The Illinois road ends on an island in the stream—a sandy, almond-shaped isle covered with tall and unbending trees. The first bridge is just one lane, so I wait for the light to change green, then rumble up and over the water onto the island. The second bridge is now closed to auto traffic, so I park in the empty lot and travel the next length of Route 66 on foot.
The old Chain of Rocks Bridge was built across the Mississippi River in 1929, but only joined Route 66 in 1936. The art of old engineering stands triumphant in a web of naked steel girders, angled up against the fading spring twilight. Step by step, I venture out onto the narrow plank of road that soars above the treetops and then out over the lavender shine of the fast water below.