Homer's Travels: Route 66 & California - Illinois & Missouri

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Route 66 & California - Illinois & Missouri

We left Litchfield and headed to our next destination along the route.  In the town of  Stanton, IL we stopped at Henry's Rabbit Ranch & Route 66 Emporium.  Think a small carhenge with VW Rabbits ... and real rabbits. I took pictures and we talked to the owner (He nearly talked our ears off).  We bought some magnets in his store and pet the rabbits wandering around the store.  He gave us a free gift (I think it was a pen) because we were driving Route 66.

The Rabbit Ranch. - Buried VW Rabbits.
We crossed into Missouri near St Louis and stopped at a park.  At the park the old route 66 Chain of Rocks bridge still crosses the Mississippi river and is now a hike/bike trail.  We walked part way across the bridge looking at various route 66 displays along the length of the bridge including an old (vandalized) fire truck.  The bridge was also the habitat of birds of prey that screeched as we walked by their perch.  It sounded like the bridge creaking.  From the bridge you could see two 'buildings' in the river.  I later found out they were "water towers" that once supplied water to St Louis.  One of them look like it would make a cool little house.

Chain of Rocks bridge - crosses the Mississippi river with a turn in the middle.
We left the bridge and, on our way through St Louis missed a turn and ended up driving miles out of our way until we realized out mistake and, checking the map made it back to the route.  Sadly our inadvertent detour made us miss Ted Drewe's Frozen Custard stand and the "concretes" that have been sold here since 1941.  It would have been my first frozen custard ... I still haven't had a frozen custard.  We discovered that following route 66 through cities was the worst as the route had changed the most in cities and often resulted in a twisty, turny, and confusing course that was easy to lose your way on.

World's largest rocking chair near Fanning, MO.
We stopped for lunch in the Lewis Cafe in St Clair, MO.  This turned out to be another great local place with awesome food.  We stopped at the world's largest rocking chair near Fanning, MO where I bought one of the few ice creams along the route (I kept the ice cream and candy to a minimum and was very well behaved).  We passed by a giant hillbilly swinging his arms.

Giant hillbilly with spinning arms.
We eventually left the route to head north-west toward Camdenton, MO and the Lake of the Ozarks where I lived the first nine years of my life in the 60s and early 70s.

We arrived to Camdenton and drove passed my grade school then headed to my old kindergarten.  I almost missed the turnoff to the old school.  I had trouble recognizing the place.  The old kindergarten is now a county museum.  It was closed when we got there but a man sitting on the steps told us that they were rehearsing some play in the gym and that we could walk through the museum if we wanted.  So we had a little private walk through.  It was a little strange.  I almost couldn't find the old school building but once I was inside I recognized my old classroom which I hadn't seen since 1968, forty-three years ago.

My kindergarten, now a museum.  I wonder what that means?
We stopped for the night at a place dear to my heart, the Val-E-Vue resort on the Lake of the Ozarks.  Yes, that's where I get my email address from.  It was my home from the day I was born to just before my ninth birthday.  I'd been back a few times since we moved in 1972 but the last time was in 1985 or 1986, almost twenty-five years ago and this was the first time I'd stayed at our old resort.  We checked in to Cabin #4 and asked the young man who checked us in where a good place to eat was.  He suggested Captain Ron's Bar & Grill.

On the way to the place I was amazed at what I didn't remember.  Things had changed so much
in the last twenty-five years.  It was like I was on a whole different planet but then I would see something I recognized and memories would flood back.  Captain Ron's was on the beach.  The bar was outside but we sat in the restaurant and had some good food which I followed with Triple Chocolate cake (Chocolate cake, mousse(!), and frosting).  It was yummy.

The old swimming dock at the Val-E-Vue resort.
We returned to Val-E-Vue and I walked around to see how things had changed.  The water level was high as water was let out of the dam every spring.  The old barn we used for storage, and I thought was haunted, had been torn down.  Several old and new buildings had been victims of a heavy snow a year or two back.  There were new docks and a few old ones including the swimming dock that was now a shadow of it's former self without its slide and diving board.  Our old house had burned down in the late 70s or early 80s so I knew it wasn't there anymore.  The basement had still been there when I was there last and was still being used as a rec room at that time, but it was totally gone now replaced by a trailer.  Generally the place was starting to look a little run down.

The whole lake scene was slow this year and the resort only have two parties staying there at the end of the 4th of July week.  The resort felt like a ghost town compared to when I was a kid.  The economy was impacting the lake.  The huge number of condos and rental houses that had gone up in the last forty years also had taken its toll on the resort business.  I could understand, with the economy as it is, how it would be hard to keep the place up.

Sunset over the Lake of the Ozarks.
Things were so different and yet felt so familiar.  The woods I played in, the shores I followed looking for treasures that had washed up, and the lake that had always been there, unchanging, a constant in my young life - they were all still there but the material things made by Man had changed almost beyond recognition.  When I think back to the good old days it's to the years on the Lake of the Ozarks.  I was at the carefree, no responsibility years.  I know this was a hard time for my parents.  Money was always tight and running a resort is not an easy thing to do for a young family but I rarely saw that.  I have to thank my parents for that and, in hindsight, they made my years on the shores of the Lake of the Ozarks some of the best years of my life.

Pictures of this leg have been added to my 2011-07 Route 66 Roadtrip and 2011-07 Route 66 - Lake Of The Ozarks - Ha Ha Tonka Google Photos albums.

Approximate distance driven this leg: 286 miles.


  1. In all my travels I have never seen a lake as beautiful as Lake of the Ozarks. Even Lake Atitlan in Guatemala didn't compare.

  2. You're of museum age! Ah, ah! The lake does look wonderful. A "house" on the river would be cool, no?


  3. Great photos! Now my traveling feet are getting itchy :)

  4. Mom: It is a beautiful lake. Totally Agree.

    Gv: Yep ... Old man material. The house on the river looked very cool ... even if they weren't really houses.

    Miss McC: Thanks. Get going girl!