Kansas City’s Union Station still provides what little passenger rail service exists today, but it has so much more. It has been restored as a museum, restaurant center and post office. The station was, and is, one of America’s great stations.
The next larger city on the way west was Kansas City. The highlight was Union Station (next posting), but the couple of hours in town provided some nice shots beyond the station.
Show me the way to Missouri.
1946 – State Capitol 1989 – University of Missouri
The small town of Jefferson City is the Missouri capital city. The state capitol is much like most of the others, design in the classic style (photo from Wiki)
Jefferson City is the 15th largest city in Missouri. The only state capital that is lower in ranks of cities within a state is Olympia, Washington – which is the 24th largest city in the state. As the photo below shows, there is no skyline to Jefferson City. (Note – 17 state capitals are also the largest city in the state. The largest state capital by population is Phoenix, with 1.7 million people in the city limits).
And if you find yourself in this small state capital what is the #1 rated activity according to Tripadvisor? The Old Penitentiary, rating higher than the Capitol itself.
State Symbol time!
State Animal – Missouri Mule. In the 1800s mules were the ‘workhorse’ of the farm – and Missouri was the center of the mule population.
State Horse – Missouri Fox Trotting Horse. Developed in the Ozarks in the 1800s this horse is famous for his trotting gait.
State Dessert – Ice Cream Cone. Famously invented at the 1904 St Louis World’s Fair.
Jefferson City is just down the road from the much larger Columbia, Missouri. It is home to the University of Missouri. (photo from website commonapp.com)
The comic strip Beetle Bailey was written by Mort Walker while he was still attending the university. It is celebrated with a sculpture.
Roads in Missouri
1947 1954 1979 1997 2007 2010
Missouri is home to the most famous roads in American history – Route 66
As the song says ‘Well it goes to St Louis down to Missouri’.
In the crossroads town of Ash Grove there is a restored Sinclair station filled with kitsch.
Missouri claims they are the first state to award a contract from the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 (aka – The Interstate Highway Act), and then they started construction. Having driven from St Louis to Kansas City on Interstate 70 I believe they haven’t improved it since it was completed 60 years ago.
Today it is 250 miles of left lane drivers. Easily one of the most frustrating drives I have had is a Sunday late afternoon drive across Missouri! (except anytime you drive an interstate in Indiana). (Photo from Missouri Public Radio)
U.S 60 parallels I-70, only across the southern part of the state (and not between two major cities). The road is smooth and traffic free. Good for drivers, apparently not so much for this armadillo.
1958 1980 2001
With the Mississippi River and the Missouri River, there are plenty of bridges in Missouri.
St Louis area.
Chain of Rocks Bridge links Missouri with Illinois just north of St Louis. This bridge was built to bypass St Louis for both US 66 and US 40 traffic. It was completed in 1929, and closed to most vehicular traffic in 1970.
Complete with a bend in the middle of the river.
The Eads Bridge is a massive railway and automobile bridge linking East St Louis to St Louis. It was opened in 1874, to a throng of people watched a ‘test elephant’ cross the bridge to show how strong it was.
The McKinley Bridge was the first bridge to take Route 66 traffic across the Mississippi River (photo from Wiki). It is not named for President McKinley, rather the bulder of the bridge and owner of the Interurban company, coincidentally also named William McKinley.
Kansas City has their fair share of bridges as well, crossing the Missouri River (photo from Reddit)
Christopher Bond Bridge (photo from public radio Kansas City)
Jefferson City Bridge
They don’t have to be large to be cool – The ‘Swinging Bridge’ at Osage Beach, in southern Missouri. (photos from Missouri Life). It actually rocks a bit as you drive across it.
1973 1995 2013
With most of the access of the early 1800s being along the rivers, Missouri held a key position. Boats could come down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh or up the Mississippi River from New Orleans to St Louis, and then on to Kansas City along the Missouri River.
