Springfield to St Louis – Earliest Pavement on 66

Illinois was the first state to have Route 66 fully paved and some of the old road segments are still drivable. In southern Illinois, Route 66 was routed primarily on Illinois 4, which was pretty much already paved between Springfield and St. Louis by the time Route 66 was commissioned. For this trip, we deliberately took the old alignment (1926 to 1930) through southern Illinois to enjoy some of the best-preserved sections of Route 66.

We got our first taste of original Route 66 roadway just outside of Auburn Illinois when we rode on a stretch of restored brick roadway. What made the drive even more interesting was that there was a gentleman driving the roadway at the same time in a what I think was restored Model A Ford while a younger gent operated a drone to photograph the car rumbling down the road.

The road itself was a restoration, but well done. It included the concrete curbs to lock the bricks in the roadway.

Though the stretch around Auburn was the only section of road paved with brick, there were several great stretches of mid 1920’s concrete that ran through the farmland.

At one point, we found a small section of the original 1920’s concrete that was outlined in paint to highlight a spot where turkeys wandered into the wet concrete after it was laid, leaving obvious tracks in the roadway.

Shortly after passing through Carlinville, we followed a couple of side loops of original road that wandered off the “straightened” version of Illinois 4 through a scenic section of woods and rolling hills. The second loop actually included a bridge over Honey Creek that was built in 1920, still open to traffic, albeit with a strict load limit.

There wasn’t a lot of traffic on the road with us the day we traveled, so we had a chance to simply sit back and enjoy the ride!

Doc’s Soda Fountain – Girard Illinois

As we drove through Girard, we left the route just a bit to make a stop at a little shop called Doc’s Soda Fountain. The building actually housed a pharmacy for many years, serving refreshments at their soda fountain to those traveling Route 66. Today, the shop is a restaurant and soda fountain that maintains a small museum of what the pharmacy was like. Kathy and I perused the pharmacy display and then enjoyed a scoop of ice cream and a strawberry phosphate.

Carlinville Illinois – Typical Town Square Community

Carlinville was so typical of the southern Illinois towns that we drove through, with a community clearly centered on the town square. In the case of Carlinville, the square was busy and bustling at the noon hour; the town  serves as the county seat and at a busy crossroads of two major Illinois highways.

Despite all the traffic at the hub of the town, the square is still a somewhat soothing spot, with a large gazebo in the center.

We stopped to have lunch on the square and then walked through some of the shops. Interestingly, some of the older buildings had historical plaques posted. One in particular caught my eye. It marked the building as being the original home of the Ariston Café, long an icon on the older alignment of Route 66; we had visited the Ariston on our trip in 2012.

Apparently, the Ariston started in Carlinville in 1924 by one Pete Adam. His cafe grew and business boomed with the commissioning of Route 66. Four years later (1930), Route 66 was relocated to the east. The change could have been the demise of the bustling restaurant, but the owner was a sharp businessman and realized he needed to follow the road, moving his restaurant to Litchfield, where it still stands today as one of the longest operating restaurants on Route 66 and still owned by the Adams family.

The Road Is the Star

If the first few days of the trip down Route 66 was about the small towns, the next four days were mostly about the road that crossed the countryside and the bridges that crossed the rivers and creeks. Route 66 was first commissioned in 1926 with only 800 paved miles, and fully paved 11 years later. The highway was the path to a new life in California for untold numbers of people during the dust bowl years. During the depression, WPA infrastructure projects for towns along the Mother Road helped provide a living wage for able bodied men and improved travel for those who could afford it or found it necessary to relocate looking for opportunities.

The road did take us through many small towns, some healthy and thriving, some existing primarily because of tourists traveling the route for it’s history or mystique, some not so lucky but hanging in there, and a few that are obviously breathing their last breath.

There were also a lot of Route 66 icons, restored or renovated, worthy of a stop to admire and appreciate. There were also Route 66 relics to see, some diamonds in the rough waiting to be discovered, some that probably won’t be that lucky, and many that are too far gone and will likely be lost to photographs and memories.

