June 13 - Missouri Route 66 - St. Louis to Meramec Caverns

This morning I woke up and saw Jesus as I was checking out of the motel. We wished each other well....hopefully he can get his bike repaired and be on his way. He said worst case scenario was that he'd be stuck in St. Louis for a few days then he'd have to go back to California. Apparently there was major engine work to be done to his Harley.

I set out on Route 66, through the Ozarks. The first stop was a longtime Route 66 landmark....The Red Cedar Inn. I stopped there, but not for very long. The drive along Route 66 is a nice one. There is a picture below of what most of it looked like along the way today. In some places it paralleled 44 exactly, acting as a frontage road. Other parts drifted from the main highway.

I stopped at the former site of a town called "Times Beach" where now stands a Route 66 State Park and visitors center. They have a small museum with memorabilia from the old road through Missouri....bricks from landmark hotels that are no longer standing, old gas pumps, and a lot of photographs. The Times Beach story was interesting.

Originally built in the 20's as a Summer resort community along the Meramec River, it became more of a suburb of St. Louis due to the fact that it was located conveniently on Route 66. In 1982 the government discovered the oil that had been sprayed on the dirt roads, over the years, of this little community to keep the dust down had been contaminated with toxic dioxins. The toxic waste and a flood that submerged most of the town for more than a week more or less ruined the place. So finally, in 1984, the federal government bought Times Beach for 33 million dollars, tore it down, and cleaned it up. Now it is considered a real environmental clean up success story. I don't know that I'd eat any potatoes or carrots grown there, but anyway.

I continued on after applying sunscreen to my left arm....traveling West, the left arm out the window tends to be in the sun all day.

My destination was not too far from St. Louis. I covered just 75 miles total and made camp at Meramec Caverns, near Stanton, MO. This is a tourist trap of the very highest order and has been for many years. I will go into more detail about the Caverns in tomorrow's entry, as I will actually take the tour tomorrow. I pulled up at a campsite next to the Meramec River, right next to it. Flat bottomed fishing boats went up and down this very narrow river all evening, it looked like fun really.

There was a couple in their early 60's with about 6 scruffy looking kids at a campsite across from me, grandchildren I would guess. It looked like they had been there for a while. Their campsite had a small kind of pavilion at it, they had a pop top trailer trailer next to that. They had commandeered about 5 picnic tables and put them under the pavilion. More than one strand of Christmas tree lights hung around the pavilion, about 6 or 8 coolers littered the site, and there was more stuff all over these tables than you can imagine. It looked like a flea market. An American flag hung from a flag pole they brought along with them, a Confederate flag hung below that.

These people just bickered and yelled at each other constantly. I mean all night, while the kids tromped around the place hitting each other with sticks and taking turns crying.
The wife seemed to be upset at the fact that her husband didn't balance the checkbook correctly and had been bouncing checks.
The husband contended that he wouldn't bounce checks if she didn't go to the beauty parlor and spend $40.00 for a hair coloring when he was counting on that money to pay for something else.

The ranger came along on a bicycle this time to collect my camping fee. I made some small talk with him for a while. He had just finished a 27 year career in the Air Force.
"Yeah, I was in Germany a lot and Italy for a while." he pronounced Italy without the a...just "Itly".
I told him that my dad had been in the Air Force, stationed in Hawaii for a while, and New Jersey, and at Scott AFB in southern Illinois before that.
This guy had worn a uniform for so long, I think he enjoyed wearing a uniform. He just traded in his Air Force Blues for Meramec Caverns campground khaki....the ranger uniform seemed to fit him well. He spoke like a military man. He adjusted a walkie talkie on his belt, and showed interest in the Westy.

"So....how do you like this unit?" he asked as he hopped off the bike and stuck his head inside.
"I love it." I said and gave him the tour.

He was originally from Wisconsin and when he retired, "The wife and I decided we'd settle in a more central location for the grandchildren....got 4 of 'em." he declared proudly.

He peddled off before long.

I cooked dinner as the sun went down and watched the reflection of the stars in the slow moving river as I ate.

Route 66.

The Red Cedar Inn.

The vehicle