May 13, 2015
We’ve been pretty lucky with the weather so far on our trip. There was an enormous storm front across the lower plains – Texas panhandle and Oklahoma – just before we were due to travel through. We didn’t leave Santa Fe, New Mexico until we were sure things were clear ahead.
The weather was clear blue as we drove; nevertheless, we kept an eye on the forecast as we continued our journey toward Chicago. It looked like the weather was going to turn from sunshine to rain to thunderstorms over the coming few days. Not wanting to get stuck in thunderstorms we adjusted our plan. Rather than traveling the true Route 66 in southern Missouri we headed up the freeway to get to one of our must see destinations: Meramec Caverns.
Meramec Caverns has the distinction of being the most advertised place on Route 66. They pioneered roadside advertising in the olden days by paying farmers to paint their barns if they could include an advertisement. These ads are mostly gone today but we did find one which I’ll share in a day or two.
Because school was still in session the parking lot was nearly empty. A couple of elementary schools took some kids on a field trip; but otherwise it was very quiet. One of the vendors said he had only sold two things that day and none the day before. He was enjoying the calm before the storm; this place will be bustling come mid June.
Back during the civil war Missouri was part of the Confederacy. There was a contingent of Union soldiers in the caverns mining saltpeter for gunpowder until a group of Confederate irregulars stormed the place, killing the Union troops. Jesse James was part of that Confederate group and used his knowledge to his advantage after the Civil War by using it as a hideout when he turned into a lawless criminal.
Today the caverns are under private ownership with not criminals to be found. Our tour guide was knowledgeable and entertaining. It was tough to get pictures down there but I managed a couple that viewable.
There is a shallow pool of clear water reflecting the stalactites above. There were also growing stalagmites below.
The Meramec River flows slowly just outside the caverns. There is a large camping and picnic area that make up the grounds. It would be a nice place to camp and/or picnic.
From Meramec Caverns and Stanton, Missouri we rejoined Route 66 north toward St. Louis and then Illionis. In Pacific, Missouri we saw a cliff face with a number of caves.
After grabbing the picture above we started back to our car when we noticed a flock of birds flying around the mouth. We needed to explore. As we got closer we saw that they were nesting on tiny little nests along the wall.
I think these are cliff swallows but I’d like my birder friends to help me identify them.
As we approached St. Louis we decided we didn’t really want to hassle with the street-level traffic. And, I didn’t want to wander off into some part of the city I shouldn’t be in. Some of the Route 66 guides suggest “enjoying the view of Route 66 from the freeway.” I’m probably being something of a worry wart. So be it. We managed the freeways with rush hour traffic without too much trouble and grabbed a picture of the “Welcome to Illinois” sign as we crossed the Mississippi River (is it strange that I find myself spelling Mississippi to myself in the voice of my third grade jump-roping self?)
We’ve entered our eighth an final state on the Route 66 portion of our trip! Traveling at 65 MPH leaves little room for error. The sign is there just behind us. 🙂
It can be difficult to eat well on the road when most of what we see are greasy spoons and fast food joints. We decided to use Yelp to find a nice place in Edwardsville. We hit the jackpot with Cleveland Heath in downtown. Carla had fish tacos while I had some posole and their specialty deviled eggs with a muffin on the side.
The eggs were great and the posole was remarkable. I need to learn how to make that broth; it was rich with just the right hint of heat. It was topped with cabbage and was chock full of vegetables.
We are getting so close to the finish line. We will dawdle a bit in Illinois to visit my mom’s cousin Barbara May and visit my mom’s birthplace, Atlanta, Illinois. More on that tomorrow.