From 66 to 61

After a whirlwind trip on Missouri’s portion of Route 66, MoPhotoGirl and I left St. Louis and Lambert Airport on a Missouri Mission. Our destination … Hannibal. More on that in a bit.

First, let’s recap the Route 66 trek. In short, it was a blast. Tiring, yes. But fun, nonetheless. My part of the journey actually began in Lebanon, where our crew — MoPhotoGirl, Bill from Nation Ranch, six SATW travel writers and I — toured the Route 66 Museum. The museum, which has attractive displays and loads of information, is located inside the Lebanon/Laclede County Library and is adjacent to Maria’s Route 66 Cafe, where we had a great lunch.

From there, we drove north to the Pulaski County Tourism Bureau in St. Robert before touring the John B. Mahaffey Museum Complex at Fort Leonard Wood. Our vehicle was subject to a random search. That was quite a hoot, but obviously, sometimes things like that are necessary when entering a secure facility. The museum complex is a history/military buff’s dream come true, and it would be pretty easy to spend the better portion of a day on site.

Unfortunately, we only had about an hour at Fort Leonard Wood before moving on to our next stop, Devils Elbow and the Elbow Inn Bar and BBQ. What a scene this was.

Ellen takes a sip at Elbow Inn

It truly was one of those deals you had to “be there” for. If you’ll note the picture on the left, that’s Ellen, one of the travel writers. She’s enjoying a shot of Clan MacGregor scotch. Ouch. We were there in the middle of the afternoon/evening, but I guarantee you this bar is hopping on Friday and Saturday nights.

From there, it was on to Rolla, which has a beautiful, natural themed Convention and Visitors Bureau. If you show up there during business hours, I’m told they have cookies. I wonder if MoTravelMama will let me go back for “business” …. Anyway, we made our way out to Randy’s Road Kill BBQ and Grill, which is about three miles outside of the city, but well worth the drive for ribs and the Road Kill Chips. They might qualify in the Top 10 greatest inventions ever known to man. Homemade BBQ chips, baked beans, cheese and shredded beef brisket. With Patsy Cline playing on the radio, I thought I was in heaven.

We overnighted at the beautiful Rolla Comfort Suites then had breakfast at Route 66 icon, Zeno’s, before heading on. A great time in Rolla, which included a stop the Totem Pole and at the Missouri S&T Stonehenge. Wish we could’ve stayed longer!

We then rolled on toward Cuba, but first stopped at the Fanning U.S. 66World's Largest Rocking Chair Outpost, home of the World’s Largest Rocking Chair. Uhhh, it is big. And by big, I mean, big. Forty-two feet, one inch of beautiful roadside rocking. In Cuba, we took a portion of the Viva Cuba mural tour — great artwork depicting everything from the Civil War to a visit from Bette Davis — and had another good meal at the Main Street Cafe.

Meramec Caverns

After Cuba, it was on to Stanton and the Meramec Caverns, which was believed to be a hideout for Jesse and Frank James. This show cave is ENORMOUS and the property also features a gift shop and a snack shop, along with campgrounds and access to the Meramec River. If that’s not enough, a zip line will open on the property in the coming weeks. I’ve gotta go back for that one.

As fun as the Caverns were, we had to press on. An accident on I-44 kept us from having smooth sailing all day and threw off our itinerary by quite a bit. But we pressed on and made it to the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis. Great displays of trains, including one massive steam engine. But for me, the highlight was inside the showroom, where a Route 66 theme is on full display. To my eye, the crown jewel was a beautiful 1957 Chevrolet. It was a jaw-dropper.

After drooling over the ’57, we took off for downtown St. Louis and our stay at the elegant Chase Park Plaza. Dinner was arranged by our friends at Steady Rain. We dined at Trattoria Marcella, a wonderful Italian restaurant. Our waitress was a hoot. I ate waaaay to much and sampled off three other plates. All in all, a great experience. Thanks to Jimmy McW for the recommendation.

Of course, after a massive meal, there’s only one thing to do: Get dessert. We were two minutes from the Route 66 Ted Drewes; which served as the perfect and sweet ending to a long day on the road.

Wednesday morning came way too early, but MoPhotoGirl and I managed to get Ellen and Nancy to the airport on time and then, it was off to Hannibal on U.S. 61 North.

First, we stopped at the scenic Cuivre River State Park near Troy for MoPhotoGirl to get some shots. It was a great morning for photos and a scenic setting, too. (We also stopped at Mom’s in BG for a couple of caramel rolls.)

Anyway, Wednesday marked the 100th anniversary of American Author Mark Twain, who lived in Hannibal during his youth. City leaders buried a time capsule to mark the occasion, while Mark Twain Himself (Richard Garey) also made a few remarks.

Mark Twain, with Toms and Beckys

Five sets of Toms and Beckys were on hand for the event, which also marked the unveiling of a new Web cam (positioned to see the Mark Twain Boyhood Home) and the newly remodeled Huck Finn Home. We also got a chance to see our friends Beau and Megan (AKA, LifeOnTheMississippi). A great run to NE Missouri and the old stompin’ grounds. Lunch at the Mark Twain Dinette and back to the capital just in time to get off of work. I love it when a plan comes together.

It was a tiring couple of days, but it was great to see so many spots in Missouri — many of which were new to me. It’s also fun to get out and meet people and our industry members, a great group of people with which to work.

Thanks to Ellen, Nancy, Amy, Beth and the two Kathys for a great time, to MoPhotoGirl and Bill for putting up with me, and for all the people we had the pleasure to meet/see along the way. We truly had our Kicks on Route 66!