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Day 34 – Saturday 3 June 2017 Chicago

Our feet hurt, and I will not even attempt to describe how my Achilles Tendon feels!  Over 6 hours wandering the streets of Chicago, in very high 80’s temperatures, is not ideal, but we are unlikely to be here again.

Highlight of our day was the “Architecture River Tour” along the Chicago River, looking at all of the buildings.  That sounds a bit dull in isolation, but the Guide’s encyclopaedic knowledge was impressive, and we saw a lot of amazing buildings.  However, to appreciate them you need to be there, so I am only going to post three pictures today.

The tour boat we went on:

Route 66 from the river:

Route 66 from underneath!

The End!

We leave Chicago, and Route 66, behind us tomorrow, for our journey back to the UK, stopping off in Iceland whilst en-route.  Our road trip has been, to use the word of almost every young Server we have come into contact with, “Awesome”.  We have seen some incredible sights, passed through some great cities, towns and villages, and met all manner of friendly and helpful people,

Okay – one last picture.  A very friendly Chicago PD Officer who has family in Battersea:

Day 33 – Friday 2 June 2017 – Chicago

Although we arrived yesterday, today we feel that our journey is officially over.  We visited the all important Route 66 signs, and ate in Lou Mitchell’s which is a Route 66 tradition:

Pauline spent ages looking for someone that she considered may be trustworthy enough to take this picture for us!

Three “Begin” signs all within a hundred yards!  We met some Brazilian Bikers at this sign, who were just about to start their journey.  They were very excited!

Pauline’s “light lunch” – Cantaloupe, Tuna, Cottage Cheese, Pineapple, Tomato and Pickle:

My Apple and Cheese omelette.  Sounds a bit weird from an English perspective, but it was delicious:

The Union Station was just along the road:

We spent most of the day getting on and off an open-top tour bus which is always a good way to see a big city.  Some random skyline pictures:

Not sure I would like to reverse a car into these spaces:

The famous “El”.   The only thing missing were Cop Cars chasing Bad Guys at high speed underneath it:

This is supposed to be a Flamingo…

 

Picasso sculpture:

 

Us looking straight into the Sun:

Buckingham Fountain – copied from a fountain at Versailles:

Trump Tower:

We spent quite a while at the Navy Pier.  Pity I never noticed that the camera lens was getting a bit smeary:

The Rolling Stones’ Exhibition is on in Chicago until July.  These tongues were everywhere on the Pier:

We went on the Ferris Wheel:

The Ground Floor level inside is just shops and eateries, so we were surprised to find a tranquil garden on the upper level:

Day 29 – Monday 29 May 2017 St Louis

End of week four mileage is 2957.  Suspect that if we totted up all the little local trips during the evenings etc. we would be well above 3000 by now.

Note to Self:  When you have a painful foot, and it is very hot and humid, walking around a city for nearly 6 hours is not a good idea!  On the plus side, we spent an hour on a cruise up the Mississippi River, on a paddle boat called the Tom Sawyer.  As we were walking back to the hotel it started to rain big droplets, but it only started to come down heavily just after we got into the hotel.

Camera battery fully charged.  A better view from our hotel room window:

The historic St Louis Courthouse.  We spent quite a lot of time wandering around inside;

Looking up at the inside of the dome.  If I had lain down on the floor I may have been able to get it all in, but I would probably have had to ask for help to stand up again!


The booking office for trips up inside the Arch is in the Courthouse, but it was fully booked.  Not surprising as it is the Memorial Day holiday.  When we saw what we would have travelled up in, we didn’t mind so much that we could not make the trip:

A lot of the exhibitions in the Courthouse were about the abolition of slavery, and we watched a very moving documentary about Dred Scott and his wife Harriet, and their fight for freedom.

Everywhere you turn in Downtown St Louis there are sculptures:

You can almost hear her shrieking because she had got her hair wet:

Front and rear view to illustrate that it is about to hit a tiny being with a sledge hammer!

Power Walker:

We saw a lot of these inset into the pavement so, presumably, every State is represented somewhere in the area we were in:

We were arguing about where to go for lunch.  If you look closely you can see Pauline’s gritted teeth:

We went to Laclede’s Landing, which is an old warehouse area alongside the river, where there were all manner of eateries:

Needless to say, there was a sculpture just inside the entrance.  Pauline in full pose mode:

and we ate in Joey B’s.  As well as tipping the expected 20% for good service, Pauline also gave our server a winning Scratch Card for 2 USD.  Her largesse knows no bounds…

After lunch we headed for the Arch and, although we could not go up it, we went into the Visitors’ area under one side of the base and watched a really interesting documentary about how it was built in the early and mid-60’s.  630 feet tall and weighs more an aircraft carrier!

