01 Feb Route 66 Bicycle Tour – Riding Through Missouri
Missouri is one of those states that I had never even considered riding through or visiting prior to my Route 66 ride. The only thing I was looking forward to seeing in Missouri was the St. Louis Gateway Arch. This was the symbol of the Midwest that I had to see for myself, and I was really glad I was able to see it by bike!
Actually, the entire ride that day from Granite City, Illinois into St. Louis was incredible. I crossed the famous Chain of Rocks Bridge which connected the two states of Illinois and Missouri over the Mississippi River. After that, you’re pretty much on a separated bike path into St. Louis.
Once you leave the Gateway Arch into St. Louis, the riding gets a little dicey as you need to navigate typical city congestion. It’s not as dense as some cities, like New York or Los Angeles, but it is definitely a place that you can’t let your guard down as you squeeze through parked cars.
The ride gets even more treacherous as you leave the giant Forest Park and away from gentrified neighborhoods of the Central West End and into Clayton and beyond. The bike lanes disappear with the shoulders, and you are forced to take the lane on 2-lane roads where speed limits range from 45 to 65 miles per hour.
To make things even more challenging, the terrain undulated along as I continued my journey westward. The relief came when we were about 20-30 miles away from the city and was back into quiet country roads.
The trajectory of our ride through Missouri was in a Southwest direction. We past little towns, like Cuba and Doolittle, as well as populated college towns, like Rolla, which saw an increased presence of motorized vehicles.
Our journey at this point paralleled Highway 44 which was an earshot away, until we got closer to the Fort Leonard Forest area where the scenery turned a bit more green and lush. The route had us detour into Devil’s Elbow, passing one of the most iconic cafe, Elbow Inn Bar and BBQ. At any given time of day, there would be droves of classic cars and their fans gathered around them in front of this humble establishment.
I ended up riding right past a group and across the Devil’s Elbow Bridge to rejoin the route at the top of a climb. Along the route, we passed by the Uranus Fudge Factory, a must-see along the way to catch up with tourists who visit from all over the world following these signs since St. Louis.
What wasn’t captured in the video was the long mileage and extreme weather. It became an issue for 2 days leading into Springfield, Missouri. Many of our riders had to SAG in due to fatigue and dehydration. It was a relief to finally be resting at the Springfield KOA for 2 days before we headed back on the road.
Our last night was spent in the little town of Carthage which was a few miles Northeast of Joplin, the hometown of a trail angel named Patrick who works for the Joplin’s Visitor Bureau. He came into camp handing out free t-shirts, patches and postcards and gave us information about the area. On the last day of the trip, he brought along an entourage of riders to help us navigate the last leg of Missouri through Joplin before they turned around and went back to Carthage while we continued into Kansas.
I was driving that day, so I didn’t get to see the Kansas portion of the route. I heard if you were looking for a typical “Route 66” experience, that portion of Kansas would have been it. The riders basically skirted the 14 miles on the Southeastern corner of Kansas and made it into Oklahoma. If you’re keeping track, that’s 3 states in 1 day.
If you haven’t already seen it, go check out how it all started by reading this blog post.