Touring old historic Route 66 is always a worthwhile venture to do! The Route 66 tourism season runs from spring through autumn everywhere except for the Southwest, because of the warm winter temperatures. Touring the entire length of Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles or vice versa does require least two weeks of time. This is why touring sections of Route 66 is the most popular thing to do. A tourist can start at any point on Route 66 that they prefer and get off of the Mother Road anyplace that their heart desires. It does not matter whether ten minutes or ten days are spent on the Mother Road, because the nature of Route 66 is timeless!
Even though this old highway was officially retired when bypassed, Route 66 has survived into the modern age. Route 66 has endured the Great Depression, WWII, multiple route bypasses, gas shortages and countless economic recessions ever since this road was first conceived way back in the early 1920s. Route 66 has been there for millions of domestic vacationers and foreign tourists that have always wanted to experience the classic Americana dream at its best. Route 66 truly is a historic time capsule of the golden age of automobile travel and a premier live entertainment event all wrapped up in one big package. Many memorable famous icons of the past can be be experienced when touring this long road.
Route 66 definitely is the heartbeat of America, even though this road’s old ticker has had multiple bypass surgeries through the years. When touring long sections of Route 66, it is not as easy as following a solitary highlighted line on a map, because there are many lesser known old alignments of this road that are nearly forgotten. There are many places where the original Route 66 no longer exists and there are also a few stretches of modern Route 66 that are not really Route 66 at all. In order to plan an intensive trip on Route 66, one must be willing to do some research ahead of time. Fortunately, there are enough Route 66 enthusiasts in this world to make the research project easy to accomplish.
As long as people are drawn to Route 66 and some money is spent at destinations along the way, Route 66 will continue to be a tourist attraction for many years to come. Adapt to the times or become a relic of the past is a continual Route 66 business theme. The nostalgia factor is part of the charm that attracts dedicated entrepreneurs to invest in the restoration of the abandoned classic Route 66 motels, neon lights and tourist traps. The return on investment for a Route 66 tourism business restoration can range from a proverbial gold mine to being stuck in an eternity of financial famine, yet dedicated Route 66 entrepreneurs are willing to take the risk and make the venture a success by sheer determination.
Navigating Route 66 is very easy with a GPS or a smart phone mapping system. This is especially true for doing a long tour of the Mother Road, because the every stop and attraction can be plotted in an electronic mapping system and the voice command option will provide an easy going hands free experience. I recently did a long Route 66 tour from St Louis to Tucumcari, so I opted for a reliable user friendly GPS system. I plotted every attraction along the planned route, so it would be a stress free long drive that required no fiddling around with maps at all.
This article covers an interesting section of Route 66 from Pacific, Missouri to the Meramec Caverns. The Meramec Caverns actually are not located on any historic Route 66 alignment, but none the less, this tourist attraction has always played an integral part in the Route 66 scene. Taking a little detour to a point of interest that is only a short distance away from the Mother Road has always been part of the Route 66 tourism game.
When researching the Route 66 travel route ahead of time, a decision was made to not bother with touring the Route 66 attractions within the St Louis metropolitan area for a multitude of reasons. Big city tourist attractions are just that and dealing with big city traffic can result in wasting plenty of valuable vacation time. Currently the St Louis local tourism officials highly recommended not visiting the historic Route 66 Chain Of Rocks Bridge in St Louis, because cars in the parking lot are subject to frequent smash and grab burglaries. The murder rate near this historic Route 66 bridge and the St Louis Gateway Arch are sky high too. For ethical reasons, I would not recommend visiting such a place, so starting the east to west Route 66 tour in peaceful Pacific, Missouri is the wiser choice.
Pacific, Missouri is most famous for being one of the first aggregate sources for the construction of Route 66. The cave pockets in the limestone cliffs of Pacific were actually a quarry for the original Route 66 stone chip road material. The Pacific Limestone Caves are now a civic park with picnic tables, so this is a nice place to relax when doing the tour.
Moving right along, the original Bigfoot Monster Truck manufacturer is also located in Pacific. There are some old school fireworks mega-stores and a few other relics of the past to be found. The deplorable world of modern fast food joints has descended upon this lowly stretch of asphalt, so be prepared to shield the eyes when driving through.
Further on down the line, the Indian Harvest Trading Post looms as a side road excursion. The teepees are a sight to behold, because romantic thoughts of the wild west still captivate all those who are heading toward the setting sun. A litter further down the line, the Six Flags Amusement Park and the Jellystone Park Campground are modern Route 66 attractions that provide fun for the entire family.
When heading southwest on Route 66 and I-44 toward Stanton, Missouri, the roadside billboard ads for Meramec Caverns become more frequent. Billboards for several other old Route 66 attractions that are located at the same exit as the caverns can be seen too. The Toy Museum, Jesse James Wax Museum and the Riverside Wildlife & Reptile Center are located in this area. Unfortunately, the Toy Museum and Jesse James Wax Museum were closed when I passed through and it looks like these historic tourist attractions are waiting for the next Route 66 entrepreneur to revive them from their dusty slumber.
I lived in St Louis County as a young teenager back in the early 1970s and I am very familiar with Route 66 in this region. I have canoed the Meramec River several times way back when and doing a float trip on this river is a great adventure in itself! The literary works of Mark Twain were the primary focus in the local school system as well as the Route 66 tourist traps. Tales of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer definitely adds to the charm of this section of the Mother Road. In this region, Route 66 meets one of the most renowned periods in American history.
Following Missouri Highway W to the Meramec River and Meramec Caverns is a traditional Route 66 scenic side trip that is well worth doing. There are several campgrounds, RV parks and bait shops along the way. Canoe and raft rentals can be found along Highway W too. As one approaches the river, it is easy to see evidence of recent floods. Lots of debris and aluminum lawn chairs are still tangled high in the trees on either side of the river. Down by the river there are several boat ramps, picnic areas and campgrounds. At the end of the road is where the Meramec Caverns can be found.
The Meramec Caverns have been a Route 66 sideshow attraction for many decades. Taking a tour of these amazing caverns is well worth the money and time spent. These caverns actually were a Jesse James hideout way back in the days of the wild west! The Meramec Caverns tourist attraction also offers plenty of entertaining things to do. There are zip-lines that stretch across the river and canoe trip excursions can be booked on the spot.
Depending on what attractions are visited and how much time is spent floating down the river, the Pacific to Meramec Caverns segment of Route 66 can take a few hours or a few days. There is plenty to see and do along Route in this region of Missouri, so relax and enjoy the ride!
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