After lingering gray and gloom in Michigan, we finally experienced a rare February weekend of sunshine and temperatures nearing 60. So this past Saturday, February 18, my hubby Randy and I decided it was time for us to fly.
We often reminisce about the flying Route 66 trip we made last summer for our wedding. It’s fun to look back on our adventure and rehash everything we saw and experienced. So it’s no wonder that Route 66 once again popped into my head when trying to decide on an aviation day trip. Route 66 starts in Chicago and heads southwest, through much of Illinois. During our trip last summer, our first and only stop in Illinois was Litchfield, which is in the southern part of the state. There are many towns along the northernmost section of Illinois Route 66 that are easily accessible by airplane in less then two hours.
After a bit of research on the internet, I found that the historical town of Pontiac, IL, approximately 180 miles from our home base of Hastings, MI, offered up some interesting attractions, including several museums. So the decision was made. Route 66, here we come again!
A pleasant flight took us along the bottom of Lake Michigan, over Michigan City and Gary, IN. A nice clear day with good visibility offered up nice views of the Chicago skyline in the distance. Leaving the Chicago area to the southwest, it is amazing how quickly the industrial steel mills and urban landscapes give way to a panorama of farms and cornfields. Below us, wind farms dotted with hundreds of massive wind turbines stretched out in all directions as far as we could see.
We touched down at the Pontiac municipal airport (KPNT) at 10:30AM local time. The gentleman manning the FBO was very accommodating. He fueled the airplane and offered us the use of the airport courtesy car for the day.
Someday I think I’ll write a blog just on the subject of courtesy cars. You never know what you are going to get Many of them are old retired police cruisers or beater cars donated to airports to serve out their last days hauling transient pilots. But this was the mother of all courtesy cars! It was an older model and mechanically had probably seen better days. But man, was it awesome. A custom airbrush design by local artist Tang-Dangbai, formerly of Beijing, China, featured an aviation motif combined with a Pontiac, IL/Route 66 theme. Check out the photos and you’ll agree, this is the most artistic airport vehicle ever. Tang also owns and operates an airbrush school in Pontiac.
We made the short drive to town and our first stop was the historical Pontiac museum complex – three museums located on different floors in the same building which was formerly the firehouse. The Route 66 museum on the ground floor houses a wonderful collection of memorabilia from the entire route beginning in Illinois and ending in California. Walk up a flight of stairs and you will feel that you have travelled in a time machine back to the 1940s. This floor leads to a life sized reproduction of a 1940’s house, complete with living room, kitchen, laundry area and bedroom. There is also a reproduction of a 1940s wartime canteen, complete with big band music.
On the top level you will find the Livingston County War Museum. The collection is vast and amazing. There are over 250 life-sized mannequins, each wearing the uniform of a soldier from WWI to present day. What makes this exhibit so unique, is the fact that each uniform bears the name and story of the soldier who wore it. Many of them include a photo of the soldier as well. This collection has been meticulously and lovingly maintained by a volunteer staff of military veterans and history enthusiasts who love to share their stories and experiences.
After spending several hours exploring the museums and chatting with the volunteers, we headed for lunch across town at a the Old Log Cabin restaurant, an icon of Route 66. The Old Log Cabin opened in 1926 before Route 66 existed. At that time it was a lunch counter with a service station, and faced the existing town road. When Route 66 came to town, the restaurant starting losing business, as it was facing away from the highway and hard to spot. The resourceful owners took on the challenging task of turning the building around so it would face Route 66. It must have been a successful ruse, as they are still in business over 90 years later!
After a comfort lunch of grilled ham and cheese sandwiches and homemade corn chowder, we made our way back to town for a walking tour. There are several wall murals scattered through town, as well as a good number of shops. The Vermilion River runs through town and there are three unique wooden swinging pedestrian bridges crossing the river, the oldest, circa 1898. Pontiac is also the Livingston county seat and the grandiose courthouse stands proud in the town square and is quite a sight to see. We made a pass over town on our departure flight so I could capture some shots from above. Another great adventure was had revisiting our beloved Route 66! We hope you enjoyed tagging along and we look forward to seeing where next time takes us!