I made an early prediction that I’d stick to the interstate to make up time. I failed at this but still covered ground did some sightseeing and made my target.
Getting going around 8-ish, I made the decision to stick to Route 66 for as long as possible so, heading east again, I left Rolla and made for the next town along – St James. It’s not a particularly special town, Route 66-wise, but it did boast the biggest vacuum cleaner museum in the world. Not being especially into them – but hoping to get an “I visited the vacuum cleaner museum and it sucked” t-shirt – I was surprised by how interesting it was, and how engaging the curator was. Finding the same model that inspired the design for R2-D2 was the icing on the cake.
Staying on Route 66 for another 20 or so miles I came to Fanning Outpost & General Store. It’s a souvenir stand that has fresh popcorn, a bunch of wildly flavoured bottled drinks and a huge rocking chair. After staying for long enough to spend more money that I should have I worked my way back on to the interstate and made haste to St Louis.
Straddling the Missouri River and the Missouri/Illinois state line, this expansive city was the stepping off point for the settlers during the land rush of the 1800s. Easterners would come by river or rail to St Louis and join a wagon train into the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase. Or something like that.
The upshot of this is that the city became known as the Gateway of the West, and between the late 1940s and mid 1960s, a huge arch was designed, commissioned and constructed next to the river to commemorate the Louisiana Purchase and help soldiers returning from World War 2 find employment.
It’s huge. Simply huge: from base to base it’s 236 paces wide (taking over 2 minutes to walk between) and 630 feet tall. And as impressive as it is from the bottom, the elevator ride up and the rewarded view is indescribable.
Because I was pressed for time and illegally parked in a 5-minute waiting zone I nearly didn’t take the lift up, but I’m glad I did.
I still had an hour or so to drive to get to my overnight stop at a campground just outside of the second Springfield (this one in Illinois) of my trip so I jumped in the RV, found my way out of the city and headed north. North and towards my ultimate destination – Chicago!
My jubilance was to be popped just after I pulled off Interstate 55 when a state trooper pulled in behind me and gave me directions to pull over. It turned out he was suspicious that I pulled off the highway as soon as I passed him, and suspecting me of running drugs to Chicago (my RV does have Colorado plates after all) he decided to see where I was going. When I made a hash of a 3-way stop that had bad visibility he pulled me over. After explaining my reason for being in the US we had a chuckle and he went on his way. Needless to say, I had the laugh because the RV was full of Mexicans, depleted uranium and illegal fireworks.
The last few miles of the day were driven with a broad smile on my face. Tomorrow I’ll be at Star Wars Celebration and get to see the rest of the Rebelscum/TheForce.net team, who I haven’t laid eyes on since 2005.
Jeremy is the sole driver, writer and photographer on Order66RoadTrip.com. He has plenty of experience doing all three having toured the US, Europe and North Africa searching for Star Wars filming locations, written about Star Wars for several books, magazines and websites, as well as providing photographs for a numerous Star Wars websites and publications over the years.