Friday, November 8, 2019

Illinois' Portion of the Cannonball Route.

The Cannonball Route was a historic motorcar trail that ran east of Kansas City, Missouri, to Chicago, Illinois, by way of Hannibal, Missouri and Quincy, Illinois.
1913 Indian motorcycle.
A branch of the route connected the Missouri section of the highway to Des Moines, Iowa, by way of Leon, Iowa. The Chicago Auto Club marked the Illinois segment of the road in 1913.
The Cannonball Wabash River one-lane bridge.
The 1913 Cannonball Baker Transcontinental Motorcycle Reliability Run started in San Diego, California and ended in New York City, New York. The riders traveled approximately 3,400 miles over 11 days, 12 hours, and 10 minutes.

The route was not straight from San Diego to New York City. Instead, it wound its way through the American Southwest, the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains, and the Midwest. The riders faced a variety of challenges along the way, including deserts, mountains, and bad weather.

The winner of the 1913 Cannonball was Erwin "Cannonball" Baker, who rode an Indian motorcycle. Baker completed the course in 11 days, 12 hours, and 10 minutes. He averaged a speed of 30 miles per hour and made only 12 stops for repairs. The 1913 Cannonball was a grueling race, but it also helped promote motorcycles' popularity in the United States. 

By 1915, the route was considered "one of the best-marked highways between Quincy and Chicago," an extension from Quincy to the St. Louis – Kansas City highway at Monroe City was posted. The highway routing closely parallels the Hannibal-Quincy to the Chicago branch of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad.

The route was included in the 1917 Map of Marked Routes provided by the Illinois State Highway Department, a precursor to the modern-day Illinois Department of Transportation. The road stayed west and north of the Illinois River, so this route never had to cross the limited number of Illinois River bridges in 1917.

The Missouri portion of the route ran from Kansas City to Quincy through Hannibal. The route also passed through La Belle, Edina, Kirksville, Milan, Harris, Liberty, Excelsior Springs, Richmond, Carrollton, Chillicothe, Trenton, and Princeton.

In 1917, the Illinois Section of the Cannonball Route was marked as running north from Quincy along modern-day Illinois Route 96 with the Rushville & Quincy Trail. It turned east at modern-day U.S. Route 24 before turning north at Camp Point. It eventually followed modern Illinois Route 61 to Bowen, where the route ran east. The route follows Illinois 61 to its terminus at U.S. Route 136 near Tennessee.
The Cannonball Wabash River one-lane bridge.
The route follows U.S. 136 east as the main road through Macomb to Bardolph, where the route diverts from U.S. 136 and turns north on modern-day Illinois Route 41. The Cannonball Route passed through Bushnell, paralleling the CB&Q railroad north to Galesburg. It ran mainly on what is now U.S. 34 from Galesburg to Chicago, except for diversions to the city centers of Buda, Leland, and Bristol.

Near Yorkville, the route turns northeast onto Cannonball Trail to Bristol. The route then passed through downtown Montgomery and Aurora before running east-northeast to Naperville. Here, the Cannonball Route may have followed any of several streets before joining the Chicago-Kansas City-Gulf Highway in Maywood for the remainder of the journey into Chicago.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

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