Get Your Kitsch on Route 66

We rode the middle route of Trailnet’s Route 66 bicycle ride today. This ride was a lot easier than the Great Pizza ride of two weeks ago. There were almost no hills and the wind was hardly noticeable. We drove to Edwardsville, IL, which was holding its annual Route 66 festival. From there we looped north, riding on parts of historic Route 66 and also some Madison County bike trails.

The Pink Elephant Antique Mall was certainly the highlight of this ride for us. This antique mall adjoins I-55 in Livingston, IL. I-55 has usurped the Mother Road’s preeminence is this part of Illinois. We’ve driven by the Pink Elephant countless times on runs to Chicago and beyond, but we’ve never bothered to stop at it, while we were whizzing down the interstate in our automobile. The slower mode of locomotion that bicycling affords lends itself to the kinds of attractions that were the regular fare, when Route 66 was in its prime.

The Pink Elephant may have been the highlight of this ride, but it certainly wasn’t its only attraction. The farmers are slowly, but steadily getting the corn crop in the ground this year. With all of the rain that we’ve received, it has been difficult for them to find enough dry time, to plow and plant. While most of the corn is only ankle high, a few fields are more than knee-high. I give those fields the best chance to be as high as a pink elephant’s eye, by the Fourth of July. But considering the wizardry that is occurring at Monsanto these days, I wouldn’t count out any of the planted fields that we saw today, in their race for the height of an elephant’s eye. While almost everything is quite green, there were some fields of weeds that were grey and desiccated. I figured that they had been sprayed with Round-Up and were now ready for tilling and planting.

We saw a lot of storm damage from last weekend’s storms. One farm had all of its trees ripped to shreds and a large multi-story corrugated storage bin lay crumpled and twisted on its side. The farmer was busy burning the downed limbs in a huge bonfire in the back, while his children ran about playing in the driveway. That must have been one scary night for them. When we got back to Edwardsville, we came in on a bicycle trail. It was completely cleared, but you could see all of the scuffing and scrapes that the workmen and their heavy equipment did to the trail’s asphalt pavement. Most of this work was needed on sections of trail that ran along the raised bed of the old railroad line. On either side of this earthen trestle countless trees lay fallen, either snapped like twigs or hacked into submission by chain saws. Last weekend we encountered some storm damage on the bicycle trails on Edwardsville’s southeast side. Today’s storm signs were on the northwest side and they were way worse.

To end on a happier note, we did see a couple of other oddities and they were almost adjoining each other. One was like a Noah’s Ark farm. It had miniature ponies, llamas, emus, donkeys, goats, sheep, ducks, geese and who knows what else. Just down the road a bit was a house, whose yard was filled with handmade lawn art, punctuated with political and religious signs. One sign said, “Make Chicago a State”. Downstate Illinoisans don’t appreciate the fact that greater Chicago’s much greater population rules politics in the state. The lawn art also had a Noah’s Ark feel. Most of the sculptures were of animals that might have been on the Ark. That is except for one pair, a pair of dinosaurs. One of this pair lay stricken on the ground, while the other hovered over it. I guess that is one explanation of how and when the dinosaurs went extinct.

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