66, part V:
Mississippi River to Virginia
The original planners of the famed Route
66 built the highway from southern California to Chicago.
Part I, part II, part
III, and part IV, follow this route
closely as far as southern Missouri.
Here in Part V, however, Dr. Voyageur extends the drive through
beautiful and historic countryside all the way to New York City,
giving readers a great transcontinental itinerary. As mentioned
in Part I, the original Route 66 opening celebration extended all
the way to New York City, so we are not straying from tradition.
We pass through Kentucky, including Abraham Lincoln's boyhood
home, the mountains of West Virginia and Virginia, Washington, D.C.,
Maryland, the beaches of Delaware, and along the shoreline of New
Jersey, including Atlantic City. Readers, too, Dr. Voyageur believes,
will get a unusually fair overview of the War Between the States
that ravished so much of this land in the 19th Century, a conflict
where emotions still run high.
Everyone should read Route
66 part I, part II, part
III, and part IV too, more the actual
Route 66 route.
Below, from southeastern Missouri, where we left off in
Part IV, let's start at the Mississippi River and head East.
Crossing into Kentucky
From Big Spring and Van Buren in Missouri,
continue east along U.S. Highway 60 into Kentucky, crossing the
Mississippi River and a tiny patch of Illinois where the Mississippi
and Ohio rivers join at Cairo. The waters from these rivers are
different colours, which do not immediately mix. You will be impressed
by these rivers and their meeting.
The flat country south of this river junction
is the gateway to the Delta country, one of the two major rice
growing regions in the U.S (The other is the Sacramento River
Valley in California). Watermelons also thrive on the moist soil
here. Try some watermelon rind pickles, a treat.
Continue east on Highway 60 to Interstate
Drive east on I-24 to the Grand Rivers/Land
between the Lakes turn off.
Go south into the Land
between the Lakes National Recreation Area, a project of the
U.S. government sponsored Tennessee Valley Authority, which brought
electricity, industry, employment, and lakeside parks to this
region during the Great Depression.
The Land between the Lakes makes a nice
spot to hike, to camp, and to relax along the lake without the
crowds of some of the parks later on. Hundreds of miles of shoreline
here assure a private spot for nearly everyone, especially if
they rent a boat.
From the road through Land between the Lakes
park, take U.S. Highway 68 eastbound.
Between Hopkinsville and Russellville, near
Fairview, visit the monument to Jefferson Davis, the former president
of the Confederate States of America.
At Bowling Green, most famous for its Corvette
automobile plant and museum, turn north on State Highway 105.
This will avoid the tacky tourist area that adjoins the southern
boundary of Mammoth Cave National Park.
At Roundhill, turn east onto State Highway
Drive eastbound on Highway 70 to State Highway
Turn north on Highway 259 to State Highway
Go eastbound on Highway 728 until you see
the entrance to Mammoth Cave
Try to arrive early, as the caves are spectacular,
and the guided tours fill early. The above ground park, too, is
very pretty and is nice for hiking and boating. Camping should
be booked well in advance (See the Internet site), and you may
be able to reserve tours in advance.
From the Mammoth Cave National Park area,
go north on Interstate 65 to Sonora.
From Sonora, travel east on State Highway
84 to Howardstown.
Heading toward the mountains
of West Virgina
From Highway 84 at White City, head east
on the Bluegrass Parkway to U.S. Highway 60 near Lexington. By
now, you have noticed that Kentucky has its own unique architecture,
which is really quite handsome. Especially appreciated are the
attempts to harmonize the style of new buildings to old. Prince
Charles, who believes strongly that architecture nurtures the
spirit, would be happy here.
Take Highway 60 east toward Lexington, a
graceful southern city. If in a hurry, take the Highway 60 Bypass
around the heart of Lexington. Otherwise, take business route
60 through the city, a really handsome one, where we find the
University of Kentucky and lots of student-related small cafes,
If on Bypass 60, take U.S. Highway 27 north
to Interstate 64. Then take I-64 (which is also I-75 here) east.
