Just a Simple Wrench
by Ann & Jake Snyder
Since Interstate 57 might be described as tedious at best, we would like to share an alternate route with those who might have the occasion to travel by MG between Chicago and Champaign. Several years ago, we were among a group that Barney Gaylord led back to Chicagoland after the Champagne British Car Festival. We have used his route ever since, as have several other CMGC members, and, with Barney’s permission, we would like to describe it for everyone else. As a common embarkation point, we will use the junction of I 55 and IL 53, which is known to many club members as the meeting point for caravans to the now-defunct Utica, IL go-kart track. Follow I55 south to exit 238, the first Braidwood exit, and take IL 129 into Braidwood. Turn left onto IL 113 and proceed through the southeast corner of town, then 1 mile due east. Turn onto Essex Road, the first major road to the right. According to a penciled notation on one of our older maps this is also County Route 41. Passing through Essex, watch on the right for an assortment of colorful and fantastic metal sculptures.
(Click for larger 125K image.)
Four miles south of Essex, turn right onto IL 17, then turn south again after 1.5 miles (the second left) on Cabery Road (Co 18 or 1800W). After 4 miles there is a junction with IL 115 (4000 S), where you will continue straight, onto IL 115. This is the route that you will follow for the next 42 miles. You will pass through Cabery and make a couple turns as you pass through Piper City. You may want to stop in Roberts at the Sundae Drive to see what the ice cream of the day is. One year some club members who had stopped there en route to the CBCF were invited to see a large collection of exotic cars that is stored there. IL 115 ends at IL 9, which you can take east (left) to Paxton, and then turn south (right) to take US 45 to Urbana-Champaign. Alternatively, since the road actually continues south where 115 meets 9, you can proceed south there, but within a short distance, the surface becomes gravel. We have tried a few of the tertiary roads that lead south from IL 9, but have not yet found an alternative to US 45 that matches the character of 115. We mean to look for such a route each year as we drive to the CBCF, but typically it is getting late in the afternoon by the time we reach Paxton, and we are anxious to get to the Alumni Tap and the company of other British car enthusiasts.
You might question the point of a secondary route such as this. After all, isn’t the gold standard for a good driving road one with as many hills and curves, preferably in combination, as possible? Strangely, we have found this nearly straight route to be very enjoyable. For miles, you will find few other vehicles travelling in either direction. Admittedly, you must be alert for the spring and fall migrations of indigenous species of farm equipment of all sizes. With that exception, this route can be very fast. More importantly, when driving the expressway, you are isolated from the landscape, while on this route you are immersed in it. On our most recent trip back north along this route, the vista ahead took on an almost surreal quality, with the sun-lit highway bright as it receded to a horizon dark with storm clouds. You hear roadside red-winged blackbirds and smell recently-mown front yards, not diesel exhaust. There is the lure of crossroad place names like Charlotte, Campus, Melvin, Kempton, and Thawville.
Years ago we heard the term “shun-pikeing” used to describe taking a road trip via secondary roads that parallel the routes of the interstate highways. A great example of this was when Reinout and Henneke Vogt led a caravan the NAMGBR convention in St. Louis via old Route 66. Everyone has favorite roads- why not share yours by sending it to Barney for the Driveline? It could become a regular feature!