Springfield IL, St. Louis and Springfield MO.
After leaving Chicago our adventure on the Mother Road began and the first stop was the intriguing Gemini Giant in Wilmington. This large fiberglass muffler man outfitted for space travel is a landmark statue on Route 66 which has stood its ground since 1965.
We drove to Springfield where we stayed in Hampton Inn Springfield hotel and visited the picturesque Oak Ridge Cemetery to see the Lincoln Tomb. The mausoleum was designated one of the first national Historic landmarks in 1960 and became one of the first sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. Legend has it that touching the nose on the bronze bust of Lincoln located in front of the tomb will bring good luck so we rubbed Lincoln’s nose to get some good fortune. Some of the other mausoleums in the cemetery were also very impressive and mysterious, something you would expect to see in Supernatural.
As I am a true bridge hunter, we took a small detour off Route 66 to see the wonderful old Sugar Creek Covered Bridge in Chatham, Illinois. The sources disagree on the exact date of construction, placing it at either 1827 or 1880. In 1978 the bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Our next stop was the famous Luna Café which was built in 1926 and used to be visited frequently by Al Capone himself. Luna also hosted a casino in the basement and brothel on the second floor. Back in the old days, the red cherries in the martini glass on the neon sign were lighted only when the “working girls” in the brothel were available for business.
St. Louis was our next destination where we stayed in Hampton Inn Gateway Arch hotel. We could not miss the main attraction, the Gateway Arch. This 630-foot tall arch is the tallest man-made monument in the United States. We took a 4 minute ride up the leg of the arch in an elevator-like tram all the way to the observation deck at the top and admired unforgettable views of the city and the Mississippi River. The journey to the top is not for those who don’t like small closed spaces as the tram cubicles are a bit claustrophobic however the magnificent views at the top made up for this.
After leaving St. Louis we drove through the picturesque Devil’s Elbow area. The name “Devil’s Elbow” comes from a section of the Big Piney River that turns so acutely it caused repeated logjams. Some lumberjacks swore it was put there by the devil himself just to cause them grief. During the 1930s and 1940s Devil’s Elbow was a resort community with cabins, canoes, and the famous Munger Moss Sandwich Shop which still exists under the name Elbow Inn. This local biker type bar with quirky décor famous for its smoked meats is a great little pit stop along Route 66. The bar has a juke box playing country songs, a glamour ladies bathroom and very unique ceiling decorations – a sea of bras, many of which have been signed by their former owners with Route 66 notes. Near the bar you can find the Devil’s Elbow Bridge which was built in 1923 and crosses Big Piney River and of course I could not deny myself taking a photo of it.
We arrived at our next destination, Springfield MO. We stayed in Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven which gives a taste of the traditional 1950’s motels. It was built in 1938 as eight sandstone individual cottages and converted into what we have today in the 1950’s. Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven is a recipient of the Best Western Director’s Award and the National Registry of Historic Places. Elvis stayed here in 1956 and one of the rooms is dedicated to him. Although our room seemed slightly aged and musky, the motel had a nostalgic and vintage feel and it was a classic Route 66 experience that should not be missed.
It was only a few hours of sleep until we had to hit the road again and our next stops were Oklahoma City, Amarillo and Albuquerque which you will be able to read about very soon in my next post.
I hope you are enjoying our little adventure on Route 66.