Saturday, August 8, 1981

48. Steelville, Missouri

Day 48:  Saturday, August 8, 1981
Iberia to Steelville:  71 miles

There were plenty of noisy teen-agers in the park last night, but we were well-hidden down in the woods, so was passed the night unmolested, if not undisturbed.  After a light breakfast of Grape-Nuts and orange juice, we were on our way.

Not many travelers rise early on Saturday morning; we had the road to Vienna pretty much to ourselves.  It was a pleasant ride - quite hilly, of course, but we could easily coast up many of the uphills that closely followed the downhills.  The roller-coaster hills are not as monotonous as the long grades in the Rockies, but it didn't take long to lose track of how many hills and dales I'd negotiated.

A road to ourselves
They built this road just for us!
US 63 between Vienna and Vichy is probably the most curvy and hilly stretch of that highway between Jeff City and Rolla.  A new ten-mile stretch of highway is under construction there.  The concrete is in, but it's closed to traffic.  Jack and I took the new route, which provided a smooth surface, no cars, and good views of the countryside.  It also eliminated a lot of hills, and provided several long grades instead.  If it had not been for the lack of traffic, I'd rather have had the hills.

Deserted highway
...or maybe we're the only ones left on the planet.

There are vineyards and several wineries in the area of Saint James.  Since Jack and I had both toured wineries before, we passed up the chance this time.  Also near Saint James are deposits of iron ore.  In the 1860s, a man named James from Chillicothe, Ohio set up an iron mining and smelting operation near Meramec Spring.  He could not compete with the iron companies around the Great Lakes, however, and soon ceased operation.  Today, the big iron furnace is still near the spring, and the grounds have been maintained as a park administered by the James Foundation.  The old men at the gate wanted to charge us the same admission price that they charged cars, so we didn't go in.

Route 8 east from Saint James is narrow, winding, and scenic.  The road was just draped across the hills - no cuts or fills were made at all.  In some places in the spring, water covers the road to a depth of three feet.  The Meramec River winds along near the highway.  We haven't seen it, but it must be a pleasant canoeing river:  we've passed a good dozen canoe rental places.

Winding Missouri road
This doesn't quite fit the text, but I know I took it today...

We grabbed some groceries in Steelville, then cooked hamburgers and tater tots behind the local DSS office.  The police didn't mind, but Jack felt the location was too exposed to spend the night.  So we rode another three miles (uphill, and after a big meal - ugh!) to a Baptist church which had a nice big lawn.  The man who was mowing it gave us the nod to set up our tent behind the church.  I managed to find a lot of poison ivy in the fence row.  Didn't get into it, but it'll probably get into me anyway.

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