Route 66
Travelling the Main Street of America


There's no finality about 66. Like an old friend, it continues to change and develop into its maturity. The traveller on the Mother Road has to be adaptable, enjoying what's there, and not getting up-tight about what's gone or inaccessible. The last bit of the run down to St Louis on the old alignments is easy, and crowded with "photo opportunities", but in October I had to miss the Route 66 Information Center in Staunton (closed for the season) and the Yanda Log Cabins (road under construction). That's the way it goes sometimes, so be prepared for last minute changes in the details of our run.

Chain of Rocks Bridge (from

One of the true treasures of Route 66 is the Chain of Rocks Bridge built in 1927 to take the original road across the mighty Mississippi. We're working on providing you with a once-in-a-lifetime treat at this point in the run. To go into print now might jeopardise our negotiations, so all we can say is, "Watch this space." On my October run, the whole area leading along Chain of Rocks Road to the Bridge was an horrendous moonscape of major roadworks. Even after I'd hazarded life and limb to fight my way through the ranks of earth-devouring monsters, I still had to face a twenty-minute wait for an escort before teetering perilously across the approach road's collapsing canal bridge. By August '99, restoration of this bridge should have been completed. The Chain of Rocks Bridge is a wonderful sight. It closed to traffic many years ago and languished in limbo until the local authorities were finally persuaded by campaigners to restore it as part of an extensive Mississippi Valley walking trail. Its crazy mid-river bend always made it one of the Route's more interesting obstacles. Nervous drivers had nightmares about the sudden plunge to oblivion that would be the result of any slight misjudgement of distances! The story goes that wealthy Illinois became fed up waiting for poorer Missouri to get on with the construction of their new mutual link and started building from their side of the river before the Missouri engineers had completed their geological survey. When the originally designated landing-point on the Missouri side proved unstable, a new exit was chosen further downstream and the Missouri builders took aim from this site straight out to the end of the already half-completed bridge. Hence the dramatic, picturesque, but dangerous bend.

There are more permutations of Route 66 through St Louis than you can point your Mustang at. We'll give you a couple of options and leave the choice to you. Basically, you can skirt the downtown area completely, as official 66 has since the 'forties, or you can plunge down through Granite City and Venice on the east side before crossing the Mississippi on the McKinley Bridge and passing through the heart of St Louis. All the guides say not to go anywhere near the deprived areas of East St Louis, but your intrepid scout was determined to leave no pothole untested, so on a bright October afternoon, with a full gas tank, doors locked and windows up, I set out to test the viability of the downtown route. All I can say is that I saw nothing untoward beyond a few boarded-up warehouses and lots of clapped-out cars. McKinley Bridge itself is declining into genteel dereliction and needs to be tackled slowly. Even the toll barrier was broken; everyone seemed to be hurling their few cents into the receptacle, but there was really no point as the lights stayed red and the boom-gate stayed up. The areas bordering State Route 3 on the Illinois side have been cleared and cleaned up, so I really don't think there's a problem with this much more colourful routing.