there was never a gilding industry here) heard about this and connected the owners with city, like I said before, the town for all intents and purposes gave them that location to put their exhibit into. There’s no real connection between Pontiac and gilding otherwise


As I’m writing this, I googled the name in this board and found this, W H Coe Mfg Co Inc, Gold Leaf Manufacturer in 10 Love Ln, Hartford, Connecticut 06112. — but I couldn’t find more which makes me think the company really has gone out of business .


There is also a small gift shop selling goods that I assume are made by the local gilders who helped bring the collection to Pontiac. I bought Chai Magnet, and gave it as a gift to my friend whose home I was going to be staying at as soon as I got back to Chicago.

Standard Oil Gas Station, Odell Illinois

This Standard Oil Station is YET ANOTHER restored gas station photo-op that is used for nothing more creative than a gift store selling for the most part route 66 stuff. It’s located on Route 66 in Odell Illinois  … at some point I have to count up just how many of these things I’ve seen over the last month and a half… but let’s just say I’ve seen my fill (joke intended)


I looked this up and according to a 2004 estimate by the Environmental Protection Agency there are somewhere just shy of 200,000 abandoned gas stations in the USA. I even found a web page from the National Park Service explaining to local towns what they need to do to convert theirs into a historic attraction. Along this route I’ve only seen ONE that sold stuff worth buying.

fullsizeoutput_4d8fNOT only was most of the stuff they were selling utter junk, but it was EXPENSIVE junkIMG_2631

$10 for the fake license plate (I’ve seen it selling elsewhere for half that) and $35 for a rock engraved to say Illinois Route 66. I mean seriously? That and… and I am not overstating things when I say this… the woman inside the building, at BEST, grunted at me a few times. I kind of got the feeling  that she doesn’t really like her job.


No hello, no smile, no “do you have any questions?” None of that… just a couple of grunts.


Historic Ambler’s Route 66 Texaco Gas Station, Dwight, IL

Dwight Illinois, which has a population 4,260… i.e., is smaller than the public high school I attended in the northern suburbs of Chicago, and as such is one of those small Illinois towns that when you’re planning your 66 trip you’re going to think you can pretty much drive through after a five-minute stop to take a few photos and stretch your legs … only you really shouldn’t… as I frustratingly learned.


I HAD known about the historic Ambler Texaco station, but assumed it would be more like the myriad of other gas historic gas stations I’d passed along Route 66, 90% of which are worth about a five-minute stop at best. I was wrong.

IMG_0198.JPGWhen I got there, pulled over when I saw the state of Illinois Route 66 signage (I do LOVE these things and wish the other states along the route did the same), and discovered that the station was far more of a museum than just a “renovated”but just-for-display gas station, like MYRIAD of the others that I’ve seen along the route. To be honest by this point I’d seen so many preserved gas stations that I was beginning to get bored with themIMG_0202.JPGThis one, unlike  an active and friendly docent who would have happily spent an hour telling me the history of her town, if I’d had the time, and insisted on taking my photo multiple times


and in addition I discovered that there’s a bunch of things that I would have wanted to see in Dwight, had I known about them in advance…  that I simply did not have time to stop and look at.


Which is a shame because among those things that I now didn’t have time to stop to see, was a 1905 Frank Loyd Wright designed bank, which I would really have liked to see …. SIGH… a gothic church built in 1857 that the future King Edward VII had visited looked interesting (and I was VERY VERY VERY amused to see that the sign, which you know has got to have involved more than a few tax payer dollars, said Edward the IV instead of VII — since Edward the IV had died in 1483)… not to mention Dwight historical society in their 1891 train station, or original Keeley Institute which peddled the first cure for alcoholism, which according to this second sign below, included a very interesting looking windmill I would have looked to see.


Will have to come back some other time


Restored 1929 Route 66 Gas Station : McLean, TX

Not only is this a restored 1929 gas station, but apparently, this was very the first “Phillips 66” brand gas Station In Texas.IMG_0311.jpg


IMG_0320.jpgIMG_0313.jpgOne thing I found kind of odd was that while other restored stations along the route had glass windows and you could see inside, this one had boarded up windows that were painted to look like glass.


That said, I found both the poverty and the politics of this town to be more than a little bit disturbingIMG_0316.jpg



THIS in particular gave me the heebeejeebees….


With emphasis on “the civilized world” …. WTF? SERIOUSLY?

Magnolia Service Station in Vega, Texas

Located on Historic route 66 in Vega, Texas you’ll find the almost fully restored Magnolia Service Station. It was first built, in 1924, on what then the Ozark Trail (a system of locally maintained roads that connected towns in the southwest, that predated the Federal highways). The station already existed therefore, when Route 66 was developed (so as to connect the short pre-existing paved roads into one fully connected paved road that traveled through main streets of towns from Chicago to California), and continued to serve its travelers.


The station was closed when I got there, but they’ve placed so many historical explanations into the place’s windows, that I still learned a lot and the visit was totally worthwhile, in my opinion

IMG_0384And by looking through the windows, I still saw a great deal and got a pretty good gist of the whole thing…



Across the street from the station you see this….

The view across the street

I think it may be there to give you a feeling of what the station may have looked out towards back in the 1920’s, but with no docent on duty, I’m guessing.


Cool Springs Gas Station; Either Oatman, Golden valley or Kingman, Arizona — depending which site you look at

This historic gas station has an identity problem. If you drive on route 66 from Kingman to Oatman, Arizona you simply can’t miss it… really you can’t… but pretty much ever on-line sites that I’ve found it on things its located in a different area… Some say Oatman, some say Golden valley, some say Kingman, and some just say it’s in Cool Springs… and hence the name.


A wonderful sort of camaraderie tends to form among those of us traveling the route. The pictures of me were taken by a german guy… he had a big fancy camera set up and initially took this photo of me, see below, which was the exact same shot he’d been taking of him and his girlfriend. Then I looked around for good shots, and asked him to please take the photo of me (above)… he at first tried to get close (making me larger in the shot but I shood him back to the spot I’d chosen.)


he ultimately (when we looked at the shots in the camera) saw that I had clearly found a MUCH better shot and we were now bonded by desire to see 66 and our love of photography. (From then on I watched as he was trying to find other shots that included the 66 on the highway.)


What was kind of interesting was everyone who passed felt a sort of obligation to buy something. A sort of general awareness that this place (which is miles from anything) could only stay open and access-able to the next person if they did.

Interestingly… they better be a bit careful as I found the store selling this… and my ‘bullshit’ monitor went off big time…