Road News

Toby’s Cafe in Lexington

In the 1940s, the corner of Main Street and Route 66 in Lexington, Illinois was home to Toby’s Mesa Café, but when that eatery closed, other business that would later occupy that corner failed to survive. Then, Kelly Tobin bought the Lexington landmark in 2017. Kelly grew up in the food industry. His family owned Tobin’s Pizza, an institution for Illinois State University students in Normal, and a favorite of Bloomington family’s as well. Tobin ran the business for a while, and then sought out a new venture when he discovered the vacant building. He set out to restore it to its former prominence. This wasn’t an easy task, however, after six years of neglect, the building needed attention, especially the roof which needed to be repaired. Kelly also learned that remodeling the existing building was a larger endeavor than originally imagined.
The former Filling Station once served as the former restaurant owner’s residence, so converting the living space to a serving area required making additional layout changes.

Another consideration was maintaining the building’s past, so incorporating the gas/service station elements were also a priority. After several months of remodeling it reopened. Now, less than two years after later, Kelly’s on Route 66 has become a Mother Road destination again.
We get people from all over the nation and around the world,” said Kelly as he reviewed a guest book. “We’ve had groups from Japan, England, Germany, France, and even bikers from Mexico,” explained Kelly. “They all love Route 66. When they come here, they tell me stories about how great the Route is. I grew up just ten minutes from here (Lexington), and I had no idea that Route 66 was such a big deal.”

It’s easy finding Kelly’s. In addition to its prime location, the colorful exterior, replete with statues, ornamental decorations and murals depicting Route 66 sites, has people stopping just to get a picture. “Rusty,” a man made from a garbage can, a pail and other metal objects, greets customers from his bench overlooking 66. To add to his allure, Kelly will often add a scarf, a baseball cap or other accessory as the season changes.

The building’s colorful exterior may attract attention, but the true draw is the food. Kelly’s offers homemade pizza, pasta, bread, and pastries in addition to fried chicken, sandwiches, salads, and desserts, including cookies, pies and cake.

Kelly says they are best known for their pizza “We’ve had people come down from Chicago for it, so that says a lot.”Kelly’s is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Call 309-365-7777 for more information.

Courtesy David Tompkins

Truck Bar

Bandstand in the Mountains

C ool Springs, Arizona is coming to life as never before. A bandstand has been added on the slope of the bluff across the highway, and weekend concerts are drawing surprisingly large crowds. Plans for the summer include adding outdoor movie nights as well as a dry campground alongside the picnic area currently in place.

Recently the Route 66 Association of Kingman hosted their monthly Meet-n-Greet at Cool Springs. The organizers of Chillin’ on Beale, an event held in Kingman on the third Saturday afternoon of each month, March through October, invited members of area car clubs to attend. A live band performed on the hillside, and a potluck meal was enjoyed by all. This is but one example of the efforts being made by the association to foster the development of cooperative partnerships in the area. Other projects include funding of the public arts, such as murals, and the acquisition and restoration of historic neon signage.

Courtesy Jim Hinckley

Tour Bus

RVs Travel New Way on Route 66

The Road Ahead and Harvest Hosts have partnered to provide RVs traveling Route 66 a new way to experience all the Mother Road has to offer. Harvest Hosts (www.harvesthosts. com) is a membership network that invites self-contained RVers to stay overnight for free at selected sites, attractions, and businesses across the United States. In conjunction with the Road Ahead, this unique experience will now be offered along Route 66. The goal of the new partnership is to expand the current listing of Harvest Hosts locations to include some of the unique sites along
Route 66.

Harvest Hosts is a membership program that currently provides access to a network of wineries, farms, breweries, golf courses, museums, and other attractions that invite self-contained RVers to visit and stay overnight. For a small annual fee, Harvest Hosts members can visit and stay at any of its 700+ locations completely free. In return, they are asked to support the local businesses they visit. The goal is to connect RVers with the hidden gems of Real America, where they find unique experiences and make lasting memories with family and friends.

Harvest Hosts has tens of thousands of members from the United States, Canada and around the world, including retirees, full-time families, business professionals, bloggers, and adventurers all of whom have one thing in common: the desire to experience unique locations as they travel. In an effort to support local businesses and make it beneficial for those who act as Hosts, members are encouraged to support the businesses they visit, whether that’s through buying some wine, shopping in the gift shop, making a donation to a museum, or buying some local produce.

The Road Ahead invites attractions, sites, and businesses along Route 66 to contact it if interested in becoming a Harvest Host site. Just email for information and details.

Established in 2015 with the support of the National Park Service and the World Monuments Fund, The Route Road Ahead Partnership’s mission is to revitalize and sustain Route 66 as a national and international icon through partnerships focused on promotion, preservation, research and education, and economic development.

Courtesy John Weiss

Launching Pad Update

Holly Barker and Tully Garrett opened the Launching Pad restaurant on February 9, 2019. Since then, they have been very busy with the inflow of customers that they found it necessary to add twenty new employees in their first month of operation. We are slowly designing the menu from the classic menu into a menu of past and present.

Hours of operation are currently from 11:00 AM-8:00 PM serving lunch and dinner. We are fast working towards opening for breakfast hours starting at 7:00 AM to greet the local commuters and early bird travelers as well. The restaurant menu is balanced with a mix of hot sandwiches and cold, soups and stews, classic regional hot dog favorites, and some southern influence with BBQ pulled pork and homemade Brunswick Stew.

Homemade coleslaw is a side item option for all sandwiches as well. They are currently building a full dessert line and continental style breakfast options including biscuits and gravy, steel cut hearty oatmeal with bananas and granola, a Greek yogurt fruit parfait, smoothies, good coffee, and juice.

Holly and Tully are looking forward to visit with new and repeat customers. The couple have been super grateful to all the local and regional customers who have offered feedback and support during the winter months. Barker and Garrett are truly looking forward to a 2019 fun summer season! July 20th, 2019 is the 50th Anniversary for Man Landing On the Moon. That day, Holly and Tully will be exchanging their wedding vows under the Gemini Giant. They can not think of a better way to launch into ta new life together than to enjoy this day to its fullest.

Courtesy Holly Barker

Holly and Tully

Return to The Corridor

Although the Red Carpet Corridor event was held Saturday, May 3rd of this year, you can still get your Corridor passport sheets stamped at participating locations along the Corridor until September 2nd of this year.

Folks not famiiiar with the Red Carpet Corridor, will enjoy this event held every year on the first Saturday in May, when all Route 66 communities between Joliet and Towanda Illinois (that’s ninety miles, folks) hold a swap meet, and present fun events for both adults and children.
So, if you missed this year’s event, prepare to attend the Red Corridor event in 2020.

Route 66 Experience Hub

A new Route 66 Experience Hub with visuals and copy on both sides has been installed in Downtown Bloomington. The hub features Route 66 attractions that are located in the Bloomington-Normal area located across from the Cruisin’ with Lincoln at the Route 66 Visitors Center. The hub will enhance experience of our legendary highway 66 travelers.

Courtesy Brie Lohr
Communications & Marketing Manager
Bloomington-Normal Area C & V Bureau