Wednesday, September 25, 2013

California or Bust

 Remember the old phrase “ California or Bust’?  H and I are resurrecting it and have begun our crusade to follow Rt 66 to the Pacific Coast.  We have been to the beginning of the “Mother Road” in downtown Chicago and a few years ago we followed the “Lincoln Highway”, Rt 33 to Joliet Illinois and then followed Rt 66 to St Louis.   Yep - see previous blogs for that trip.

Monday morning, September 23rd, we pulled out of our driveway – in our 2006 Chrysler Minivan – with NO trailer and no worries - we had 4 new tires and a fresh oil change!     The day’s goal was to reach St Louis and we came within 45 miles of our goal.  425 miles in one day was way more than what we’ve been used to on our trips to and from Florida – or anywhere!  We fell asleep way too soon and consequently woke up WAY to early so we hit the highway before sun up.  We were just in time to get in line with all the “go to work”- stop and go traffic, trying to squeeze into downtown St Louis from all the various tentacles of roadways that merged on the bridge over the Mississippi River.

The St Louis Zoo opened at 9am and we were there, ready to explore and enjoy.  The zoo and the neighboring beautiful Forest Hill Park were part of the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, informally known as the St Louis World’s Fair. The park and zoo covered 1300 acres!  Like our beloved Toledo Zoo, this zoo still embraces the wonderful architecture of the beautiful old buildings and has also designed some fabulous new enrichment enclosures for it’s collection of interesting animals.  Even though they have Asian elephants, they have no African elephants.  NO polar bears (since 2009), but there is an amazing Sea Lion underwater viewing tunnel!  H fell in love with a young seal with big dark sad eyes! The hippo area was amazing and everyone laughed at the display about hippo poop!  Gorillas, chimps and some up close, in your face red orangutans completed our big ape tour.  I could go on and on about all the animals and birds, the train, the flowers and the myriad of fabulous fountains and ponds but the rest of Forest Park and the history of the Worlds Fair that was held there is mind-boggling!  Even though most of the buildings were destroyed, some remain and are now other museums and venues.  Time to head back to the highway and on  west.

Rt 44 has replaced Rt 66 in most motorists need for speed to get from one town to the next but in a lot of areas the multi laned highway is right next to the old 2 lane road that is fondly called “The Mother Road”.  We veered off of the expressway to slow down and experience travel as it used to be.  Once the 2 lane ended in a dirt road but mostly it led thru small towns with kookie old buildings and funky “tourist” gift shops.  We stopped at the Route 66 State Park, which has a museum housed in an old inn that was once a popular stopping place by the side of the original old road.  One of the displays includes a 1988 Yamaha Route 66 motorcycle.  The one in our garage is in better condition than theirs!   We learned that bike was only produced for 2 years and only in 2 colors – black and the pretty tan of H’s bike! 

Rt 44(and 66) crossed the state and went from the hills of St Louis to the rugged terrain on south central Missouri and then the plateau between Springfield and Joplin.  From golden fields of corn and beans being combined in clouds of red dust by mammoth machines to the thick green forests on the edge of the Ozarks.    We’ve made it to Exit 8 in Joplin and are “camped” for the night in a newly renovated Days Inn.  Tomorrow we tackle Oklahoma!   Come with us!