Route 66 Road Trip: Pink Elephants & Other Oddities

I woke up on day two of our Route 66 road trip and for a second I forgot where I was! I’d never slept (or woken up) in a motel before and I had to look, and then sniff around before I remembered.

“Oh yeah”, I woofed to myself, “I’m not at home. I’m on a road trip! Woof Woof!!”

My little bark woke up Levi, who proceeded to jump off the bed and shake his head. The sound of his ears whipping around woke up MaMa and Pops, and before you knew it, we were up and ready to hit the ground running before 7:00 AM!

MaMa had chosen this particular motel, not only because it is located about half-way on Route 66 from our road trip’s ending point, but also because it has an Antique Mall with all sorts of interesting and some crazy things to look at. We decided to walk over there and see what there was to gawk at.

The Pink Elephant Antique Mall (which is named after the giant pink, yes pink, elephant that stands out front) is home to many oddities, as well as being located in an old high school and housing two stories worth of different antique dealers. We didn’t get to take a look inside, but the outdoors, where we prefer to hang out, had plenty for us to explore.

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We saw another Muffler Man, who reportedly spent his early years in Kentucky, but now makes his home in Livingston. He can be seen from the road, wearing a bright orange Harley Davidson shirt, beckoning travelers to stop and say Hello. Levi did just that!

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We also saw Alvin & the Chipmunks hanging out in front of the mall. They made some kind of crack about me not being tall enough to hang out with them. Those rodents really have some nerve!  I quickly moved along.

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MaMa and I checked out a 1968 Futuro House, which was designed by a Finnish architect, but somehow made its way to this mall to hang out with all of the other oddities. I think it has found an appropriate home, since it sits next to a building that looks like an ice cream cone!

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Of course Levi had to check out the namesake for this wild and wacky establishment, while MaMa and I wandered over to the ice cream building, and caught a glimpse of a 20 foot tall man in swim trunks! All of these curious attractions have their own unique history and there are many stories about their origins to be told on another day, perhaps by another dog.

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Once we’d had our fill of all the strange and silly statues and structures, we took a quick walk around this small Central Illinois town before hitting the road for more Route 66 Adventures! But first, one last smell of that giant’s foot!! BOL!

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Route 66 Road Trip: Even Explorers Need to Sleep!

We’d been on the road all day and explored a half dozen historic Route 66 attractions, so we were more than ready to take a load off and unwind. We briefly considered stopping at one last place on MaMa’s map, but it was getting late, the sun was starting to set, Pops missed the turn off (because MaMa wasn’t helping him look), and we ended up going to a wine store instead so MaMa could stock up on libations for the night! As it was, we had another hour or so to drive (with traffic) before making it to the Country Inn motel in Livingston, Ill. where MaMa had made our reservation.

We were super lucky to find this motel, as it not only allowed two dogs for a minimal charge, but they allowed dogs of any size or breed. I’m pretty easy to travel with, seeing as I’m only about 10 pounds and as far as we know, there are no restrictions on Maltese dogs in any towns or counties in America. Levi, on the other hand, is part Pitbull, and as it turns out, there are some towns you can’t even drive through, let alone stay in, if you have a Pitbull breed with you. I think that is sad and unfair, since I know what a good dog he is, and I’ve met so many other Pitbulls that are a lot nicer than I could ever be!

Walking into our motel room was an experience I will never forget! I’d never stayed anywhere like it before. Up until then, the only places I’d slept were my first owner’s house, the tobacco store that I was forced to live in for four months when my first owners didn’t want me anymore, and of course MaMa and Pop’s homes. I didn’t even know there were such things as motels, with everything you need all in one room! We had two beds, a desk and chairs, a nightstand, lamps, a phone and TV too. Also, we had a big window that looked out onto the parking lot and which provided excellent viewing for me and Levi anytime someone walked by or slammed a door! Luckily, we didn’t bark too much because we didn’t want to cause any problems or get kicked out of the room.

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Living large with Levi in Livingston!

One really convenient thing about the Country Inn motel is the attached café which is open until 9:30 for dinner, which meant MaMa and Pop didn’t need to stop for fast food, and we could all eat together in the room. When you’ve been traveling all day, it sure is nice to have a meal that is as close to home cooked as you can get when you’re on the road, and to be able to eat it with your dog begging by your side…just like home! And since MaMa already had her bottle of wine, she was good to go!

There were so many things to sniff and suss out. MaMa was worried that I would get into something, so she followed me around the room for a while. When she was finally satisfied that I wouldn’t get into anything, she sat down and let me have my space. That woman can really cramp my style sometimes!

After sniffing the entire perimeter of the room, under both beds, and all around the bathroom, I was able to finally sit and relax. MaMa said we needed to go to bed early because we had another fun-filled day planned on Route 66. We didn’t know exactly what we were going to do or see, but chances were it would be another memorable day on the Mother Road!

