TOWANDA — Route 66 might have formally ceased to exist as a freeway in 1985, however individuals are still getting their kicks along the “Mother Road” corridor — usually by bicycle.
Parts of the deliberate U.S. Bicycle Route 66 have been developed by way of McLean County. It is a good choice for individuals who need the agricultural biking expertise with out driving the identical highway as motorized visitors.
One in all my favourite rides is what I name Towanda-to-Towanda-to-Towanda, a roundtrip journey from Towanda Avenue and Shelbourne Drive in Normal to the village of Towanda and again, a visit of about 12 miles, relying on how far by way of Towanda you pedal.
It’s enjoyable, informative and enjoyable.
Whereas some communities are relative newcomers to embracing previous Route 66 as a vacationer attraction or a part of their historical past, Towanda stepped up in the late 1990s.
That is when a Regular Group Excessive Faculty instructor, Fred Stroll, acquired his college students concerned in changing an deserted portion of the previous route as a strolling and biking path.
When he first took his college students to the positioning “and defined my imaginative and prescient,” Stroll stated they have been skeptical.
As soon as they began sketching plans on paper, it turned extra actual. Along with studying about Route 66’s historical past and geography, college students realized to “change into energetic of their neighborhood,” stated Stroll.
College students did analysis. They launched a profitable marketing campaign to avoid wasting the Cash Creek bridge, stopping a niche within the path’s path. They designed and created giant murals for every of the eight states alongside the Illinois-to-California route.
He stated college students have a tremendous quantity of expertise “while you present them avenues to faucet into it.”
The challenge additionally enabled them to “go away a legacy of their very own,” he stated. “I meet a few of my college students out right here with their youngsters.”
There are Burma-Shave indicators, recreating the previous promoting technique; gardens, greater than 130 timber, benches and data indicators.
“We now have visitors here from all over the world, particularly western Europe,” stated Stroll.
A big, suitable-for-selfies Route 66 signal on the intersection of Historic Route 66 and Jefferson Road was a fundraising challenge of third-graders.
A map of the USA, which Stroll stated would be the just one on pavement that was once a part of Route 66, has the route painted on it — permitting guests to “stroll” from Chicago to L.A.
“We now have an ideal group of volunteers,” with Rick and Carol Myers being instrumental in landscaping work, stated Stroll. As well as, “the village has helped immensely with upkeep and mowing,” he stated.
Through the years, the route has been popularized by the TV program “Route 66,” the “Route 66” tune with lyrics about getting your kicks, John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” and, extra just lately, the animated Pixar film “Vehicles.”
“Folks see it as a possibility, a slice of Americana,” stated Stroll.
Avid bike owner Bob Williams of Regular rides the U.S. Route 66 bike path a few times every week, usually combining it with flippantly traveled roads to “take the good distance again,” he stated. He’s joyful to see McLean County working to expand the bike trail and join present sections.
On Wednesday, set up of a pedestrian bridge over Timber Creek started south of Funks Grove as work continues on a brand new phase from 1 mile south of Shirley to past Funks Grove.
McLean County engineer Jerry Stokes stated work ought to be accomplished by the primary a part of October.
The county intends to use for funding by way of the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program in November to finish a Towanda-to-Lexington connection, he stated.
“As ITEP funds are made accessible, it’s the intent of the Route 66 Consortium to proceed with the development of the path by way of McLean County,” stated Stokes.
See pictures: U.S. Route 66 in Towanda
PHOTOS: Route 66 Bike Path development
Contact Lenore Sobota at (309) 820-3240. Comply with her on Twitter: @Pg_Sobota
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