Exploring Springfield Illinois

The first time we did Route 66, we spent one night in Springfield, rushed through the Lincoln sites for a few hours the next morning and then made a long drive into Missouri. It was a grueling day.

This time we decided to take it a bit slower, and spend a full day exploring Springfield. Since we had already visited the downtown Lincoln sites just four years ago, we decided to mix it up a bit and try some other sites.

Dana Thomas House

 On our last visit, we saw, but did not visit, a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Investigating, we found the home was the Dana Thomas House, designed by Wright on a commission he received in 1902. The home is considered to have one of the largest collections of site-specific, original Wright art glass and furniture.

The home is large (over 12,000 square feet) and was Wright’s first “blank check” commissions. As such, Wright had fairly free reign in the design and use of elements he embraced.

The tour we took was the first of the day and only had two couples attending. It was an extensive tour and we explored every level of the home, receiving great insight on the stained glass designs created by Wright.

You might be wondering how a Wright designed home in Springfield is related to a journey down Route 66.

Well, the home was designed for Susan Lawrence Dana, a well known socialite in Springfield and she used the home for extensive entertaining of wealthy guests. Because she was proud of her artistic home, she would often invite Wright to attend affairs and Wright would often use the home to demonstrate his thoughts on design (which Susan would eagerly invite). In effect, the house was a lure for new clients.

When Wright would visit Springfield, he would travel from Chicago, by car, on Route 66!

Cozy Dog

 For lunch and we visited a famous Springfield icon, the Cozy Dog Drive In, home of the original corn dog. Besides being the birthplace of the famous battered treat, the other claim to fame for Cozy Dog is that it was founded by non other than Ed Waldmire, the father of Bob Waldmire.

The place is busy with locals and curious travelers. In fact, it’s a stop for bus tours on Route 66.

Just as we were finishing lunch, a bus pulled up alongside the restaurant and the passengers got off and strolled into the restaurant. Listening to conversations, we found out the bus was filled with people from England who flew to the states to take a two-week bus tour along the entirety of Route 66. What crash course in Americana would be complete without an introduction to that American classic, the corn dog!

This was a classic stop!

Old Road Segments

We finished our afternoon by doubling back on the route to the north side of Springfield to explore some “lost” and abandoned road segments of the old two-lane Route 66.

The first section of old pavement was in the small US 66 Memorial Rest Area in Sherman, a northern suburb of Springfield. The wayside, tucked into a corner at the intersection of two highways, had limited access but some nice green space and a sweet walkable stretch of original two-lane road pavement that curved into the distance, ending at a small drainage ditch.

The park area was reportedly a true rest area for travelers of Route 66 in the late 1920’s.

Even though the area was at a busy intersection, it was easy to get lost in the history and imagine all the old classic cars that must have traveled down that two-lane pavement, possibly stopping to take a break before continuing their journey.

The rest area struck me as a diamond in the rough, just waiting to be developed. I did fin d some web sites that mentioned that Sherman hoped to revitalize the park soon. I hope they do, and I trust they will do it as a historical marker to help visitors understand automobile travel before the advent of interstates.


The second stretch of original two-lane pavement that we investigated was located in Springfield’s Carpenter Park on the north bank of the Sangamon River. Route 66 effectively formed the eastern border of the park, and the pavement from that original alignment was acquired by the park when it was abandoned.

The pavement, complete with curbing and the original surface, is currently a very pleasant walking trail in the park. It goes all the way to the point on the river bluff when the original bridge embankment was located.

Finding these two quiet sections of original road was a great experience and it reminded me that “the journey is the destination”, especially when exploring our highways and byways. It was also a great way to wrap up our day before embarking on a section of our journey where the road was the real star.



Driving On to Springfield Illinois

On the second day of our trip, we worked our way southwest through Illinois to Springfield.

Route 66 through Illinois is about 300 miles and about two thirds of those miles are from Chicago to Springfield. The first day, we got just about 70 miles from the Windy city, leaving us about 130 miles of flat Illinois farmland to traverse.

Under normal circumstances we’d cover that in a bit less than 2 hours on the road they call the Interstate and complain about how flat and boring Illinois is. But if you get off the interstate and travel the classic Route 66, you discover all those small towns that are otherwise only vague references on exit ramp signs.

