Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Route 66 - The State of Missouri (and 13 miles of Kansas)

Route 66 – The State of Missouri

(and 13 miles of Kansas)

The Show Me State of Missouri is where the Western Expansion began. Trails like the Oregon Trail, the Overland California Trail and the Santa Fe Trail all began on the river banks of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. Lewis and Clark started on their exploration of the western territory in 1804 from St. Charles, just northwest of St. Louis, and ended at the Pacific Ocean in Oregon. St. Charles was the first Capitol of Missouri, but the governmental offices were moved to Jefferson City in 1826.

Even though Route 66 originally came across the Mississippi River in the center of St. Louis, the later route across the river was by the way of the Chain of Rocks Bridge just south of the I-270 bypass route of today. This was to avoid the congestion and the crime of the big city. The Chain of Rocks Bridge opened in 1929 and closed in the late 1960’s. Today it is billed as the “world’s largest bicycle and pedestrian bridge”.

When Route 66 began bypassing the city, it came down Highway 67, Lindbergh Blvd. and the earliest route turned southwest on Watson Road, combining with I-44 today. A later route brought Highway 67 down to Manchester Road and then west. The two routes met and merged in Gray Summit. The historical Mother Road ran 300 miles southwest through the state of Missouri before entering Kansas.

Some history on the area…St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 introduced the ice cream cone. When vendors ran out of bowls in which to serve the ice cream, they started using folded waffles. Because the weather was so stifling, hot tea wasn’t selling, so a vendor starting serving it over ice, and ice tea was born. And the hamburger, which was first served in New Haven, Connecticut, was first mass produced at the 1904 Fair.

The World’s Fair was held on 1,300 acres in Forest Park, then the largest city park in the United States. At one time the giant turtles were part of the park before highway 60/64 sliced through the southern edge of Forest Park. A song was written for the fair, “Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis”, but the musical wasn’t produced until 1944, starring Judy Garland. The Spirit of St. Louis was the name of the airplane which Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic. A replica of the plane was made by the same company who built the original one, and it was flown by Jimmy Stewart in the movie named after the plane. In 1907 the first gasoline station chain, American Gasoline Company, was started in St. Louis.

There are five blocks of Delmar that has close to 100 names in the sidewalk of famous people from that area: Harry Truman, President, Betty Gribble-pin-up gal, Vincent Price-actor, Chuck Berry-rock n’ roller, Duke Ellington-jazz great, George Washington Carver-a former slave who revolutionalized agriculture, Yogi Berra-baseball giant, to name a few. Also T.S. Elliott, whose writings inspired the musical “Cats”. And don’t forget Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain, who gave us the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the tallest monument in the US, symbolizes the Gateway to the West. It was completed in 1965. The Old Courthouse, nearby, was built in 1839, and was the site of the Dred Scott Case. Mr. Scott is buried in St. Louis at the Calvary Cemetery. A Route 66 icon still going strong today is Ted Drewes Frozen Custard.

One of the well known places to visit is Meramec Caverns. This because famous for three reasons: 1) It was billed as Jesse James’ hideout; 2) It’s logo was painted on over 350 barns across the Midwest; and 3) every visiting vehicle left with a “bumper sticker” on their rear bumper…a new advertising gimmick created by the Dill family, the owners of Meramec Caverns. Missouri is home to more than 5,400 registered caverns.

The Ozark region of Missouri was known as moonshine territory. It’s where the notorious families of the Hatfields and McCoys lived and feuded.

The stretch of Route 66 from Rolla to Springfield was the same road that the exiled Cherokee Indians had to march, being forced out of their homes in Georgia by US troops in 1838. They were sent to Oklahoma. Many died along the way, and the route became known as “The Trail of Tears”.

Springfield is the home of the first drive through hamburger stand, Red Giant’s Hamburg, no longer there; and the original Steak and Shake restaurant, which is still in business. It was started in 1960. Bass Pro Shops Outside World originated from this capital city.

When Route 66 exits Missouri through Joplin, it goes into Kansas and travels for 13 miles prior to entering Oklahoma. Kansas is known as the Sunflower State, and it’s state song is “Home on the Range”. It is considered the central state of the 48 states, the crossroads of historical trails. The Oregon Trail went through Topeka; the Overland California Trail; The Santa Fe Trail; The Chisholm Trail, on which cattle and cowboys travelled from Texas to Abilene; and the Pony Express route which took mail from Missouri to California. This corner of Kansas is mining territory. Leaving Kansas, the Mother Road is now ready to enter into the Great American West as it moves into Oklahoma.

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