Road trip news, rants, and ruminations by the Editors of RoadsideAmerica.com
May 7, 2011
Route 66 is America’s most loved road. Bob Waldmire was its most loved driver. Does that make Bob’s bus America’s most loved vehicle?
Bob was Route 66’s roving ambassador and resident hippie. He was never far from it: his family runs the Cozy Dog Drive In (birthplace of the Hot Dog On A Stick) and for years he owned the Hackberry General Store, both iconic Route 66 attractions. For over three decades he wandered the highway in his 1972 VW Hippie Bus, creating busy-bee Robert Crumb-esque pen-and-ink drawings of his travels, delighting his admirers when he would just show up somewhere along The Mother Road.
Bob’s Hippie Bus was the inspiration for “Fillmore” in the movie Cars. The character was originally named “Waldmire,” but Bob asked that it be changed when he learned that toy versions of the bus would be sold at McDonald’s.
Bob died in 2009 of cancer. He theorized that his disease was caused by his life-long love of processed snack foods (a common weakness of carb-fueled road-trippers).
Bob’s other vehicle — the one in which he spent his last days — was an old school bus fitted with a hand-built wooden camper top. It resembles a ramshackle houseboat on wheels, and probably struck terror in approaching vehicles on the narrower parts of Route 66.
There was some confusion after Bob’s death as to which of Route 66’s many Route 66 Museums would get his buses — the equivalent of a normal museum getting a Space Shuttle. The Hippie Bus went to the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum — and now the Camper Bus is there as well. It was Bob’s home as well as his vehicle, and its Bob-centric interior has been preserved pretty much as he left it. Tours are given when someone in the museum is free with the key, and museum reportedly has had difficulty getting awed Route 66 tour-goers to leave the bus after they enter it.
“Bob lived his life the way he wanted to,” said Marty Blitstein, museum treasurer and sometime tour guide. “Whenever I’m in there, I know he’s in that bus.
Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum
Route 66 Association of Illinois Hall of Fame and Museum
- 110 W. Howard St., Pontiac, IL
- I-55 exit 197. Follow Hwy 116 about two miles east into town. Turn right onto Howard St. The museum is about one mile east, on the corner of Howard and Main Sts, on the south side, in an old firehouse. There may be a giant Route 66 sign painted on the south side of the building.
- Summer M-F 9 am - 5 pm, Sa-Su 10 am - 4 pm, fewer hours off-season. (Call to verify)