We started out the day in Tulsa, OK and made our way along the last remaining remnants of the Oklahoma road sections up in the north east corner of the state. One key landmark to see here is the famous Blue Whale swimming hole.
This old Route 66 family attraction fell into disrepair over the years, but was relatively recently restored by a family group of volunteers. The Blue Whale is actually a themed decoration of a swimmer’s dock out into the pond using the side fins as slides into the water and the tail of the whale as a diving platform. While this is all sort of the epitome of classic Route 66 cheesiness, this particular item is actually pretty cleverly designed to serve its functional purpose and you can imagine the fun kids travelling along the old road must have had here over the years.
From Oklahoma, while I-44 goes straight into Missouri, the old road actually follows through the corner of the state of Kansas. The Kansas sections of the road, while mostly replaced with a modern road SR-66, there are good signs to point the way to abandoned road sections that can still be driven….sometimes dead ending into failing bridges or overgrown pavement sections that can no longer be accessed by car. We did seek out an original 1923 vintage Route 66 “rainbow” bridge that can still be driven by car – although with some reluctance by Jeff who was almost inclined to inspect the underside of the bridge before deciding to trust the 5 ton weight limit signage as valid.
Once crossing this bridge, you are basically at the Kansas – Missouri border where the newer Kansas SR-66 turns into Missouri SR-66 so you can make your way over to Joplin, MO and onto I-44. In Missouri there are very few original sections of Route 66 still in existence so, atypical for our journey, we remained on the Interstate all the way up to St. Louis to allow for the maximum time being spent at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park later in the day. This park, otherwise known as the St. Louis Gateway Arch, is of course one of the major tourist attractions of the area and can be seen from miles away from pretty much anywhere in St. Louis where there is a decent outside view.
We made our way from the Riverside parking area through the Arch park and up to the base of the Arch itself. Both of us had seen the Arch from afar in the past, but this is the first time we actually dedicated the time to make a visit.
While an impressive sight at over 600 feet tall, to two ends of the Arch are closer together at the base than we had imagined. Looking to get the whole experience of the park we opted to take both a Mississippi River Boat tour to view the Arch and the city from the river and also take the tram ride up inside Arch to take a peek out of the windows at the top.
Pretty damn cool spot actually, and we both enjoyed the views from the riverboat and from the Arch even though it turned out to be a very long day by the time we made it back to the hotel and were able to crash for the night.
The historical Route 66 road continued from St. Louis and did not end until reaching Chicago, but the quantity and quality of authentic road sections still in existence dwindles greatly from here to the end of the road…..too much so to justify closing the loop back to Chicago. Not to mention, Chicago was already covered on this trip, so our travels here on Route 66 come to an end. Thank You Route 66, we had a blast getting to know you better.
Tomorrow we take US-50 out of St. Louis, MO through southern Illinois and Indiana straight to Cincinnati, OH for an overnight stay with Jeff’s brother Adam.