Over the last couple weeks, I've taken a couple short business trips within Missouri. For better or worse, those trips timing and locations required me to drive, so I rented a car from the Enterprise Rent-A-Car downtown St. Louis office inside the Hilton at the Ballpark, One South Broadway.
On Friday, August 10 we went to Columbia for a meeting. In the past, I've tried both MO-X airport shuttle service and Greyhound for getting to MU. But I have to admit, especially with the intense heat, driving was much easier! After all, neither the MO-X office nor the Greyhound depot are within walking distance of campus, so I took Columbia Transit to finish the trip, which not surprisingly extended the time it took by a good hour.
Then last Thursday and Friday I had a meeting at Lake of the Ozarks. This was my first trip to the Lake region, and I didn't really have time to see much other than the Osage Beach Premium Outlets, which has a really bizarre configuration that makes it difficult to walk between stores. I did drive across the top of Bagnell Dam on BR 54, and saw the older part of Lake Ozark MO that grew up after the dam was built. But most of the development these days is suburban-resort sprawl. While BR 54 feels a little more like a car-oriented small-town, US 54 through Osage Beach is like Lindbergh or Manchester or somewhere in St. Peters, with large retail stores, fast food places, and some better restaurants and condo developments, dominating the landscape.
I was not really sure how to get to the Lake; while the generally recommended route is I-70 to US 54, it just makes no sense to me to cross the Missouri River twice (at St. Charles and at Jefferson City). Plus the traffic can be horrendous around St. Charles and around Lambert Airport, even if you think you are going "against traffic."
Then again, the route I did choose -- I-44 -- crosses the Meramec River twice (at Fenton and then at Eureka), but you hardly even notice that.
So on the way to the Lake, I did get a bit directionally challenged -- shocking, I know. ;-)
Basically, I started out west on I-44 at Lafayette Ave. (having parked the rental car overnight at work, and taken the bus from home about 6 AM). I stopped for gas and breakfast at MO 141 near Valley Park, then continued west to the rest stop between St. Clair and Sullivan. I exited I-44 at St. James to take MO 68, then US 63. But then I turned too soon off US 63. I took MO 28 southwest toward Dixon, basically paralleling I-44 rather than diverging. I should have stayed on US 63 to Vienna, then picked up MO 42 west.
After realizing my mistake, I stopped in Dixon to visit the bathroom at the Country Mart, and to read my map. Somehow I decided to take MO secondary route C, a short connector to MO 133 west of Dixon. Then I took MO 133 to MO secondary route BB, where I saw my first sign like this.
MO BB was an unexpectedly narrow, winding, hilly stretch that I was glad to eventually exit! But it did get me back on track: MO 42, near Iberia. I stopped at the gas station in Iberia to figure out my next move; turns out I was almost there! I made it west on 42 to US 63, and wonder of wonders, at that junction in Osage Beach there was.... a Walgreens!
I did have some trouble finding the hotel where the meeting was, but that turned out OK eventually. On the return trip, I deliberately turned south from MO 42 at Iberia via MO 17, passing through the quaint-looking main street area of Crocker. But south of Crocker, MO 17 gets a bit tight, as it runs hard alongside (I think) the Osage Fork River. But after that twisty, narrow section alongside the water, you enter Waynesville along old Rt 66. I stopped for lunch at a Dairy Queen just down 66 in St. Robert, the town that is the gateway to Fort Leonard Wood. Then I entered I-44, quite a bit further southwest than where I had exited the day before in St. James. I stopped at another rest stop to eat my lunch, the one just west of Rolla. Then I stayed on I-44 all the way to Watson Rd., where I exited for a break at Borders Books & Music; and continued into the city via Watson/Chippewa and Gravois/Tucker.
OK, so not the most exciting trips, but interesting enough for me as my first rental car driving experiences.