Reading about travelling westward on the train north

England was beginning to move again yesterday after the Christmas break but not for long as the M6 was completely stationary in both directions last night and other roads were reporting problems. I was glad that I was taking the train this morning. Scotland is recovering from two severe storms over Christmas, while in Northern England we had much less severe wind and rain. We left the house in frosty darkness with all the stars visible as James took me to the station. In the lounge, I watched a TV programme highlighting the benefits recent wet summers and mild winters have had for farmers who have could keep animals outside for longer and cut more hay from the long grass but also the adverse impact it has had on many insects and wildflowers that need shorter grass to survive and birds such as barn owls who cannot see their prey in longer grass and whose numbers are declining. Yet another consequence of climate change.
Not driving meant that I could dip into a book I found on Tuesday at Cavern Books, Dagfields, near Nantwich: It is David Haward Bain’s The Old Iron Road: An Epic of Rails, Roads and the Urge to Go West. In 2000, the author (who is an established non-fiction writer and academic at a Vermont college) travelled along the routes followed by the early rail road, Lincoln Highway, California, Oregon and Pony Express trails with his family. He had more time than we could squeeze out of our jobs on our transcontinental drive and has researched and added much of the associated history along the way, including that of his own grandmother’s family. There is also a selection of old photographs in the book.

He began in Missouri, travelling north up the river valley from Kansas City and Independence where the California and Oregon trails often began. We passed through St Louis on our Route 66 drive before continuing southwest and here is the Lewis & Clark memorial by the river:
At Omaha, his route coincided with the Lincoln Highway on Route 30 and our drive as we entered Nebraska on R30 from Iowa.
One of the things I enjoyed in Nebraska was the prairie grass in the Cottonmill Park near Kearney.
Prairie Grasses 2 Kearney NE 4 July 2016-1
By the time I had reached this stage of his book, dawn had broken in South Lancashire and the sun was fully up well before we reached Carlisle. The Cumbrian hills were covered in frost and mist but there were still large pools of water in the fields in southern Scotland. As I emerged from the station in Edinburgh, it was much milder. The city is gearing up for the Hogmanay celebrations and it will get much busier over the next two days. I shed my woollies and as I walked to the shops from the flat, noticed large numbers of branches on the ground from the surrounding trees. I will be out tomorrow to do a few things in town and looking forward to Friday to meeting friends and celebrating James’s birthday.

The Ozarks

No photos today folks as my data transfer cable is defunct so will hunt out another one in Oklahoma City tomorrow. At least we are in Springfield Missouri; less than 24 hours from Tulsa! The Ozarks are billed by some as mountains but are really a plateau, which in south Missouri is 380m plus at its highest point. The highest point overall in Arkansas is 700m plus so not really a mountain. There are many rolling, wooded hills and valleys and the biodiversity is much increased from Illinois farmland – I am enjoying the change in terrain. Out of St Louis, our first stop near Eureka was at the partly demolished Meramac River Bridge. Times Beach near here was a favourite spot on the river until some bright spark tried spraying to reduce dust and unfortunately the spray contained dioxin. We passed through many small communities where the largest stand alone buildings are 1. the bank 2. the church and 3. the funeral home. Saw 3 guys leaning against a pickup with cans of beer in hand (it was still morning) who looked like ZZ Top on a bad day. Coffee stop in Cuba where they have several murals depicting historic events and their own free press. Most towns have a park with picnic tables under a roof or the trees which are great for a light lunch.  Just before Lebanon yet another memorabilia store is run by the former manager of Muddy Waters. He has a couple of guitars and several photos inside. Having made it Springfield we are now in the Route 66 Rail Haven which is a motel dating from 1938 now run by Best Western.

St Louis, Missouri

Route 66 has taken various routes through the city over the years but it used to cross the Mississippi on the Chain of Rocks Bridge for a 5 cents toll. The bridge has not been used for motor traffic for several years but is now open to foot traffic and cyclists. We walked part of the way over and you can also take the Riverside Trail back into town but we are still in the midst of a heatwave so we wimped out and drove. This road was part of R66 at one point. Downtown we visited the Jefferson Memorial Gateway Arch and rode the tram to the top. The windows are very small and scratched so not ideal for photography. Took some photos outside as it is a fantasticshape. Inside is the Museum of Western Expansion which makes a token attempt to get the Native American viewpoint on this; given that their land, animals that fed, clothed and housed them and much of their culture was taken from them.

We then took a river cruise as having crossed the Mississippi by train and road, it was time to get on it. I am now trying to remember the names of all the bridges. Relaxing in our hotel this evening as we have over 200 miles to do tomorrow.

Chain of Rocks BridgeGateway Arch 1IMG_0007Gateway Arch 2