The Route 66 in Missouri, more than 480 kilometers long has made us discover a multitude of scenarios and icons of the Old Route 66. In particular, I was struck by its streets made of climbs and descents surrounded by greenery.
After Illinois, the land of Lincoln, we enter Missouri. The first stop on Route 66 was the old Chain of Rocks Bridge that separates the states of Illinois and Missouri. When we get to St Louis the road is divided into two. If you do not bring the map it can be complicated, but with the app, there is no problem.
St Louis is the largest city between Chicago and Los Angeles that Route 66 passes through. It has some interesting things to see, including a large arch along the Mississippi River that they say is the tallest landmark in the United States. But after the day before we did not arrive on time for the last stops, we did not want to waste much time in the city. We just crossed it with the car.
This night by car was quieter than the first, and the parking of the hotel was really silent. It rained a lot around midnight, with thunder and lightning, and we inside our car enjoy the pleasant sound of the rain. However, it is hot, both in the day and night. The cold of Chicago is an old memory. In the car we always have the air conditioning turned on, in tune with the Americans who shoot it in thrall even in churches.
St Louis is an independent city of Missouri, the state in which the ice cream cone was invented, the cold tea, the 7-up (the competitor of Sprite) and especially the peanut butter. It is the place where per capita consumption of BBQ sauce is higher than in any other American city. So yes, in St Louis, it's a place to stop and eat well and a lot.
As soon as I arrived, I decided to go and eat away from BBQs and places where they could serve ribs or meat in general, and I chose a Vietnamese restaurant. It is very good and really Vietnamese, as the smell of the pho almost touched me and the bill was on the same wavelength. It was cheap and good.
But the dinner was actually a preparation for the grand finale of the day. St Louis is a city in which to stop, for a series of reasons that could be almost infinite, but decisively captained by one. It is the frozen custard, an ice cream (it is not really ice cream, it is heavier). Indeed it is divine.
I opted for butterscotch with pieces of pecans. They give it to us in a glass of the drink, even more, creamy than when we make the pasta with a little soft ice cream. It was creamy, sweet, thick. We tried another one. And I would have spent the evening there. It was so good and creamy that I still dream in many nights.
Day 1 - St Louis
In the morning, we chose to make a stop at the Zoo as it is free. The zoo is beautiful and the animals seem really well kept. The zoo is huge in itself and is part of a gigantic and very rich park called Forest Park. It, just to be clear, is bigger than Central Park. It is maintained great.
But since we had a single day to visit the city we spent very little time at the park. We got back in the car decided to wander around the city and breathe at least a little pleasant air of an American city. Because this is what I really liked about the city as it still has much of that country atmosphere.
We move around residential neighborhoods and decide to do two unusual stages. We stop to eat a pizza in one of the famous chain known for the thin crust pizza, typical of the city. So, I'm not Neapolitan and so I know pizza in terms of a Nordic person who would eat this dish for breakfast lunch and dinner for the rest of his days.
But this is not pizza. It is precisely the farthest from the Italian dish. Besides the fact that the cheese sticks violently to the teeth and needs a chisel to remove it. The pasta base is, in reality, only a support for an excessive load of heavy condiments.
We take back the car and take a ride on the Hill, the hill reserved for the Little Italy of the city. With an extra dose of onion not required we turned the car to one of the must-see attractions for beer lovers and not the Budweiser factory.
The Anheuser-Busch is a gigantic, huge, incredible machine that works in a continuous cycle. We go in and they give us the ticket of the color of the tour. They call us and take you into the stables of the horses, ride in the factory, and show a documentary. In a continuous cycle, the girls explain to us everything and take us where we can choose which beer to taste.
In the afternoon we visit the symbol of the city to the Gateway Arch. Also called Gateway to the West, it is the highest monument in the northern hemisphere. In my eyes, it is the most amazing arch that it was built between 1963 and 1965, although it seems very modern.
We stay down and look at it from below and imagine how nice it would be to get up and see everything from above. There is the ticket to go up combined with a film show about Lewis & Clark, the two famous explorers or a very obscure documentary (obviously shot in the '60s) on the step by step construction of this splendid structure.
We then waited around the Visitor Center museum, which was very large but not big enough to occupy a full hour. And then, very calmly we lined up for the climb in the timetable written on the ticket. From the entrance to the visitor center at the moment when we put our backs into the gondola that leads to the top, exactly two very long hours have passed.
