Saturday, September 16, 2017

Joliet, Illinois, Route 66 and Chicago

September 10 - 12, 2017:

There are so many great towns along the Michigan coast that I’m blowing right past, it kills me, but we have to pick up the pace.  It’s a perfect weather day, we are currently having a very welcome streak of good weather.  We are towing again as we are running all highway and it’s flat on routes 31 - 197- 80 - 7 - 6 to the Hollywood Casino in Joliet, Illinois.  It’s a big travel day for us from Michigan to Indiana and into Illinois, it’s been a while since I’ve been in three states in one day.  It wan’t exactly an easy ride as there was much road construction and really rough highways in parts of Indiana and Illinois.

The Hollywood Casino is the first non-Indian casino we have stayed at and their rates are comparable to a private campground.  The campsites are nice with electric and water hookups with a dump station and shower room.  They also allow you access to the free breakfast buffet at the hotel.  The Casino itself has a plush Hollywood decor with two large gambling floors, a brew pub, a restaurant, a deli and an entertainment hall.  

At night it seems like Hollywood

The first European to recognizie the value of the area was the cities namesake, Louis Joliet, who along with Jesuit Father Jacques Marquette and a group of Voyageurs were the first non natives to explore and map the Mississippi River in the 1670's.

Louis Joliet statue in front of the Library

The city of Joliet has many impressive old buildings and was a very prosperous city in the early 1900’s.  It’s one of those cities that fell victim to urban decay after WWII and continues to struggle today, but there appears to be much new construction and promise for the downtown core.  
The original Union Station was saved and has been restored, but is no longer used as a train station.  A brew pub / restaurant is located in part of the building and the rest is rented for special events.  A new train station is under construction that will be able to serve Amtrak, Metra Heritage Corridor and Metra Rock Island Corridor rail lines.
Welcome sign

The Rialto Theater is one of most beautiful theaters in the country

It just doesn't get much better than this

The Marx Brothers who started with a chicken farm nearby
went on to comedy  fame and played at the Rialto Theater

Union Station

The Post Office

I liked the ornate stone work and the faded flag 

There are a series of these murals near Union Station

New sports stadium near Union Station

The Joliet High School is like a castle

Most of the railroad underpasses have these aging sports murals
that hopefully will be redone in the future

The Jacob Henry Mansion, Mr.  Henry was a railroad magnate

Original route 66 and the Lincoln Highway both come through downtown Joliet and actually cross each other.  The Lincoln highway was the first transcontinental highway built in 1916.  There are exhibits on both along with the history of Joliet at the Joliet Area Historical Museum.  If you remember the classic Blues Brothers movie, there was a classic scene when Jake was released from Joliet Prison after which Jake and Elwood takeTh off for Chicago.

Route 66 sign

One of many great lines from the movie

Intersection of Rout 66 and the Lincoln Highway

Lincoln Highway was the first transcontinental road opened in 1916

Location of Bill Jacob's famous 1950's Chevy dealership on route 66

Old Joliet street view with street car

It all started with the hand dug Canal

Joliet was also the wallpaper capital of the country

The “Illinois and Michigan  Canal (I & M Canal) was built between 1836 and 1848, passing through Joliet and stretching for nearly 100 miles connecting the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan.  The canal provided a shipping route that was a huge economic boom to the area.  Shortly afterwards the railroads arrived which eventually diminished the importance of the canal.  Portions of the canal remain today and are protected as the “Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor.  Eventually the Des Plains River, also flowing through Joliet,  was developed into the current  water transportation link for boat traffic between the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan.
Joliet Limestone was discovered during the digging of the I & M Canal and became highly valued as a building material. The mining of Limestone then became the first industry in Joliet.  Following this many industries developed in Joliet, but most notable was Steel and Joliet became one of the largest Steel manufacturing centers in the country.  This is when Joliet became known as the "City of Stone and Steel".  Today, the Steel Mill is closed, but several major corporations are in the area, such as the world Headquarters of the Caterpillar Company.   
The I & M Canal

A tug pushing a barge down the Des Plains River

View down the river from a bridge

There are many of these steel lift bridges in the city

We take the Metra Rock Island Train into Chicago to the La Salle Street Station.  Metra has a fleet of Bi-level cars with a very awkward looking upper level design, but the crews probably love them as they don’t have to go up and down to collect tickets on the upper floor.  As the floor is open in the center, they can reach up from below to get your ticket.  It’s also weird being able to look down on people below like some kind of voyeur.  It was a beautiful day to walk around Chicago and that is what we did, for about 8 miles.  We didn’t go into any indoor attractions, it was too nice a day and after the train ride we were not interested in a guided tour.

Beautiful Chicago River scene, so many tour boats

Unfortunately, the Kay Jewelers sign kind of trashes the buildings facade

The bright lights of the Palmer House

A massive ornate clock with Muddy Waters in the
background, both are timeless

The Chicago Theater is also timeless

The London House on the the historic site of Fort Dearborn

Beautiful lakefront park

Great wildflower and birds mural
I love these long street views 

We are now leaving the Great Lakes behind and heading towards Wisconsin.

