Sunday, September 17, 2006

Day 2 - "It Goes Through St. Louis..."

Yesterday was such a long day we seemed to need an easier one today.

We got up and spent some time repacking the car. Then we backtracked slightly to the famous Ted Drewes Frozen Custard stand. Every Route 66 guide stresses the need to stop there as you drive through St. Louis -- and who are we to ignore them? We all tried their "Concrete" -- a Blizzard-style mix of frozen custard and flavorings that is so thick you can turn it upside down. Yum!

It began raining as we left Ted Drewes and never really stopped all day. We drove through several downpours and lots of sprinkles. And the sky stayed steely gray.

We spent the rest of day following the Mother Road. It is more difficult in Missouri rather than in Illinois. They have Route 66 road signs here too, but they tend to be informational rather than instructive. They really don't tell you where to go, they just confirm that you're in the right place (if, in fact, you are). So when there were turns, we didn't know if we made them correctly until we came upon a sign. And the Missouri signs are much fewer and farther between.

I-44 follows Route 66 pretty closely through Missouri. So much of our driving was on the service road for I-44. It bounced back and forth from the north side to the south side and back. And, as in Illinois, it took us through a number of towns along the way. We passed this old Phillips 66 station with the wonderful roof (left) in Cuba, MO. The years of Route 66 were a time before there was such as thing as a by-pass. It's fun to be a history detective and discover the remnants of another era as you pass them at 30 mph rather than several miles away at 70 mph.

In St. James we stopped and visited two wineries. You have to do a little work along the way, don't you? Missouri is actually the home of the earliest wineries in the US, dating back to 1837. They grow a very interesting grape here called Norton. It's a native grape (like Concord, Niagara, or Catawba) but with a richer flavor than its other native cousins. They're also growing many of the French hybrids we grow back at the winery.

It was interesting to visit the two wineries. We had a nice experience at the first -- a friendly young man poured their wines for us to try and answered our questions pleasantly. The second winery visit was not quite so positive. It's self-service. And you use tiny plastic cups to taste. Too small to aerate the wine well. And pretty nasty to drink out of. They had both an Norton and a Cynthiana wine (I've always read that they were the same grape) so I asked the person behind the counter about it. I ended up with a condescending and strangely pedantic "answer" about how different grapes taste differently when they're grown in different locations. Maybe he just gets wine novices in the tasting room? Because he assumed I knew nothing about wine (although you'd think I'd know a bit since I knew that they were the same grape...). I'll take it as a good lesson -- never assume anything (particularly if it's negative) about your customers.


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