Route 66 and beyond….

Week One

Well everything went smoothly (well after I got over the shock of being upgraded to Business class for the flight!!) and we entered the USA, even got a pleasant passport control chap! Bit different to last time we landed in Chicago (my first experience in USA wasn’t the most comfortable). After a decent nights sleep it was back to the airport to collect our hire car for our stay. After numerous attempts to get us to upgrade (to a Merc, a Volvo….) she eventually gave up and gave us the car we had booked and off we set.Our first day took us through Aurora for the outlets! Then Dwight, Pontiac and Wilmington ending our day at Litchfield. We found following the Route 66 is not as easy due to many diversions off route to find the various attractions. Bit of an anticlimax in some cases, but I managed to get some photos en route.

Day 2 had us watching the weather news at breakfast, not good! Thunderstorms and flooding were threatening our journey. We made our way, following Route 66 as close as possible till we got outside of St Louis and before going any further checked for updates on the weather/travel news. Good job we did. The Interstate from St Louis was closed. As well as a very long section from Rolla to Lebanon which was where we had booked to stay the night. We worked out plan B which added considerable mileage to our journey but was the only way we were going to get to our destination. (This was beginning to feel like our camping trip in Europe last year). Stopping at the visitor centre just inside Missouri the helpful chap called the motel to confirm it was still accessible,,, which fortunately it was, and he agreed that our planned route was the best one…. He suggested we stop in Jefferson City, the state capital. We did and it was a nice, although surprisingly small place for a capital. However, we did find the Dairy, the best ice cream parlour to compensate for our troubles with pints of ice cream with lashings of chocolate sauce and pecan nuts!

We made it eventually to the Munger Moss Motel where the owner was telling us of the disasters the flooding had caused, including taking down a famous landmark bridge across the river. She recommended eating at a local eatery which was a great suggestion as the fried chicken was the tastiest I’ve eaten, sadly Amr chose the steak which was very difficult to chew. By now the rain had stopped and in anticipation of rain the following day we took pictures of the tiled murals in town, 
Good job we took our pictures as the following day was torrential rain. Looking for indoors activities we stopped at the local Route 66 museum before making our way to Springfield. Here we stopped at the visitor centre to ask what we should see. The lovely lady said ‘oh you have to visit the Bas Pro Shop’. Strange thing for her to suggest I thought, but as Amr had already said he would love to go that’s where we headed. I was amazed! Not only were there waterfalls and fish ponds, well when I say fish, they were huge.There were even live alligators in there, just lazing around in their pool! The animal statues were amazing, there was everything in there that you would want for outdoors, including a gigantic selection of guns! 

From here we made our way through Kansas, only thirteen mile of Route 66 but interesting in itself. Although we were on the lookout for Dorothy and her red shoes!! We stopped at a quirky little country store and had our sandwiches made as we waited. Taking the chance to use the restroom while we waited, well it was the staff loo and I haven’t seen such an old loo since I can’t remember! 
Arriving in Oklahoma for our next stop I instantly fell in love with the state, white fences round the ranches, lots of horses grazing, ‘soft’ landscapes. The land has now turned to red, strange how it changes from one state to the next. Reminded me of the Australian outback. Opposite our hotel was a Rib Crib restaurant and Amr got so excited when he saw that it was ‘eat all you can Rib night’, down to earth with a bump when he realised it was only on the pork ribs!

Continuing on our way we passed through a small place called Chandler. After a stroll round the town, which took all of three minutes!! We ventured into the small museum. It was a history of the town from it first settlers and the difficulties they faced in setting up the town, (looked just like on the western film). Only then to be wiped out by a tornado a few years later. It made us realise that despite the USA not having a long history, the settlers here had hard times to settle and develop towns and lives.

Stopping in Tulsa with the intention of having a walk round, we couldn’t find anywhere that there looked like there was any life, and nowhere to park so after a few turns round the city one way system we gave up and continued along our way.

We stopped in Oklahoma City and visited the Cowboy and Native American Museum which was very interesting, more so than either of us had expected. Asking at the hotel about where was good to eat the receptionist mentioned a few places, then said, well if you ,like steak it has to be Cattlemen’s! Located in Stockyards City, the old stockyards which still hold a weekly stock auction we felt it an appropriate end to our day. The place was atmospheric and the steaks delicious and huge.

Continuing along Route 66 and continuing to ooh and ahh at the sights by the roadsides after passing through El Reno we found Fort Reno. This had been an original stockade fort in the times of General Custer. No stockades left but the buildings were developed over the years for continuing forces use and now the Department of Agriculture but you can walk around and imagine! Apparently the chapel was built by German and Italian POWs during WW2. Walking further out was the cemetery which sadly was predominantly children or infants. Interesting also was the wall that divided the main cemetery from new graves, all of which were German.

All along the route are old diners, still in a time warp and we stopped at a fabulous one for lunch. The menus are changing as we progress and include many more Hispanic dishes.

The Oklahoma Route 66 museum was an interesting insight into how the road across America developed and the people who made journeys along the road in its heyday. Later in Elk City we visited the National Route 66 museum which had similar items and stories on a national perspective but also was set out like a village with the shopfronts of typical villages and towns as they were as the road developed.

We now crossed the state border into Texas, where the land changed to more of a yellow orange. Our overnight stop was in Shamrock, and like it’s name is a very Irish town right in the heart of Texas. Well of course, when one is in Texas it’s got to be steaks for dinner, and we had the best steaks I think we have ever tasted at ‘Big Vern’s’ Steakhouse.

Travelling through the plains we stopped at a ‘safety centre’ which we thought was just a rest stop along the way. However it is a tornado shelter, with picnic areas around with fabulous views over the plains, the BBQs were even in the shape of Texas! 

Having heard about the Big Texas Steakhouse and it 72oz steak challenge (it’s free if you can eat it in an hour!) we just had to stop for lunch. What a great place. It’s just like a saloon in the movies with cowboys and cowgirls serving. A wandering guitarist was singing country songs during lunch. Steaks weren’t as good as yesterday’s though. Later we passed the ‘mid-point’ of Route 66 and stopped at the cafe for a coffee and ‘ugly pie’ in the cute diner there with hilarious staff!

The night was spent at the Motel Safari, strange name for a hotel in Texas but it was a lovely place to stay and the most comfortable bed and fluffy towels you can imagine. These things become so important when you sleep in a different bed every night!

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