Tues. July 24, 2012- Indiana to Illinois to Missouri:
This had to have been the most fun breakfast as of yet. The pancake machine was back and this one was not broken. You push a button and the machine squirts some batter onto a conveyor belt, cooks it and spits out a perfectly cooked pancake for you to eat, plus it is fun watching it just flop onto your plate. And then another, because of course this is America, you cannot eat just one pancake. There was a hitchhiker on the on-ramp to the highway, not exactly the best stop to have someone pull over and pick you up. We passed a small Route 66 sign because there was a detour heading along it, the one and only time I wished we had been on the detour, damn I-64 not having a detour along Route 66, it would have been the best detour ever. Illinois welcomed us with a big one wonderful sign, so far every state we entered had greeted us. I started falling asleep but Brent was not having it, he yelped just to scare me awake. I got back at him though, by demanding we pull off the highway to go to a 50s McDonalds, I needed coffee as evidenced by my falling asleep. The outside was more 50s than the inside, but they were playing 50s music.
State number 25! I cheered as we entered Missouri, and yes there was a welcome sign. And then I cheered some more, it was Route 66!! The welcome sign was on the bridge over the Mississippi River, but as we drove along another sign popped up that said Missouri state line, I had cheered too soon. We drove to Chouteau Island in Illinois, we had to back track, we had missed the exit, and we were in Missouri too early. The GPS told us that Chouteau Island was where Chain of Rocks Bridge was. Why were we going to see a bridge? Because this was no ordinary bridge, this was a bridge that was on Route 66 back in its heyday and I insisted on going to see as per my obsession with Route 66. The bridge is closed to cars and you have to walk across it, but that is better because you get to stop and admire the Mississippi River. There was a sign about the wildlife but we scoffed at it, as if we would see anything along the bridge. There were a tonne (I am talking thousands here) of fish swimming upstream and a heron who was slowly inching his way towards them, even though they were too big for him to eat anyways. There were some turtles along the banks of the river, and if you went to the middle of the bridge and looked south you could see the Archway in St. Louis, MO.
The bridge had a lot of Route 66 memorabilia scattered about. At the entrance there was a sign overhead that said Historic Route 66. Further along there was an old car from that era, all broken down and beat up, but still bright red. At the midway point there was a state line drawn and two Route 66 signs with the state names. This provided much amusement to yours truly, who entertained herself for a good few minutes by hopping back and forth, “Illinois, Missouri, Illinois, Missouri…” Also entertaining was climbing into the old car and playing around, pushing the pedals, climbing into the open back. Further along the bridge some signs had been turned into benches and there were some restaurant and motel signs placed at the edge of the bridge. There was a sign about the history of Route 66, but it was old and weather-beaten that you could barely read it, which somehow made it that much better. On the Missouri side there were port-a-potties under an awning that had been painted with a Route 66 mural.
We stopped at Phillips 66 gas station and as usual stocked up on snacks, this time we had a good haul: honey BBQ chips, mint M&Ms and cherry Dr Pepper. We passed by the Historic Route 66 Flea Market but there was no time to stop and it did not look open. As we drove along the highway in St. Louis, we passed a slow driver who looked a lot like Alfred Hitchcock; I shouted that he was a ghost. Our Route 66 adventure continued as we drove along another stretch (the first was from the bridge to the interstate in Illinois) to Ted Drewe’s for frozen custard concretes. It sounds like a mouthful and it is a mouthful, basically it was a McFlurry made with frozen custard and was very thick. The sizes at this Route 66 Roadside Attraction are mammoth; I ordered a mini and got what is the equivalent (to normal people) of a medium. Up at the register I later found out that they have an extra-mini as well. We also did not know you could mix flavours; I could have had a mix of Oreo and other stuff. Ah well, it just means that I have to go back. And then go back again. And again a few more times. It was that good, there were so many Oreo pieces in it and I just love the roadside attraction sign. And it is not just me, soon after we ordered a giant crowd formed; we had just missed the rush. We drove along Route 66 to the Wayside Motel, but this stretch was not as nice, it had been overtaken and made into a commercial area, were it not for the signs you would not know you were on Route 66. It should have been left untouched and just restored and kept as it was. The Wayside Motel at first glance seemed unimpressive, it was just a motel. Only after some thought did I realize why it was recommended, it had individual garages for Route 66 motorists to store their precious cars!!! We even saw an old car, one you would have seen on Route 66 back in the day, chugging along, but we passed it, he was going slowly.
We passed a Jack-In-The-Box (so unfitting of Route 66) but we did not have time to stop (I was hell-bent on trying it, partly because I kept missing opportunities to try it). We were on our way to Laumeier Sculpture Park to look at, what else, sculptures. What we did not anticipate was how ungodly hot it was going to be, we were there just past 1pm and it was like a desert. The grass was yellow and crunchy underfoot, we had to refill our water bottle over and over again because we kept drinking it all, and it was still not enough. There was one sculpture that was a bunch of black balls stuck together, I said it looked like a balloon animal poodle, Brent said it looked like molecules. As it turned out we were both right.
At the hotel we saw a guy checking in who had a lot of Kansas City Royals gear, I saw his name on the bag, I thought it said Steve, Brent said it was Sueve, when we Googled it turned out he was Steuve. We did not manage to find out however what he was doing with all that Kansas City Royals gear when we were nowhere near Kansas, and the baseball game was going to be St. Louis Cardinals versus some team that was not Kansas. We walked in the blazing heat, facing the sun, hungry and tired to Pappy’s Smokehouse for some Man Vs. Food–approved dinner. We decided on the pulled pork and the beef brisket, instead of a sad attempt at a challenge Man Vs. Food style. The food was quick and delicious, plus we had window seats so we could stare at the meat smoker standing outside. We had just missed the dinner rush; the line was to the door. The food was good, but it was not outstanding. It was a tiny bit dry and it would have been nice had the meat been braised in sauce rather than just having to add sauce on top by myself. We walked slowly through another sculpture garden, stopped to marvel at some nice architecture and wondering what the building was, it turned out to be a train station and a hotel. One of the sculptures was a headless business man in a pink suit and I joked about how many people took photos of it with the office buildings in the background and claimed it was a “statement on corporate America being faceless drones” and such. It was so tempting to run into a fountain in the park, it was still unbelievably hot even though it was the evening. We made our way to the St. Louis Archway but we were there too late to take the tram to the top, we had a baseball game to get to. We did stop and watch a tugboat push a barge along the Mississippi River though. We did not last very long at the game, we were both dehydrated, tired and we had eaten too much. We retreated to the hotel and I caught the end of America’s Got Talent, stupid time zone shift, had we not been an hour behind I would have seen the entire episode.