From here there were overland routes to the West Coast. Among those were the Butterfield Trail. In 1858 John Butterfield started a stage coach that delivered mail, using a route that went southwest from Missouri, across the Southern Rocky Mountains, and on the the west coast to San Francisco. (drawings from Wikipedia)
The far more famous Oregon Trail started in Independence, Missouri. The map below clearly shows the route coming up river from St Louis before the long, arduous overland route west.
Today there is a marker to show the start of this trail. Independence is far more renown for being the hometown of Harry Truman. (photo from Wikipedia)
The railroads started not much later than the trails, with the first railroad in the state starting up in 1851. By the mid 1860s you could cross the state on a train.
Jefferson City Station. Built in 1855, and rebuilt in 1984. (photo from Wikipedia)
Kansas City Union Station (photos from Wikipedia)
The National Museum of Transportation in St Louis has a great collection of artifacts, but has the most emphasis on trains. (photos from Wikipedia)
St Louis has a strong history of aviation, starting with the Spirit of St Louis – the plane that Lindbergh flew solo across the Atlantic.
TWA was once headquartered in Kansas City, with their primary hub based in St Louis.
1975 1980 2017
St Louis is the largest metro area by population. A very old city, St Louis in the mid 1800s was already up to 8th largest in the country, despite being basically on the western edge of the country at the time. In 1910 it was 4th largest.
Unfortunately of cities that had more than 100,000 people in 1950, St Louis has lost more than any city except Detroit and Youngstown, Ohio.
Urban renewal has resulted in a number of newer buildings downtown, resulting in a somewhat modern looking skyline.
St Louis was the hometown of Chuck Berry. In the Delmar Loop neighborhood there is a statue of Chuck, near a bar he often played at for fun.
This stadium is the 3rd baseball stadium in St Louis to be called ‘Busch Stadium’. A baseball only stadium built in a quasi retro style, the stadium continues to be one of the best attended venues in all of baseball as St Louis is a very strong baseball town.
The earlier stadiums include Busch Stadium I – aka – Sportsman’s Park. This stadium was originally completed in 1902, and served as the home of the Cardinals until 1966. For many years St Louis had a second team, the Browns, and it was their home too. In addition to those teams, college and professional football teams used it as well.
By the 1960s the neighborhood around the stadium was in decline, and attendance was dropping. In addition teams had learned that they could ‘encourage’ the local governments to build them a new stadium bu threatening to move to another city. (Wiki Photo)
Busch Stadium II – In the 1960s and 1970s there were a number of multi purpose round stadiums built across the country. Busch Memorial Stadium was one of the earlier examples. Note the roof arches along the top of the stadium mimic the famed Gateway Arch in the background. This stadium was used until 2005 when the new stadium was built on the same footprint. (Wiki Photo)
The Gateway Arch is St Louis’s most recognizable landmark. Towering 630 feet above the city, the arch is now over 50 years old and continues to be the tallest man made monument in the Western Hemisphere, and the tallest structure in Missouri.
It was designed by Eero Saarinen in the 1940s, but not constructed until the 1960s. It is a tribute to the fact that St Louis was known as the Gateway to the West.
The Old Courthouse is part of the Gateway Arch National Park. Dating from the 1860s, the building was the location that Dred Scott sued for his freedom.
St Louis in 1904 was a happening place. Not only were the first Olympics ever to be held in the U.S. hosted in the city that year, but they also had a World’s Fair (where the Ice Cream Cone was invented). Today there are a few landmarks in a park dating from that amazing year in the city’s history.
The Missouri Botanical Gardens is one of the highlights of the city.
Kansas City is 250 miles west of St Louis, directly across the state on Interstate 70. One of the more interesting areas of the city is known as the Country Club District, dating from it’s original development in the early 1900s near a golf course.
City Hall is a classic Art Deco skyscraper that was completed in 1937.
From the observation deck you get great views of the city.