When you take 66 and explore a bit, you discover quaint small towns with history that they’re proud of and happy to talk about. The trip may take you a bit longer, but it’s anything but boring.

Some snippets from the ride…

Gardner, Illinois

This little village is proud of its road and rail heritage, and the community maintains a nice community park that has displays honoring both.

But it’s a bright red homage to everything Coca Cola that first welcomes visitors. The Shop is located on the north edge of town and its eyecatching color and decor alone invites visitors to stop and explore, even when they’re not open (we passed by early on a Sunday morning and were drawn to explore!).

Just down from the eye-catching shop, visitors can enjoy the small community park where an early dining car that originally graced Route 66 in their small town is on display. The road to the current location may have been a bit bumpy (two relocation’s and renovations), but when it became available again, the residents of Gardner accepted the gracious donation of the diner.

It now has a place of honor and is well on its way to a new life providing visitors with a peek into the past.

Gardner is also proud of its 1906 two cell jail, which shares the small park with the diner. The stone block jail is well kept and provides an interesting view into the history of how small railroad towns handled the riders of the rails that would stumble into town

Dwight, Illinois

Next down the road is the town of Dwight. They have the nicely restored Ambler Becker Texaco Station that now serves as the village visitor center after serving as a service station on the highway between 1933 and 1999 (66 years on Route 66!) The station is also home to an antique village fire truck and the last gas pumps to serve gas on Route 66.

The volunteers are more than happy to tell you about the other things Dwight is proud of, including a train station that the community saved from the wrecking ball and a bank building designed by a budding architect named Frank Lloyd Wright in the early 1900’s.

Odell, Illinois

Rolling into Odell, we initially saw what appeared to be an older service garage, now closed, that could offer some potential for restoration. In fact, there were two older cars (vintage 70’s maybe) nestled in the two service bays and an older pick up parked alongside the garage outside. There were a couple of older gas pumps located on either side of the building, perhaps looking for a place to be installed.

The place actually looked interesting as is, appearing to be a “work in progress” for some collector.

At the other end of town was a fully restored 1932 Standard Oil Station, representing the other end of the spectrum. The Standard Station, operated by the town as a visitor center/museum, is almost an icon on the route, and it draws a lot of visitors.

Visitors especially enjoy the stop because the station is so convenient to serve as a backdrop for photographing their cars. In fact, the day we were there two 1989 Avantis that pulled in because their owners wanted to get pictures.

Since our last visit, the Station Museum added a new feature related to traveling in the 50’s – a 1953 Winnebago Travel Trailer. Having just bought a 2018 R Pod RV Trailer, it was really interesting to see it’s precursor from 1953.

Cayuga, Illinois

Just outside the small town of Cayuga, there’s a small wayside along the original Route 66 where you can pull off to see a version of a billboard ad that people saw when traveling the route in the 1930’s. The Meramec Cavern Barn has been restored to proudly display it’s advertisement for the Meramec Caverns at the intersection of 66 and 44 in Missouri.

Pontiac, Illinois

A drive along Route 66 in Illinois would not be complete without a stop at the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame has free admission and a great selection of Route 66 memorabilia and art. It also provides an in-depth history for all the sites on the Illinois section of Route 66.

A big part of the museum is dedicated to native son Bob Waldmire, who spent most all his life traveling Route 66, documenting it with his art. Bob fell in love with the road when his Dad took him on a cross country trip, and he found a way to spend his life traveling the road he loved.

“The main reason I became a traveling artist was to avoid having a real job. It was all about being free to move. Wanderlust.”  Bob Waldmire

One of this last works of art was a “walldog”, a commissioned billboard style painting on the outside of a building. His work is a full size map of Route 66 with highlights along the way, painted on a building across the street from the museum.

Though many considered Bob the ultimate hippie (his 1972 VW Bus, loving referred to as the “Mobile Route 66 Information Center”, used to travel Route 66, is on display at the museum), he is considered by anyone with a love of the Mother Road as the ultimate curator of it’s history. His art, in postcards, lithographs, maps, and wall art, provides historic reference for almost all of the Route 66 icons.

