"They fly into Chicago with plans to travel Route 66 all the way to L.A. by motorcycle, car, bus . . . and quite often, they've done it before," said Warhover. "One man told me he takes six weeks to travel the entire route, from beginning to end.
There's no shortage of sights to see when traveling Route 66, and some of the more famous ones are right here in Franklin county.
From St. Louis, the route winds through Pacific past the Red Cedar Inn. It cuts into Gray Summit by the Gardenway Motel and Shaw Nature Reserve, on through Villa Ridge past the original Diamonds restaurant (now Tri-County Truckstop), all the way down to Stanton, home of the world-renowned Meramec Caverns, and on into Sullivan.
These sites are just some of the landmarks made popular by the Route 66 phenomenon that are still in business today. Many from that era have disappeared, but new sites have cropped up to take their place.
A book, "The Missouri U.S. 66 Tour Book," by C.H. "Skip" Curtis, recalls many of the more popular sites, across the state and in Franklin county.
Locally, there was the Al-Pac Restaurant and adjoining motel, named for the nearby towns of Allenton and Pacific, and the twin bridges over the Bourbouse river near Union.
In St. Clair, there was Johnson's Mo-Tel Cabins, Hi Spot Inn and Chuck Wagon Cafe. Stanton was home to Motel Meramec.
Martha Jane Farm Auto Court was in Sullivan, along with Sullmo Hotel and Cabins, Juergens Station and Shamrock Court.
Curtis' book, available at the Route 66 State Park visitors center, mentions these and many more local businesses that capitalized on the Route 66 popularity. As a tour book, it provides detailed instructions on how to travel the route, accurate maps, mileage and notations concerning bipassed sections no longer available.
More than 350 postcards and photographs also are included, along with a brief description of each site.
The Franklin county towns found along Route 66 may not be as well known as Chicago or L.A., and none of them was mentioned in Bobby Troup's song ("Get Your Kicks on Route 66"), but this area had as much to offer as anywhere else, said Joe Sonderman, member of the Route 66 Association of Missouri.
"Franklin county has as strong a connection to Route 66 as any other place along the route," he remarked. "It can claim as many major attractions as the rest of 'em.
"When I think of Route 66 in Franklin county, I think The Diamonds," he said, noting today the landmark is known as Tri-County Truckstop. "They used to bill it as the world's largest roadside restaurant, and we stopped there every time on our way to the Lake of the Ozarks."
Meramec Caverns, located on Route 66 in Stanton, gained widespread fame shortly after Lester Dill opened it in 1933, and not just because of its natural beauty.
"Dill was a marketing genius," said Sonderman. "He invented bumper 'signs' to promote the Caverns, and he had billboard-like signs advertising the Caverns painted on the sides of barns in 40 states across the country.
"Route 66 was about myth and hucksterism," added Sonderman, "and the Caverns was both. It was brilliant how he (Dill) played up the caverns as an old Jesse James hideout and how he brought that newlywed couple in from 'People Are Funny.'
"Then and now, Meramec Caverns has to be one of the premier Route 66 tourist attractions."
The Red Cedar Inn in Pacific is a perfect example of a Route 66 "mom and pop" business, said Sonderman. Built in the 1930s, the restaurant is thought to have once been a popular hangout for Cardinals ballplayers. And it's never stopped being a favorite of Route 66 roadies.
"It's real," said Sonderman. "So many other restaurants these days are 'yuppyized' franchises. But the Red Cedar is a place that can't be bottled.
"That's what's so great about the restaurants along 66," he said. "As you drive it, you discover all these places, one maybe has the best hamburger you've ever eaten or the best chili."
For many Americans who choose to travel Route 66 today, the road is nostalgia, a chance to remember family vacations and a time when the world was less busy, when getting to your destination was half the fun.
"There's a magical quality about it," said Sonderman. "It was exciting. If you were on Route 66 it meant you were going somewhere."
"66" Turns 75
A diamond jubilee celebration will be held this Sunday, November 11, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Route 66 State Park in honor of the route's 75th birthday.
A "road food" picnic beginning at 11:30 a.m. will kick off the day's events. A turkey egg hunt will be held at noon, followed by a vintage (1926-'60s) attire and hat contest at 12:30 p.m., jitterbug contest at 1:30 p.m., Route 66 recipe contest at 2 p.m., Route 66 travel game at 3 p.m. and special dedications and birthday cake will be served at 4 p.m.
Book signings will be held throughout the day. Oldies music by KLOU 103.3 will be live, and old cars will be on display.
Visitors are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs.
Formally commissioned by the federal government November 11, 1926, Route 66 covers over 2,400 miles and eight states, earning it such nicknames as "main street of America." In 1939, John Steinbeck dubbed it "The Mother Road" in his Pulitzer prize winning novel, "The Grapes of Wrath."
During World War II, Route 66 was a great artery for personnel and equipment. After the war, it carried tourists and fortune seekers to new destinations.
The lure of Route 66 grew in the 1950s, but change was on the horizon. The Interstate Highway Act of 1956 meant the old road would eventually be replaced by sleek four-lane highways.
The "Route 66" television series of the '60s was popular and ran 116 episodes from 1960 to '64, but it couldn't stop the future from coming.
Route 66 shields came down in Missouri between St. Louis and Joplin in 1977, but the road is still there for those who prefer to savor the trip.