Route 66 Road Trip: Funky Funks Grove

After pounding the pavement in Pontiac, MaMa decided it was her turn to drive a stretch of Route 66 and give Pop a break from being the chauffer. If I knew how to drive, I would have offered, but my legs are too short to reach the pedals anyway, although I am pretty good at steering!

car dogs
I’ll always be a backseat driver.

Before taking off, we looked at MaMa’s Route 66 map and made the decision to bypass the Burma Shave/Memory Lane attraction in Lexington, and drive directly to Funk’s Grove to get ourselves some fresh maple sirup (that isn’t a typo, that’s how syrup is spelled by the owners of the store). So, we did what we had done for every other stop and entered our destination into Google for directions, and away we went!

Driving down Route 66 through Central Illinois in the fall is a real treat. We saw trees that were just starting to change colors, and the road was quiet with very little traffic to speak of. We made it to the town of Funk’s Grove in a little under an hour, following the directions that Google Maps gave us. Looking back on it, maybe we should have gone to the company website  for directions to the store instead of relying on good old Google to get us there…

FunksMapleSirupSign
We missed this sign! (Photo Courtesy of www.legendsofamerica.com)

MaMa was following the directions turn-by-turn, counting on technology to deliver us to our next destination. The scenery was divine and we were super excited for our next adventure on Route 66. We arrived at a long dirt driveway, believing we were at the right place. After all, that’s what Google told us.

“You have arrived at your destination.” It said!

“This doesn’t look right,” said MaMa, “There are no signs or anything.”

“Well, those are Maple trees, right?” asked Pop, “and they look like they are hooked up to something.”

“Yeah, okay, let’s give it a shot.”

MaMa turned down the dirt driveway despite her initial hesitation. About halfway down the long drive, we noticed a big dog running towards our car with an elderly woman following behind him. As soon as Levi and I caught a glimpse of that big dog, we started barking like a couple of loons!

“Let me at him!!” I barked.

“He’s mine!!” Levi replied.

“Let’s gang up on him then!” I growled.

“Good plan, GiGi!” Levi assented.

We jumped up at the windows, barking, growling and trying to find a way out.

The dog made it to our car, and started circling it, not letting MaMa drive any further.  The old woman was still trailing far behind.

MaMa started freaking out because the dirt driveway was narrow and hard to make a turn on, and she couldn’t go forwards or backwards for fear of hitting the crazy dog!

“What am I supposed to do?” she cried out, completely losing her cool.

“Just back up slowly.” Pop told her.

“But what if I hit the dog? I don’t want to hit him!!” She was now in full on hysterics!

“Let me at him MaMa, I’ll take care of this!”

“Yeah, I’ll make mincemeat outta him,” said Levi.

Pop was trying to quiet us down, but we were having none of that. Despite all of the awesome attractions we’d seen that day, this was by far the most exciting thing that had happened!

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the woman reached our car, and MaMa rolled down the window to talk to her.

“We were trying to find the Maple Sirup store. Our directions lead us here.”

“No, no, it’s not here. We aren’t (muffle, muffle, muffle)…”she said, but MaMa couldn’t hear because all of the racket in the backseat.

“Okay, so sorry to intrude. We’ll be on our way.” She said to the woman. “Now how do I get out of here?” she asked Pop.

“Just turn around real slow.” Pop said.

“I can’t, I can’t. What if I hit the dog!?” she exclaimed again.

“You won’t hit him. He’s not going to let you hit him. Just go slow.”

MaMa somehow managed to maneuver the car around and started heading slowly back down the driveway, inching along, trying to keep the dog within sight. Levi and I weren’t helping at all. We wanted to stay there and give that dog a piece of our mind!

We eventually got back to the end of the driveway and MaMa sped away as fast as she could.

We only have one regret. We were all so “in the moment” that nobody thought to take any pictures. I hope my re-telling paints enough of a picture for you, that pictures would have just been a frivolous addition!

I guess the best way to summarize this failed Route 66 stop is to say, “NO SIRUP FOR YOU!”

