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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Must ride bike on Mother Road

While I'll never be as fascinated with Route 66 as much as Mother Road enthusiasts Ron Warnick and Emily Priddy are, I have to admit that I have some interest in the history behind Route 66.

As a participant in Saturday's Route 66 Trail "trail-breaking" event sponsored by the League of Illinois Bicyclists, I got a small taste of the Mother Road.

My intention was to ride either from the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge or Edwardsville to Staunton, but a late night of copy editing and page designing at the Belleville News-Democrat on Friday night and the fact I was in charge of getting the paper out Saturday night meant I had to curtail my plans.

I instead drove up to Staunton and did a short trip from Staunton to Mount Olive and back. Even though I'm a native of Macoupin County (Brighton, to be precise), I had never visited Mother Jones' gravesite in Mount Olive or Henry's Rabbit Ranch in Staunton.

Most people have heard of Mother Jones magazine, but they may not know about the woman the magazine is named after.

Mary Harris "Mother" Jones was a prominent labor organizer in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and she was known for her efforts to build support for the United Mine Workers. Before she died in 1930 at the age of 100, she asked to be buried with “her boys” in the Union Miners Cemetery in Mount Olive. Buried near her are miners who died in an 1898 riot in nearby Virden.

Upon my return to Staunton, I briefly talked with Rich Henry, the co-owner of Henry's Rabbit Ranch. Rich and his wife, Linda, have turned an old Mother Road service station into a Route 66 visitor's center filled with memorabilia about Route 66 and the trucking industry.

As part of the event, the city of Staunton dedicated the Duda Gardens, which eventually will serve as a trailhead for the ITS Trail from Staunton to Benld and a Madison County Transit trail that will stretch from Staunton to Worden.

There, I got to see an old friend from my college days, freelance photographer Dennis Garrels. Dennis was shooting the event for his hometown's weekly paper, but he's photographed scenes from Route 66. You can see a video of Dennis talking about his work at the Route 66 Today Web site.

The Route 66 Trail is a work in progress. Most of the trail is on road and often strays away from the Mother Road for safety reasons. The League of Illinois Bicyclists says the route will change as more off-road trails are developed and existing roads are improved.

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Roger 1 comments links to this post 9:06 PM

the headwind was brutal from Lincoln to Springfield...but it was a good ride anyway. Met new peeps along the way and enjoyed the mother road 1st hand.
I'm now thinking I will do a 2-3 day trip from my home to Springfield...along 66--let the planning begin.
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