Day 2: Sense and Sensitivity

At 8.00 AM R66 is ready and so is MS. Heavily overcast, more rain to come? Pleasant temperatures. The first R66 Road marker after a few miles, I trust it and follow. How come I have the sun in my eyes at 8.30 AM when I am heading west? Checking the EZ66 map: I am indeed heading East on another R66 itinerary – R66 did vary quite a bit during the ‘30ties.

Heading back, travelling by the road markers seems easy. But it isn’t, a system in marker placement is hard to detect. At intersections, sometimes there is one, sometimes there isn’t. Assuming that no marker means ‘continue straight ahead’ proves incorrect. Often a marker is to be found quite a bit further down once a road has been guessed as to the right one, but not always. If not: better turn back and check out another option – or the map. You may find you had made the right choice after all. All in all, the glass is 80% full and 20% empty.

The plan is to make it to Springfield, about 200 miles.

R66 has a love-hate relationship with I44.
- Some sections are like an extra 2 lanes of I44, so close they are. Except: R66 follows the curves of the landscape whereas I44 has simply erased these; on R66 traffic is scarce, 45-55mph is quite possible – and permitted.
- Other R66 sections veer away from I44 to reveal what R66 is all about. Very small towns, some well kept and neat. Others: desolate and poor, houses and trailers not fit for human occupation, all the unimaginable trash around them, however, showing the inhabitants think otherwise. The average number of junk cars per yard is another indication that with R66 traffic also the economic boom times left the area. Deserted hotels, restaurants, filling stations – burned out, falling apart, some also heavily overgrown with ivy just as how the explorers found the ruins of old Inca or Maja cities.
- R66 rolls itself around I44 as snakes making love; it curls its sections to the north, then sections to the south of I44, I44 exits serving as bridges. All these exits bristling with economic activity; gas stations, food, tourist shops. Between the exits on R66 the serene tranquility of a retiree whose life is more behind than ahead of him.

R66 signs of life, however, abound. The road markers, the signs on shops, the flags of small R66 villages showing their R66 pride. Lunch with coffee and eggs at Cafe R66 in Cuba comes at less than $4 and is served by a friendly lady as timeless as R66 itself; a guestbook for passers-by is to be signed. An old iron bridge is waiting to be digitalized.

Maybe they weren’t there; or I missed them – these road markers. I find myself on a highway without the R66 feel. But going through the beautifull Ozarks; I just let MS go and take in the land. Heading due South too long is not a good idea if I want to make it to Springfield. I am way of my EZ66 map. Advised by a friendly Ozark, a shortcut takes about 30 minutes to get back to I44 and its R66 companion. The shortcut is the most beautifull ride of the day, woods, fields, virtually no human presence. The bottom-line: don’t be afraid to get lost from R66, its back-country has lots to show as well.

The clouds that promised rain all day do deliver around 15.00. For about 45 minutes, not too bad, rain gear can handle it. Just have to be careful, the road is slippery, slowing down.

Strange sensation, unmistakenly the R66 sensitivity develops. At unmarked intersections: it is now clear what the right choice is; how I know, I don’t know, but I know. The look and feel of the surface, often the old Hitler-type concrete slaps themselves (R66 pavement was modelled after the German highways of the 30ties), then just a thin layer of asphalt covering it. But the rhytm is there, like in a train. The way the road rolls over the hills, the character of the buildings along its sides. They all add up to be one thing: R66.

Similarly, MS and I are becoming like one organism. MS feels like a bodily extension. Never ending turns, many quick up/down shifs up/down the hills, ever adjusting speeds, it all goes without thinking. There is a certain danger in that, I realize.

Springfield is a nightmare following a pleasant dream. There is an oasis, however, Best Western R66 Rail Haven, has been around for a long time. R66 gas pumps at the entrance, 60ties and 70ties music playing – vintage atmosphere with a swimming pool and hot tub thrown in. It feels like home.

I44 and R66 – the modern hectic crazyness of getting from A to B first next to the laid-back approach of getting where you want to go when it is time for you to be there. The meaning of travelling R66.

Harold – “Ride to Tell”

Comments Off

Comments are closed at this time.