Friday, 22 April 2011

Day 3: St Louis to Springfield

Well, I was right about the Sports Bar being lively last night - too lively in fact as they were holding a line dance, and the place was packed. Not really my scene. I did manage to fit in a couple of beers whilst watching Real Madrid beat Barcelona, 1-0, after extra time. Then I left, and ate elsewhere.

Another early start today, actually earlier than I had planned, as I didn't realise that the clock in my hotel room was an hour fast! Encouraged by the improving weather yesterday I decided that the fleece under my jacket was not required, so just base layer, t-shirt and jacket. It was the right decision as the day warmed up nicely. Maybe tomorrow I can bring out the sunglasses?

As the wi-fi in the hotel had not been working I had not made a hotel reservation for this evening, figuring that I would find somewhere in or around Springfield when I arrived: to quote Steve Tyler, I'm livin' on the edge! 

Te first visit of the day was to the Missouri Route 66 State Park, south west of St Louis. Having left so early I arrived 45 minutes before the visitors centre opened, but was let in by the staff anyway to have a look around. They certainly liked to chat, and I was there for probably an hour before I actually got to look around the museum. Friendly folks! Having bought a t-shirt from the gift shop and made my farewells I was back on the road to my next stop, Meramec Caverns.

The ride was good and the sun was getting up in the sky. I was living the dream. The roads have become more interesting since Illinois, often departing from the Interstate, and winding through small villages and towns. The road surface, for the most part, was good and there was some great scenery too. It all made for good riding.

All along the route, almost from the start, I had seen billboards for the caverns. As they had gone to so much trouble to make me aware of them, I thought it would be rude not to pay them a visit. These caverns are huge! You can only go a short way in on your own, but there are guided tours that take an hour and twenty minutes for goodness sakes! Now I am impressed by the sheer scale of them, but surely there's only so much one can say about stalactites and stalagmites, and I don't think it takes 100 minutes? As the next tour was not starting for another half an hour, I decided to save myself 20 bucks, and two hours, and passed on that opportunity. There are other things to see there though, and a long scary looking zip wire over the Meramec River, if you're so inclined. Worth a visit I think. 
Whist looking around I overheard some other English voices (Welsh actually, as it later transpired). Tony, Chris and Tyler (aged 10) were 3 generations of the same family, who were also doing the Route 66 trip. They had started on Tuesday, and were also heading for Springfield for the night. What a coincidence, and the way these things work out, I wouldn't be surprised if our paths cross again further down the road. What a great way to do some Grandfather/Father/Son bonding. Either that, or they'll not be on speaking terms at the end of 3 weeks together in a car!

So, here's me at the entrance to the Caverns, with Jesse James behind me. Did I mention that he had used the caverns as a hide out  whist on the run? Apparently so, and you're not allowed to forget it whilst you're there!

 Here's a rare picture of me with bike, at the same place.
Now the sun was getting higher, the temperature had climbed to the low 70s, and the roads were getting slightly twistier. Perfect when on a bike. Cuba, MO (to avoid any confusion)  was my next stop, the site of the Wagon Wheel Motel. This establishment has been providing accommodation on Route 66 since the begining. It is one of the original style motels, where the rooms are actually cabins, detached from each other. Later designs joined them up in a terrace of rooms. I found the owner working in the adjacent shop, and she told me of how the motel had gone to rack and ruin, until she bought it 2 years ago and started a renovation program. Now, two years later it is complete, and she is renting rooms there again. They certainly looked in good condition from the outside, and it I hadn't needed to put some more miles on the clock I would have been tempted to stay there for the night.
She also told me that severe weather was moving in from the west, so I made haste to try to get to Springfield before it did. I nearly made it. The clear blue skies you can see in the picture above became cloudy, and the wind picked up. Those clouds steadily got darkern and the wind stronger. About 10 miles before Springfield the heavens opened, with accompanying thunder and lightning. I was glad that I'd decided not to take that tour of the caverns after all.

I pulled into a Supermarket's parking lot (see, I'm learning the lingo!) to take shelter, and see if it would pass. It didn't. I was faced with having to find somewhere to stay pretty sharpish. As luck would have it, I had picked up a leaflet for the Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven along the way, and it looked OK from the pictures. I gave them a ring, and they had rooms. They weren't even going to fleece me for one of them. I located it on the GPS, and braced myself for a nasty last 10 miles. Half an hour later and I was there, and began the task of getting my gear hung up so there was a chance it would be dry in the morning.

Overall, apart from the last half hour, an excellent days riding, interesting people met along the way, and some fascinating things seen - far too many to mention here. And some caverns.

Tomorrow, I briefly pass through Kansas, then into Oklahoma, and now I really am "Only 24 hours from Tulsa", tomorrow night's potential resting place.

As always, here's today's route, along with some more photos, for those who like that sort of thing:

Today's Mileage: 237
Total Trip Mileage:566


  1. Cracking along now, Nige- hope it's everything you were looking forward to. This'd be the wrong time to talk about the weather back in Blighty, I suppose...? ;-)

    Cheers, Malc R

  2. I see the weather's been good back home recently - starting to warm up here now though, thank goodness!