My one thing: Stop at the Flying J in Waveland, Missouri.
If you are driving from Des Moines to the Lou and not taking the Oskaloosa-Ottumwa-Mt. Pleasant-Hannibal route, you are insane. It's the quickest way now that the highways are all four lanes and if you just stop once, you can make it in five and a half hours - maybe less if you don't hit traffic.
So, why the Flying J?
- They have the cleanest bathrooms between DSM and St. Louis. You won't find a place right off the highway between the DeMo and the Missouri border and once you're on the southern side of your drive, you're really better off not stopping in Hannibal or Troy unless you like your powder rooms a little seedy.
- They have a good snack selection and fountain soda.
- If you're not pressed for time and feel adventurous, they have a restaurant. Don't get the shrimp, though (why we thought truck stop shrimp was a good idea is beyond me).
Other things: Know your landmarks.
- The Otley water tower: you're officially on the road.
- Ottumwa: You're halfway through the Iowa portion of the drive!
- Des Moines River: Welcome to the greatest state in the Union (no matter which direction you are traveling - adjust this as needed)!
- St. Francisville, MO: There used to be a tool bridge here and a wonderful bar called the Broken Spoke where they gave me a free burger during a snowstorm. If you ever stop in St. Francisville to buy fireworks, cigarettes or bait, know you're dealing with some very kind people.
- Leaning houses: South of Waverly, there are a lot of leaning houses. There used to be more. Not sure why, but I love them.
- Tic-Tock Motel: Almost to Hannibal!
- Hannibal: 90 minutes left! Stop at Sonic, but again - don't use the bathrooms!
- Troy: The first/last Lion's Choice you'll hit. Load up on Roast Beefs and bring me a sammich.