Kansas City was one of the few cities in the 1970s to built sport specific stadiums. They are not downtown, rather out at the edge of town in a sea of parking lots. (Photo below from Kansas City Star newspaper)
Small Towns and Countryside
1977 1985 1987 1991 1993 1999
While there are two large cities on each end of the state, the vast majority of the cities are small. A number of them have historic significance, and have been featured on the maps.
Sainte Genevieve is a small town on the Mississippi River. It has the significance of being the first European settlement west of the Mississippi River in the state, having been founded in 1735. The town has a historic district that is a popular tourist attraction. (all photos from Wikipedia)
Weston is another small town on the far western end of the state along the Missouri River. At one point in the 1800 it was one of the largest ports on the river, with over 265 steamboats docking. It is also home of the McCormick Distilling Company, the oldest continuously operated distillery in the country.
Hannibal is Mark Twain’s boyhood home. As most know, it is also located on the Mississippi, making it the setting for Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn’s adventures.
Missouri is one of those states that has a wide variety of attractions – cities, towns, scenic countryside and rivers.
As the song goes Route 66 went from Chicago to L.A., going through Missouri along the way. While much of it is gone, replaced by freeways, there are still portions that are intact.
Many unique places remain along these portions of the Mother Road. One such place is just west of Springfield, Missouri. It is a restored Sinclair Gas Station full of cool, quirky things, including numerous ‘vintage’ vehicles.
A very nice lady named Barbara is the current owner of the property, having taken over for her father after he passed away. Barbara enthusiastically welcome all visitors, and the visitors seem genuinely pleased to be there.
On the day we were there one of the old trucks her father had owned was returned to it’s rightful spot at the station.
As noted plenty of tourists make the stop to check it out. I suggest if you get the chance you do the same.
Monday morning, we set out for a Kansas City morning. Directly across the freeway, in front of the stadiums was the Missouri welcome center, and after a stop there I headed down into the parking lots for the stadiums for a closer look.
The All Star game was to be held at Kaufman Stadium the following week, and there was a lot of activity. Given their heightened awareness there was also lots of security, as I quickly found out by being stopped by one. I guess my excuse (like to check out stadiums), the Mercedes with Ohio plates, or us giving him a lost look; whatever it was he allowed me to drive around once as long as I promised to head out as soon as possible, which we did.
From here we continued into town to Country Club Plaza, is an upscale shopping district and residential neighborhood, and designed architecturally after Seville, Spain
It was the first shopping center in the world designed to accommodate shoppers arriving by automobile. The neighborhoods surrounding the Plaza consist of upscale apartment buildings and mansions.
The Plaza, and all of Kansas City, is known for it’s fountains. There are more than 30 statues, murals, and tile mosaics on display in the area, as well as major architectural reproductions, such as a half-sized Giralda Tower of Seville
After touring the neighborhood, we continued downtown. The City Hall is a 29-story skyscraper located in downtown Kansas City, and has an observation deck on the top of it. It is the fourth-tallest city hall in the world, and the seventh-tallest building in Kansas City.
The building is considered a “Beaux-Arts” style building, but has Art Deco elements on the interior. The interior of the city hall is full of Italian gray, red, white, and green marble which lines the halls and the floors of the building
I had read the observation deck was free so we had to check it out. Despite being a weekday, we were able to park on the street nearby and walk over to the building, heading into the main entrance. The security there told us we had to go to the lower level, which seemed strange since we wanted to go up, not down. But following his directions we headed to the lower level.
In the lower level we found the security station, and informed the guard we would like to see the observation deck. ‘No problem’ he says, we will just have to wait for a security guard to take us up. He then explained that it isn’t just open, you go up with a guard to the top floor, and they open the door to the observation deck. Even better, an adventure.
As we sat there waiting on the guard a well-dressed large man comes rolling in, followed by a bunch of people. He comes sailing over to the bench where we are sitting on and says ‘Good Morning’ and shakes my hand, then asks me for my name. When I told him, he says ‘glad to meet you’. When I asked who he was he said ‘the Mayor’, which I responded to ‘of what?’ We were standing in the presence of the Honorable (not so much according to many) Mayor Sly James. After asking about us (where are we from, what brought us to Kansas City, how do we like it), he headed off.