We line up in four on a step and open the doors of these tiny iron cages (obviously without windows) and we have to get inside. I understand what my duvet feels when at all costs I try to get it in the washing machine. And then the doors are closed in a sinister way, with a deafening clang! We start the climb with three long minutes of chilling noise.
Obviously being a construction of 1965, at the time, they did not have great technologies. The most practical thing was, obviously, a zipper and a chain (like a bicycle to be clear). We get up and there are these little windows, from which we can see very little. People take selfies with enthusiasm and I wonder if they will be satisfied with this wall in the background.
We have caught a decent sunset and, let's face it, the view on the city is amazing. I had the distinct feeling that we could have used the time in quite another way.
We checked in at a very bad Motel. The prices in the city were quite high.
Day 2 - Springfield
Leaving St. Louis, the city between two states after about 50 kilometers we get to Eureka and the first roadside attraction along Route 66. We see Route 66 State Park, a park of over 400 acres which includes a stretch of the original Route 66 and the old bridge over the Meramec River. Here an old hotel from 1935 is converted into a museum where we could see some original neons of the Route.
The history of the city where the museum is located, Times Beach, does not leave anyone indifferent. It is a type of holiday city that in 1983 suffered one of the greatest environmental catastrophes in the United States. In the App, it marks it as the ghost town but nothing remains of it since it had to be all incinerated.
They just left this building that they turned into a museum of Route 66. Inside it also explains everything that happened in Times Beach. We left our mark in the signature book and on the map.
Another 25 kilometers to the west we arrive at Pacific, a country so named in honor of the Pacific Railroad. Just 8 km after Pacific we arrive at Gray Summit, where it is worth stopping for at least one reason in particular. We enter the Shaw Nature Reserve, once the land of the Arapaho Indian tribes. Today it is a beautiful botanical garden that preserves the most beautiful species of plants and flowers of Missouri.
Speaking of Native Americans, shortly after Gray Summit, at Villa Ridge, we see the Indian Harvest Trading Post! These are tepee shops, which also has an admission ticket reselling only fake products, made in China or Mexico.
After Villa Ridge, we continue on Route 66 in Missouri. We stop at the St. Clair Historical Museum with real Indian artifacts. At 15 km from St. Clair we get to one of the stops I loved most of Stanton.
After passing Sullivan we arrive at Bourbon, a town that owes its name to the liquor not because it was produced here. Around 1850 the railway workers began to call the city with this name, thanks to the Bourbon barrels for sale in the only General Store of the country. We see the Circle Inn Malt Shop and then continue to Cuba, where we stop to eat.
We find her the best place to eat along Route 66. It is not a historic place on Route 66 but is recommended in all the guides we read because it is really good and quaint. We enter a log cabin and order typical Ozark dishes. It is as well as cheap (for American prices).
After lunch, we take a look also at the typical Wagon Wheel Motel right next to the restaurant. We also see the colorful murals dedicated to Route 66 around the town before moving to Rosati, the Little Italy of Route 66. It is named so because a group of Italian immigrants settled there. They began to live cultivating grapes, used for grape juice and wine, which still makes the town famous.
With a full stomach after turning around to see the murals of the town we went to Fanning. It is famous for having the largest rocker in the world (Red Rocket). We took the obligatory photo. We still had a very high temperature so the stop was pretty fast. It is located next to a souvenir shop on Route 66, Fanning Outpost General Store.
We continue to St. James, where we relax in the Meramec Spring State Park. We see the historic Finn's Motel, before arriving, about 18 km after St. James, in Rolla, the first town that managed to take me a real jump in the 60s. We see the downtown, the Mule Trading Post, and the vintage Martin Springs Drive store.
40 km to the west we arrive at Jerome, where we stop for a look at the Larry Baggett's Trail of Tears Memorial. It is a monument dedicated to the victims of the Trail of Tears or the American Indians who were forced to leave their lands to take refuge in Oklahoma. Many lost their lives along the way and for this, they called that road Trail of Tears.
We pass Devil's Elbow, Lebanon and finally get to Springfield, the birthplace of Route 66. It is so called because it was decided here to give the number 66, because it sounded good, the road that connected Chicago to Los Angeles.
We stop to eat at a restaurant with big sandwiches! The food is delicious, and the portions are huge! The waiters, in fact, pass between the tables to throw literally panini or serve okra, molasses for bread and a bunch of other things!
