It may not be famous like Route 66, but Bob Dylan sang a song about it called Highway 51 Blues. This route quietly stretches 1,286 miles from the top of America’s heartland down to the bayous of Louisiana. Through most of Wisconsin and Illinois it tags along with the much newer I-39. I suspect most people aren’t even aware that they’re driving on it. When I-39 ends in Bloomington, Illinois, Highway 51 continues south alone, as it has always done, down to New Orleans.
I’ve driven the roughly 400-mile northern section of 51 (alias I-39) many times, either heading north from Madison or south from Madison. A recent trip finally sent me off the controlled access freeway and onto a 200-mile stretch of uncontrolled, totally accessible highway. Although it’s uncontrolled, this section of Highway 51 is not a back road; it’s well-paved and even has four lanes in a few places. But, unlike all of the I-ways, it gives you time to slow down as it ushers you through the small towns of rural America like all the highways used to do. Of course, slowing down often leads to stopping and stopping often leads to photographs. And so, here are some images from that slower stretch of Highway 51 in southern Illinois.
The folks in DeSoto have a lot to crow about.
Need help with your photos? Tamaroa is the place to be.
Be sure to check the color balance.
They no longer bottle it here, but they still distribute Coca-Cola from this 1949 art deco building in DuQuion.
After services at the Baptist Church, head across the street for a cold beer and gaming in Oconee.
Bikers are welcome. Not sure about folks in a Honda CR-V.
It had been cloudy earlier in the day, but the sun came out just in time for this house to blind me in Pana.
I stopped to put on my sunglasses … and take this picture.
Highway 51 skirts the town of Assumption, so turn off the road for a block or two.
The downtown is dwarfed by the elevators of the Assumption Co-op Grain Company.
There are some interesting old homes in the residential area.
And yes, this is where you can find those flying pigs.