Shortly thereafter the guard arrived and we headed up. The views were spectacular, a 360-degree view of Kansas City. The building reminded me of Carew Tower in Cincinnati, with a brick wall that is chest high.
The guard was very nice, she showed us around and let us wander around the 4 sides at our leisure. After seeing all there is to see of Kansas City we headed down, still amused with our meeting with the mayor.
We spent another hour in Kansas City, then continued the westward path through the other Kansas City, and off through the prairies. Fully expecting this to be the worst part of the entire road trip, 425 miles of Kansas, it turned out to be ok.
We made a few stops along the way, including in Lawrence to buy a new camera since our trusty Canon Eos was having serious problems.
I was surprised that Kansas wasn’t as flat as expected, as we encountered rolling hills much of the way.
We did see more windmills than anywhere I had seen before, but after a short 425 miles west of Kansas City we reached the Colorado line.
For those expecting to see mountains once you reach Colorado you are in for a disappointment since it is another 200 miles to the mountains. But we covered those 200 miles fairly quickly and found our home for the next 2 nights in Morrison, Colorado. And thus ended our longest day.
Sunday morning we were first in line for the Gateway Arch, the landmark structure of St Louis. The Arch is a 630-foot monument, the centerpiece of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Clad in stainless steel and built in the form of an inverted, weighted catenary arch, it is the world’s tallest arch, the tallest monument in the Western Hemisphere, and Missouri’s tallest structure that you can go up in.
The ride to the top is completed in small pods that can pivot to keep the rider level despite the curve. From the top, 600’ above downtown St Louis, is a commanding view of the city, the stadiums, river and nearby neighborhoods.
Just to the north is the Eads Bridge, The bridge is named for its designer and builder, James Eads. When completed in 1874, the Eads Bridge was the longest arch bridge in the world, with an overall length of 6,442 feet. The ribbed steel arch spans were considered daring, as was the use of steel as a primary structural material: it was the first such use of true steel in a major bridge project.
On June 14, 1874, John Robinson led a “test elephant” on a stroll across the new Eads Bridge to prove it was safe. Two weeks later, Eads sent 14 locomotives back and forth across the bridge at one time.
From there we headed to the edge of downtown to the St Louis Union Station. The station. another National Historic Landmark, was the primary passenger intercity train terminal for St Louis. Once the world’s largest and busiest train station, it was converted into a hotel, shopping center, and entertainment complex.
Not often do we go to the same place twice for a meal during a road trip, but our dinner on Saturday was so good we went back Sunday for lunch to BB’s Jazz, Blues & Soup. It is a great atmosphere, fantastic ribs and the best mac and cheese ever. And to make it better it is caddy corner from Busch Stadium, and we were there for a game
Good luck gave me not only the chance to go to a baseball game in what is generally thought of as America’s best baseball city, but they were playing Pittsburgh on this very hot Sunday.
While our seats were nearly at the top of the stadium behind home, that worked in our favor because of the view, the lack of a crowd, and in the 100+ degree heat, it gave us shade and a slight breeze.
The stadium atmosphere inside and out was good, they even had a St Louis Fire Department truck running a hose as a mister for the crowd in the street outside. On top of that I was wearing a Pittsburgh Pirates T-shirt and nobody gave me a hard time, likely because they had had a 20 year losing streak.
We stayed for most of the game, but given the heat and the fact that we had a long drive we decided to head out after the 8th inning. It was a long drive out of town, and eventually out of all of the suburbs west of St Louis. It was this drive to Kansas City that I decided Missouri was even worse than Indiana for left lane drivers. But we eventually made it to Columbia, and exited I-70 to take a break by checking out the University of Missouri campus.