Route 66 Road Trip: Stars & Cars

After getting our fill of the Filling Station in Dwight, MaMa and Pop decided that Levi and I needed a little break, and figured we wouldn’t be missing too much if we skipped the next service station on our itinerary in Odell. Instead we headed straight for Pontiac, Ill. to take a look at the many Route 66 murals that have been painted on buildings all over town.

Pontiac is the county seat of Livingston County and also the setting of a 1984 movie starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Patrick Swayze called Grandview, U.S.A. It seemed appropriate that I would be walking the same streets as those movie stars, seeing as my own star is on the rise!

Pontiac Filling Station
Pontiac has a Filling Station too!

As we pulled into town, we knew right away that we had made the right choice by keeping this town on our list of stops. The town is absolutely adorable! Not only does it dedicate itself to keeping the Route 66 tradition alive with all of the colorful murals all over town, it also has an abundance of cute shops (which we unfortunately weren’t allowed in) and other delightful sights!

Pontiac Victor Mural
I love MY Master’s Voice!

I’m not sure if they are always there, or if it was a temporary attraction like the Cows on Parade that the City of Chicago had back in the Summer of 1999, but the addition of artistically painted tiny cars to the town made it even more memorable and quaint.

Pontiac USA Car
A tiny car for a tiny dog!

There were more interesting things to see at every turn. We stumbled upon what looked like a bus-house-yacht that both Levi and I thought would be a very cool way to travel. It sits outside the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum and was actually driven down Route 66 by its former owner, Bob Waldmire, a beloved ambassador of Route 66, before his death in 2009.

Pontiac Bus
Now that’s a sweet ride.

After admiring that awesome throwback bus, we continued our walk around the town and found ourselves even further back in time when we came upon a young Abraham Lincoln, standing outside of the Livingston County Courthouse. The full-size bronze statue is reminiscent of Lincoln’s first visit to Pontiac in 1840 as a young lawyer. Levi thought it would be pretty cool to be a President’s dog!

Pontiac Levi and Lincoln
Levi met Lincoln.

As we continued on our way, we found an attraction that was just my size. I was so excited to find a tiny mural that I did a little dance in front of it, showing off one of my many skills! A star needs to be multi-faceted, after all.

Pontiac Lil Nipper 1

When we realized we had to leave if we were going to make it to any more attractions that day, MaMa mentioned that we’d have to visit this lovely, little town again one day. We all agreed that Pontiac should be a must-see-stop for anyone taking a tour of Route 66 through Illinois.

PONTIAC Levi Coca Cola Sign
“I’ll be back!”

 

Eight Great Ways to Celebrate Earth Day with Your Dog!

If you love the Earth as much as I do, you’ll want to check out my list of eight great ways you can celebrate Earth Day today and every day!

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  1. Scoop up the poop

Whether your pooch poops at the park, on a path, under a palm tree, in private or during a parade; picking up after your pet is your responsibility.  Not only does proper poop removal help prevent the spread of disease, it makes the earth a nicer place for all the people who share those places with you and your pet!

2. Make Your Own Pet Toys

If your washing machine and dryer are anything like ours, you likely have spare socks lying around without a match. Rather than throwing them away, why not re-purpose them as your dog’s new, favorite toy. Old T-shirts can also make a great toy. Check out this no-sew, easy to make T-shirt toy!

3. Donate to Make a Difference

Do you have old sheets and blankets taking up space in your closet? Free up some of that precious space by donating them to your local pet shelter. Your worn out blankets can provide a warm and cozy bed for an animal without a home. Click here to find a local animal shelter near you!

4. Spay or Neuter Your Pet

Do as Bob Barker always said, “Help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.” It is eco-friendly and helps keep unwanted pets out of shelters. Sound advice, Mr. Barker!

5. Bake or Buy Organic Pet Treats

If you like to bake or just want to treat your dog to a special treat without all of the nasty by-products that are hiding in the store bought brands, consider making a homemade goodie for your best friend. There are dozens of recipes available online. If you aren’t one for DIY, consider searching out your local dog bakery or farmer’s market, so you can find out exactly what goes into the treats you give your pooch pal!

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6. Walk (or Bike) to the Park

When you walk your dog to the park, you lessen your environmental footprint by cutting down on auto emissions that pollute the air and water. Plus, there is the added bonus of more exercise for you and your pooch. If your furbaby is like me, and doesn’t always enjoy long walks on warm days, consider a bike basket for a fun transportation alternative.

