Holy moley, what a long day. I’m about wiped, but Beth the Intrepid makes an entry about today! There is much to say, but I’ll just hit some highlights.
Our day began with a trip to the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge. It has been reopened to bikes and pedestrians for a little over a decade now, but when Shane and I came through in 2001, we got there when it was closed for the day. It was a pleasure to walk across it today and feel the breeze across the river—even at 9 am, it was hot and humid—and look out at the Mississippi. The bridge has a 22 degree angle, and I’m not sure how many bridges have such a thing. It’s a unique bridge, and I was very glad to get to walk the mile over to Missouri and then walk a mile back. (That was my exercise for the day!)
I’m afraid that some were not as happy as I was that I was walking across the bridge. Ken and I were accosted by two very pissed off ospreys. It’s obvious that they were nesting, because one of them (I’d guess the male) was hollering at us from up in the beams, and then started dive-bombing us. It was actually a little frightening! I thought of our friend Sheria, who really does not like birds, and about how awful that would be for her. Heck, I LOVE birds, and I was a little freaked out!
Speaking of bridges…Shane, we crossed over the Mississippi on the McKinley Bridge! They obviously put about a zillion dollars into that thing, because when Shane and I crossed over, it was one of the scariest bridge experiences I’ve ever had. There were outer metal lanes—rickety and rusty metal lanes—hanging off of the sides, and that is what we drove on. There were minimal guard rails, and I recall looking out over the side and thinking “Holy shit!” It’s much more structurally sound now, the dangling metal outer lanes are gone, as are the toll booths. I’m honestly amazed that they refurbished the bridge rather than tearing it down. It was super scary when we went across in 2001!
I was very impressed by the display at Route 66 State Park. They had some great stuff, including a nice little collection of Coral Court memorabilia. We had just driven by the site where the Coral Court stood, and got a couple of pictures by the original stone pillars that bordered the motel grounds. I got similar pictures in 2001, but was happy to see that those pillars are still there. As I think about it, isn’t it odd that there is a group of us who knows what those pillars are and why they are there? How many people in that neighborhood of St. Louis walk by them every day and don’t give them another thought? And here I am practically worshipping at them, asking Ken to take my picture by one. Seeking out stone pillars in St. Louis. Go figure.
One of our other goals was to visit Meramec Caverns. It’s one of those places that is engraved upon your mind if you did any traveling with your parents when you were a kid. You’d see signs everywhere, like Ruby Falls and Rock City in Tennessee. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this is actually a pretty damn cool place to visit, and the caverns are amazing! I don’t think I’d been to a cave since I was a kid and we went to ones in southern Indiana. From what I’ve read, the whole Jesse James Hideout thing is a little dubious, but there is no denying that nature is always more impressive than outlaws. One formation is estimated to be 75 million years old. In your face, Jesse James!
And if we’re doing Route 66, a stop at John’s Modern Cabins is a necessity…if only because the place is really beginning to collapse. At least a couple of cabins are down since we first stopped there in (I think) 2005. I was very sad to see that a branch has bent over the arrow on the sign. Will anyone try to save this sign? Or is it destined to become an archaeological artifact?
Another highlight for me today was the Devil’s Elbow area of Route 66 in Missouri. Shane and I didn’t come this far, so this is new to me. It’s amazing to see this four lane stretch of 66 wend its way through the bluffs. I’ve seen this on postcards, and now I’m seeing it for real. Unfortunately, I badly underestimated our travel time and how much time we’d spend at the other things, so we didn’t get to the fabulous Munger Moss Motel until about 9 pm. Even then, we had to get off of Route 66 after Devil’s Elbow and hit the Interstate to make some time. Ken is kind and understanding enough to be okay with heading back the other way tomorrow to pick up where we left off. Our day is a light one tomorrow as we head about 50 miles into Springfield, so doubling back will work out okay. I really don’t want to miss this stretch of it, because I think it is some of the most gorgeous scenery I’ve seen along Route 66 so far. When you’re driving the image on a postcard, you know you’re doing something right!