The next stop is Madison, Wisconsin;
Twinkles and Slick

Monday, September 11, 2017

Holland State Park, Michigan

September 7 - 9, 2017:

It seems that every day it is periods of sun, clouds and rain around the Great Lakes and today is another one.  We get on the road about 9:30 before it starts, but shorty afterwards it starts and continues on and off most of the day.  I shouldn’t complain as many people are having “real” weather issues. Instead I will complain about the rapidly increasing price of gas, this is a fake shortage.  
We travel virtually the entire 146 miles today on route 31 south going through a couple of really nice affuent looking towns such as Muskegon and Grand Haven.  The rain stops about the time we arrive at Holland State Park on Lake Macatawa off Lake Michigan.  There are two separate campgrounds here, the Beach Campground which is a parking lot adjacent to the beach and the Lake Macatawa Campground which is a more traditional campground with trees, grass, tables and fire pits.  We are in the Macatawa Campground with electric hookup.  Our annual Michigan State Park pass has payed for itself many times over now, but still these State Parks end up costing about the same as a private campground.  

Within walking distance of the campground is the large sandy Ottawa Beach.  There is a breakwater extending into the lake to protect the harbor inlet that you can walk out onto, quite far.  Across from the inlet on the opposite shore is the iconic Lighthouse known as “Big Red”,  one of the most photographed lighthouses on the Lake Michigan coastline. There also a trail that climbs 230 steps uphill onto the top of the Mt. Pisgah sand dune. 
The Holland Harbor Lighthouse, known as "Red Red" was built in 1907

The Ottawa Beach has attracted bathers for centuries

The breakwater is an interesting walk especially if the lake is rough

The harbor marker lights at its end

Bird feathers on the beach covered with dew caught my attention

In 1885 a group of prominent Grand Rapids investors and executives of the Chicago & West Michigan Railroad formed the West Michigan Park Association.  They bought 75 acres of land to create a resort of vacation cottages and a grand hotel.  The Ottawa Beach Hotel opened in 1886 and was one of the finest resort hotels of its day, attracting patrons from all over Lake Michigan and beyond. It was expanded over the years, but like most grand resorts did not last long, burning in 1923 and was never rebuilt.  Nothing is left of the hotel today except old photos and memories, but the land was saved from development with the creation of Holland State Park in 1928.  

The history of the place was special

They attracted the rich and famous

By train

And by boat
The city of Holland was founded by a small band of people led by the reverend Albertus C. Raalte who left the Netherlands for the US in search of religious freedom and better economic conditions.  They arrived in Michigan in 1847 in the wild, swampy and densely forested landscape, not exactly what they envisioned, but they made the best of it and developed a successful colony. By the 1860’s and 1870’s, Holland was accessible to commercial shipping, had an institution of higher learning that would become Hope College and had two railroad spurs.  In the 20th century, Holland became a thriving industrial center.  In the 1920’s the Tulip Festival started which today is a major tourist attraction.  There is a very vibrant downtown area today filled with nice shops, restaurants, several brew pubs, a museum, a theater, the Hope College campus and many attractions.

Holland's streets are lined with beautiful flowers

Windmills are big here too

The Tower Clock building built in 1892

The Holland Museum built in 1915

The Park Theater

Bell Telephone building built in  1929

Cherry Republic, a personal favorite store of mine

Very interesting brick work

The Fifth Third Bank built in 1928, a most
beautiful bank inside and out

The upper section of the bank

The streets are lined with banners that compliment
the stores, this was was in front of a peanut shop

Beautiful thoughts at a store entrance 

There are several interesting bars and brew pubs in downtown Holland which mostly attract the college crowd.  It’s a pretty conservative crowd, haven’t seen any dreadlocks and all the college girls look wholesome, so don’t expect anything very wild.  A few places occasionally have live music, but only if it pays, as is the “business model” these days.  I go to a nearby bar / restaurant that calls itself the “Itty Bitty Bar” and the “5 star rated dive bar”, (both names are pathetically lame and inaccurate) although by size of the dining crowd there they must be doing something right ?  They had a blues band playing with a harmonica playing front man with a strong booming voice but not enough guitar for my liking.

Holland has a great Saturday Farmers market, the best we've been to this year for vegetables, fruit and especially berries, pears, apples and quite possibly the best blueberry donuts.  I kept seeing people eating these donuts and finally we came to the stand, people were lined up, I had to have one and I have to say, it was the best.

Had to get some fresh sweet corn

Those peppers were luscious looking

Even the potatoes were exciting

Everyone wanted the blueberry donuts

Another Holland attraction is the famous 36 acre Windmill Island Gardens with the historic De Zwaan Windmill built near Amsterdam in 1761.  As the tulip’s aren’t in bloom and there was a hefty  admission charge we did't visit.  We did go the the Neis Dutch Village, but it’s mostly for children and it also has a hefty admission charge so we just visited one of the outside shops and bought some Dutch cookies.  After a brief stop at the great public library in Holland, we go “New Holland Brewing” for lunch.  We have been seeing New Holland beer all over for the past month and didn't realize it was in Holland, Michigan until we stumbled upon it here. 

The New Holland Brewery, Pub on 8th

Twinkles had done the trail up Mt. Pisgah so I had to do it also, can't let her get ahead, so off we go on Saturday afternoon.  The view from the peak was as good as she said it was.

On top on Mt Pisgah with quite a view

Looking down on Ottawa Beach and Big Red

There is a recycling center, or a salvage yard or what we used to call a junk yard in a former industrial area very close to downtown which has done a nice job of hiking and beautifying their property.  They were done by the Louis Padnos Iron & Metal Company and I thought they should be recognized.

Giant figure, woodcutter ?

A dog sled, loved the way the tongue was hanging

Junk Yard Dog

View inside the yard, this looks like art too !

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The next stop is Joliet, Illinois;
Twinkles and Slick