Funks Grove, Illinois

A big reason the little town of Funks Grove is on the map is the maple sirup that the Funk family has been making since 1824. Though the maple sirup business grew through the years, it really took off in the 1920’s when the road that ran past the farm was paved and designated “Route 66”.

Interesting to note is that the spelling of “sirup” with an “i” is NOT a mistake. In the 1800’s, the spelling was preferred by Webster’s when referencing the product resulting from the boiling down of sap, without the addition of extra sugar.

Now, why is this lady coming out of the Funks Grove Maple Sirup Store with such a big smile on her face?

Might it be because she just had a taste of their latest creation – 100% Funks Grove Maple Sirup aged in small batches in bourbon barrels?

You bet!

The specially aged sirup not only has all the best natural flavor of Funks Grove Maple Sirup, but the musky background taste of an aged bourbon dancing in the sweetness. I suspect it will be especially good used in barbecue sauces and marinades that use maple sirup, but I’m also sure it will be good used on pancakes or waffles.

An interesting side note: Apparently the distillery that provides the bourbon barrels to Funks to age their sirup, takes the barrels back to age more bourbon, thus providing a maple sirup infused bourbon. This sounds like a very symbiotic business relationship!

On the Road – Route 66 In Illinois

We got to downtown Chicago on Saturday, May 19 about 10:30 in the morning to start our trip down Route 66. With a quick picture of the sign at the star of the route, we were on our way!

We worked our way west on the city streets of Chicago finally getting to Joliet Road, which carried us southwest out of the city and onto Route 66 through Illinois.

A Visit to Joliet

The last time we did Route 66, we were running short on time as we passed through Joliet just south of Chicago. We didn’t want to make the same mistake again, and planned to visit Joliet a little more in depth. We figured if it was good for the Blues Brothers, it was good for us too!

We started by stopping at Joliet’s roadside park on the edge of town commemorating the Route. It was a great chance to get out and stretch our legs – and enjoy some soft serve custard at Rich and Creamy on Broadway. Note that Jake and Elwood are dancing on the roof of this fine establishment!

After our ice cream, we stopped at the Joliet area Historical Museum in downtown Joliet and browsed their fine display on Route 66. Just after we parked in the museum lot, we met our first foreign travelers on the route.

There were two older gentlemen putting some gear in the trunk of a new dark blue Mustang convertible and Kathy couldn’t resist admiring their car. “We thank you,” they replied in a somewhat British accent. “We just picked it up. First time my friend here has driven a V8 seeing that we’re from New Zealand.” It turned out they had planned their trip to the states for 18 months, including picking up the new Mustang in Chicago, driving it on 66 to the middle of Illinois before taking a detour to Detroit to visit the Ford Museum, then heading south to Indy for the 500, before again picking up 66 all the way to the west coast, where they would commit the new car to ocean transit to it’s new home in New Zealand!

It was a great story, and one that reminded me of how many foreigners come to the US to travel the Mother Road to get a great taste of the US. We welcomed them and wished them well on their journey before heading to the museum.

Besides a great gift shop, there were a number of interesting displays about the history of Joliet and its place on the route. The gentleman manning the gift shop was friendly and more than helpful in identifying things to see and do in the area. Our visit also afforded Kathy a chance to sit and rest between two of Joliet’s finest!


After visiting the museum, we walked around the downtown area, admiring the vintage 1920’s Rialto Theatre, a grand dame in the day and an even grander dame today based on the pictures and events announced outside the theatre. We also noted many of the old fortress style buildings that dotted the downtown, many with vintages in the late 1890’s.

The vintage of the old stone buildings downtown took on a whole new meaning when we stopped at the Old Joliet Prison for a photo op. Built on a limestone base of stone quarried in the area, the building was awesome even today. I can only imagine how formidable the prison must have appeared when it was first built in the late 1850’s. I can only assume that with such a formidable building on their doorstep, it wasn’t unusual for the citizens of Joliet to mimic the architecture of the prison with community buildings.

The Rebirth of The Launching Pad!