One of my Roadside America stops was in Columbia, a statue of Beetle Bailey sitting at a table. After a couple of photographs of Beetle, and a few of the campus and stadium, we continued west.
It was another 100 miles to Kansas City, and since it was Sunday evening the left lane drivers had all gone off to church or something, so it went by fast.
I booked our motel near the twin stadiums outside of Kansas City in the city of Independence. I was expecting a built up area, but there was nothing there except the motel, a Denny’s and the stadiums across the freeway. So it was Denny’s for dinner.
Our morning started out cruising around downtown Indianapolis, and the surrounding neighborhoods. The highlight is Monument Circle, the center of the city
After a brief tour of downtown Indianapolis Saturday morning we continued west. I had researched enough to find something to do every couple of hours throughout the trip, and our first stop of the day was in Terre Haute, at a ‘midget racing’ museum called World of Wheels. It was however, closed. Good news was the entire place had large windows across the front so we could see all of the cars.
A short time later we were crossing into Illinois. The best thing I could say about Indiana was I was glad to be past, as they must lead the nation in left lane drivers getting in the way (at least I thought at that point).
Next up – Effingham, Illinois and the MY Garage Museum at the Mid America Motorworks’ facilitiy. The center houses literally thousands of pieces of automotive collectibles and memorabilia.
The facility also showcases an actual 1910 gas station that was moved and restored on site as well as a brick wall from the Corvette Factory in St Louis. In addition they had a Herbie Beetle and a couple of giant fiberglass cows painted in automotive motif.
A couple more hours brought us to the St Louis area and the Chain of Rocks Bridge.
The bridge was used by Route 66 to cross over the Mississippi River. Its most notable feature is a 22-degree bend occurring at the middle of the crossing. Originally a motor route, the bridge now carries walking and biking trails over the river. The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.
The bridge’s name comes from a large shoal, or rocky rapids, called the Chain of Rocks, which made that stretch of the Mississippi extremely dangerous to navigate
The day we were there a motorcycle club was permitted to cross, doing so as we were walking across. I could just imagine old Model A’s on their way to California chugging across.
From here we headed down the Illinois side of the river to go to St Louis, being careful to avoid East St Louis. Once in town we stopped at our hotel, a Drury in downtown St Louis, to drop off the bags and take a break from the 109-degree heat before heading to the Missouri Botanical Gardens.
Founded in 1859 it is one of the oldest botanical gardens in America, and a center for research and education. The day we were there they were having a Chinese Lantern display, only the lanterns were massive (and beautiful).
We spent hours in the oppressive heat walking the grounds. It was easily one the best, if not the best botanical gardens we have ever seen.
Located nearby in the Delmar Loop neighborhood is Blueberry Hill, a landmark St Louis restaurant and music club which Chuck Berry performed every third Wednesday of the month from 1996 until 2014.
Outside the restaurant is the St Louis Walk of Fame. The Walk lines the sidewalks on both sides of Delmar, and is made up of bronze stars and informative biographical plaques honoring individuals from the St. Louis area who have made major national contributions to US cultural heritage.
Across the street is a statue of the man himself, Chuck!
Nearby in the Central West End neighborhood we found old mansions very near sketchy neighborhoods, but they were in areas surrounded by gates, or large pots blocking the through streets to create a gated neighborhood.
Forest Park is public park in the western park of St Louis. The park, which opened in 1876, more than a decade after its proposal, has hosted several significant events, including the Louisiana Purchase and the 1904 Summer Olympics. The park is known as the “heart of St. Louis” and features a variety of attractions, including the St Louis Zoo, Art Museum, Science Center, and the Missouri History Center.
While in the park we visited the World’s Fair Pavilion. Located on Government Hill, the Pavilion opened in 1910 as a gift from the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Committee; it helped fulfill their promise to restore the park after the 1904 World’s Fair.
Taking the Lindell Boulevard back downtown we passed numerous mansions, followed shortly by St Louis University.