Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Car Culture Multiculturalism

The Rocket Man at the Launching Pad diner on the north end of  Wilmington, IL on Old Route 66.  Today it's U.S. 53.
I've passed it dozens of times, but didn't take this picture.

Here are two guys, about my age, who drove Route 66 in a red Caddy convertible.  It was a Bucket List dream for them:

Because I'm a car guy and live at the eastern end of Route 66, people sometimes ask me if I've driven it or intend to.  Nope.  I've been on stretches of it in Chicagoland.  I don't associate them with romance.  I associate them with being stuck in traffic.  When my kids were in college, I drove past the diner in the picture above many times on our way to and from their schools.  It's a destination for local Route 66 buffs.  If you are looking for 1950's and 1960's kitsch, you can find plenty of it in Illinois.  And, as the guys in the video documented, plenty more, all the way to L.A.  I'm glad they enjoyed the trip.  But I have no interest in spending a week in a Caddy exploring kitsch.

"Show and shines" are all over Chicagoland in the summer.  Mostly, they're wall-to-wall '60's cruisers and muscle cars.  Been there, done that.  Once in a while, you can see an interesting Super Stock, or a gasser.  (Saw my first Mitsu Evo VIII at a "show and shine," though.  In the Miscellaneous/Overflow lot, off the main drag.)  For that matter, the British Car Show in Chicagoland was probably "one and done" for me, although I might try it again to see if unusual cars show up.  (A Bentley LeMans Replica was there the last time.)  Walking lines of MGB's and TR-4's is about as interesting as another muscle car.  I looked at the Cars & Coffee website for Chicagoland last fall.  Mostly late-model Lambos, Corvettes, and Shelby Mustangs, with a strong customizing vibe.  Ho, hum.

On the other hand, there are four road racing courses within a 5-hour drive of Chicago.  The Fox and Kankakee River Valleys are passable fun runs.  Stretches of the Illinois Valley are scenic and short sections of it are challenging to drive.  Fortunately, my Bucket List is repeats every spring, summer, and fall.  I work race crew for a few club events and don't work the vintage sports car race.  Instead, I wander the paddock, take pictures, and hang on the fence.  Watching a pro event at Road America may have crept back onto the list.  And of course a couple of road trips to the Tail of the Dragon.  Once you get into Kentucky, the scenery is fine all the way down.  Actual hills!  If you want to see interesting vehicles, you can't do better than the parking lot at the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort.  Then there's the Dragon itself: the reason for going.  As for Route 66: love the song, forget the road.

A Killboy shot of the Tail of the Dragon Store's new dragon.  If you're gonna do kitsch, do it with flair. 

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