If on Business Route 60, go east to Interstate
75. Then travel I-75 north a short distance (one interchange)
to Interstate 64. Go east on I-64.
Everyone driving east on I-64 now? Good!
This is far less confusing in reality than it may seem here.
Eastbound I-64 rises into the more rugged
country of eastern Kentucky and then descends into the Ohio River
Valley near the West Virginia border. You will note the smell
of the large petrochemical companies in this area, including Ashland
Oil. On several visits, Dr. Voyageur has sped past the little
town of Nitro in the centre of the petrochemical area. The sound
of that name deeply disturbs him.
West Virginia, a state that broke off from
Virginia during the Civil War due to its opposition to slavery,
remains a liberal place, most known for proving in its 1960 primary
election that Catholic John Kennedy could win handsomely in a
predominately working-class protestant environment. Kennedy's
West Virginia win against the popular Hubert Humphrey brought
him, many believe, the Democratic nomination for president.
In spite of some factories along the highway,
the countryside becomes more pretty. The state capital, Charleston,
may smell like the industrial centre it is, but Charleston is
for the most part a pleasant place surrounded by mountains.
Dr. Voyageur's readers need not hold their
noses much longer (and the smell seldom seems that bad), as we
are coming to the raison d'etre of this section, the marked beauty
of southeastern West Virginia and western Virginia.
From Charleston, drive south on I-64, which
has become the West Virginia Turnpike, an inexpensive toll road.
Just south of Beckley, exit the turnpike,
and head east on the now toll-free I-64.
This is great country with numerous state
parks in the area. At the New River Bridge, be sure to pull off
I-64 at the turnout for the great view.
This bridge is the mother of all bungie
jumping spots, but the police are watching to prevent this activity.
Below is the New River Gorge National River Park, the centrepiece
of a very scenic area.
For legal reasons, Dr. Voyageur will not
suggest companies that organize raft or kayak trips on the New
River or its tributaries, as there is no absolute guarantee of
safety in this very wild setting. The doctor dislikes lawsuits.
This is not Disney World where a scary situation is actually totally
benign due to superb engineering.
But, for those interested, numerous opportunities
exist to experience the New River. If interested, pick a whitewater
rafting and kayaking company that has been in business for a long
time and try to reserve ahead of time, as these sports are very
Further down Interstate 64, be sure to pull
off at White Sulphur Springs, home of the Greenbrier Resort. Take
a peak at what many classify America's best resort hotel, the
Wanting to isolate enemy embassy staffs
from possible public retaliation, the U.S. State Department moved
the German, Italian, and Japanese diplomats to the Greenbrier
when America was trust into World War 2. The outbreak of war with
the U.S. was a lucky break for them, as they now enjoyed the fine
accommodations of the Greenbrier!
In spite of the lovely setting and fine
facilities, the Axis staffs grew to dislike being isolated together
away from the sophisticated Washington diplomatic circuit. In
addition, they did not get along at all in close confinement,
which bode ill had their countries won the war.
After World War 2, as the Cold War with the
Soviet Union intensified, the U.S. government built heavily fortified
rooms deep under the Greenbrier to serve as the evacuation point
for the top leaders of the U.S. government, including the president,
in case of an actual attack. Only recently has this information
been made public. One presumes that these officials expected to
go up to the fine Greenbrier golf courses when the radiation diminished.
Learn about the War
Between the States, or go on to Part
VII: Virginia to Washington, D.C..
Go to >> Route
66, part I: Introduction
Go to >> Part II: Santa Monica
to Las Vegas
Go to >> Part III: Las Vegas to
Go to >> Part IV: Albuquerque to the
Go to >> Part V: Mississippi River to Virginia
Go to >> Part VI: Understanding the
War Between the States
Go to >> Part VII: Virginia to Washington,
Go to >> Part VIII: Washington, D.C.
to New York City
Go to >> Part IX: Planning your Route
Back to top