Monday, July 09, 2012

odd metal off the mother road

I just pulled in from a road trip with an ending which could become a beginning. My interest in Route 66 seems to be growing. I’m certain that many Route 66 travelers have unusual “Mother Road” or “66” stories.
 

How does this picture:
 


relate to this picture:
 


My road trip story shows how the lure of the Mother Road connects them.

My recent trip included four states OK, AR, MO and IL. At different points I had various passengers with me. On the last leg through Illinois, I was on my own. I had the idea to stop and see one of those sights that you never seem to have the time to visit. But it was not until I was actually in Illinois that I remembered a place I had passed months ago in a little town not too far off the interstate. Even after I thought about adding a few miles on to my trip I knew the weather would need to cooperate. The downpour on one stretch of interstate highway today was so bad I thought there might be a tornado in the vicinity. The sky did clear as I reached the exit.
 

The Mother Road connection story starts before the trip. Back in January, our 91 year old uncle passed away and the funeral procession passed through this tiny town of Essex IL. I had been to this town a few times in my life but not many. My whole family noticed this vast collection of metal art as we left the town. I knew it needed closer inspection someday.


Now with clear sky, cooler air and time, I drove back to find this odd collection. When I spotted the property I noticed a car parked in the drive. The place was very quiet but Essex seems to be a very quiet town. As I parked my car I noticed a man strolling through the menagerie of metal. I called over and asked if he was the owner.
“Oh no, Jack passed away little more than a month ago. He was a good friend with great talent.” 
We talked and walked. It was his car parked in the drive. I told him about my uncle’s funeral and he told me he knew my uncle’s family store. He has written route 66 books and is an active preservationist of the Mother Road. His name is John Weiss and you can learn more about his books on his web site.

He told me the departed artist, Jack Barker, had a recent connection to route 66. On the old route 66 which is now just Ogden Ave. in Cicero IL., there stood a landmark, the Bunyon’s Statue. Back in 2003, the Cicero restaurant closed and John convinced the owner to donate the statue to the route 66 preservation group. John then got Jack to help repair and reassemble the statue which now is located in Atlanta IL.
 

I shared the story about my “king of the road” uncle’s escapade of setting up a fake detour on route 66 in the middle of the night.
 

Back to that first picture - the day before while traveling I-44 with my sister in Missouri we needed to make a nature break stop. The approaching exit did not look promising but we had noticed a gift shop on a hill a couple of miles from the exit and drove there. My sister praised the gift shop owner for his cleanness of the restroom.  It was a fun break from the driving but very random.

My first picture above is the entrance to that route 66 gift shop. I was surprised to find a small room inside dedicated to the blues and Muddy Waters. The shop owner explained that he had been Muddy Waters’ manager. I mentioned this place to John and he told me it was Scott Cameron we had met.
 

John and his late wife knew Scott who had lived in Wilmington IL (just up the road a bit from Essex). John’s wife had told Scott about the route 66 soda business opportunity which Scott now runs out of that central location in Missouri.
 

The Mother Road connected many places and people between Chicago and Santa Monica. It was wonderful to learn of a few on this trip. 







17 comments:

Rebecca said...

I'm pretty sure I saw the episode of Roadside America on PBS one Sunday morning.

lisleman said...

I have never watched that show. The episode you are talking about is one with Jack Barker's metal art in it?
thanks

CircumscribePeon38 said...

http://goo.gl/CFJ4g

Joanne said...

A great stop in a small world. Love the photos.

bearman said...

Some cool stuff. Wouldn't have them in my small yard but cool all the same

Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell said...

Those sculptures are really quite incredible. I'm glad you took the time to stop and see them, and I like all the little tidbits about that place and Route 66 you shared here. Interesting!

lisleman said...

Yes I thought maybe a youtube clip of "It's a small world" could be added to the post. thanks.

lisleman said...

The collection really filled up the area. I think the area was his previous auto repair shop. He has family who live within walking distance. You can spot their place by a few metal statues in their yard.

lisleman said...

I glad you liked them. The back stories of places are often the most interesting parts. thanks

Barbara Shallue said...

A great reminder of how small the world really is. I love these metal sculptures!! I'm so glad you went back so you could share them with us. What a wonderful trip this must have been!!

lisleman said...

It was a nice ending to a good trip.

Kathy said...

Stories learned along the road are far better than any movie or museum....interesting art and great pictures !

lisleman said...

thanks - movies and museums all have their place. Getting out on and off the road does offer live interactions.

Pat Hatt said...

Wow those sculptures? Art? whatever are kind of scary looking, but in a good way as it sure takes some skill to make them.

lisleman said...

I think imagination, time, and skill are all needed.

Peggy Kasallis said...

So the artwork is in Essex, IL? Is that off I-55?

lisleman said...

Not directly off of I-55 but not to far. It's close to Braidwood. My uncle had lived in South Wilmington which is close to Gardner (I-55 exit). Essex is 5-10 miles east of South Wilmington.
thanks for stopping by the blog and sharing a comment.

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