April 2001: Route 66 – Romeoville, IL to St. Robert, MO (Day 2)

When we awoke Sunday, our Wayfarer Inn experience wasn’t over. When we discovered there wasn’t any hot (or even lukewarm!) water coming out of the shower, Jennifer decided she’d had enough and called the front desk. When she told Mr. Patel we weren’t getting any hot water, he said it would get hot if we left it on “for 5 or 10 minute”. At this point, Jennifer vowed to never take a chance on an independent motel she hadn’t previously stayed in. So, feeling a bit peeved at Mr. Patel’s remedy for hot water, we just decided to end this nightmare and leave. (I won’t tell you that we left on all the lights and television.)  We then went next door to Shoney’s for breakfast (best breakfast bar around!).

After breakfast, we stayed on 66 through Rolla and made our way back east. We noticed the Mule Trading Post was open, so we had to stop. Noticing we were wearing Route 66 garb, the man behind the counter informed us all the Route 66 merchandise was 10% off. So we stocked up on some of Jerry’s postcards, Bob Waldmire’s “Bird’s Eye View” of Route 66, and a map poster of his as well. Leaving the Mule Trading Post, we jumped on I-44 east so we could get back early enough to take 66 through Illinois.

However, I can only take “so much” of the interstate when I know 66 beckons nearby. So we got off 44 in Cuba, MO and rejoined 66. We took 66 back to Stanton, where we took the road towards Meramec Caverns and stopped at the Riverside Reptile Ranch. If you’ve never stopped here, it’s well worth the $4 admission. Jennifer & Amber stopped there last August while on their trip (Riverside Reptile Ranch, August, 2000) They have all sorts of critters there, ranging from turtles, lizards, and a variety of snakes. As Jennifer walked down the corridor where the displays are on both sides, she turned the corner at the end of the corridor to get a better look at a lizard. Much to her surprise when she turned the corner, there waiting for her was a tortoise on the floor that was at least 4 feet long and every bit of 2 feet tall! Fortunately, her heart failure was only temporary. 😉   At one point in the tour, we were nervous when our 12 year old tour guide got into the “cage” where two alligators were residing. He had a broomstick handle with him and put it around the mouth of one of the gators. We took about 3 steps back when this thing let out a loud “hiss” that sounded more like a vacuum cleaner! We were both having thoughts of  this young man becoming lunch, so we were relieved when he decided to get out of the cage. We finished the tour by heading out behind the building to see Leo, the 2 year old lion they have. They’ve had Leo since he was 2 months old. He was a very playful little fellow (if you can call a 400 pound lion “playful”), as he would rub against the fence while you could pet him. We were told by Bill Fitzgerald (at left, with Jennifer & Leo) that he could reach up to 600 pounds when he reaches maturity. Leo got a little tired from showing off in front of us and laid down next to the building. Thanking Bill for the tour and the stories about Leo, we took off for St. Louis.

Upon entering St. Louis, we had to stop for frozen custard again at Ted Drewe’s. We then crossed the Mississippi River and drove up Illinois 203 to Mitchell, where we rejoined Route 66. We pulled off across the street from the remnants of the old Bel-Air Drive-In. I pulled into the access road to the motel across the street. I pulled a “little” too far to the side of the road and the car got itself stuck in, what appeared to be, just wet grass. After running the gears through “drive” and “reverse” to rock the car out of the trench I was digging, it finally dawned on me. Why am I babying this thing? I’ve got a Chevy Caprice, ex-Indiana State Police cruiser with a 200 horsepower 350 V8 and posi-trac rearend! WHY am I babying it!?  So I just
gassed it and it blasted out of the trench. It left a nice “navigational waterway”………perhaps the motel can put a riverboat casino in it?? The Bel-Air Drive-In sign is still there, however the property will soon be developed into commercial businesses (hotels, restaurants). So we got a picture of the sign before it disappears for good.

From Mitchell, we motored up to Edwardsville where we stopped at the old A&W Root Beer, that appears to be weeks away from the wrecking ball. Jennifer stopped there last August on her first Route 66 trip and took some pictures of it (Route 66 – Illinois, August 2000).  From Edwardsville, we went through Hamel and stopped again at Staunton to get pictures of Henry’s Old Route 66 Emporium and the Country Classic Cars. We then ventured to Mt. Olive and poked our noses in the windows of Soulsby’s Service Station. In Litchfield, we got pictures of the Route 66 Cafe, the Ariston,  and a few other miscellaneous signs. Next we made a stop at Francis Marten’s farm and the “Our Lady of the Highways” shrine. Just north of the farm, I eyeballed where the original alignment went due north of the farm. Less than a mile later, I spotted a drainage ditch that showed a wide section of concrete next to it. Thinking we spotted a “gold mine” of 66 history, we stopped to investigate. The section was about 6 feet down from ground level in the ditch, on the south side of the ditch and ended at the water. What I found interesting is that it was directly below where that original section would have been. But then I realized with the fields next to it, would the road have been that far below the rest of the ground around it? Doubt it. I still would like to know what it was we were looking at. Perhaps Steve Look knows where & what this is??

Back on the road, we stopped by Art’s Motel & Restaurant for more pictures, and then it was on to Springfield. We explored an old 4 lane section of 66 on the south side of Lake Springfield that now serves as access to the boat ramps for the lake. We parked there for a while & contemplated where to have supper. We decided to try the newly re-opened Tropics in Lincoln, so we got back on 66 and drove through Springfield and stopped in Broadwell at Ernie’s Pig Hip Restaurant for some more pictures. From there it was on to Lincoln where we got a couple of pictures of some older motels there before dining at The Tropics. That was the first time either of us had dined there, and it was very good. We had a generous supply of mozzarella sticks for an appetizer. Jennifer ordered the Stuffed Shells, and I had a Meatball sandwich on a hoagie. It was all reasonably priced ($21 for both) and worth another stop. They’re open ’til 10 most nights. We left there shortly after 7pm (they hadn’t turned the neon sign on yet, darn it!) and jumped on I-55 to head back to Romeoville. We passed through some threatening black clouds, but the rain wasn’t too bad. We got back to Romeoville shortly after 9pm, thus ending our busy little 2 day jaunt on the Mother Road.

Hope you all enjoyed it “with us”!

Jennifer & Pat (in Indy)

Slideshow of All Photos

For more details about a particular photo, click on it in the slideshow and it will open in my Flickr site.

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