We arrive at Carthage, a town that dates back to the era of secession with a rather insignificant castle in the middle. There is a nice bar with memories of those who passed along the Route 66. From Carthage, we chose to take a detour to Kansas City that we really did not want to miss.
Kansas City is mostly in Missouri, even if one piece is in Kansas. And starting with it all looks very romantic to me. It makes me think of two people who find a common meeting point, embrace there in the middle, without discussing. Yes, I have a beautiful memory of Kansas City. We stayed at a motel for the night. We dined what we had left over from the midday meal and went early to sleep.
Day 3 - Kansas City
We left for the city satisfied and with the stomach full after breakfast at one of my favorite chains, both for good and plentiful food, and their farm and cultivation policies. We spent the morning at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. We spent a lot of time here and more time than we had planned.
It turned out to be a concentrate of art, to say the least crazy from all parts of the world, all ages, and all historical currents. But what's all that stuff doing there? From Caravaggio to carved wooden shovels brought from China, Cambodian sculptures alternating with photographs or Monet, out in the garden statues of Rodin.
A special mention goes to the gift shop, packed full of so many beautiful minks that I would have bought everything. There is a Van Gogh's face mug which when it gets warmer makes the ear disappear or shaped like a denture. There are the fantastic brochures to take personalized tours inside this huge museum. As a fan I was amazed.
We headed in a hurry to the small and delightful town of Independence, where we wanted to make a stop to visit Harry S. Truman National Historic Site. The scene that was presented was, to say the least surreal. We find a few Indians (from India, not Native Americans). I smile. They smile at me and the conversation should be read with the Raj accent of big bang theory.
Yes, the gag went on for a while. That is, in the suburbs of Kansas City there is a young Indian who firmly supports that this city is the true wonder of the world. We head towards Independence, where we enter the park pass for free for a guided tour of the house of President Harry Truman. He is famous for having replaced the long-lived Roosevelt and for having ordered the first atomic bomb on Japan.
The guided tour was unexpectedly interesting and fun. I mean, I really enjoyed it. The house is pretty, but not great. It is really modest as it seemed he was. We enter the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, which to my ignorant opinion competes extensively with the Walt Disney Concert Hall. It is futuristic and beautiful.
Our next stop is the Liberty Memorial. The gigantic obelisk is erected in memory of the soldiers of the World War I to which there is attached a huge museum. We also see the splendid Union Station and its grandiose waiting room.
Instead, the Kansas City river market can be lost, divided between the real market as we understand it and a shop for food. The only good thing was a stall selling exaggerated amounts of blueberries for a few dollars. I've never had so toned legs. From the River City Market, we visit the Arabia steamboat museum. There are the entire contents of a ship that sunk in 1856 and found in 1988. It is interesting to see how everything has been preserved.
As a first stop, after visiting the university, we ran to put the flag at Boulevard Brewery, a giant craft brewery where they are free and guided tours! I must be very sincere as the beer is really super good. I totally fell in love with the lemon and ginger. The others were also of excellent quality.
We had already planned to go in the early afternoon to the famous BBQ reported in any guide as one of the best barbecue joints in the United States. We arrive at this service station, park, and we see a long queue outside the door. This is a clear sign that the place is good. We wait almost an hour. The smell of the BBQ was inebriating.
Finally, we arrive at the cash desk (it's self-service type) and with eyes bigger than the mouth we order a row of ribs with beans. We are people on a diet while traveling and so we also order a sandwich. In hindsight I declare it. I would have waited even four hours to eat that food.
Almost without a doubt, it was the best ribs I have tasted in my life (along with that eaten for breakfast in Texas). Even the BBQ beans were something incredible. The food was really heavy. Let's say as good as it was heavy and it seems incredible but after eating there we went to bed, collapsed. We spend two hours in bed to digest, losing a piece of our plan.
This story was told because it was there, in that BBQ in Kansas City that it was a divorce. And so, from that day, in that service station, I closed my relationship with the Ribs! And I always watch the meat more with suspicion.
Kansas City is really huge and very varied. It is rich in street art and definitely green. Swope Park is twice the size of Central Park in New York, just to understand, as well as have a very busy nightlife. We chose to make an evening stroll in the car and then go to the shopping district. To tell the truth, even given our lack of interest in the subject, it was really nice.