Then it was down to the river side for our cruise.  Lots of horse drawn carriages and this one is for Evie, our Granddaughter.

A log masquerading as a seal:

Lots of bridges:

Pauline’s “I am enjoying myself really” look:

Me demonstrating my usually well hidden artistic side by capturing the old Courthouse through the Arch:

As I am finishing Blogging for this evening, the thunder has started – again. Now we have two Arches:

Day 28 – Sunday 28 May 2017 Cuba to St Louis

Distance travelled 109 miles.  Time on the road 4.5 hours.

Very overcast this morning but at least the rain eventually stopped.  Some pictures of the 1938 Wagon Wheel Motel where a lot of money has obviously been spent on preservation.  The most comfortable bed so far, and we have slept in more than a few on this trip:

Yet again, the driving rain came in useful for washing our car:

Before we set off on the road today, we drove around Cuba taking photo’s of all the murals.  Cuba is described as Mural City and it is not hard to see why:

This one commemorates a forced landing in Cuba by Amelia Earhart:

Considering how far North Cuba is, we were surprised to see that the Confederate Army had reached the town:

A new one being painted:

Even the old gas station was beautifully decorated:

Then we had a late, and superb, breakfast in Shelly’s Cafe:

and Pauline made a new friend:

We eventually got going!

St Cloud.  A big gun!  Outside Ruby’s Guns “We sell protection!”

As planned, we went to the Meramec Caverns but, as soon as we saw that the tour was 1 hour 20 minutes long we decided not to go in.  As mentioned way back at the start of our Blog, I was a bit concerned about my Plantar Fasciitis i.e. excruciating heel pain starting up again, and it did about a week ago but I have been very brave and not mentioned it until now.  I have had it strapped up with Messrs. Walgreen’s foot strapping up thingy, but I still did not want to get stuck in such a long tour.  In addition, we did an interesting cavern some weeks back on the trip and, when you have seen one stalactite you have seen them all, and the same applies to stalagmites… Allegedly, Jesse James used the caverns as a hideout.  Whether he did or not, it is good for business!

Guess who was convinced that I had failed to either lock the car or turn the engine off.  She was wrong but her FitBit enjoyed the extra steps!

St Clair.  A trading post:

Two lonely old gas pumps.  They are actually in someone’s front garden:

Villa Ridge.  The Zephyr Cafe & Gas Station.  Pauline liked what they had done with the place!

Just down the road was Diamonds Restaurant.  If you follow the link you can see what it looked like in its heyday:

Still in Villa Ridge.  The 1945 Gardenway Motel which must be the biggest we have seen.  The picture just shows half of it.

Pick a Sign.  Any sign.  We went Left:

Pacific.  Old Silica Mines were alongside the road all the way through Pacific.  Someone, OK, Me, failed to charge the battery in the camera last night, and it died after Pauline took this one.  Needless to say, much better caves were just along the road:

Eureka.  We stopped off in the Route 66 State Park, but could not get far as we were in a car:

A tiny bridge that we could not cross:

Kirkwood.  1947 Spencer’s Grill.

On our final run into Downtown St. Louis:

The view from our 17th Floor room.  The view of the Arch cost us an extra 8 Dollars per night!

Day 27 – Saturday 27 May 2017 Springfield MO to Cuba MO

Distance travelled 140 miles. Time on the road nearly 6.5 hours.

We have just managed to beat the thunderstorms to tonight’s motel, the iconic Wagon Wheel in Cuba. We stayed ahead of them all day, spurred on by descriptions of “severe storms” and “golf ball hail”, but it literally started just after we pulled up outside our cabin and as we started to unload the car. Heavy rain, thunder and lightening, and I am drafting this in Word because the internet connection is already down! One quick picture of the cabin, with more to follow tomorrow – if the weather improves so that we can take some:

Last night our hotel in Springfield MO (I keep saying Springfield MO because next week we are in Springfield IL) could well have been right in the middle of the Street Rod show. Ours was one of the few normal cars in the carpark overnight, and when we went across to the nearby Cracker Barrel for Dinner (Mel – we pretended you were with us. Hope you felt the Love!) the place was full of Show participants in their fancy T Shirts which put my grey “Standing on The Corner in Winslow, Arizona” one into the shade. Springfield MO is where Route 66 has its roots, and the hotel had a nice clock in the lobby:

When we got outside to load our car, one of the few remaining Show cars from the night before, was this tiny thing:

Pauline took this one just to illustrate how closely the modern Interstates sometimes follow the old Route 66 highway.   A couple of minutes later our road veered off into the countryside.

