Stalagtites, Stalagmites And Colored Lights, OH MY!
After our “almost catastrophic” experience with missing Route 66 signs we pulled it together and proceeded down the road with a heightened state of attention. While cruising we repeatedly saw signs for Meramec Caverns and decided to check them out. We found adequate parking for the rig and bought our tickets for the tour. They offered a veterans discount and our tickets cost $21 each. It was quite hot outdoors and the first thing we noticed was that the caverns we’re very cool. As our tour progressed the temperature dropped to between 50 and 55 degrees. That was a welcome respite from the 95 degree temps outside. The tour took about an hour and a half, so if you’d like to do this, bring a sweatshirt or jacket. This was a walking tour and as the tour guide took us through the particular points of interest we found ourselves going deeper and deeper into the caverns. At the bottom of the caverns was a river that wound its way underground through the caverns and as the story goes, Jesse James and his gang used the caverns as a hideout. One day the lawmen found the James Gang Hideout and upon pursuit the gang jumped in this river to make their successful escape.
Stalagtites and stalagmites and other formations abounded. The Ranger leading the tour was very knowledgeable. I was impressed with just how beautiful and massive these formations were. In certain areas they used colored lights to make for a very dramatic presentation. There was a very nice ending to the tour, but just in case you’re thinking of visiting Meramec, I won’t spoil it for you. Meramec Caverns is near the town of Stanton, 55 miles west of St. Louis, 3 miles south of I-44 exit 230. There’s a small café and a motel on the grounds, which spread along the banks of the Meramec River. The Meramec Caverns were opened as a tourist attraction in 1935 by Lester Dill, who guided visitors through the elaborate chambers and, more importantly, was a true master of the art of garnering cheap but effective publicity for his tourist attraction. An example: After World War II, Dill sent his son-in-law to the top of the Empire State Building dressed up as a caveman and had him threaten to jump off unless everyone in the world visited Meramec Caverns. The Dill Family still owns the Meramec Caverns, today.
So, after some lunch at the caverns we headed back onto the ole double 6 and wandered our way into a quaint town named Cuba. Cuba has the distinction of being called “Mural City” in Missouri. Now these murals are a bit different from what we found in Pontiac, Illinois (see post titled “Peeling The Onion”). The Cuba wall murals we’re a different style and clearly a different group of artists, but certainly prolific as we found these on many buildings in Cuba. There are 12 beautiful murals that depict scenes from local and national history, including visits from Harry S. Truman, Amelia Earhart and Bette Davis. Every mural has a story.
After an overnight stopover we continued down our bumpy path towards Springfield, Missouri. One thing we sure never thought about was the fact that traveling down a winding stretch of road nearly a century old can leave a lot to be desired regarding road smoothness. Route 66 has been patched so many times and is sooooo bumpy that we’ve been wrapping our dishes, pots and pans, and other things that rattle with dishtowels, wash clothes and anything that will keep them from rattling and breaking.
“There are sections of Route 66 where the road is so bad that we found ourselves traveling at 20 mph just to keep the cabinets in the motorhome from jarring loose.”
After a couple more days of terrible road, we needed a break. Studying the map we noticed that if we took a left turn in Springfield, we could easily head south to Branson for a change of pace, and so we did.