Fall – Autumn – Indian Summer – I really don’t know what to expect this year! We had a strange Spring, a summer that was hot and wet, we’re moving into a Fall that’s hot, wet and with cooler nights and I am so not ready for Winter. It seems overnight the trees have shades of red and gold in them, the crops are high and tasseled, the soy plants bushy and dark green. Lots to do and so little time. I think I’m going to call a moratorium on being “ready” for anything.
It’s been eight years since we welcomed the Bob Waldmire bus to our Pontiac museum. During this time we’ve had countless personalities – public and private – come to tour Bob’s “house.” Sometimes the visitors come in quietly, amazed by what’s inside, and after some lengthly looking around and asking questions, people sit down and ask more questions or take the time to share with the volunteers on the bus a story about Bob, or about meeting Bob, or seeing a video of Bob on their computers.
It’s never Mr Waldmire, it’s always “Bob” in a respectful tone. Many people who come through the bus share their story – their own personal health issues, their own personal battle with cancer, or they share why they are on a journey on 66 and how this bus is important to them. I had a gentleman from France in the bus this past Saturday who told me about his trials and issues with cancer, and how he struggled to be healthy enough to make the Route 66 tour he had planned two years earlier when he was healthy. He had read up on Bob and his lifestyle and felt that visiting the bus would give him the strength to go home and make sweeping changes in his life as he felt he was being drawn to do. After sitting in the bus reflecting on the simplicity of Bob’s house, he turned to me and said he wasn’t sure he could give up everything for the life he felt called to lead. I suggested he modify his expectations and take smaller steps and I assured him small steps are just as risky as large ones – thankfully he laughed with me, and after meditating for a while he left. I sincerely hope he finds health and peace and his path in life. Bob was an ordinary man who followed his heart which led to extraordinary relationships with a lot of people. Route 66 people are special – they have a lot to share if you let them.
We had a great tour, and a Summer full of volunteers at the museum and on the bits and pieces of preservation projects we have along the road.
As the weather changes, I want to remind everyone that starting November 1st through March 31st, the Museum hours are 10:00 AM -4:00 PM. The bus will be closed for the winter as well.
The Preservation Committee will be moving our traveling exhibits back into the Funks Grove Rest Stop soon. The geothermal heating/cooling has never worked quite like it was supposed to – and the excess condensation threatened our display. John Weiss and a crew from Preservation safely stored our 66 gear away – and now that the rest stop is “fixed,” volunteers will spend a day setting up the two displays again. This is the busiest rest stop in Illinois and we’re anxious to share our Mother Road miles with those headed north or south.
Route 66 means so much to so many people whether it’s about freedom, or a bucket list, a final “waltz” down the two lane – whatever, the road has aa story for everyone on it. Did you ever share your story?
It’s that time of the year for Hall of Fame nominations! If you know any business, service, destination, place or person who has contributed to the road in Illinois, please share their story! There is an outline of Hall of Fame rules on our website; it’s available by request from me and there are printed copies at the Hall of Fame museum (see page 20)! Don’t let another year go by when you feel that there is something in Illinois that needs to be honored and become part of our Hall of Fame. Don’t wait until that place or person is gone!
In October there will be an election for our Association’s officers. I want to thank all the county representatives for their efforts and time spent this last two years working on Illinois (and National) projects. The National Parks program is scheduled to “sunset” this year, and we are hopeful the National Trail will be passed in Washington and our eight state roadway will become a National Trail and be protected in the future. It doesn’t mean that the 66 Associations will no longer need to exist as guardians of their state miles, it just means that in case future generations don’t step forward for our Illinois miles, we will not be dismantled. It won’t be new bypasses or alignments. It will mean maintenance on our existing roads, and reverence for the future We are an aging population, and as much as we encourage younger participation in our Association, we need to be realistic that the National Trail will carry on when our Association’s members are too old or not physically able to do the maintenance that preservation requires. It’s not money, money, money – it’s time, time, time and healthy joints and muscles. The Road Ahead is getting stronger and more cohesive and will enable all eight states and nine Associations to work will with each other and promote economic development and tourism. Those are not Association’s job or goals, this is a national team effort to realize that going forward will need to utilize grants and work together to provide funding for places along the road.
The coming year will be a big one as we work on our local preservation project and look to help surrounding communities with theirs. I totally appreciate all the help and good will that’s been given to me over the years. The City of Pontiac has been a faithful and proactive partner in helping us make an empty building into a home for our museum. The use/reuse of building in town to add to the museum complex has given Pontiac the reputation of being a great Route 66 town to visit. I am always excited when talking with people and they casually mention that this is their second, or fourth and with one woman, her ninth trip through Pontiac, Illinois because she found the city to be the most “real.” So a huge thank you to Bob Karls and the City of Pontiac, to our docents, Rose and Mary Ann, and to the incredible John Wille who as a curator holds it all together.
So go and enjoy the season of change, put off ’til tomorrow what you can and get a few more miles in some place on the road. Whether its soup and sandwich at Horsefeathers in Elkhart, or amazing breakfast hash browns at Jubelt’s in Litchfield, or singing karaoke at the Luna Cafe in Mitchell, get out! Savor the rustling leaves and warm sunshine!
I remind you that Route 66 was built on the dream of a better day, that hard work and service and respect never goes out of style There is nothing better than a cruise down a tow lane to sooth your soul. Share your time and money with small businesses along the road – you dollar will go further and it will help keep our 91 Mother Road communities alive.
Until the snow flies, see you on the road!
Cathie Stevanovich, President
Route 66 Association of Illinois