Sunday Sept. 7, 2014 - Lincoln, Illinois to Rollo, Missouri
I'm writing from a Drury Hotel in Rollo, Missouri, a lovely mid-century motel right off the freeway with an outdoor pool and free wifi. We're in a block of rooms with our delightful group, all set up in advance by our fearless leader Rodger Fox (who is taking such good care of us). We were amazed when we checked in to discover that our reduced room rate also included complimentary food (sort of dinner) and three drinks (could be cocktails, wine or beer)! I only qualify the word "dinner" because it was a sort of "snacky" buffet which included hot dogs, mac n' cheese (like I used to make out of a box for my son when he was little), and a chafer which was beautifully labeled "Tyson Chicken Fingers with BBQ sauce."
We decided to go for it since we never managed to eat lunch today and we were so road tired we didn't want to go out again. So dinner it was! The free drinks really made the whole thing work, as did the swim afterwards. And the remarkably amiable staff.
But let me backtrack a bit with highlights from the day. We started this bright, glorious late-summer-blue-sky day at 8:00 a.m. in Lincoln, Illinois with the blessing of the bikes and the road (a very moving prayer) and the daily dedications to those who have suffered from cancer. Rodger then set out the agenda for the first half of the day, which involved some fascinating Route 66 history.
We were going to traverse a few rare, old alignments which are not traveled by most tourists. The first one is called the "Red Brick Road" and it is 1.4 miles of hand-lain brick, completed in 1931, which curves through extensive corn fields near Auburn, Illinois. Stunning contrast between the red bricks and the tall late harvest corn stalks rising like sentinels on either side of the narrow road.
We loved the other big attraction on the old alignment: the "turkey tracks in the pavement" which were imprinted in the 1920's when the original concrete was poured and either the local farmer's turkeys escaped or wild turkeys gave their John Hancocks to Route 66!
Our next entertaining attraction was Henry's Rabbit Ranch -- a must see for all Route 66 fans. It's a more modern addition to the route, but boasts a great little souvenir shop with reasonable prices and the cutest rabbit at the cash register that loves all the affection he can get. The funniest thing was the take off on the Cadillac Ranch in front of the store. Jen mused "what are those cars? Hugos?" -- no, of course not -- we later discovered they're VW Rabbits -- duh!!!!
Thanks to "EZ 66 Guide for Travelers" we read that only three miles away was a "giant alert". This got my heart pounding! Rather than stay with the group, we veered off on our own and were sure glad we did!
Sadly we had many miles to go today so we couldn't spend too much time here but I was thrilled to get my fourth Muffler Man picture in just two days. Wonder how many I'll be able to collect by the end of the journey?
Fortunately, there were some folks here from our group who told us about the Giant Ketchup (they say "catsup") Bottle just a few miles down the road. This was one of my "must see" attractions on Route 66 and we would have missed it if we stayed with the group to see the historic Chain of Rocks Bridge. What a difficult choice to make! So we sadly decided to go off on our own and visit the landmark that meant the most to me -- and so glad we did. It was magnificent! And hey -- it's for sale if anyone wants to buy it! However shipping could be a bit expensive!
We were very close to St. Louis at this point and could see that old Route 66 actually goes through the heart of the city. But it was getting late in the afternoon and we knew we had a fair ways to go, so we booked it across the southern edge of the city, crossed the mighty Mississippi and into Missouri, tagging back up with #44 which merges with #66. Somehow we happened upon a delightful visitor center at The Route 66 Historical Park and an even more engaging ranger named "Mark from the Park"! He gave us lots of cool tips about our current location and told us we could find him on YouTube with his own interview about the park! Thank you Mark for your cheerful enthusiasm about Route 66!
We had one more stop that was essential before we cashed it in for the day and that was Cuba, Missouri. We read in our guidebook that Cuba is called "The Mural City" and since both Jen and I have been fascinated with painting murals, we summoned up a touch more energy to veer into town. On the way we made a pilgrimage to the famed Wagon Wheel Motel which I'll write more about in a later blog post. Stay tuned for Day Three and thanks for coming along for the ride!