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Twelve days and more than 2,500 miles ago we left Santa Monica, California, bound for Chicago along old Route 66. That journey ended today as weve arrived at our destination.
We just had lunch with our boss (Midwest Bureau Chief Peter Bohan, upper right) at Lou Mitchells, the last of our trip.
This famous diner almost right at the eastern end of Americas Main Street and is renowned as a starting point for taking Route 66 westward almost everyone else goes west.
Linda Carnes, one of the waitresses here, said to say hello. She said the last time they put me in the paper, I got hate mail.
Sheri Wasberg, one of the longest serving waitresses here, also sends her love.
The Dixie Truckers Home in McLean, Illinois, off Interstate 55 and alongside what used to be Route 66, may not be the first American truckstop. But it’s definitely one of the oldest — and one of the most revered among aficionados of the old cross-country highway.
Opened in 1928, just two years after Route 66, the Dixie Truckers Home survived the federal highway’s decommissioning in the early 1980s and continues to serve as a home away from home for long-haul truckers and other road warriors and travelers.
This bridge was once the point at which Route 66 crossed the Mississippi River at St. Louis. Now there is a picnic table near the middle and the closest you can get to being run over is by a short-sighted cyclist.
This is the Chain of Rocks Bridge named for a seven-mile stretch of rocks under the water stretching north of St. Louis which once carried cars and trucks over the river on their way east or west.
As the Route 66 Team traveled from Los Angeles to Chicago, celebrating Route 66 and the allure of the open road, we drove past a lot of reminders of the carnage that automobile travel entails.
Yeah, we’re talking roadkill.
Here’s a handful of the poor critters we came across during our the 2,500-mile journey.
You won’t find Times Beach on any up-to-date map of Missouri. And all references to it have been taken off signs on Interstate 44, the major east-west highway that replaced old Route 66 in this part of the country.
But 25 years ago, Times Beach, located about 25 miles west of St. Louis, was Missouri’s best known — the right word is notorious — city after the waters of the nearby Meramec River rose more than 20 feet above flood level, inundating homes to near ceiling level and spreading an oil that the city had sprayed on its unpaved roads.
If like us you travel Route 66 the wrong way round the vast majority of people take the trip west for the true highway experience then once you leave Los Angeles there are no major cities until you reach St. Louis in Missouri.
And the traffic on the roads reflects that. There is nothing reminiscent of the broad, clogged highways of Los Angeles until you reach St. Louis though even then St. Louis is nowhere near as busy as Los Angeles.
Less than 20 miles east of Lebanon, Missouri on old Route 66, there is a section of no more than a couple of miles that gives travellers a glimpse of the iconic highway as it once was.
First, you come across one of the metal arched bridges that are often associated with old U.S. and in particular Route 66.
If youre driving west along Route 66 and still do not feel satiated by the two museums dedicated to the highway in Oklahoma, you could do worse than stop in at the museum in Lebanon, Missouri.
It is smaller than the other two, so there is less to see. But there is a mock old-fashioned gas station, an old diner and a rather shabby looking fake motel room, plus two Route 66 armchairs that any true aficionado of Americas Main Street might eye with envy.
And what this museum lacks in size it makes up for in generosity. Thats because this museum is free of charge, courtesy of the people of Laclede County, to which Lebanon belongs.
On the outside, Steve’s Sundry, Books & MagazinesÂ on South Harvard Avenue in Tulsa’s midtown neighborhood, doesn’t look like much. But just as you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, don’t write off Steve’s because of its modest curb appeal and its location in an aging strip mall.
Step inside, and you quickly discover why, in an age of Amazon.com, Borders, Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million, locals love this quirky, 60-year-old independent bookstore.
Like a number of towns along what was Route 66, the motels here in Lebanon, Missouri thrived on the through traffic. And like many of those same towns, when Route 66 went away the motels were among the first to suffer.
Here in Lebanon they line old Route 66 away from the center of town, on what feels like a near-forgotten stretch of road. The signs are faded, but they are still in business.