Phillipsburg.  We never went in!

Stark City.  Freshly repainted by the look of it.  Quite a few barns along Route 66 advertising these Caverns, which we will be visiting tomorrow.  Despite their new appearance they date back to the 1930’s.  Apparently, new Barn Murals are not allowed, but the law allows old ones to be preserved.

Lebanon.  You know you are in a town that appreciates its Route 66 heritage when you see something like this on the way in:

A Veterans’ Memorial:

Finally, an old Motel.  We were beginning to wonder whether we would see any:

Immediately over the road from the iconic Munger Moss Motel.  Beautifully preserved and still working:

In the middle of nowhere:

Waynesville.  The famous Frog Rock:

Pulaski County .  Devil’s Elbow Railway Bridge:

and the road bridge over the Big Piney River:

Devil’s Elbow Inn:

Newburg. Vernelle’s Motel on a very old alignment that runs parallel to a newer road.  Disused and someone has, less than helpfully, blocked off the road:

When we saw that the old alignment was blocked off at Vernelle’s Motel, we thought that we would have to give John’s Modern Cabins a miss.  However, about 100 yards further along, there is a car width track leading across to the old alignment, right alongside of the old cabins which are falling to pieces now.  Lots of mosquitoes!

!!!!  The middle of America and we come across a half-sized model of Stonehenge…  It was carved by the University of Missouri’s Water Jet Lab to demonstrate the power of their equipment and, apparently, when used as a clock it is accurate to within 15 seconds. :

An original Mule Trading Post:

Transporting new lorries American style:

St James.  An old gas station.  One of very few that we have seen today.  In some States we saw dozens every hour:

Fanning.   Pauline had cunningly worn a top that complemented the chair.  If you look really closely, the local Top Cat Chapter are all snoozing on the left hand rocker:

Close up!

Storm is still well underway outside,..

Day 26 – Friday 26 May 2017 Springfield MO

Distance travelled 60 miles.  Time on the road – negligible.

Branson is already starting to become a distant memory, and we are now back on Route 66 again.  I don’t suppose we will ever again see scenery like we did in Branson.  It was really something quite special, and driving up and down the hills was something to remember. Particularly when we were not on the main highways when the roads were winding, twisting and narrow!

We left Branson mid-morning, so we were in Springfield by lunchtime, and we went straight to the Street Rod Show.  Over 2200 classic, vintage or customised cars on display and the sheer variety was mind-boggling to us Brits who rarely see examples of these back home.  It was obviously a big social event for a lot of the owners who were catching up with old friends and, no doubt, deciding that their car was actually the best one on display!

Highlight of the day for me was getting a ride along in a souped up Mustang around an obstacle course.  Half a minute waiting for the light to go green, then 30 seconds of pure adrenaline.  My driver blotted his copy book by taking out a few cones but, as the circuit was also open to anyone who wanted to drive their own cars around it, and who were hitting cones all over the place, I don’t think his professional status was affected by just a couple of cones!  Small clip I filmed from inside the car:

DSCF3942 and Pauline took this video as I went round – click here but you need to be on Facebook to watch it.

and just a few of the 2200 cars!

My favourite car (and lady):

Paint it Black…

Day 25 – Thursday 25 May 2017 Branson

Another lazy day, but our last one as we rejoin Route 66 tomorrow.

Spent the morning strolling around Branson Old Town and the shops down by the lake. Spotted a Brookstones so I was able to satisfy my need for a gadget that a) does not weigh much and b) might actually come in handy!  Pauline is dubious about point b)!

This evening we went to the Dixie Stampede Dinner Show, and it was the highlight of our visit to Branson.  We are big fans of Dolly Parton and, thanks to our children who have bought the tickets for us, we have seen her on her UK tours a number of times.  We were also lucky enough to see her in her Christmas Show in Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, some years ago and the Dixie Stampede has been on our “must see” list ever since.  When we found that we could see the show in Branson it was a no-brainer!

Looks as though all of the recent good-eating has taken its toll, so I will have to watch what I eat from here on!  So much good food and so little time left to eat it all!

As mentioned earlier, we are back to Route 66 tomorrow, and we will be glad to be on the road again as we have really enjoyed it so far.  We will be heading up to Spingfield MO first thing in the morning, so that we can spend as much of the day as possible at the NSRA Mid-America Street Rod Nationals , and then we will head out of Springfield for Cuba MO on Saturday morning.

