I-44 IL to CA and Beyond

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Senior Cook
Apr 28, 2009
Not where you live
I spend considerable time traveling between Illinois to California. AFter a while the highways all look alike and so do the motels. But every once in a whlle a special place pops up that is worth returning to for second visit.

I begin in central Illinois byy going south on I-55 to I-70W at St; Louis and then south on 270 to pick up 1-44 and continue west to Sullivan. I stop at Steak n' Shake and grab a Steakburger, I don't eat a lot because I know I will stop for a meal on the other end of the state. My next stop is usually St. James Winery in St.James as they have wonderful red house wine , plus it gets me out of the vehicle for a while. I continue on to Mount Vernon. Turn right at the McDonald's sign and continue on through the stoplight to Casey's and gas up. My next stop is just a car length or so to the Chinese Buffet. The woman who owns it fixes veggies I cannot get enough of. The offering is not large by most standards but there is plenty of variety including Kim Shee. The Egg Drop soup is excellent. The price is reasonable, Closed Monday.

Option: I continue west to I-71.and turn north about 5 miles to 575 and exit Carthage to spend the night. Once in Carthage, turn left at the first light. Continue McDonald's/Phillips gas station. There is a rood immediately to the right. It is Hazel Street. Turn rignt a block or less on the left side is a wonderful Best Western with pool. It is not too far from Precious Moments, if you are a collector. This is a Civil War era town. The courthouse and the Tru-Valu Hardware Store - especially the later- is worth the extra time.to explore. Carthage also offers a challenging 18 hole golf course at the Oak Street Park.

Side Trip: Stay one night in Grove, OKlahoma. It's about an hour from Carthage - if you know the back roads. There are some things of interst besides the 60 mile long lake. The LenDonwood Japanese Garden, and Harbor Village - the World's largest antique museum, lake cruises aboard the Cherokee Qqueen. The World's longest multiple arch dam is at the very south end of the lake. Grove also has one of the nicest full service state parks with power boat launch in the four state corner area. It accomodates RV as well as primitive camping. It is on Lake Road 1. Bernice Honey Creek State Park is the formal name, but the locals call it Honey Creek Park. Exit Afton, OK from 1-44, turn right to Hwy 59 and then turn south. (left).

If it is still early you may want to stop at Carthage or Grpve. If not continue on to Tulsa - a very upscale city. I always stop at the Royal Dragon Restaurant at 7837 E. 51st in the Fontana Shopping Center. It is elegant and complete with full bar, full menu, buffet and koi. I stay at the Holiday Inn because it is not far from the Interstate.

Leaving Tulsa I head west toward 1-40 and Oklahoma City. The next stop is Shamrock, Texas. I prefer the Best Western Shamrock Inn although I stayed one night at the Econo Inn and was quite pleased. I've eaten in town a couple of times. The food is okay. The next stop is at Amarillo, Texas for gas and snaks, I usually stop a truck stop before I reach Amarillo. There is plenty of room to exercise the legs and feet.

Option: South of Amarillo about 15 miles or so is the entrance to Palo Duro Canyon. It is called the Little Grand. It is not nearly as big but it interesting and in the summer evenings they enact old west shows.

The next stop is Winslow Arizona. The best Denny's in the world is here. And the motels ara very nice. Winslow is south of the Navajo Nation. The end of the trail for me is Los Angeles. If you ever want to see the Grand Canyon this is the time to do it.

Option: There is very nice side trip in Nex Mexico South of Albuquerqu at Socorro, Elephant Butte State Park and and Hatch. The food at the town of Elephant Butte is very good. In the winter is when you see cactus in bloom, cotton bolls and red peppers drying on every roof in Hatch. It is the pepper capitla of the world, IF you like peppers, do stop at the grocery store at Hatch and pick up a can or two.

Tip: Buy a trucker's map.. It is an invaluable tool and worth the price for traveling as all the country roads and Farm To Market roads are well defined. Each state lists emergency numbers and other useful information.
I'm familiar with the St James Winery. Their Late Harvest Chardonel is exquisite.

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