Route 66 Missouri ~ Pacific to Meramec Caverns!

Route 66 Missouri ~ Pacific to Meramec Caverns!

Touring old historic Route 66 is always a worthwhile venture to do! The Route 66 tourism season runs from spring through autumn everywhere but the Southwest, where Mother Road tourism goes year round because of warm winter temperatures.  A traveler can plan to drive the entire length of Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles or vice versa, which would be at least a two week long venture.  Travel adventurists can also start at any point on Route 66 that they choose and get off of the Mother Road anyplace that they desire.  It does not matter whether ten minutes or ten days is spent on the Mother Road, because the timeless nature of Route 66 nostalgia will instantly take hold of those who spin their wheels on this long stretch of pavement! 

Route 66 is the road that never fades away, because the love for what the Mother Road represents has kept it alive long after this highway was officially retired.  Route 66 has survived the Great Depression, WWII, multiple route bypasses, gas shortages and countless economic recessions ever since this road was conceived way back in the 1920s.  Route 66 has been there for millions of domestic vacationers and foreign tourists that have always wanted to experience the classic Americana dream at its best.  Route 66 truly is a historic time capsule of the golden age of automobile travel and this pathway is a modern premier live entertainment event all wrapped up in one big package. The oddest of the odd and the rarest unique icons of the past can be be experienced along the way 

Route 66 definitely is the heartbeat of America, even though this road’s old ticker has had multiple bypass surgery operations through the years.  When touring long sections of Route 66, it is not as easy as following a solitary highlighted line on a map.  There are many old hidden alignments of this road that are nearly forgotten.  There are many places where the original Route 66 no longer exists.  There are also a few stretches of modern Route 66 that are not really Route 66 at all.  In order to plan an intensive trip on Route 66, one must be willing to do some research ahead of time.  Fortunately there are enough Route 66 enthusiasts in this world to make the research project easy to accomplish.

Watching Route 66 travel videos on YouTube is a good way to compile information about the Mother Road.  Some YouTube film makers like Roamin’ Rich do explore every nook and cranny of every old alignment of Route 66.  One would have to be a dedicated Route 66 fan to do this much research for a trip down the old highway, but the information this Route 66 expert gathered along the way is invaluable from a historical perspective.  Most folks are only interested in touring the easy to navigate stretches of Route 66 to see the scenic sites that have outlasted the hands of time and this is okay too. 

As long as people are drawn to Route 66 and some money is spent at destinations along the way, Route 66 will continue to be a major tourist attraction for many years to come.  And yes … Route 66 is indeed a major tourist attraction even in this modern age.  Adapt to the times or be a relic of the past is a continual Route 66 business theme.  Honestly, the relics of the past do draw as much or more attention than any modern addition to Route 66 ever could.  The nostalgia factor is part of the charm that attracts dedicated entrepreneurs to invest in the restoration of the abandoned classic Route 66 motels, neon lights, diners and tourist traps from Chicago to L.A.  The return on investment for a Route 66 tourism business restoration can range from a proverbial gold mine to being stuck in an eternity of financial famine, yet dedicated entrepreneurial fans of Route 66 are willing to take the risk.  What it all comes down to is how much does one love the iconic Route 66 cultural scene. 

I have lived in a few Route 66 towns in Arizona and I have traveled many miles on the old Mother Road in other states.  There are plenty of Route 66 scenic attractions that I have not seen since I was a kid and there are plenty more that I have never seen before.  I am not a Route 66 expert, but relatively few people actually are.  Gaining some knowledge about the Route 66 attractions in each state will make you a qualified tour guide when driving a station wagon full of family members while on vacation. The more you know, the less likely it will be that you will drive right past a major Route 66 attraction without realizing it along the way. Just knowing where the major Route 66 attractions are located is a big help and the rest can wait to be discovered along the way.

During the last three years, I worked seasonal jobs at remote western resorts during the summer season and worked seasonal winter jobs back in Pennsylvania each winter.  In order to get the most bang for my buck, I turn the trips going east to west or vice versa, into a sightseeing vacation.  All too often I have accepted seasonal jobs in short order, so the relocation travel time from coast to coast was limited to less than 5 days.  This fast pace caused the vacation time during the trip to be rather limited and I had to resort to traveling on the boring high speed Interstate Freeways to make up lost time.  

During my last trip across country a change was due and I allowed plenty of free time, just so I could do an old fashioned Route 66 tour from St Louis, Missouri to Tucumcari, New Mexico.  In the spring of 2018, I turned the job relocation trip into one solid week of touring the historic Mother Road! The long section of Route 66 between St Louis and Tucumcari is about 870 miles long. I also did quite a bit of meandering to old Route 66 alignments and historic Route 66 attractions along the way, so an extra 300 miles can easily be added to the trip odometer.