Day 24 – Wednesday 24 May 2017 Branson

Lazy day today.

Yesterday evening we went to the “Raid the Country Vaults” show, with tickets given to us, for Christmas, by our eldest daughter Leanne and her husband Neil.  What a great show.  Cannot praise it enough to anyone who reads this and thinks about going.  Tracked the history of Country music from its roots to modern times, and it was a truly excellent show.

This morning we visited the Branson Veterans Memorial Museum which has displays about all of the 20th Century conflicts.  With both Pauline and I being Veterans, albeit British Veterans, we found it to be a humbling experience.  For obvious reasons, visiting such a Museum cannot be described as enjoyable, but I hope any readers of this post who visit Branson make the effort to visit the Museum.  It will be time well spent.

This afternoon we went on the Showboat Branson Belle for the Cruise and Show.  We weren’t really sure what to expect, but it was a great show, with some very talented performers, and the food was excellent.

Going back to my paragraph about the Veterans Memorial Museum reminds me to comment about the respect and gratitude that is always shown to Veterans in the United States.  Going right back to our first visit here, many years ago now, we have always noted this.  As always, everywhere we have been on this road trip has offered discounts to Veterans, including us, despite not being US Citizens, and every show includes thanking Veterans for their service.  As an example a whole section of the Showboat show was devoted to Veterans.  Pity it is not the same in the UK.

Day 23 – Tuesday 23 May 2017 Branson

Distance travelled today 84 miles.

Before I start today’s ramblings, a note for the person who contacted me about my spelling. Please bear in mind that I am English and we do not spell all words the same as Americans do. Dare I suggest that, as the language was ours originally, our spellings are the correct ones.

Yesterday evening we went to see an Eagles Tribute band, at the Branson Tribute Theatre, and they were exceptionally good.

To us Branson, like most entertainment centres, is great at night but can be a bit boring during the day, so this morning we decided to go for a drive into Arkansas, which is a State that we have never visited before,   Quite a few towns are in easy reach of Branson, but we opted to visit Berryville after Googling a few towns to see what they have to offer tourists.  Berryville was a good choice and the Saunders Museum located there more than made the journey worthwhile.  Regretfully, they did not allow photography inside, which is a great shame, as it was full of artefacts from all over the World, plus an historic  gun collection that probably cannot be bettered anywhere.  Although he was successful in his own right,  Charles “Buck” Saunders, the Museum’s benefactor, certainly knew how to make the most of the money that came with marrying an incredibly wealthy widow who was many years older than himself.

Driving through the Ozark Mountains was a real pleasure, and completely different to all of the driving we have done so far on Route 66.  Also, our lunch in the Ozark Cafe, in the Town’s Square, was memorable as, just as it was in Mclean, it was a proper small town eatery with excellent food and service.

A photo of the road we travelled.  It doesn’t really do justice to the many curves, and the high ridges and valleys along the way though:

Just a few photos taken around the Town Square:

Driving Route 66 it is easy to forget that there are other historic highways in America.  This one runs from El Paso up to the Canadian Border:

An old hotel:

Day 22 – Monday 22 May 2017 Branson

Distance travelled 33 miles which takes us over 2,500 for our journey so far.

Another very lazy day.  We went out for a drive to check on our route to the Showboat Branson Belle where we will be spending Thursday evening having Dinner and a Show, whilst cruising Showboat on Table Rock Lake, which has been recommended by a number of people we have spoken to since we set off.  After that, we just went with the flow, without a clue where we were going, but heading vaguely in the direction of Downtown Branson, which we found eventually more by luck than judgement.  Plan A was that we would eventually set the SatNav to bring us back to our resort from wherever we ended up.

We had some lunch in a Steak & Shake; cheap, cheerful and a favourite of youngest daughter, Melanie, and, as it is her Birthday, we thought the venue to be an appropriate one. Not sure she will agree as she was not with us!  After all of the eating out we have been doing for the last 3 weeks, having a basic burger and shake made a pleasant change. When we got back to the car it was time to set up the SatNav  for our journey back, but it was not in the glove compartment!  After 5 minutes of arguing about who was at fault, we set off confident that sooner or later we would hit one of the coloured route markers, designed to keep tourists like us on the route we want, and we managed to get back alright.  As we were getting out of the car I caught my foot in the cable leading to the SatNav which I had hidden under my seat yesterday afternoon…  On the plus side, it proved that Pauline was wrong when she was arguing vehemently that I had taken it inside with me yesterday!