Sunday, May 11, 2008

Get Your Kicks

Part of what motivated me to visit my sister in Chicago (besides the obvious: that I haven't seen her in a year and a half and I miss her) was the opportunity to do a little driving on Route 66.

I'm not quite sure when I developed an obsession with The Mother Road, but I can tell you that it coincided with my discovery that there are a lot of kitschy and retro attractions all along the way. My love of the kitschy and retro has been mentioned here before. I am known to use the phrase "tacky, but in a good way," and mean it.

When I'm stressed out, I fantasize about packing everything I can into a U-Haul, sticking the cat in her carrier, and simply driving away from my life to start over elsewhere. I dream of hitting the open road - just me, the cat, a journal, and some good traveling tunes.

I thought it might be healthier to explore the road trip idea a little, but without actually running away from home and making my cat carsick. All that remained was selling my sister on the idea.

I knew we'd only have a day to do this in, and I wasn't sure she'd want to wander aimlessly around Illinois. So I did a little internet research and found an attraction we could base our trip around:

Gemini Giant, a 50-foot fiberglass spaceman outside the Launching Pad Diner in Wilmington. He's a relic from the 60s, when America's imagination was captured by the space program. It took some research and a call to the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce to make sure the diner was still open.

I emailed the information to my sister, and waited with trepidation, picturing that she might suddenly fear for my sanity - and, possibly, remember that she had something terribly important to do that weekend. Instead, she emailed back "That looks awesome."

I love my sister.

We had a great time driving from downtown Chicago to Wilmington. We passed through Joliet and bought sodas at a Route 66 tourist trap that had Jake and Elwood Blues dancing on top of it. We stopped at a gift shop and I bought a Route 66 shot glass (tacky, but in a good way), and got a little off course a couple of times (it's been a while since I've navigated, and my mind wandered). Finally, Rachel yelled "There he is!" and we saw our spaceman, right by the side of the road. We stopped, took some pictures, and ate a greasy lunch.

Outside the diner were some bikers. Another of my odd little hobbies is getting my photo taken with ineresting characters, so Rachel walked right up to them and asked if they'd mind posing with me. They were actually quite nice and agreed to the photo shoot.

We all look pretty chummy, don't we? You don't know the half of it. The one on the left has his hand on what I like to call my "hip-butt juncture."

It was a day to get your kicks on Route 66. And if feeling up a 44-year-old's ass is that guys idea of kicks, then God bless him. I just smiled for the camera and thanked them after the picture was taken. That's how I roll.