Day 1: Chicago to Rolla

I left Chicago early to avoid the particularly badly named ‘rush’ hour and headed south-west. The route has generally been replaced by sections of Interstates 55, 44 and 40 and in Illinois is remarkably well sign-posted with ‘Historic Route 66′ markers. I had no difficulty in finding my way without, initially, a map of the route itself. Later, this would become essential! My first tourist stop was the Dixie Truckers’ Home in McLean, Illinois. This historic truck stop provides refreshment for any already weary traveler and has a Route 66 Hall of Fame which is of some interest. From there, I continued alongside the Interstate on the service road which was the original highway until I arrived at the township of Staunton, still in Illinois. Here I stopped at Henry’s Old Route 66 Emporium – a must for those traveling the route. This is where I purchased an excellent map of the route which assisted me enormously in the subsequent, less well sign-posted, states. Linda Henry and I chatted at some length about the old road and we looked through many photos of other Route 66 pilgrims. Of course, I bought a few souvenirs too!

My next stop was the old Chain of Rocks bridge outside Mitchell, Illinois. At the time of my visit, this was a hard job to get to due to some road construction causing the ramp I wanted to use to be closed. When I eventually found the bridge, I was very disappointed to find it overgrown and hard to see.

gateway-archSoon after that, I crossed the state line into Missouri which put me in the city of St Louis. I couldn’t possibly drive through without paying a visit to the incredible Gateway Arch, built to memorialize the city as being the old gateway to the west. Paying the $8 admission fee to take a ‘tram’ ride to the top of the arch is definitely worth the expense. The view of the city and the Mississippi River is quite something and the tram design is clever too!

After St Louis, I paid a visit to the Meramec Caverns near Stanton. $10 will buy you a fascinating guided tour of this underground world, which once provided a hideout for the outlaw Jesse James! An added bonus is the temperature – it’s a good place to cool off after a day driving in the hot sun, but you might want to take a sweater or light jacket with you.

The caverns were my last tourist stop that day. I had earlier made the decision not to drive the route at night in case I missed anything, so I called a halt at a fair priced motel in Rolla. Total mileage today was 486 in just over 10 hours driving time.

Depart

Arrive

Elapsed

Total

Arrival Location

Miles

Total

5:05

8:15

3h 10m

3h 10m

Dixie Truckers’ Home
McLean, IL

154

154

8:30

10:45

2h 15m

5h 25m

Henry’s Old Route 66 Emporium
Staunton, IL

110

264

11:40

12:45

1h 5m

6h 30m

Chain of Rocks Bridge
Mitchell, IL

42

306

12:55

13:25

0h 30m

7h 0m

Gateway Arch
St. Louis, MO

20

326

14:30

15:55

1h 25m

8h 25m

Meramec Caverns
Stanton, MO

69

395

17:45

19:45

2h 0m

10h 25m

Econolodge Motel
Rolla, MO

91

486

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