Day 1: June 13, 2010
Things in St Louis
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I went to bed last night convinced I'd be driving through serious rain when I headed west this morning. When I pulled out of the garage, the roads were wet and the sky was filled with clouds but there was no rainfall and that was essentially the story for the entire day. Threatening clouds shared time with big patches of blue sky and I even heard thunder a few times but there was no real rain. The only water I saw fall from the sky came from a one acre cloud that dampened the Bevo Mill parking lot while I was stopped there.

Time didn't permit me to dig deep into the new book on Route 66 in St Louis from Friends of the Mother Road co-founder Kip Welborn but I did get to benefit from it a little. This big brick building is not quite on Route 66 but it is visible from there and it's a place that's near and dear to Kip's heart. It is the Falstaff Brewery; closed since 1996.

There is currently no online contact point for ordering Kip's Things to Look for on Route 66 in St Louis but, for those who don't already know Kip, drop me a note and I'll make sure you hear from him. All cities present some problems when trying to follow an old route through them and St Louis, with five major alignments over the years, certainly has its share. Route 66 travelers often just bypass the town. The new book describes all five of those major alignments plus, when I picked up the "City Route" off of I-55 near the arch today, I noted that it is much better signed than it was a few years back. St Louis: It's not just for bypassing anymore.

The Bevo Mill isn't on Route 66 either nor is it visible from the route but it is really cool and it is easy to find. Just stay on west bound Gravois about ten blocks beyond where Route 66 turns onto Chippewa. I don't believe the place currently operates as a full time restaurant but there was a good looking brunch in full swing when I got there and I did get inside. I believe having storks nesting in your chimney is supposed to bring good luck though I'm not completely certain that's true for the species storkus cementus.

There is quite a lot of cool old signage along Chippewa and all the businesses associated with these old signs are on still going strong. After crossing the street to take some pictures of the donut shop, I returned to the shop, which a customer had just exited, and tugged on the door. It was locked and the closed sign was in place. I had merely wanted to look inside so this didn't bother me a bit and I headed for the car. There was tapping behind me and I turned to see a lady motioning me back to the door. I returned, she unlocked the door, and I, to show my gratitude, bought a couple of donuts. Breakfast awaits.

With Ted Drewes just a short ways down the street, I wasn't about to eat any donuts and ruin my appetite for frozen custard even if that were possible; which I'm pretty sure it isn't.

It wasn't too much farther to my chosen motel so I checked in but it was just a little early to totally stop. I've been wanting to visit the St Louis Museum of Transportation so, after verifying that it was just a few miles away, that's where I headed. The museum has been on my to-do list since I knew they had saved one unit from the Coral Court Motel and wanted to see it. That bit was actually something of a disappointment but only because my expectations were too high. Reading that a complete unit had been dismantled, I thought I'd see a complete motel room at the museum. Just one wall, with glass block section and garage entrance, is on display. It was less than I expected but more than most doomed motels get and still pretty cool.

The car pictured by itself is a 1963 Chrysler Turbine Car. 55 of the cars were produced and driven on the streets as an experiment. They were retired as planned following three month user evaluation runs. Few (9) remain in existence and fewer (3) are operational. This is one. Chrysler's turbine program continued or quite awhile but was eventually killed as part of the 1979 bailout. In the days when cars like this were on the street, hot-rodders and teenagers often pulled up beside MoPar vehicles and ask its driver, "That thing got a turbine in it?" The practice really took hold and continues, with minor modifications, today.

The pictures in the last panel were all taken in the museum's automobile building. The vast majority of the museum's exhibits are of railroad engines and cars and a few planes and boats. They are, of course, huge and they are outside. The temperature was in the mid-90s and the humidity not much less. Walking among them was almost brutal and I spent barely half an hour where I could have spent several hours. The first picture is of a steam locomotive painted to allow identification of its parts. That's the heaviest (367,400 lbs.) rotary snow plow ever built in the last picture.

This is where I ate dinner. It's about a quarter mile from the motel and obviously walkable had the temperature, the humidity, or the age of the walker been a bit lower. It's a pub with a pub style 'burgers & pizza menu. The hand-formed 'burger I had was quite tasty. The draft beer selection is decent and the bottled beer selection impressive.

I got the location of the Wayside Motel from Things to Look for on Route 66 in St Louis but knew of the place from other sources and found it lived up to reports. It was built in 1940 so was here for Route 66's heyday and is still going strong. The inside of my room is here.

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