Our country is filled with an array of vacation opportunities. Just about any type of diversion can be found, if you know where to look. One of our favorite activities is exploring the haunts that early drivers would find across the United States. An easy way to do this is a Route 66 road trip. Running from Chicago to Los Angeles, it served travelers for generations. Even before it was paved, in 1926, it was still winding its way through big cities and small towns across the country.
Road from Rolla
During the Dust Bowl days, many would follow this path west to California. By the late 1950s, interstate highways were sounding a death knell for these types of leisurely travel corridors. These days, many scurry down the highway rushing to their destination. It seems like fewer and fewer of us take the time to enjoy the journey. Maybe the current conditions call for us to rethink our idea of the perfect vacation. A Route 66 road trip is a good way to maintain social distancing and still explore the countryside.
Route 66 Road Trip
While large swaths of the Mother Road vanished with the installation of the interstates, travelers can still find plenty of the original path. Many of the sights along the route carry fantastic names that just beckon to be seen. On a stretch between Uranus and Rolla we discovered Devil’s Elbow Bridge. Offering a pass across the Big Piney River, the views of the surrounding cliffs are inspiring. We even had an opportunity to watch a local fisherman try his luck.
A sight that we would have never expected to find in the middle of Missouri is a Stonehenge replica. When we saw it listed in Rolla attractions, we knew a few minutes had to be carved out in our itinerary. After all, you don’t pass by one of these everyday. This unusual attraction is located on the campus of the Missouri University of Science and Technology. It is half-scale of the original, and only represents a partial reconstruction. Built out of granite, the stones were cut and carved using high pressure water jets. The original would have taken many years to complete, where this one was carved in a month. It is truly a testament to technology.
Since we were beating around Rolla looking for diversions, we decided to head downtown. This Midwest town embraces its Route 66 heritage. Those looking to “get their kicks” will find some interesting eateries and fun shops to explore. After some local shopping, we were ready to cool down with a refreshing treat. We located an old-fashioned soda fountain and popped in for a look-see. We could tell from the steady stream of customers that this place was a local hit.
What began as a stop for a cone turned into a real adventure. You probably have noticed that we love ice cream, so it’s no surprise to see us pick a scoop shop. Over the years, we have found some amazing creamy creations. Soda & Scoops was ready to raise the bar with their own unique concoctions. Our choice was a homage to Independence Day named “Baby You’re A Firework”. It started with a strawberry cheesecake shake and took off from there. The addition of vanilla frosting, sprinkles, whipped cream and a sucker really got it going. Oh, and let’s just shove a Bomb Pop in for good measure. Yeah, it was freaking awesome!
When they added I-44 to Missouri, much of it fell right on top of the Route 66 corridor. These days, the original path is almost like a frontage road running parallel to the interstate. As we traversed it, we spotted signs of the glory days. Many of the gas stations, motels, and motor courts have been abandoned. Those that remain are staying alive by multi-tasking their business plans. Often you will find a combination, fuel stop, antique store, and eatery wrapped into one location. In almost all cases, they wear the badge of Route 66 with pride.
Set Your Sights on Route 66
The format of vacationing certainly changed quickly in 2020. Almost overnight, the world looked differently at the notion of large gatherings on beaches or at events. The changes affected us, as well, but mostly through the shuttering of museums and other public spaces. Our style of trips revolve around in-depth looks at the stories behind a cities growth. The interaction we have with others will usually be restricted to just a few people at a time. That made us feel more comfortable about the idea of exploring during a pandemic. A Route 66 road trip is a good way to get back out in the world, while still limiting your exposure to others. Aren’t you ready to hit the road?