Rollin’ To Rolla

What a day. Best one yet, hands down – the route was marvellous, the driving easy and the sightseeing insightful. And I stayed on Route 66 the entire time!

I’m still in Missouri – not because it is so big but because I took my time today. One thing I have learned about the state, which is described as “The Cave State” is that it has more roundabouts here than anywhere else I’ve been in America. I reckon I’d need two hands to count them.

Another notable feature of Missouri is the undulating countryside. There’s a whole bunch of geology going on to create this, and it’s all underpinned by huge beds of limestone.  For the most part Missouri is covered in grassy fields, much like Europe, so the semi-tropical seas that these rocks were laid down in half a billion years ago largely go unnoticed until Route 66 goes through a cutting. Of course, the limestone is what gives the state its tagline and tomorrow I’m hoping to find time to visit some of the state’s caverns.

Now that you have a description of the what’s under the road, I’ll tell you that the result of this was a road that hugged these whoop-di-dos and gave me a rollercoaster of a drive the entire day. I was pretty sad when Route 66 ran out of length and my navigation app brought me on to I-44.

Now that I’ve got my write-up of the driving part of the day I’ll share with you my touristy experiences, which began just outside of Carthage when a huge slab of steel projecting into the sky caught my eye.

What a treat these drive-ins, which used to be a mainstay feature of the larger town along Route 66 would have been to those heading West. There are very few operating ones left now and the 66 Drive-In Theatre (which has run almost continually since it opened 1949) is one of the last great working examples. 

After much meandering, I found myself at one of the locations I’d been looking out for since I started planning this trip. With most of the river crossings going un-noticed as Route 66 glides across them with barely a bump, finding a box girder bridge still intact after 60 years was a treat. And then to discover a carefully restored (but not operating) gas station on the other side completed the experience.

Route 66 took me on to Springfield, MO – where the newly recognised highway network was given its official “Route 66” designation in 1926 – giving the town the right to call itself the birth place of ROute 66. I learned all of this at the local tourist office, where the staff entertained me for quite a while before giving me directions to the nearest Steak N Shake.

With lunch of a classic double cheeseburger and a vanilla milkshake consumed I continued my trundle eastward, taking photo ops at the Munger Moss Hotel and a second box girder bridge somewhere in rural Missouri.

And all those adventures brought me to Rolla (pronounced rah-lah), another night stop picked because it has a Walmart that allows overnight parking. 

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