Route 66 Road Trip: Sugar Creek Covered Bridge

It had been a delightful day filled with a plethora of Route 66 adventures, and we only had time for one last stop before winding down for the night. MaMa’s map had many interesting and fun sounding stops on it, and it was difficult to choose where to go, since we’d have to leave so many places unseen (for now).

Since we’d already had a lot of excitement that day, we decided we were ready for a quiet walk in nature, and thought the Sugar Creek covered bridge, just about a mile off the Mother Road in Glenarm, Ill. showed some promise.

Glenarm Covered Bridge

The bridge is one of only five remaining covered bridges in Illinois and the oldest of them all. There is some discrepancy as to whether it was originally constructed in 1827 or 1880, but either way, it is REALLY old, and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1978. The Illinois Department of Transportation rehabilitated the structure in 1965, and it has been closed to vehicular traffic since 1984. It is now part of a local park and open to foot traffic only. There are some trails adjacent to the bridge, so it was a perfect place for us to stop.

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Once we arrived at the park and began walking towards the bridge, we knew we had made the right choice for our final stop of the day. There was nobody else there, the sun was beginning its rapid descent and giving off a gorgeous glow behind the trees, and the park had a quiet peacefulness that we were all yearning for, after such a hectic (but super fun) day.

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Walking up to and through the covered bridge, you could feel the history of it palpitating from the walls, the roof and the ground beneath, as if it were a living & breathing thing. I felt as if I could smell the past and all of the people and pooches who had been through there before me. If only those walls could talk! I wouldn’t be able to understand them, but it would still be pretty cool!

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Sugar Creek which is traversed by the bridge, is a tributary of the Sangamon River and eventually discharges into Lake Springfield. The area surrounding it was settled shortly after the War of 1812 because of its fertile prairie ground and for being one of the southernmost habitats for Sugar Maple trees in Illinois.

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The fertility of the area is evident today, as the park and nearby trails were full of trees and offered us a beautiful place to walk around and explore. It was a perfect final stop to a near perfect day (sorry Funks Grove) on historic Route 66.

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Sha-Na-Na-Na Channahon State Park

Saturday morning started out cool and stormy, and it looked like we might be stuck inside all day, but by afternoon the sun was starting to peak through the clouds, and the threat of rain was over. We were supposed to go to Kentucky over the weekend but MaMa cancelled the trip because of a few different reasons.  I didn’t really understand why, but I’m a dog, I’m not supposed to understand. I’m always along for the adventure anyway, no matter where it is! If we weren’t going to Kentucky, I was sure we’d find somewhere else exciting to explore.  And I was right!

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Wake up Levi! It’s time for an adventure!

Levi and I were lazing on the couch when we heard MaMa and Pops start talking about where we should go that afternoon now that the weather had cleared. MaMa suggested to Pop that we visit a state park she had just read about it Sha-na-na-na-hon. It had all of the cool things that parks have, like grass, trees and squirrels, but she said it also had a scenic trail along a river and canal! A river means water, and I LOVE the water. I don’t like to go in it, mind you, but I love to smell it and be near it. I find it incredibly fascinating!!

In no time flat, we all hopped into the car and were on our way! It’s always exciting going somewhere for the first time, because you have no idea what you’ll see, hear, and most importantly, smell!

On the short drive there, MaMa told us that she spent her baby and toddler years living in Channahon, but hadn’t really been back there since. She said she was too young then to remember if she had ever visited this park before, and couldn’t tell us anything about it other than what she read on the inter-webz.

We learned that Channahon is an Indian word meaning, “Meeting of the Waters”, which makes complete sense because the DuPage, Des Plaines and Kankakee Rivers converge there. We also learned that the Civilian Conservation Corp. (created by FDR to provide jobs to young men during the Great Depression as part of his New Deal program) had cleaned, restored and repaired much of the canal and park area in 1933, and paved the way for the awesome place it is today. The I & M Canal trail, which can be accessed from this park is a designated National Heritage Corridor as well. There are so many interesting things about this park and the canal, I could probably write a book about it! But enough about the historical aspects of this unique place, it’s time to tell you about our adventures there that day!

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Levi and GiGi Set Out on Another Adventure!

We arrived at the park right as two German Shepherds were leaving with their humans. MaMa was relieved to see them leave, because she said I can be a real “A’hole” around dogs I don’t know! Somebody needs to bark and growl at those dogs and keep our crew safe, and that someone is me! I’ve heard some people say I have little dog syndrome. Whatever that is, it sounds awesome!

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“I may look cute, but watch out big dogs, I have little dog syndrome!”

Since the park was clear from the likes of other dogs, we were able to wander and explore at our leisure. The first area we checked out was next to a big flowing dam. It was so loud and cool to look at!

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Whoa, dam!