As we were leaving the Joliet Area Historical Museum, the gentleman manning the gift shop mentioned that the Launching Pad in Wilmington, the home of one of the original Gemini Giant statues, was now open with new owners and he suggested we may want to stop.

Lo and behold, as we rolled into Wilmington, we found the Launching Pad a buzz with people and classic cars in their small parking lot. I found a spot to park just down the road from the place and we walked down to see what the show was about.

We had a chance to meet some great car owners, many of them Route 66 veterans, as well as the new owners of the Launching Pad, Tully and Holly. It turns out they were cruising the route not that long ago and were smitten with the restoration bug. The place had fallen on some hard times, but with love and hard work, they are working to bring it back.

They’re currently working on restoring the kitchen, so they can get back into the food business, and they decided to host the event we were at to collect some great sunset photos for a collector’s calendar that they were putting together. Part of the event included hot dog meals cooked on grills in the parking lot.

We both enjoyed a hot dog and a drink and some great classic cars before we thanked Tully and Holly for their efforts in keeping the spirit of the road alive and worked our way down the road to Braidwood, our first night’s stay on the trip.

Time for Another Road Trip

Route 66 – Chicago to Santa Monica

It was May of 2012 that we were last on Route 66. At the time, I was working and time off was hard to put together. We managed to pull together just over two weeks and got in Route 66 to the midpoint, just west of Amarillo.

We carefully researched the route at the time and used the book EZ 66 Guide for Travelers by Jerry McClanahan to lay out our trip. It was a great ten days, visiting small towns along the route, seeing relics of the old route, many lovingly restored, some just a ghost of what they were in the days when the road was king.

We did the ride in the Mustang, top down much of the way. To meet our schedule, there were some really long days of driving. When it was over, I vowed that I’d do it again, all the way to Santa Monica but I’d plan for a longer trip to allow more time to more leisurely explore the road.

It’s now 2018 and time for the return trip. Again, we used Jerry’s EZ 66 Guide and we planned a less hurried schedule because we can. We plan to cover the 2400-mile route in 4 weeks (28 days). We’re going to do the trip in the Mustang again, hopefully much of the time with the top down.

Since there’s not a lot of room in the trunk of the Mustang, I needed to get a bit creative to garner some extra storage space. After researching options, we decided to tow a small motorcycle utility trailer behind the car. The Mustang now has a hitch and a 24 cubic foot motorcycle trailer (painted the same color as the car) that gives us an additional space of just over three times the size of the trunk. And in a very fashionable package, I might add!

  • Shout out here to Time Out Trailers (www.timeouttrailers.org) for having a great selection of options and a great end product that worked well with the car.
  • Shout out here to Truck and Auto Elegance (www.truckandautoelegance.com) for working with us to get a compatible hitch and the perfect wiring solution to make a motorcycle trailer work with a domestic car (yes, there is a trick!)

In any case, the planning is done, the car is packed, and we’re all set to embark on the road trip of the year!

Sixty six, here we come!

Stay tuned for more posts along the way!

Day 17 – Western Nebraska to the East – Nebraska Sand Hills

After a good night’s sleep in Scotts Bluff, we headed out to continue our trip eastward towards home. The purpose of coming further north in Nebraska before heading east was pretty much two-fold. First, it gave us a chance to explore the western reaches of the Platte River valley; generally, our trips back and forth between Sussex and Colorado stayed close to the interstate, which swings away from the river at Ogallala. Second, I really wanted to drive through an area of Nebraska called the “Sand Hills”.

As I researched the region, it became more intriguing. I always thought of the “Sand Hills” as simply a rolling countryside, similar to what you might find in central Wisconsin. Wrong! The region, relatively large (covering over one fourth of the state of Nebraska), is essentially a natural area of grass stabilized sand dunes, probably the base of a huge inland sea that used to cover the great plains in prehistoric times.

I initially expected the area to be a huge farming area, but I found the region was long considered effectively a desert. There are reports that most of the Sand Hills have never been plowed. In the late 1800’s cattlemen started to discover the region as good rangeland; it’s still a large, productive cattle ranching area today.

