While the Route 66 portion of The Great Baseball Ride technically started when we arrived in Chicago two days ago, we didn’t really start driving the route until today. Our stay at the Ohio House Motel was wonderful; affordable, clean, updated, free parking, great breakfast at Cafe Tola next door, good location, etc. We had fun at Wrigley and enjoyed our Chicago sightseeing as well.
All that said, it is time to get on down the route. Keke and I woke up early to walk to where the route begins as we figured driving there against a Chicago morning rush was a bad idea. It was fun to see everyone up, out, and heading to work for a busy day of commerce. We found the origin of the route and took a couple of pics with the Sears (Willis) Tower conveniently in the background.
We headed back to the hotel, gathered our stuff and our other two crew members (my mom and our boy, Soren), and set out to join up with the route. We followed the route for a while, then ran into a roadblock with no easy workaround. With that we hopped on the expressway, hoping to meet up with the route a bit later. We were able to catch up down the road.
We’ve always wanted to drive Route 66, and experience the nostalgia of days gone by (maybe nostalgia isn’t the right word since it implies that we were around for those past days). The idea of families in the 60’s driving across America in what now would be a classic car has a certain charm to us. We want to see those diners, gas stations, and tourist traps that those same families saw. The Route has changed over the years, and following it is a bit of a challenge as it joins up with and meanders off expressways the whole way from Chicago to L.A. Still, over the next few days, we’ll put in an honest effort to follow it and see some of those sights that give the Route it’s charm still today all while continuing on The Great Baseball Ride.
I would say the first Route 66-y stop we had was in Pontiac, IL. There is a Route 66 Museum there and they have a nice picture area behind the museum in the parking lot. We continued down the route, stopping where we could, with our goal for the day to reach St. Louis.
We arrived in St. Louis and ended up staying at the Drury Plaza in downtown St. Louis, and it was the perfect location. Situated between Busch Stadium and the Gateway Arch, the hotel is an easy walk to both. Drury hotels continued to be a favorite stop of ours. I believe we paid around $145 for the night plus taxes and $18 for parking. With this we got a clean and up-to-date corner room on the 9th floor, free wifi, breakfast and dinner for four, and three drinks each for three people. When you put a value on all you get (drinks/food) at Drury, you quickly see how much better of a deal it is than even discount hotels.
Even though I really don’t like paying for parking, it is a necessary evil in downtown areas as space is expensive and free parking is almost impossible. That said, I paid $18 for unlimited in and out in a ramp directly between the hotel and the stadium where I would have paid $20 for parking just for the event if I were going to the game.
This was a Friday and the dinner buffet at Drury was packed with people with Cardinals gear on. We ate and drank and made our way over to the stadium. On our way over there we went through the parking lot of the new Ballpark Village development. This is a newer bar/restaurant/entertainment venue directly across the street from the stadium. We didn’t stop in, but we could see it was very busy, and I noticed after the game that people were coming down there for a night out; it must be the spot.
We didn’t have tickets yet, and they were going fast. While waiting in line to get into the stadium, Keke got tickets via Stubhub for about $20 a piece before fees. I knew that St. Louis was a baseball town, but it was fun to see in person. I don’t believe the stadium was sold out, but there were 45k people there, our largest attendance yet.
Anheuser-Busch pretty much owns St. Louis, and it’s their name on the stadium, so I didn’t expect much in the way of craft beer (specifically local). I was told there were a couple of craft brew areas, but I already had three local beers (Budweiser) at Drury, so I decided to leave my consumption to those. We were also stuffed from our dinner at Drury so we opted out of the ballpark food for the night.
As of game time, the Cardinals were in first place, but the night belonged to Reds as they ended up winning 12 – 1; hitting a few homers in the process. We enjoyed being Cardinal fans for the day and really enjoyed the passion that the fan base there has. Back to our room, we settled in for a nice night’s sleep, ready for more of the Mother Road tomorrow.