Despite the exciting dam flowing nearby by, the most interesting thing I saw was a log floating in the water that I couldn’t stop barking at! Every time that log made a move, I backed away and then barked at it to tell it to watch itself because I meant business. After a few minutes of that, and lots of sniffing of rocks, leaves, water and tree roots, it was time to move on and see what else we could find.

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Back off log!! I’ve got my eye on you!
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I mean it! You better not come any closer!

While making our way towards the trail that runs alongside the river and canal, two young boys ran past us, and one came so close that he almost tripped right over me! He yelled out to his companion, “Hey, that dog just tried to trip me!” but from my perspective he was trying to kick me! As luck would have it, he just missed me and we were both no worse for wear.

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I can be a trip hazard!

Once we made it to the trail (in one piece!) we saw a bunch of interesting things. There were really old rock steps that I climbed to get to the trail. At the top of the steps was an old house (built in 1848 and restored in 1941) that used to be the residence of the locktender.  I wish I could have taken a look inside!

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Wow, these old, rock steps are cool!

We also saw a number of different birds, including herons and egrets (we saw one flying and another one up in a tree) , and two different sets of Canadian goslings with their parents.

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An egret in flight is majestic!

At one point, we had to cross a bridge, which Levi hates to do, but he was brave and kept going, so we could explore a little further! On the other side of the bridge, we saw a farm with a big group of goats and a few horses too! MaMa also pointed out two tiny butterflies and one giant dragonfly, which she said is her favorite bug!

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Levi being brave and crossing a bridge!

After walking south on the trail for a little ways, we decided to change course and walk north for a bit. It’s not like we were going to be able to cover much of the trail, as the entire length of it is over 60 miles! From what we saw of it, it’s beautiful in either direction, filled with lots of trees and of course the river and canal. We saw lots of people fishing, a man in a kayak, and when we went to cross the bridge for a second time, we saw a woman walking a Great Dane! That guy was even bigger than Levi and he looked like he was just a puppy. When he saw me, he knew I had the syndrome, and decided it was best not to bother us!

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We saw lots of water!

Eventually we turned around again and decided it was time to head home, but not before agreeing that we’d have to go back again on a sunnier day, and next time we’d bring the camera to get even better pictures!  All in all, it was a great day and a successful expedition!

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So many trees, so little time! How can I choose?

Route 66 Road Trip: Atlanta Antics (and giant hot dogs!)

After being run out of the sleepy, little town of Funks Grove by the not-so-sleepy guard dog and his elderly sidekick, we decided to play it safe and visit Atlanta, Ill. and another one of the Mother Road’s Muffler Men statues. Statues stand still after all, so we weren’t worried about being chased out of town!

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This gentle giant resided on top of (and then in front of) Bunyon’s, a hot dog establishment in Cicero, Ill. from 1966 through 2002 and was designed to hold an ax (ala Paul Bunyan), but ended up holding something much more appropriate and appealing to me. An enormous frankfurter!

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Tall Paul!

After the restaurant closed, he moved to the tiny town of Atlanta, Ill., where he has dwelled ever since 2003. He is known as Paul Bunyon (purposely spelled with an “o” to avoid copyright infringement) or Tall Paul, even though he is missing an axe, his ox and his beard! He’s got the size though, I’ll give him that. He stands over 19 feet tall! That’s taller than me, Levi, MaMa and Pop combined!

We had lots of fun taking our picture with him and marveled over the size of his hot dog! I think I could make at least two or three meals out of that thing. Now if only I could find a way to get it out of his hands!

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How can I get my paws on that wiener?

Next door to Tall Paul is the Gunnar Mast Trading Post, full of odds & ends, kitschy trinkets, Route 66 memorabilia and more. Dogs aren’t allowed inside, even though I did a dance to try and gain entry. Levi and I had to wait in the car while MaMa and Pop did some shopping. The door was certainly welcoming, but just not for us pooches!

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Dancing in Atlanta
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Sorry Levi, no dogs allowed.

While checking out the store, MaMa ran into a group of four that was also driving down Route 66. One of the men in the party asked if we had also made a stop at the Two Cell Jail in Gardner. They said they saw me and Levi in the car and recognized us from that stop, and figured it couldn’t be another pair like us. Wow, this was our second time being recognized. My star is really on the rise! Levi’s too, I guess, but I like to think it’s all about me!

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Gunnar Mast Trading Post – Something for Everyone!

After finishing up in the store, we were released from the confines of the car to walk around this tiny town. We didn’t stay long, as the day was quickly getting away from us and we had more stops to make. While touring the town, we did spot an old clock tower from 1909, and found a bathroom at the town library for MaMa to use. I think we spend half of our stops looking for a bathroom for MaMa and Pop! They don’t have it easy like me and Levi. I’ll even go right on the sidewalk if I have to. I don’t care! The world is my toilet!

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Atlanta Clock Tower is wound by hand every 8 days!