It was an interesting drive despite being a somewhat desolate area. Knowing that the rolling hills were grass covered sand dunes gave the scenery a whole different context.

Along the way there were a few things that caught our attention. Apparently, the Sand Hills were an important pot ash source during the first world war.

A desolate, near forgotten, family grave yard also caught our eye.

Unlike our typical trips across Nebraska on the interstate, where trucks and cars were our constant company, the bulk of our company through the Sand Hills were the coal trains from the Wyoming coal fields that snaked along the rails that bordered the highway.

We quietly traversed the state through the Sand Hills, pulling into Grand Island late in the afternoon. Our route gave us an opportunity to see a side of Nebraska that we had not seen before, and a new appreciation for the vastness of the Great Plains

After a good night’s sleep, we’d be back on the road to Wisconsin via our typical route along the interstate through the rest of Nebraska and Iowa. We’d wrap up our inaugural retirement trip with almost three weeks on the road and a taste of the traveling we could plan now that we didn’t have time constraints.

Scotts Bluff Nebraska – Learning More About the Trails of Westward Expansion

I’ve always preferred driving to and from Colorado on I80 through Nebraska. The road, at least to my liking, is a bit more scenic and the towns do have some history to explore if you take the time to really visit.

One of the reasons for the history is that the Platte River valley was a virtual highway for the westward expansion of the United States. Several major trails, notably the Oregon and Mormon, followed their path west along the Platte before they broke across the continental divide in the South Pass region of Wyoming. The route was also a major westward route for the Pony Express system.

The Scotts Bluff area is especially interesting because there are two major rock formations that provided early frontier travelers major visual milestones on their trek west. Both Scott’s Bluff and Chimney Rock, with their iconic shapes and size, provided the travelers evidence that they were closer to their goal of passing over the continental divide and entering the western frontier.

Scott’s Bluff National Monument gave us a chance to get another stamp in the National Park Passport as well as see the bluff exactly as early travelers would have seen it as they passed on the trails at its base.

Just east of Scott’s Bluff is the other icon that early westward travelers watched for: Chimney Rock, now a National Historic Site operated by the State of Nebraska. The roughly 300 foot tall spire juts from the plains and provides an easily identified trail marker.

Both of the park facilities had newer museums that provided an in-depth view of the early trails and the life of the early travelers as they made their way west in wagon trains. We also found several interesting trail markers commemorating those who made their way west on those early trails.

Overall, our side trip to the western edge of Nebraska was an interesting look back at our heritage of westward expansion.

Day 16 – Pawnee National Grasslands to the Platte River Valley

Our normal route on the road home from Colorado involves zipping through the scrub ranch land of eastern Colorado on I76 to join I80 as it catches the southern edge of the Platte River valley in southern Nebraska and follow I80 pretty much all the way through Iowa before swinging north into Wisconsin.

We’ve made the trip more than a dozen times, and it has gotten a bit “ho-hum”. I still like the scenery and we do occasionally find some new things along the way (for example the use of the Platte valley as a resting place during the spring Crane migration and one of the largest rail classification yards (Bailey Yard) in North Platte), but I wondered what else could be found in northeastern Colorado and a bit further north in Nebraska.

After delving into maps and possible routes to go northeast from Longmont, we settled on a route up through the Pawnee National Grasslands and then due north through the western edge of Nebraska to the Scotts Bluff National Monument. Our though was to maybe do some bird watching in the grasslands and pick up another stamp in Kathy’s national park passport at the Scotts Bluff Monument,

The route also set us up for a trip east through Nebraska along part of the Platte we hadn’t traveled and into an interesting area of Nebraska called the Sand Hills that I found intriguing.

On our last morning with the kids in Longmont, we had a nice breakfast with them. After helping with cleanup, we hit the road intending to get to Scottsbluff Nebraska by the evening.

It turned out to be an extremely windy day in the grasslands, with sustained winds easily 30-35 MPH and gusts as high as 45 MPH. We did travel the bird watching route anyway. It was a slow trip because of gravel roads, but the overall ride and scenery was awesome.