Bike2-1

7. Plant a Garden

Can you believe I’ve tried (and liked) carrots, kale, broccoli, cauliflower and asparagus? They taste so good and they’re good for me too! If you have some extra space in your yard, consider adding a small garden and grow your own veggies. Homegrown produce is free from pesticide and eco-friendly too. Your belly and your best friend will thank you!

8. Clean up After Others

While out on a walk with your dog, bring a plastic bag with you and pick up any loose trash you see along the way. It might not seem like fun, but it sure is rewarding when you realize you are contributing to a cleaner community and a healthier environment. And let’s face it, dogs like to put their noses into everything, including trash. You’ll be helping other dogs and their owners out too!

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What are your ideas for celebrating Earth Day with your dog?

Route 66 Road Trip: Pas De Deux

After visiting with a Giant and escaping zombies in Wilmington, we hopped back onto Route 66, which runs along I-55 through Illinois. The attractions are all pretty close together in Illinois, but in case you are bypassing a section (or need to make a quick getaway from zombies), it’s good to know how easy it is to get back on the Interstate. Of course, none of that mattered to me, since Levi and I were just along for the ride and the adventure! How we get somewhere never concerns me much!

G and L in the car
Just a couple of passengers!

Back on the Mother Road we found ourselves in search of a two-cell jail in Gardner, Ill. The jail was built in 1906, and served the community as a drunk tank until the 1950’s.

Gardner Jail Outside
Gardner’s Two-Cell Jail
Gardner Jail GiGi
GiGi in Jail!
Gardner Levi Jail Cell
Levi has never been in such an old building!

It’s no longer in use as anything other than a Route 66 photo-op, which MaMa is a huge fan of! Me? Not so much, especially when I get locked into an old jail cell, which I’m pretty sure is haunted! Take a look at those orbs in the picture below. That’s a sign of spirits, right?!

Gardner Jail 1
We decided to share a cell.

Along with the jail there is an old, refurbished, formerly horse drawn-streetcar which also dates back to the early 1900’s. It had been operated as a diner (with no running water or restroom facilities) in the 1930’s, and that is how it has been restored.

Gardner Riviera Restaurant Streetcar
Historic Streetcar

It was our second stop. The jail had two cells. We got to see two historic buildings. And we are two dogs.  Too cool!

Gardner
A nice place to stop!

After getting out of jail, it was time for a pit stop at one of the historic filling stations that are super popular along Route 66. We stopped at Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station in Dwight, Ill, which was the longest operating station on Route 66, running from 1933 to 1999. Now it serves as an information center and gift shop, as well as a beautiful stop for picture taking!

Dwight Texaco Station
Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station in Dwight, IL

We had just finished taking our pictures, and sniffing around the old-timey gas pumps, when we were stopped by a retired couple from British Columbia, Canada! They had already driven most of the route on previous trips and were traveling in style through Illinois in a huge RV. Maybe one day Levi and I will have a sweet set-up like that too.  They stopped to talk to us because they had recognized us from the two-cell jail in Gardner. They were pulling up there as we were leaving, and when they saw us again, they figured we must be on a similar road trip. It was really cool meeting fellow travelers, and being recognized! Maybe that is when my desire to be a celebridog started!

Dwight Texaco Station 2-1
I am a STAR!

 

Route 66 Road Trip: A Giant Sighting and Zombies Galore

We started our Route 66 road trip early on a Friday morning in mid-October. The sky was cerulean blue, the temperature was pleasantly mild, and the mood in the car was ecstatic enthusiasm. I was about to take my first road trip, and I couldn’t have been more excited, even if MaMa had promised me a lifetime supply of chicken jerky. Levi had been on a road trip before, and was acting super chill, but I know he was excited too! It was our first trip together!

Rte 66 sign

Pop had packed the car leaving plenty of room for Levi and I to stretch out in the back. He also made sure we had lots of padding to keep us comfortable in the event we wanted to take a snooze. Not like there would be a whole lot of snoozing on this trip. MaMa had us stopping every 20 minutes practically, to see another Route 66 site!

