Roadtripping Route 66 (ish): Part 1 of ??

Ambler's Texaco Dwight IL picture of historical gas pump and electric car plugI went on my trip over a month ago and haven’t written about it, i.e. the opposite of my goal. I didn’t really think of how little I would want to write after tumbling into a motel at 9, 10, 11 pm, that I would be too busy directing and experiencing to write in the car, that I’d be trying to make coffee in a travel mug sans brewer instead of a few quiet hours in a coffee shop to think and reflect.

I did have three hours to myself once. I wrote part of a blog post but then gave up and looked at the internet instead.  Giant blue whale sculpture in Catoosa Oklahoma on Route 66The other thing that I didn’t think of is how difficult it would be to put so much experience into words. I could write every day for months and still not be able to get it all down. And where even to start? I came home with thousands of pictures, six states under my belt, two different giant whales as different as they are alike.

picture of Route 66 midpoint in Adrian Texas paint in the middle of the roadBut you have to start somewhere, and I’m choosing Route 66. While we didn’t generally drive Route 66 we stayed close to it, on the major highways that superceeded it, veering back to see giant things, tiny museums, and the constant search for a good ghost town.

One thing I learned preparing for this trip is that Europeans love traveling Route 66 and, for some reason, many Americans hate this fact.

I get it, though – the European perspective that is. There is something so American about Route 66, that we built a giant road so you could drive halfway across a continent because why not. It’s a way to see the US that isn’t just New York and Hollywood.

Route 66 is the prosperous 1950s but also the dust bowl. It’s some of the country’s richest cities but also so many small towns left to rot and age. It’s friendly people who love their homes and want to share and save them, who were delighted that our party consisted of someone from (kind of) each of the endpoints. It’s a road full of retro-restored gas stations, all with their own electric car plugs.

It is fantastic and so worth the trip even to drive a little bit of it.


picture of guidebooks for epic road tripEpic Road Trip.

8 Days.

Chicago to Tucson

via St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Santa Fe, and the Petrified Forest.

With my high school best friend, Tory, who specializes in driving across the country for practical purposes. Her job? To drive and make sure we don’t get lost or die of dysentery. My job? To make sure we don’t miss a bit of Route 66 or other wackiness along the way.

To say that I am ridiculously excited is an understatement.

I’ve never been on a road trip longer then two days; never been on a trip where the drive was more important then the destination.

It’s almost my dissertation and defense in finding unusual things to do.

I had quite a bit of practice last week. My in-laws were in town so I made a Pilsen mural walking tour for them, then we all drove up to Detroit, and I could cross a few lingering things off my to-see list: Hamatrack Disneyland, the mold-a-ramas at the Henry Ford Museum and in Ann Arbor, a few of the fairy doors and the Liberty Street Robot Store

Photos from Michigan Road Trip April 2015

(incidentally, all of them are worth it!)

I’m still firming up our trip list, but once I’ve got it down and binderized (yes, I’m making a binder because, well, dork), I’ll update again. I’m hoping to blog about each day as we go along – if we have wifi – to challenge my boundaries, but we’ll see how well that goes.

Comparative Architecture – Movie Theaters vs. Auto Showrooms

While I was working on a story  rumors that 5801 N. Greenwood – once an auto showroom – was originally a movie theater, I started to think a lot about expectations of architecture.  One of the theories behind the stories is that the building looks almost too grand to be just a garage, but Edgewater and Uptown are full of epic historic garages.   So here’s a few examples:  5801 vs some buildings that used to be movie theaters and then vs some other auto showrooms/garages.

architectural  comparisons - movie theaters

architectural comparisons - auto showrooms and garages

(5801 picture credit to Lyle Bright/Edgeville Buzz)

What do you think?

A Busy April Weekend

A few pics from my weekend adventures around the city

First, there was this weird theme to my Saturday afternoon:graffiti and sign about masturbation

Then I had the exciting realization that I would finally, finally be walking past Sprinkle’s Cupcake ATM.  I’ve wanted to go for years, but I’m never in the neighborhood

Cupcake ATM in ChicagoIt was fantastic!  How was your weekend?

Things the Internet Can Teach You About Yourself

Quote from a book - the lesson you need to know about the Shakers is that they all died out.

In case you were wondering, this is always the lesson. Also they invented the flat broom, the seed packet, and the three-legged stool. Additionally, this has nothing to do with this post AT ALL, but does show that I know a fair bit about the Shakers.

Because I am vain when I meet someone new who I think might google me, I google myself to see what comes up (after internet snooping on them of course).

I’ve worked pretty hard on my Google presence for the last couple of years.  Not because I had done something internet bad that I wanted to hide but because I unfortunately share my name with a woman who was murdered by her husband several years ago.  While I don’t think people will confuse the two of us, it seemed like a prudent move to try to kick the story off the first search page.

A few things I realized/was surprised by in my most recent google-though:

  • While I definitely dominate “Kathryn McLellan”  (sorry other Kathryns!), I lose out on “Kat McLellan” to another Kat, one who unfortunately was a grad student at UIC, also interested in women’s studies and material culture.  She seems pretty cool but this is actually potentially confusion-making.  Sadly, although I go by Kat, I’m thinking I probably need to give up on that one and use Kathryn for all my public online crap.
  • Another issue is that this blog doesn’t show up under my name at all. While I’m not always the proudest of this thing – particularly my inability to hit the publish button on anything – that seems like an oversight.
  • I really, really, really need to update my poor website.
  • The most pleasing realization is that one of my professors in grad school credited some of my work in a footnote in his book (!!!!) This is, sadly, probably my biggest academic “professional” accomplishment.

They Put Their Money Where Their Mouth Was.

Enough poster in Chicago window saying Republicans are racist

Seen in the same apartment.picture of a Chicago I voted slip in a window

For more on Chicago politics, see Vote Hardcore and All Awesome-Like.

New Orleans Graffiti

New Orelans was amazing…. and also a little hellish, but that’s what I get for going someplace in a high-tourist season.

My favorite thing was to just wander around and look at the architecture….and the grafitti. I love grafitti, not the kind that’s this is my gang area or Leroy was here, but the unexpected bit of art kind.

Warehouse covered in graffiti in New Orleans at Elysian  Fields and Charrtres

There was a ton of fantastic graffiti in New Orleans. Notably, the historic houses were mainly clear, artists, even taggers, saved their efforts for sidewalks, signs, and abandoned buildings, which I really appreciate. I think it showed a lot of respect for the area. Another sign of respect? People didn’t grafiti over each other’s art.

I fell in love with these koi on the ground by Jeremy Nova – particularly with editorial comments.Grafitti koi by Jeremy Nova with children's editorial comments.  New Orleans.

I also loved these footprints also by Nova.

Bootprint sidewalk grafitti by Jermy Nova, New Orleans.

Being in New Orleans made me realize how much I love art on the sidewalk. Sidewalks are so boring. Speaking of unexpected sidewalk art.

Spray-style sidewalk grafitti on Chartres between Montegut and Clouet.

Being in New Orleans made me realize how much I love art on the sidewalk. Sidewalks are so boring. Speaking of unexpected sidewalk art.