Route 66 - Day 2: 7/14/09

390 Miles today. Began the morning finishing the trip through Illinois, with about 45 minutes necessary to get to Old Man River. The corn in the southwest part of IL is as high as an elephant's eye!! Very tall and all tasseled out already.

Many observations to note concerning the trip once beyond the Illinois portion.
First, every time I cross the Mississippi River I am constantly reminded how large and powerful it is; especially in its more southerly portion. I was once again reminded this morning when crossing it on I-270.
Second, the St. Louis metro area is huge! I've been downtown, in the northern subs and in the s0uthern subs, now the western. The sprawl goes on forever! Old 66 is almost impossible to follow with all the new construction and highways. The city was in gridlock and impossible to get around in today because of the All Star game. What with four former presidents and Pres Obama, the big parade, and thousands of people in town, the place is a nightmare so I skirted around town the best I could. I didn't find old 66 until way west of town, in the outermost exurbs.

Third observation, route 66 is poorly signed in most of Missouri. This caused much frustration and many missed turns when I had to go back to retrace the route to find the road again. Come on Show Me State - Show Us the Mother Road!!

Fourth observation; Missouri in general, and the towns along the road, don't celebrate the road the way they did in Illinois, not by a long shot. With a few exceptions there were few signs or businesses noting the highway's presence or history. There was one nice stretch of old 66 in eastern MO but a lot of it wasn't very nice. There was a surprising amount of development, probably because it followed I-44 very closely in much of the state.
Went to Meramac Caverns, most famous as being the place where Jesse James and his gang hid out. Quite a pretty setting with a river on one side and high cliffs on the other. The signs for the caverns began showing up in Illinois, probably a hundred miles away! I didn't go to the Jesse James Wax Museum, however. I know, my loss. I did, however, stop to see the world's tallest rocking chair, and the rain stopped just long enough for me to get a picture of it!

It rained off and on all day today. I was in and out of my rain gear three different times.But I didn't complain, as the weather system dropped the prevailing temps from 95 to the low 80s!! Very pleasant even if damp.

The poor signing really caused a lot of problems, and I think it is inexcusable that state and local governments have done such a poor job. Thousands of people come from all over North America, Europe, Japan and so on to ride this road and surely we should do a better job marking it. If only for crass commercial reasons - there is money to be made exploiting the road. They did it well in IL but MO hasnt't caught on for the most part yet.
The Old Road improves in central and western MO. There are several long stretches that are very pretty, with light traffic and lots of hills and curves, all set in a background of hills and forests. There is one stretch in particlular east of Springfield, MO that is very nice. And again, west of Springfield the road is at its best as it traverses a countryside of large cattle ranches and wide open spaces more reminiscent of the west than the midwest.

In one ten mile stretch in particular one rides on the original pavement, which is so narrow that two cars barely fit side to side. No center line or shoulders. You certainly didn't want to daydream when riding that road! The far west part of MO is quite different from the rest of the state with its cattle ranches and large rolling fields of beef cattle running free. Saw one ranch that had many dozens of Texas Longhorns - very impressive looking!

Though only separated by the Mississippi River, MO is totally different than Illinois in land forms, land cover, and landscape. Across the river IL is flat and covered with fields of corn and beans growing in deep fertile soil. On the west side of the river begins a land of stone, rolling hills, heavily forested, and virtually no row crops to be found anywhere. There are many rock outcroppings lining the roads and the bedrock is obviously at or just below the surface.

The town of Cuba, in central MO is one of few that really celebrates the road. Lots of signs. There are also many very nice murals painted on many of the town's old buildings.

Rte 66 in western MO is very nice for the most part (except for the many miles of sprawl and total lack of signs around Springfield!) There is about a 30 mile stretch that is very scenic and enjoyable, with light traffic. It was very enjoyable riding the last hour of the day. The rain had stopped, the sun was out, the scenery was nice, and the road smooth and free of traffic. Great sailing.

The bad weather and the many frustrating dead ends and detours I had to do to find the road delayed me somewhat today. 390 miles total, and about half of them were less than desirable quality wise. Near the end of the day I passed an old Sinclair station on the original stretch of road. Two men were sitting on chairs out front enjoying each other's company. I stopped and chatted for about 20 minutes and they were a delight to talk with. They assured me that from this point west, all the way to New Mexico at least, the road will be better marked and more scenic as it doesn't parallel the adjacent expressway so closely as it did in most of MO.

Spending the night in Carthage, MO in the far west of the state. Will explore the Carthage Battlefield site early Wed morning before heading west for a brief (13 miles) cut across Kansas, and then begins the long trip across Oklahoma, where it will be very hot even if it has cooled down somewhat. I can't wait!