We crammed a lot of stops in today, and are going to have a really full day tomorrow, too, and I’m about wiped out. So instead of writing about every stop from today, I’m going to write about a new one for me, as well as one that Shane and I made eleven years ago. Both of these stops just blew my mind.
The one that Shane and I made (and Ken and I also did today) was a trip to North Cotton Hill Road, an old, closed-off alignment of Route 66. The road is closed, but you can park and walk down as far as you can. This was much easier back when Shane and I did it, because it is becoming very overgrown now. Ken reminded me that that was eleven years ago, so it was to be expected. Logically, I realize that, but it still amazed me to see just how wild it’s becoming. We had to fight through some fairly thick underbrush and over a couple of barricades, but we finally got to the end of the road. Well, I suppose it’s still there, but it’s at the bottom of Lake Springfield! When they made the lake, part of it was over Route 66, so the road just vanishes into the lake. Shane and I could see it very well, but it’s very obscured now, and you wouldn’t realize what was going on unless you had a guidebook.
The other stop was a new one for me. I don’t know why Shane and I didn’t do this one, because it’s in the same guidebook we were using back then. Maybe the timing didn’t work out, or something. This was just south of Lincoln, and it’s called the Ghost Bridge over Salt Creek, or The Bridge That Is Not There. (That’s how my guidebook describes it!) I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it turned out to be an original brick alignment of Route 66 (the road is Cobblestone Avenue, appropriately enough). It is located between two cemeteries, and it is also closed off. (Someone seems to have broken the gate, however, and has driven down the closed off road; we were good citizens and walked. Besides, it was neater that way.) It’s a little bit of a trek, and it was very hot and humid today, so it was fairly strenuous.
It was extremely quiet, with only the startling rustle of critters in the leaves and foliage. These turned out to be very dangerous and vicious chipmunks. They were everywhere, so they’ve managed to make themselves a nice little colony for themselves on Route 66!
As you continue on, the pavement becomes more broken up. Much of it was concrete over brick, but we came across a very broken section and Ken worked really hard to dig us out a brick, so we now have an original Route 66 brick! (This is not a protected stretch of road. It is going back to nature, and will eventually be completely hidden and obliterated.) We kept going, and finally came to an area where there were big chunks of concrete. The paved road was completely gone, and we walked along the dirt trail to find...
Concrete bridge supports that supported...the GHOST BRIDGE! Bwahaha! Okay, so they just tore the bridge part off of the supports. Still, it was one of the coolest things I’ve seen along the way. Maybe because you have to kind of work for it, and since I had never heard about this, it was a complete surprise. Although it’s obvious that at least some people have found it, judging by the campfire and empty beer cans everywhere, it was completely new to me. The vegetation is overgrowing everything, and it was what I would consider urban ruins. It made me think of “Planet of the Apes.” It’s obvious that it wouldn’t take all that long for nature to completely reclaim this planet if we weren’t around.
Both the North Cotton Hill Road and Cobblestone Avenue portions of Route 66 have the concrete curbs that you seen on older alignments.
Another highlight for me today was the oldest alignment, 1926-1930 near Girard and Nilwood. This narrow concrete road winds its way through farmland. The entire roadway (two-way traffic) is 16 feet wide, which is incredibly narrow. There are sharp S-curves along the way, and when you stop to think about the road being a very busy highway rather than a deserted country road, you understand why they called it Bloody 66. Some of this section is pretty rough, and much of the pavement is cracked, with grass and weeds growing up through the cracks. I love these older parts, because it’s what the highway actually looked like then. There are many sections that are perfectly drivable and well maintained, but they are also often paved over. These narrow concrete sections are unchanged from the ‘20s, and I think you can get a real feel for what it must have been like when it first opened.
We talked to a lot of interesting people today, had some great food, and enjoyed the day in many ways, but today, for me, the Road was the star.