Now that we have escaped winter in Texas a few times, we have learned a bit about the best route to take there. We used to follow the GPS blindly and take I-55 through St. Louis, I-70 across Missouri, and head south driving through Indian reservations in Oklahoma. In St. Louis the traffic was often heavy, I-70 was bone jarring and in need of repaving, and the reservation lands were undeveloped and there was nowhere to camp. By driving just a bit east, a tactic that makes the GPS go crazy, we pick up I-57, a lightly traveled interstate which we take all the way through Illinois. Considering the fact that we have lived here all our lives, we are woefully ignorant of the southern part of the state. We passed town after town, whose name we did not even recognize. The only ones we've heard of house infamous prisons.
We stopped for the night where I-57 meets I-55 at a campground just off the highway that has all pull-through sites so we don't have to unhitch the car, great internet, and propane for sale. Last time we passed through here it had been too cold to fill up with water at home and it was also a great spot to de-winterize. Missouri has good prices for gas and diesel and having been here before, we knew exactly where that cheap station is and how to approach it from the back so we wouldn't have to maneuver around pumps and cars.
The other big reason to stop here is Lambert's restaurant, the home of "throwed rolls." Lambert's sends a shuttle bus to our campground and was so busy we had to stand in line, although we arrived early on a week night. The menu let us know that we are already in the South and featured things like chicken gizzards, hog jowl, fried catfish, and turnip greens. While patrons wait for their food order to arrive, they are pelted with freshly made rolls that are hurled from one side of this huge restaurant to the other by young men with great aim. While this sort of southern food would not be my first choice, this folksy place festooned with memorabilia from earlier times felt authentic and real. It had a gift shop of course, and vending machines lined the halls where you could put in some money and fish out a prize. This was the first time we saw such a machine offering Apple products such as iPhones and iPods. I guess folksy only goes so far.