IT TAKES ABOUT A HALF HOUR for the injured patients and the bad news to hit the hospital: A bomb exploded on the old wooden minaret and rained shrapnel into the waiting room of Nijaz’s clinic. Two people have been killed. One of them is the doctor. Finishing primary school meant the prospect of a future spent, like his parents and several of his older sisters, working in the fields. The village had no high school. Ejub lobbied his parents to let him pursue higher education in the city of Bijeljina, more than sixty miles away. They agreed, and he went to live with his married sister there in the mid-1970s. Ejub studied hard, read widely, and planned to become a writer. A young romantic, he especially loved Bosnian author Me?a Selimovi?, who wrote stories of souls, half-empty, who found one another and joined to form whole beings. Ejub found his spirituality in literature. Dr. Najjar’s news didn’t end there. “The next course of treatment, I feel, should be steroids, but we need to confirm the inflammation before moving on,” he said.
If you’re looking for great displays of neon signs, mom-and-pop motels in the middle of nowhere, or kitschy Americana, do as the song says and “get your kicks on Route 66.”
Missouri State Seal
The Ozark Highlands of southern Missouri, which Route 66 crosses in its 300-odd-mile journey between Illinois and Kansas, are about the only significant hills the road crosses east of the Sandia Mountains in New Mexico. This plateau region, though not by any means alpine or breathtaking, is visually dynamic in a way the broad flatlands of Illinois or Oklahoma rarely are.
Though the I-44 freeway has replaced the old road all the way across the state, there are many signs of older alignments, and just about every Interstate exit drops you within a moment’s drive of the Mother Road. Missouri also holds some great old motels and one of the greatest of the old Route 66 tourist attractions—Meramec Caverns, an extensive set of limestone caves offering the most over-the-top underground tour you can take.
Map of Route 66 through Missouri.