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Crossing Missouri on US 36

October 13, 2010

This summer, the effort to make US Highway 36 in Missouri into a four-lane highway was completed.  Initially called the Pikes Peak Ocean to Ocean Highway, US Highway 36 originally spanned from New York City to San Francisco, Calif.

Today, Missouri’s Highway 36 is not only noted as the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars (VFW) Highway, we are also dubbing it “The Way of American Genius” because so many iconic American figures and innovations have their roots on and near this highway.

Running between St. Joseph and Hannibal, it is the quickest way across the northern part of the state and has many interesting stops along the way, making this the perfect fall weekend driving getaway.  Starting in St. Joseph, you can make stops to see where the Pony Express began and where Jesse James was ended.  Stop in at Shatto Dairy in Osborn to sample what is noted as some of the best chocolate milk in the world at this multi-generational family dairy farm.  You can check out the J.C. Penney Museum in Hamilton, the museum tells the story of the “rags to riches” entrepreneur, and you can see where Walt Disney got his inspiration for Main Street USA at both the Disneyland and Magic Kingdom Parks.

You can’t miss Chillicothe, where Frank Bench (in the 1920s) decided to buy a new machine in that would actually slice bread evenly, making this invention synonymous with progress and innovation.  And don’t forget to visit General John J. Pershing’s Boyhood Home and Prairie Mound School, in Laclede, where he taught before heading off to West Point and becoming the only Six-Star General in American history.

If you are in Macon around dinner time, you must stop at the The Pear Tree, an upscale restaurant with such a fantastic reputation that people have traveled from miles just to try their famous steaks, onion rings and salad croutons.

On the other side of the state, Hannibal is home to the iconic writer Mark Twain.  In addition to the Twain history, you will find a wonderful downtown area filled with art galleries, restaurants and gift shops.

For more on US Highway 36, visit, and

Submitted by Beth Carmichael, director of development, St. Joseph Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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