Springfield, IL to St. Louis
23.06.2010 - 23.06.2010 89 °F
We started the day off by tracking down a Verizon store in Springfield, IL in order to file a claim on our phone insurance. They are overnighting a replacement to out hotel in St. Louis. Hopefully we will see it tomorrow. We continued down the road to Litchfield, IL where we had a wonderful lunch at the old Ariston Cafe. http://www.ariston-cafe.com/
The restaurant has been around since 1924 and has been welcoming Route 66 goers since its beginnings. After a great meal, our waitress brought us a Guest Ledger to sign. This has been a tradition they practiced since the early days of the mother road. The book we signed must of had over a hundred pages filled with names from all over the world. And the waitress said that this book was new just six months ago. They keep a library of them since they opened the restaurant.
Next was an insteresting stop in Staunton, IL where we found "Henry's Ra66it Ranch." Rich Henry, the owner, was an eccentric old fellow with many hats. He told us the museum/giftshop was one of his four trades that came out after growing his own collection over the years. His other skills include insurance agent, plate licensing, and rabbit farmer. He rescues pet rabbits from the humane society and raises them in the shop. We spotted more than nine while we were there. His most famous ra66it was Montana that lived for eight years, greeting 66 goers from the counter on a daily basis. "He even ran for President..." said Rich, "...he was black like Obama, female like Hilary, and old like McCain." He signed a pamphlet with a note for us to take to his friend in California (who owns another stop on Route 66), and we were on our way.
Another side stop was the Luna Cafe. This is said to be one of Al Capone's favorite hangouts. As the story goes, the neon sign out front had a cherry in the Martini glass that would be lit whenever Capone was inside. We pulled in briefly for some photos since the place was a little run-down and scetchy. Our next major stop was at the "Chain of Rocks" bridge; the old 66 passage across the Mississippi river and into Missouri. It is an abandoned bridge thats frozen in time from traffic. Other than some older vandelism, it is untouched and only open to hikers. You can still make out some of the original road paint with the 66 logos from both Illinois and Missouri.
Finally we crossed the State line into St. Louis. We were amazed to find out how close our hotel was to the sites. Using Hotwire, we got a deal at the Crown Plaza Hotel; the nicest place we have stayed so far. We can look out our window to find both the Gateway Arch (commemorating Jefferson's Louisiana Purchase expansion of the West) and the museum just a block away. We spent some time in the basment education center of the Arch before taking the North Tram up the inside of the 630 foot tall Gateway Arch. The tram/elevator pods were very cramped and nastalgic of the 1963 "modern" architecture. After some photos and dinner at the Union Grill, we retired for the night.