After a not particularly great night of sleep, but fortified by Marmite toast (me) and Raisin Bran (Liz) we got back on the road. We skipped the first stop on our list for the day, since it was a restaurant known for its desserts and we were still full from breakfast and headed south to join back onto the main route having spent the night on a earlier branch of the route that was later bypassed. Our first stop of the day was the Chain of Rocks bridge that crosses the Mississippi over the Illinois/Missouri border. The original bridge is closed to vehicular traffic as a result of the large volume of accidents caused by the 22 degree curve part of the way across. It is however still open to walkers and cyclists having been restored and made safe in 1997.

The 22 degree corner on the bridge, no wonder there were lots of accidents!

Having parked the car, we wandered slowly across the bridge, enjoying the view and the sunshine. Halfway across there was a bike rack, with a Route 66 shield on each end to mark the state line. Liz walked all the way across the bridge to the Missouri side, but suffering slightly from the heat, I collapsed theatrically on a bench not far after the turn to await her return – pathetic I know. In my defence it was a long bridge, and I technically still walked from Illinois to Missouri and back again. Once Liz had come back from Missouri, we headed back to the car to continue our trip. After joining the interstate briefly in order to cross the Mississippi on the newer bridge we then returned to more local roads to take us through St Louis. We passed the famous arch, although we could not stop on the 4 lane road that we were on, I managed to get a few pictures. Eventually we found our way to the famous Ted Drewes Frozen Custard Stand. Since it was over 90 degrees outside (Fahrenheit) it was somewhat crowded, but we managed to find a fast moving queue so that we could order our “concretes” which they have been serving since 1941. We were a little disappointed to find that frozen custard is essentially ice cream, but it was good anyway. Having demolished our lunch (they were pretty large servings of frozen custard, therefore can be considered lunch) we hit the road once again in search of the Route 66 State Park, home to the abandoned town of Times Beach. Unfortunately, our search was in vain, the entrance we found was closed and the directions to the alternative so bad that we could not find it. Not a Eureka moment, ironic, since the nearest town is called Eureka. Rejoining Route 66 we continued to head towards the Meramec Caverns, a tourist attraction advertised the entire length of Route 66.

Stalactites

About 20 miles from the caverns we stopped to change into cooler clothes (we were both in jeans and it had hit 94 degrees) and to switch drivers since I was feeling sick from map reading. We arrived at the caverns at around half four and were lucky enough to arrive just as a tour was starting. First we were taken down to the lower levels of the cave, into Jesse James’ hideout and escape route. He and his brother, having robbed a train, escaped into the caverns, where the local police thought they had them cornered, little did they know that there was an escape route via an underground river. We continued deeper into the cave, with the rock formations getting more impressive the deeper we went. The water in the underground rivers was so pure and clear that the reflections of the rocks above made it look really deep – in reality it was only about a foot deep. At the deepest part of the cave we went to there were some stunning stalactites and stalagmites, and the tour guide repeated the well known way of how to remember which one is which, however his way of remembering stalagmites was that they ‘might’ hurt if you sit on them, which we thought was hilarious. At this point he also turned off all the lights so that we could experience total darkness, but someone on the tour had a torch on, so the effect was somewhat ruined. On the way back towards the entrance he showed us an area where the reflection in the water made it look hundreds of feet deep due to the high vaulted ceiling, which was amazing. Returning to the point where we went down into the lower caves, we then took the other path into the upper levels. Our first stop was an enormous stalagmite, so huge that on one side it had cut off its own water supply so was considered dead. The other side was still alive, with water constantly running down it, and across the path into the pool of water beyond. We then went up to the wine room, called that for three reasons, one because there are rock formations that look like grapes, also due to a very rare formation called a wine table, one of only two found in the world.

The Rock Curtain

The final reason was the funniest, apparently the new tour guides always whine when they find that they have to climb 58 stairs on every tour. The wine table was certainly one of the weirder formations, I think it looked more like some sort of dinosaur or Dr Seuss character. Our final stop was in the rock theatre, with a huge curtain like formation, in the middle. We all took our seats and the tour guide played us two pieces of music, with light shows on the rocks accompanying each one. This was the end of the tour, and we followed the guide back up to the surface. After a visit to the shop, we hurried back out to the car to continue our journey. By this point it was half past 6 and we still had miles to go, as well as three things still on our list to do. We managed to make it to the giant rocking chair in Fanning before the sun had set, and decided to skip the half size model of Stonehenge, but there was no way that we were going to get to the scenic overlook at the Devil’s Elbow before dark.

World's largest rocking chair at Fanning.

We were still driving when it got completely dark, and made the decision to take the interstate forward to our motel for the night and then go back in the morning to pick up Route 66 again from where we had skipped ahead. At around 9pm we arrived at the historic Munger Moss Motel, a Route 66 relic. The restored neon sign was wonderful; although they had turned it off by the time we had found our room and then gone back for a photo, which was a shame. The motel was basic, but we were so tired that we didn’t care as we fell into bed after another exhausting day.

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