I’ve not been in an area so open and hilly, with no trees but thick prairie grasses flowing with the wind as far as you can see. We drove on the gravel roads alone, no other cars, no people, just the sight of the tall grasses running to the horizon and meeting the clear blue sky, the only sound the wind whistling through the grass.

Again, I was impressed by the vastness of the US, the open land. And then I thought of this land how the Indians likely found it, studded by thousands upon thousands of hulks of brown buffalo fur, to them an apparent endless supply of sustenance for lifetimes and generations. Now gone, none to be seen.

But still, there’s the land

On one hand, the vision is enriching and it inspires awe. On the other it’s sad, almost gut retching, considering how the land is almost wasted since the destruction of the natural resource that the land supported.

We left the grasslands and cruised just about due north along the edge of Nebraska towards Scotts Bluff, where we planned to spend the night.

Day 7 and Beyond – On to Colorado To Visit the Kids

We left Sundance the next morning for the last leg of our extended journey to Colorado to visit the kids in Longmont. It had been a good and enjoyable trip out, but it was going to be nice to get to Longmont to visit our expectant daughter and son-in-law. First, though, we had to get through Wyoming and the northern part of Colorado along the front range.

Leaving Sundance, it didn’t take long to hit the landscape that I associate with the word “Wyoming” – generally flat, few if any trees, wind torn brush, and only an occasional sign of life. “Barren” is the word that comes to mind, land that looks useless and of no real value except to exist and fill space.

I know better…this is cattle country with a huge economic value…but it still looks barren and forlorn and seems to go on forever. Maybe I just need to get to know the state better, visit more often and spend time investigating it’s good side and what it has to offer.

Once we crossed the Colorado state line and drove about another 25 miles into the state, we started see more development and some green farming (thanks to water runoff from the mountains and irrigation). We also made our mandatory stop at the state visitor welcome center in Fort Collins to pick up information on attractions.

(The stop at the first visitor center we find in every state we travel through is an old habit that hasn’t quite died; when we traveled with the kids as youngsters, we always stopped at the welcome centers to collect brochures and maps for places to go and things to do. I know it’s really not necessary in today’s internet age, but, like I said, old habits die hard and this old man still likes the look and feel of a glossy travel brochure).

We got to the kid’s house in Longmont later in the day and settled in for our somewhat extended stay.

The Visit With The Kids

Since we were retired now, we could stay a bit longer that we may have otherwise. In all, we visited for eight days (nine nights). It was a great opportunity to visit and talk to the expectant parents and help them a bit with some of the “getting ready” steps. Dave’s parents also stopped for a couple of nights on their way home to Atlanta, so it gave us a chance to renew our acquaintance with them since we hadn’t seen them since the wedding in July of 2016.

We also had a chance to get down to Denver so Kathy could visit her favorite stitching store. We also discovered that Longmont was home to about four different RV centers, giving us a chance to see many different trailers to consider as options for future camping trips.

The weather during our stay was generally great, cool but clear and sunny, except for a surprise early fall snowstorm one day that dumped about four to five inches of snow along the front range. It was short lived, though, melting quickly by the next day.

The nice weather allowed opportunity to get out for a nice walk around McIntosh Lake with Dave and Becky and Liz and Wayne (Dave’s parents) the weekend we were all at the house together. Located in northern Longmont not far from the kid’s house, the lake and surrounding green space provides fantastic walking opportunities with great mountain views and bird watching.

Kathy was elated to go on shopping trips to help Becky buy things for the arrival of the little one. At Becky’s request, I kept myself busy for a day or two measuring and charting out the backyard to help them tackle landscaping in the spring. We also busied ourselves with leap frogging the guest room furniture from one spare room to another, opening up one of the bedrooms to become the nursery. Once the guest room furniture was moved, Kathy helped by doing some trim painting and moving some new baby furniture into the new nursery.

Overall, we had a great, relaxing visit with the kids. It was a nice introduction to retirement and an even nicer chance to share in their enthusiasm and joy of preparing for parenthood.

But, alas, ultimately, we had to move on and head home. Still, we had decided to take a little longer on our return trip and do some sightseeing in Colorado and Nebraska on the way home.