An important point about Route 66 – unless you have a month to do it and you do it in the summer months when the days are long, it takes some planning.
Having meandered along the route stopping off at everything for a while it becomes obvious that the day is passing very quickly and the road to the next stop is still several hours away. You have to choose what you really want to see and do and what can just be skipped.
For example do you really need to see a big chair?
It’s totally brilliant. It just makes you smile for no good reason at all.
It has no meaning whatsoever other than to make you divert a little from your trip and lure you into a souvenir shop to waste money on daft Route 66 memorabilia. Which we did.
That is half the joy or course. What does it mean to travel Route 66 anyway? It’s a journey of discovery, but mainly to discover the many creative ways people have come up with to sell you fast food or badges you don’t really need. What kind of discovery is that?
But then today we came across something much more than just a gimmick. The Meramec Caverns http://www.americascave.com/ are situated near Stanton, Missouri and represent a genuine marvel of nature. The caves are 14 miles long and are filled with Stalactites and Stalagmites at various stages of development. Some are reckoned to be millions of years old, some a few hundred. The scale and beauty of the place is amazing.
They have done some clever lighting in the caverns to jazz things up although I don’t think it really needed this. The other-worldliness of the place is just as obvious without it.
They have also put together a story about Jesse James using the caves as a hideout and built in some nonsense such as this.
The tour was an hour long for $21. It wasn’t grudged but knowing that the money goes into private hands (the landowner pockets it) is a bit of a sickener. It’s a place that should belong to the country if you ask me.
After being here we were pushed to get to Springfield, MO before dark and did in fact have to drive through the city in darkness (something I wanted to avoid if possible). It also mean’t that food had to be whatever was closest.
Hold on! I never mentioned breakfast or lunch. Oh yes! They didn’t happen.
Well that’s not quite true. We went to a food mart, bought some cereal and milk and a couple of apple pastries for breakfast. Then we had an enormous ice cream at the caverns for lunch. There just wasn’t enough time in the day.
Dinner was at Houlihans, an American chain restaurant which was the only thing in walking distance of our hotel. It turned out to be pretty good though. For me…
The one above was a pathetic chicken wrap with half a packet of nachos thrown on the side. The one below was a rather delicious roast beef sandwich with gravy, creamed horseradish and green beans. I got lucky with the menu I guess. $30 – wouldn’t make a point of going here again unless similarly trapped at a hotel with this restaurant and only this restaurant nearby.
So the highlight of our day to this point was a smelly old cave that Jesse James may or may not have hid in (I’m being harsh – I did enjoy it… I would have loved it free though).
But then came the marvellous redneck paradise of Missouri – Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World.
This place is the Disney World of hunting, fishing, shooting and other such blood-lustiness. The number of pick-ups in the car park gives a strong indication of the target customer. It’s packed with all manner of killing devices from guns to fly swatters and the ancillary equipment needed for bloodsports – tents, boats, waders, mountain-man clothing, moonshine, Marlboro cigarettes and souvenir T-shirts. Well perhaps not the t-shirts.
The shop can best be described as the one place a man will willingly go to shop and not stand at the door holding two bags and wishing his wife would decide which (insert terrible swearword) pair of (insert alternative and equally dreadful curse) shoes she wants. She’s the one who would want to leave first!
Tomorrow we have around 300 miles to cover to Oklahoma City so I expect we will struggle for food stops again. This is not a sad fact of the holiday, it’s the best part. Route 66 is about the journey, not the stop-offs. They are just there for rest and sustenance.
You’ll just have to bear with us.