For the long Route 66 tour from St Louis to Tucumcari, I opted for the easiest and most reliable GPS system for navigation. I plotted every Route 66 attraction in the GPS system, so I had a stress free and hands free long drive that required no fiddling around with maps. Driving during daylight hours also made the photography easier to accomplish

Today’s Route 66 article covers scenic sites on from Pacific, Missouri to the Meramec Caverns.  The Meramec Caverns are not located on any historic Route 66 alignment, but none the less, this tourist attraction has always played an integral part in the Route 66 scene.  Taking a little detour to a scenic spot that is a short distance away from the Mother Road has always been part of the Route 66 tourism game.  Since Route 66 was the closest major highway, thats where the Meramec Caverns billboard ads landed.  The same can be said about any nearby oddity or tourist attraction along the entire length of the Mother Road.

Because I researched the Route 66 excursion ahead of time, a decision was made to not bother with touring the Route 66 attractions within the St Louis metropolitan area for a multitude of reasons.  Big city tourist attractions are just that and everything that comes along with a big city will have to be dealt with during the trip.  For example, it currently is highly recommended that tourists do not visit the historic Route 66 Chain Of Rocks Bridge in St Louis, because cars in the parking lot are subject to frequent smash and grab burglaries.  The murder rate near this historic Route 66 brideg site and the St Louis Gateway Arch are sky high too.  For ethical reasons, I would not recommend visiting such a place, so starting the Route 66 tour in peaceful Pacific, Missouri, which is way out in the suburbs of St Louis, is a wiser choice.

I lived in St Louis County as a young teenager back in the early 1970s and I am very familiar with Route 66 in this region.  I have canoed the Meramec River several times way back when and the literary works of Mark Twain were the primary focus in the local school system.  In this region, Route 66 meets one of the most renowned periods in American literature and history.  The old Jesse James Wax Museum by Meramec Caverns says it all.  This is the legendary western outlaw Jesse James territory and this theme was conveyed to travelers on old Route 66.  Tales of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer add to the charm of this section of the Mother Road too.

Pacific, Missouri is most famous for being one of the first aggregate sources for the construction of Route 66.  The cave pockets in the limestone cliffs of Pacific were actually a quarry for the original Route 66 stone chip road material.  I know a bit about aggregate materials, since I was a state certified aggregate producer in Illinois and Indiana, so this scenic Route 66 attraction most definitely made it onto my travel itinerary.  The Pacific Limestone Caves are now a civic park with picnic tables, so this goes to show how strong the historical significance of Route 66 really is on a local level. 

Moving right along, the original Bigfoot Monster Truck manufacturer is located in Pacific.  There are some old school fireworks mega-stores and a few other relics of the past too.  The deplorable world of modern fast food joints has descended upon this lowly stretch of asphalt just to cash in on the chips, so be prepared to shield the eyes when driving through.  The historic Pacific Route 66 Limestone Caves are still the primary focus in these parts and it is best left at that.

Moving further on down the line, the Indian Harvest Trading Post looms as a side road excursion.  The teepees are a sight to behold, because romantic thoughts of the wild west captivate all those who are heading toward the setting sun.  A litter further down the line, the Six Flags Amusement Park and the Jellystone Park Campground are modern Route 66 attractions that provide fun for the entire family.   

As one heads southwest on Route 66 and I-44 toward Stanton, Missouri, the roadside billboard ads for Meramec Caverns become more frequent.  Several old Route 66 attractions are located at the same exit as the caverns.  The Toy Museum, Jesse James Wax Museum and the Riverside Wildlife & Reptile Center are located in this area.  Unfortunately, the Toy Museum and Jesse James Wax Museum were closed when I passed through and it looks like these historic tourist attractions are waiting for the next Route 66 entrepreneur to revive them from their dusty slumber. 

Following Missouri Highway W to the Meramec River and Meramec Caverns is a traditional Route 66 scenic side trip that is well worth doing.  There are several campgrounds, RV parks and bait shops along the way.  Canoe and raft rentals can be found along Highway W too.  As one approaches the river, it is easy to see evidence of recent floods.  Lots of debris and aluminum lawn chairs are still tangled high in the trees on either side of the river.  Down by the river there are several boat ramps, picnic areas and campgrounds.  At the end of the road is where the Meramec Caverns can be found.

The Meramec Caverns have been a Route 66 sideshow attraction for many decades.  Taking a tour of these amazing caverns is well worth the money and time spent.  These caverns actually were a Jesse James hideout way back in the days of the wild west!  The Meramec Caverns tourist attraction also offers plenty of neat stuff to do.  There are zip-lines that stretch across the river and canoe trip excursions can be booked on the spot.

Depending on what attractions are visited and how much time is spent floating down the river, the Pacific to Meramec Caverns segment of Route 66 can take a few hours to cover or a few days.  There is plenty to see and do in this region of Missouri for all Route 66 adventurists that pass through!            


Author: wildwestdestinations

I worked as a chef in remote resorts and National Parks, which provided the time to explore western travel destinations. I have a BA Degree in Culinary Management with high honors and currently I am working on a Masters Degree in Adult Education. My food and travel blog writing began as a means to generate income during college and now photo journalism has become my lifestyle.

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