Since we don’t live very far from the start of Route 66 (in Chicago) and can visit local sites any time, we decided to skip everything north and west of us, and drive south to our first stop, the Gemini Giant in Wilmington, Ill. He is one of the iconic “Muffler Men” from the 1960’s and a must see on any Route 66 road trip through Illinois.

GG5

On our drive MaMa told us about eating lunch at the Launching Pad restaurant, where the Gemini Giant resides, every year on Black Friday. It was her family’s tradition to cut down their Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving, at the Tammen Treeberry Farm, also in Wilmington, and stop by the Launching Pad for lunch on the way home.  She said she still remembers the smell of pine needles filling the car, as she sat in back, sharing a seat with the top of the tree, awaiting her delicious lunch!  The Launching Pad is closed now, and that made me really sad! According to MaMa, they made the best cheeseburgers she’d ever eaten.  I really love cheeseburgers!

Launching Pad Sign

Even though the Launching Pad is currently closed, we still had a great time checking out the Gemini Giant, who you might have noticed is another GG, just like me! He really is quite a site, and a cool first stop for a photo op.

GG2 GG3 GG4

His shoe is twice as big as me!

MaMa and Pop only come up to his knee!

 

 

After taking pictures with the big guy, we took a short stroll around the neighborhood, and wandered upon some zombies! Since I am a faithful watcher of The Walking Dead, I knew just what to do (stab, slash or shoot them in the brain, for the uninformed), then we high-tailed it out of Wilmington, having already accomplished our mission, and then some!  Let’s hope our next stop isn’t quite so scary…

Zombies-cropped

Planning a Route 66 Dog-Friendly Road Trip

The idea for a Route 66 road trip came to MaMa one night last fall when Pop was out to dinner with a friend. She was eating Thai food, coloring a picture in her Zen coloring book and watching the Disney movie, Cars.  If you’re like MaMa, and you’ve never seen this movie, I can tell you that a big part of it takes place in a fictional town called Radiator Springs. It was portrayed as a destination spot for Route 66 travelers, but was quickly forgotten (like so many real-life Route 66 towns) when the Interstate was constructed.

Disney-Cars-Radiator-Springs

Even though Cars is a cartoon, MaMa enjoyed it and watched the whole movie, which ended up planting an idea seed in her brain. That idea bloomed in the following weeks, as she started seeing quite a few references to Route 66 in her daily travels around town. She found that she could no longer ignore the signs, and told Pop that she wanted to take a 3-day road trip with me and Levi through Illinois and a portion of Missouri, stopping at historic Route 66 attractions along the way. Pop told her to take the reins, and if she planned it, he would come. That was all the encouragement she needed as she set about finding dog-friendly attractions and motels that would allow two dogs, one of whom is an 80 pound pit bull mix!

Levi GiGi Cars

MaMa spent weeks planning our trip, researching the towns and attractions, and reading reviews and blogs that other travelers have written about their own Route 66 trips. She found a lot of information out there, and needed to sift through it all to figure out what we would have time for, and what would be worth our while. For her, the best way to do that was to create two maps of possible destinations, and then calculate the miles between each stop to try and figure out what attractions we would be able to visit each day.  She greatly underestimated the amount of time we would spend at each stop though. The maps below show all of the places she thought sounded interesting, but we only had time to stop at about 1/3 of them in the time we had.  Perhaps these maps will be helpful to other travelers who want to take a Route 66 road trip!

Illinois Rte 66 Map

Missouri Rte 66 Map

Something else MaMa had to consider while planning our Route 66 road trip was which towns would allow Pit Bull breeds. As it turned out, there were some attractions we couldn’t visit because a sweet dog like Levi, who would never hurt a fly, and who lets me jump all over him, was banned from the town. It’s too bad that dog owners who have done bad things with their dogs, or who haven’t trained them properly have caused Pit Bull and Pit Mix dogs to be feared and banned. I hope that changes one day, as more people realize that it’s the humans’ faults and not the breed!

Even with that restriction, MaMa still found plenty of places for us to visit on our first road trip as a foursome! Little did she know it would ignite a passion in her for taking dog-friendly road trips.

Let the adventures begin!

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To be continued…….