Serendipity – Twice!

My decision to stay in Joplin on Thursday night turned out to be a very good one. The next morning I was able to retrace my ride to the point where I got confused (the instructions said 66 “merges with Main” whereas the road I was on *intersected* Main). Knowing what had happened on my first try, when I turned left onto Main, I decided this time to continue across Main and see what would happen. Well, by golly if the road didn’t curve around (just like the directions said it would) and merge into Main! Apparently, Main Street makes a turn somewhere in there. Go figure.

The other reason it was a good thing was that, if I had found the right path the first time, I would have continued on, looking for a place to stay. And there weren’t any places to stay. It was several hours of riding before I found another motel. So getting lost, turning back, and staying in Joplin all worked out for the best. Serendipity Number One.

As I followed 66 east out of the Joplin area Friday morning, I came across the 66 Drive-In. It’s (still? or again?) open, although only three days a week.


I eventually realized that Missouri *mostly* has Historic 66 well-signed. The exception seemed to be in Joplin, although I can’t say whether the same is true for St. Louis. More on that later. I became very reliant on their signs, even to the point of beginning to worry when I hadn’t seen one in a while and wondering if I had missed a turn.

Decisions, decisions...

Decisions, decisions…

I found a car that could have been the inspiration for the Sheriff in Cars:


This car was at a restored gas station / souvenir shop in a tiny place called Paris Springs Junction. While I was there, two other motorcycles stopped, as did a hot new red Mustang convertible. The other riders were a 70-year-old woman from Seligman, AZ, who had bought a brand-new Indian for her birthday and was riding it to NYC (with the decision yet to be made whether to ship it home at that point or ship it to Norway for more birthday adventures) and her son, who hails from Kingman, AZ, and was riding her Harley touring bike. They were both Norwegian. The young couple in the Mustang were from Brazil. Because of all that, I became the “local boy.” The Brazilians ended up taking group pictures with the three bikers; and the Norwegians (Annalisa and Sven) told them to put the car’s top down before taking their picture in front of the gas station – which they did. I opined that they’d probably put it back up shortly, because of the heat and humidity.

An Indian and a Harley in Paris Springs Junction

An Indian and a Harley in Paris Springs Junction

Two Brazilians doing 66 in a hot Mustang.

Two Brazilians doing 66 in a hot Mustang.

In Lebanon there was yet another museum to tour – this one was inside the local library. The focus of this museum was the local impact that 66 had – among other things, there was a diorama of the local intersection where 66 rolled through and there was a display on “object lesson roads,” which were short stretches of road that were paved early on as examples to be followed by states and local jurisdictions.

Intersection of US 66 & MO 5 as it would have been seen in the late '40s.

Intersection of US 66 & MO 5 as it would have been seen in the late ’40s.

the two pictures in the book are "before" and "after" the road had been upgraded.

the two pictures in the book are “before” and “after” the road had been upgraded.

Along the way, I rolled through two personal milestones – 10,000 miles total on the Honda, and 2,000 miles on the trip (so far). I got the bike just over two years ago with only 2,528 miles on it!

As Historic 66 approaches St. Louis, it splits. Like most major roads of that time, it had different alignments at different points of its life. While the route originally went *through* St. Louis, it later went around the city for much the same reason that we now have beltway loops on the Interstates – to avoid inner-city congestion for those who aren’t going there. My plan had been to ride one of the older portions of 66 through St. Louis, but somehow I missed a sign (I said I was very dependent on them, didn’t I?) and so I ended up on a later section – which in turn ended up merging onto I-44. Well, that was all right, because the part through St. Louis that I wanted to ride was closer to 44 than to the part of 66 I had been on.

But it was getting late, so I decided to stop for the night on the MO side of the city. *sigh* There were NO rooms available anywhere near where I was, because there was a big game in town (Baseball? I guess… I don’t follow sports) and all the motels were full (even Motel 6 was full!). So, since I didn’t want to ride 66 in the dark, I bailed on that idea (which is why I don’t know how well it’s signed through the city) and took I-270 around the north of the city and into Illinois. I got off at the first exit I found, and – YAY! – there was a motel with an available room. That exit was also the nearest point to where I wanted to start my explorations the next morning – at the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge that took 66 across the Mississippi for so many years. So, despite having to ride an extra hour, I was a happy camper (but that explains why I didn’t blog about Friday at the time). And that’s Serendipity Number Two.

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