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Missouri Route 66

St. Louis
Gateway to the West

Missouri Route 66

 

Crossing the Mighty Mississippi River

Historic Chain of Rocks Bridge Today the Route 66 traveler can completely bypass the congested inner city traffic of St. Louis by taking the I-270 bypass around the city. I-270 crosses the Mississippi River near the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge. Today as in the days of Route 66 this was the quickest way around St. Louis if you weren't planing to stop in the metropolis. Jack Rittenhouse in his 1946 Guide to Route 66 recommends this route. The historic bridge almost was destroyed in the 1970s when traffic was rerouted over the then new Interstate. Thankfully it survived and is a wonderful example of man's engineering ingenuity when faced with the daunting task of spanning a most unpredictable river. Today the bridge serves as a walking and biking trail and is located a short distance from I-270. In fact you can see it from the Interstate.

 

St. Louis Skyline
St. Louis Skyline 2003

     
St. Louis started as a small frontier outpost and has grown into the major city it is today. In fact, St. Louis is the largest city on Route 66 between Chicago and Los Angeles. St. Louis was founded on the banks of the Mississippi River in 1762 and became the "Gateway to the West". Lewis and Clark left St. Louis on their epic journey across an unknown land to the Pacific Ocean. Fur trappers and mountain men used St. Louis as a supply and entertainment center before starting out for the Rocky Mountains. Gold seekers left St. Louis on their quest for riches. Immigrants and settlers bound for the vast prairies passed through here. St. Louis is used to a nation on the move; people going west to find a better life. Route 66 came through here in 1926 and continued the traditions of travel established over a century earlier. The famous St. Louis Gateway Arch serves as a symbol for the conquest of the West.
        
There are several alignments of Route 66 through St. Louis. It can be a daunting task to try to figure them out. The routings of Route 66 through St. Louis are the most numerous and confusing of any on the Mother Road. Many old neighborhoods that once bordered Route 66 now are virtually unrecognizable as historic Route 66. With a few exceptions, mainly Ted Drewes on Chippewa St. (an old alignment of City 66), it probably is better to stay on the old Route 66 "belt line" which is today’s Interstate 270. For the adventurous St. Louis can be an interesting place to explore. Union Station, though not on any alignment of Route 66, is a wonderful example of historic preservation. Once it was the busiest railway station in the world. Its unique architecture is modeled after the walled medieval city of Carcassone in southern France. The trains no longer stop here so rather than destroying this historic station with its beautiful architecture it was converted into a shopping mall. It has been restored to its original splendor and is a sight to behold.

St. Louis Union Station
Restored Union Station

        

Eat Rite Diner
"Eat-Rite or Don't Eat At All"

Mary ~ cook, waitress and cashier rolled up in one
can serve up a quick meal and a hot cup of coffee in a heartbeat.
For a classic diner experience the Eat-Rite can't be beat.

Mary at the Eat Rite

      

    

MacArthur Bridge

There are throwbacks to old Route 66 if you look closely. The Eat-Rite Diner near the old, now closed MacArthur Bridge is one of them. The Eat-Rite Diner is a St. Louis Route 66 Tradition. This diner has been sitting on the corner of Chouteau and 7th for almost 60 years! This small classic diner has seen a lot of action in that time and it still serves up a quick meal.

The MacArthur Bridge (left photo) was built in 1917 and used as an alternate crossing of the Mississippi River until 1981. It was renamed the MacArthur Bridge after W.W. II. No matter what your plans are or St. Louis, care must be exercised to choose the right route for you. If you are heading east from St. Louis on into Illinois towards Chicago, Interstate 55 now roughly follows the path City 66 once took. I-55 crosses the Mississippi River near the old MacArthur Bridge and enters East St. Louis, Illinois. One word of caution though, East St. Louis is a depressed area that might not be appropriate for the casual Route 66er - especially at night.

 

Ted Drewes If you stop at one place in St. Louis let it be Ted Drewes, you won’t be sorry. Ted Drewes has been selling frozen custard in St. Louis since 1930. Ted's attention to quality has made his custard the finest in St. Louis. The store on Chippewa (Rt. 66) has been serving frozen custard and smiles since 1941.
     
Ted Drewes famous "Concrete" is so thick that it is served upside down to customers. First timers get quite a start from that one! I had to find out for myself what all the commotion about this "Concrete" was all about. First, I want to say that it is no exaggeration that it is thick enough to be served upside down. I proved it myself - see photo at right. Second, I found why Ted Drewes has stayed in business all these years, even when Route 66 was bypassed by the Interstates. It's darn good stuff!

Guy Checks out the Concrete

       
Ted Drewe and Travis
Ted Drewes Jr. and Travis Dillon invite you to sample some of their St. Louis Concrete.
All this fun started in 1929 when Ted Sr. opened his first ice cream store in Florida. A year later he moved to St. Louis and started an institution that continues today. The store on Route 66 is still run by the family, Ted Drewes Jr. and his son- in-law Travis Dillon. Okay, it is a family run Route 66 business too and if that isn't enough they still serve the customer with a great product that is world famous and a lot of fun. Ted Drewes is not a franchise. According to Ted Jr., it never will be franchised because that could lead to mediocrity and quality is what Ted Drewes is all about. There’s no doubt about it; Ted Drewes is an American original and a Route 66 icon.

   

    

Ted Drewes in St. Louis

 

Photographs taken September 2002 and June 2003

Click on an area or city of Route 66 on the map below to take a cyber tour of that section of the  Mother Road

Travel Cyber Route 66 in Missouri

Go West on Route 66

NAVIGATION NOTE: Buckle up and hold on to your mouse! These pages are arranged like the map above, from the western state border to the eastern state border. I have set up this site as if you were traveling from EAST to WEST, much like the Joad family in The Grapes of Wrath. You can click on the Route 66 shields to "travel" the Mother Road in either direction though. Or you can select any shield below to take you to that specific state.

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Illinois
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