Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Route 66-St. Louis to Cuba

020  The small town of Times Beach once stood where Route 66 State Park is now. In 1925, as part of a newspaper promotion, 20’ × 100’ lots were sold for $67.50. A summer cottage resort developed and over the years people began living there fulltime. All was well until it was discovered that dioxin tainted oil had been used on the dirt roads in the early 1970s. The residents accepted a government buyout and almost 200 million dollars were spent on the cleanup. All that is left is the visitor center building which used to be a roadhouse on the edge of town and the remains of the streets that ran through the town.

   The visitor center has information about Times Beach plus some great old 66 business signs and other 66 memorabilia. The town site has walking, biking and horse trails along the old paved and dirt streets. The bridge that connected the town site to Route 66 is closed so ask for directions if you want to go to the town site. We never found the right roads.

The visitor center is accessible.

The parking lot is fairly small but larger RVs should fit along the edge of the road.


  Purina Farms was established in 1926 as a animal feed research center, which is still a large part of the operations, but it also has a visitor center, petting area, dog agility performance arena and an event center where dog and cat shows take place. We visited on Monday when the public facilities are closed but we did watch part a German Shepard agility show at the events center. We had no idea what a dog show entailed but we struck up a conversation with a long time competitor and she filled us in on all of the details. It’s really pretty interesting and intense for both the owners and the dogs.

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  To get a good view of the arena take the elevator up to the glassed in viewing area.


  The parking lot is large enough for RVs but on busy days you may have to park in the special RV area.

   As we drove farther into Missouri’s rolling hills more old motels appeared. Some are in sorry shape, some have been updated and some have been given new uses.  I especially like the sign on Skylark Motel which was bought by the VFW in 1993 –wish we were seeing these at night!



  Meramec Caverns has been a Route 66 attraction since 1933 so even though it’s expensive at $21.00 per person (look for dollars off coupons at other roadside stops) and not the most spectacular of caves, it’s still a must stop for any road tripper. In the best traditions of roadside kitsch colored lighting and tall tales are part of the cave experience but the natural beauty still wins out.


  The website states that the cave is wheelchair accessible but it is not. The first problem is a very steep entrance ramp without a landing and a door that opens outward. The cave has wet, dangerously steep ramps so although it’s possible to visit the cave a strong helper is necessary.  One section has a long fight of steps and no ramp but it can be bypassed.

The parking lot is large enough for any RV.


   Several other attractions are located near the caves – the rather sad Riverside Wildlife Center and the Jessie James Wax Museum. Both were closed but I don’t think we missed much. The Toy Museum has been closed for years. The Jessie James Museum promotes the theory that Jesse was not killed in 1882 but lived until 1951. A man claiming to be Jesse came forward in 1948 and the owner of Meramec Caverns bought “Jessie” to Missouri where he lived in one of the cabins and sometimes visited the cave during tours. DNA testing has shown no relationship between this man and Jessie James.




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