In Kabul nothing changes, everything is changing

Jun 6, 2007 11:06 UTC

Welcome to the blog of our reporting trip to southern Afghanistan. I’ll be your host, Peter Graff. I’m the Reuters London defence correspondent. This is my sixth trip to Afghanistan since 2001.

I’m travelling with Stuart McDill — a Reuters TV cameraman trying to shake off a bout of flu — and Ahmad Masood, a photographer from our Kabul bureau.

The Kabul bureau is where I am sitting now. It’s a remarkably pleasant little villa around the corner from a whole bunch of embassies in what has always been an expensive part of town.

Little has changed in the building since I was first here five years ago: the door to the balcony still slams alarmingly, the walls still need paint, the garden is still improbably impeccably well trimmed. However, there’s a new, giant satelite dish on the lawn.

Our Man in Kabul is the indefatigably hospitable Sayed Salahuddin, a Reuters journalist who has outlasted the Russians, the Taliban and planeloads of know-it-all foreign correspondents like myself. He says I should go upstairs and get some lunch.

From green to black at G8

Jun 5, 2007 18:35 UTC

The U.N.’s top environment official flourished a bright green tie to help celebrate World Environment Day.

“We’re breaking through,” declared Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Programme, about what he sees as growing impetus towards a global deal to fight climate change after years of frustrations.

Fewer and fewer people doubt that human activities, led by burning fossil fuels, are heating the planet, he told Reuters over a cup of coffee in an Oslo hotel.

Home Chicago – journeys end after 2,500 miles

May 25, 2007 20:24 UTC

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.

One piece of advice for the Dixie Truckers Home

May 25, 2007 20:00 UTC

Dixie3.jpgThe 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.

If there’s a downside, it’s this: The original owners sold the Dixie a few years back and the new owners seem more interested in making the place a comfortable one for modern travelers than in preserving the old ambience (though they have opened up a Route 66 memorabilia room.)

Breezy stroll on Route 66s most famous bridge

May 25, 2007 19:36 UTC


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.

Built in 1929 as a toll bridge, it is roughly 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) in length and has a 22-degree in the middle of the river to enable navigation. From the late 1930s until the completion of the New Chain of Rocks Bridge just a little further upriver for Interstate 270, this bridge carried all Route 66 traffic.

Dark side of Route 66 and the open road

May 25, 2007 19:26 UTC

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.

Signs of life returning to Times Beach

May 25, 2007 19:08 UTC

You won’t find Times Beach on any up-to-date map of Missouri. Atimesbeach5.jpgnd all referenTimesBeach1.jpgces 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.

Unfortunately, that oil, applied to keep the dust down, wiped Times Beach off the map.

Snapshot from St. Louis: Oh yeah, thats what traffic looks like

May 25, 2007 15:53 UTC

congestion2.jpgIf 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.

It’s true that Albuquerque in New Mexico, Amarillo in Texas, plus Oklahoma City and Tulsa in Oklahoma are also on the route.

Hazelgreen, Missouri detour for glimpse of old Route 66

May 25, 2007 14:01 UTC


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.

Its old, portions of it are rusting, but its solid. And an awful lot of fun to cross.

Another Route 66 museum but this ones free!

May 25, 2007 13:55 UTC

Museum6.jpgIf 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,Museum4.jpg to which Lebanon belongs.

The museum has been housed in the local public library for the last three years and the librarians here said that the local populace had decided that it would be best to share their RoMuseum5.jpgute 66 heritage with travelers free of charge.