If you are in a family where the Dad builds roads and bridges for a living, going for a ride is a whole lot different than it is for most families.
For one, Dad would slow to a crawl anytime he passed another contractor’s job so he could see what techniques the guy was using. If his competitor had some kind of new, spiffy piece of equipment, he’s say, “I wish I had his and he had a better one.”
We couldn’t make a trip from Cape to St. Louis without him pointing this area out as “one of the biggest rock cuts on I-55 in Missouri.”
By the time I got to St. Louis on February 25, those clouds were dropping snow from the sky. After I finished my exhibit in Ohio and drove back to Cape from St. Louis on March 1, more clouds were causing snow to swirl across the road.
What IS it with snow this year? It seems like everyplace I’ve gone lately has had snow. I’m afraid to go back to Florida next week for fear I’m going to cause it to snow on Wife Lila’s new vegetable gardens.
People who whiz up I-55 to get from Cape to St. Louis in about two hours never give a thought to U.S. Highway 61 that runs from the lands of ice and snow to New Orleans. Roads used to be known by names, not just numbers. Route 66, running east and west across the country was known as The Mother Road. North-South Highway 61 was El Camino Real – The King’s Road.
Going through Cape, it’s still called Kingshighway, and I grew up on Kingsway Drive, which parallels it.
Old U.S. 61 was a hilly, curvy, narrow road. Heavily-laden underpowered trucks growling up the steep hills would back up cars dozens deep. Eventually, someone would get impatient and try to pass, resulting in a grinding head-on collision that left dead scattered all over the roadside.
CB radios were decades in the future, so truckers and savvy drivers learned to communicate with their lights and hand signals to warn of speed traps and hazards ahead. Flashing headlights or an arm extended palm-down and waved in a patting motion meant “SLOW DOWN!”
Welcome rest area
About halfway between Cape and St. Louis, north of Bloomsdale and its Dew Drop Inn, was the Fourche a du Clos Valley Roadside Park. It had a spectacular view across the valley, picnic tables and a stone grill that’s still there. It has every feel of a WPA project, but I couldn’t find any markers around to confirm that. It was a great place to pull off to let your car and your kids cool off. I don’t think we ever passed there without stopping.
There were no rest facilities at the rest area, so what you might take as little white carnations all over the place when you looked over the stone wall and down the hill were actually tufts of toilet paper. Not all of the things in the Good Old Days were all that great.
I’m happy to report that there were no carnations visible on this visit.
583 feet above sea level
In case you were confused about which way you were going, there is still a concrete arrow that point NORTH. Next to it is a stone that proclaims that you’re standing 583 feet above sea level.
U.S. 61 has been improved
U.S. 61 has been improved. Cuts and fills have made the grades not so steep; the road has been widened and most of the through traffic stays on the Interstate, so it’s not the white-knuckle drive you might remember as a kid. I actually enjoyed my cruise south along the new old road.
Fourche a du Clos Valley Roadside Park photo gallery
Take a load off and click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left of right side of the image to move through the gallery.
When bicycle tourist John Gorentz, AKA Spokesrider, passed through Cape on his way from Michigan to New Madrid, I tried to pick him a better route to follow than the Missouri River Trail that runs through the hills and curves of New Hamburg. One alternative was to take Nash Road. Unfortunately, at that time is was a dusty gravel road. On a recent trip to the airport to eat, we decided to see if the road was finished. It is and it is really nice. (Click on any photo to make it larger.)
When I was flying aerials in November 2010, I noticed the Bloymeyer roundabout joining Nash Road, Hwy 25 and Hwy 77 had been completed. In this photo, Nash Road comes in from the top left. Hwy 25 from Jackson and Dutchtown is on the lower left and then turns to the right to go to Advance and Bloomfield. Hwy 77, at the top right, goes to Chaffee.
Mario’s Pasta House and a water hole is opening up at the intersection to take advantage of the traffic coming off I-55 and headed through. I wouldn’t be surprised to see other businesses open up, maybe even the old Montgomery Drive-in.
A nail in the coffin for Dutchtown
This is going to put another nail in the coffin of Dutchtown. Northbound I-55 traffic headed to towns south and west of Cape won’t have to go all the way to Hwy 74 and then through Dutchtown. It’ll be able to take a fast (60 mph), straight road with good shoulders straight down to Hwy 25. There’s not much out there yet except farm land, so there aren’t many driveways and side roads to watch.
When Hwy 74 floods at Dutchtown, which it seems to be doing more and more often, traffic has to go all the way to Jackson to get through. Nash Road is on the dry side of the Diversion Channel, so the highway department won’t have any incentive to raise the roadbed in Dutchtown to keep it above water.
Nash Road: south of Diversion Channel
Nash Road starts south of the Diversion Channel and north of the Cape Girardeau Airport.
Road is a shipping hub
I was surprised at the number of warehouses and depots that have grown up on the road.
In early October, 15 empty cars on a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train derailed on the tracks that parallel Nash Road. Nobody was injured and no hazardous chemicals were involved, The Missourian reported. I include these photos only because you could see them from Nash Road and because Keith Robinson, a railroad buff, is a regular reader.
Nash Road photo gallery
Here is a gallery of photos taken of and on Nash Road. Click on any image to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.