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The Carthage Press
  • Litchfield administrator pedals Route 66 to support his town


  • Andrew Ritchie loves his hometown of Litchfield, Ill., a community of 7,000 that sits on Route 66.


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  • Andrew Ritchie loves his hometown of Litchfield, Ill., a community of 7,000 that sits on Route 66.

    He loves to bike and he's always wanted to take a long distance bike ride across America.

    All those likes have come together in one adventure that brought Litchfield's city administrator and city engineer to Carthage on Monday.

    Ritchie is riding Route 66 from the Santa Monica Pier to Chicago to raise money for a Route 66 museum and welcome center in Litchfield

    He planned for a day away from riding every 600 miles and he took his third and final day off before his home stretch in Carthage on Monday.

    “When I first started this ride, I thought I was ready to go, but I had no idea what the road conditions would do to my body and the headwinds, it's been a challenge,” Ritchie said in an interview at the White Rose Winery Bed and Breakfast in Carthage where he stayed overnight Monday night. “This has truly been a delight. It's done for the city, not for me, I'm just very happy to participate with this.”

    Ritchie said some people told him he'd have less headwind if he road the route from west to east, but that hasn't really been the case.

    He did take most of his hard mountain climbs early on in his ride by starting in California.

    “I average 80 miles a day,” Ritchie said. “I've got some days that are well over 100 miles and one day was only 40 miles, which goofs up the average. I've been calculating the climbs I do going over the Arizona Divide and the Continental Divide and I've climbed over 60,000 vertical feet.”

    Ritchie said the community of Litchfield, located between St. Louis and Springfield, Ill., on Interstate 55, sits on Route 66 and decided to build a Route 66 museum and welcome center to help capture some of the tourist traffic.

    The center's costs came in at about $500,000 and was going to be funded mostly by donations.

    Ritchie, a U.S. Navy veteran and avid bike rider, volunteered to ride the entire route as a fundraiser if someone else in Litchfield would take care of the fundraising side of the effort.

    “I've always wanted to ride Route 66 and the need of the city seemed to come in at the same time,” Ricthie said. “This really isn't about me, I'm just the guy at the turnstile when the idea came up. This is all for the city and building our museum. Only a small part of the money is going to come from my ride, but it allows everyone to participate.”

    Ritchie's wife drives a car on the route he's taking and is always within about 30 miles of him to resupply him with food and water or respond if he has an emergency. A few friends have also accompanied him on part of his ride as well.

    He's riding a recumbent bike which allows him to pedal and steer from a more comfortable position.

    Ritchie started out on May 6 and plans to be in Litchfield on June 3, in time to attend the next city council meeting.

    He'll leave Litchfield on June 7 in time to arrive in Chicago on Sunday, June 9. He said he left Los Angeles on a Sunday and will arrive in Chicago on a Sunday mostly for safety so he doesn't have to fight traffic.

    Ritchie said construction has begun on the museum and Litchfield hopes to open it later this year.

    In the meantime, Litchfield's city administrator will be able to give tourists and those traveling the route a unique view of the iconic road.

    “You miss about 90 percent of what's out there to see in a car with the air conditioner going,” Ritchie said. “You miss the smells and the sounds. The cows will look up and watch me go by, so I try to talk to them. I have found the people on Route 66 to be universally friendly, they just want to talk, they give me advice. This country is really quite fascinating.”

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