Billy Connolly's Route 66

Thursday, 22 September 2011, 9:00PM – 10:00PM

Episode Two 

The second instalment of Billy’s adventure sees the comedian reach Middle America where he sees wolves, meets an obsessive compulsive with a vast collection of guitars, eats lunch with a soul singing legend and sits on the world’s biggest rocking chair. 

Plus, Billy dons full camouflage gear to go hunting for wild turkeys. 

He starts the second part of his journey in St Louis, Missouri, the gateway to The West, where he heads for the top of the Gateway Arch – a 630 foot structure made out of 900 tonnes of steel. 

The Arch, which is the highest man-made monument in America, was designed as a tribute to the explorers and hunters of the west and was made to look like an upside-down necklace. As Billy gazes out of the windows at the top, he looks down at the paddle steamers on the Mississippi River. 

He takes in the art work around the town, including a sculpture of a giant head on its side, a musical pavement and a fountain, before hitting the road in search of Missouri’s best soul food. At Sweetie Pie’s restaurant Billy tucks into macaroni cheese and meatloaf whilst chatting to the owner who was once one of Ike and Tina Turner’s backing singers. 

On his next stop, Billy calls at a wolf sanctuary which is home to 40 of the endangered animals which are almost extinct in the area. Billy meets the people who run the sanctuary before entering the enclosure and feeding the wolves a frozen deer which had been hit by a car. Billy also sees the African wild dogs which are at the sanctuary and, as he leaves, he gets to hear the wolves howling. 

As he hits the road again Billy stops to watch a Civil War re-enactment before heading to one of the most popular attractions on Route 66, the Meremac Caverns. Despite the natural beauty of the caverns, they are festooned with neon signs. 

As Billy watches a light show to music in the caves, he says: “There’s a tackiness about Route 66 that out tacks any tackiness I ever saw anywhere. I just don’t understand why people think a thing as staggeringly beautiful needs a light show to make it any better than it is.” 

On his way to his next destination, Billy rides alongside the Interstate Highway, the new road which is responsible for taking visitors and business away from Route 66. 

At Fanning Billy climbs a ladder to sit on the world’s biggest rocking chair, which has 32 foot long rockers, but doesn’t actually rock… 

Whilst browsing the souvenirs at the Fanning Route 66 Outpost, Billy chats to the family who own it and they invite him to go hunting with them for wild turkeys. After practising his archery skills on stuffed animals, Billy puts on full camouflage gear and sets off at five o’clock in the morning with his guides Cherie and Caroline. 

The girls erect two tents in the wood, with one making calling noises to the birds in one tent, and the other waiting with her bow and arrow in the other. As dawn breaks, Billy and the girls hear a turkey in the distance calling to them, but he doesn’t come and after several hours of waiting, the trio decide to pack up and leave. 

Billy says: “I was absolutely delighted that the turkeys got away…I’d no intention of killing a turkey…but I liked being in the woods and I liked being with those women. They were lovely, lovely company and I’ll never forget those lovely people of Missouri.” 

Back on the road, Billy travels past the dozens of churches in Springfield before heading to the home of Bob, a man with vast collections of many things, including a cabinet full of glass medicine bottles and a whole room of lap steel guitars which make his house look like a shop. Asked how he would describe himself, Bob tells Billy: “Obsessive compulsive manic depressive eccentric eclectic.” 

Crossing into Kansas, Billy has visited three states and has five to go. As he drives past closed shops and abandoned cars, he sees the real face of the economic crisis in America. He stops to browse a car boot sale and chats to the locals about the economic climate. 

The last stop on Billy’s second leg is Oklahoma, where he visits the memorial site for the 1995 bomb victims. The tragedy saw 168 people killed when an ex-American soldier drove a van packed with explosives to federal building. 

The memorial has a garden of 168 wooden chairs, one for each person who was killed. 

Billy says: “Even though this was a federal building, there was a crèche here, so people were playing and having a nice time. It’s every bit as powerful as I thought it would be…I’m glad we came here. The people of Oklahoma should be proud of it, it’s a fitting tribute to those who died.” 

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