Route 66, Hot Air Balloons, and St. Louis

We finally had lift off from our Wisconsin stopover and took off heading south like a bat out hell … well, for about 25 minutes. We quickly had tire pressure problems after we thought we had filled the tires to a good pressure in Rockford, IL. We have monitors attached to each of our six tires and a wireless receiver in the coach displaying the pressures. One of our tires was dropping pressure at an alarming rate and our device had gone from green, to “cautionary” yellow, and it was just about to hit “seriously, get off the road!” red when we got to a gas station. An extender we attached to the tire nozzle was causing the air leak. Our subsequent problem was finding a gas station with an air compressor powerful enough to fill our tires. We went to four different stations trying to fill our tire and after all these attempts only got enough into it to get us down the road a bit to a truck stop station where we got decent pressure. My lesson learned: not all gas station air is equal. Technical problems, detours, and a late start, left us with 89 miles of travel our first day back on the road. We spent the night in Utica, IL.

Heading south, after Bloomington, IL, you meet up with Route 66. I was surprised because I didn’t associate it with states like Illinois. But it’s there and just as historic and kitschy as the rest (I assume). In Atlanta, IL we visited this muffler man holding a hot dog. They are called muffler men because these fellows typically hold mufflers in their giant hands, but many are modified into holding all manner of things. This 19-foot tall chap used to stand outside of a hot dog restaurant called Bunyon’s on Route 66 and now resides here for 66 tourist like us to enjoy.

Across the street from the pokerfaced man and his monster hot dog is the Palms Grill. This place originally opened in 1934 on Route 66 and was a popular stop. It was restored to its original glory in 2009, so we happily stopped in for a little taste and feel of yesteryear.

Homemade berry-berry pie a la mode was our treat for the day and it was pretty good.

Just a few miles south from here we encountered Lincoln, IL. We started to see signs for the Art & Balloon Festival. A quick check on the iPhone gave us the full schedule of events for this annual two-day festival. What lucky timing! We made our way to the airport and walked the fairground. Kites were a big part of the afternoon; we had a lot of discussion on favorites and finally agreed to disagree (mine was the octopus, Finn liked the lobster).

In the evening the balloons began to fill and we were able to watch the process.

There were about a dozen hot air balloons in all. At dusk they did what is called a “glow” when they all fire-up at the same time for a photo op. We partook of the offer and took some good shots of the spectacle. I also posted some video on Facebook of the balloon “flicker”, when they all go nuts with the fire blasts, and video of the kites. Check out the video here.

We moved on after the “glow” and, after a night near Springfield, worked our way south to St. Louis. There we took in a few sights, like the arch which is really very beautiful and I’d say the best city monument I’ve ever seen, but we were most excited to meet up with an old friend.

Our pal Frank took us to a great place for lunch called Blueberry Hill and then over to Ted Drewes, *the* name for custard in St. Louis. I had the Dutchman concrete – chocolate, butterscotch and pecans. I thought I’d never eat again. It was really great to see an old friend and catch up in St. Louis. Thanks Frank!

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