We woke up in Missouri, lunched in Kansas and went to bed in Oklahoma. Such is the joy and variety of a Route 66 trip!
The Route 66 Railway Haven in Springfield, MO felt suitably retro, with old gas pumps in the courtyard and vintage cars in the forecourt.
We were eager to get on the road today – we had a lot to see. We set off, and not half an hour later we arrived at a Sinclair garage where we pulled over in the spur of the moment to take some pictures.
To our surprise, we were met by an older man who introduced himself as Gary – he was such a character – full of life and passionate in a big way about the Mother Road. He brought out a flag and took pictures of us by his garage – he is SO proud of his garage which he built up and restored himself.
For the next 30 minutes, Gary took the time to show us around his incredible space, complete with vintage cars, Old Road memorabilia and Bonny and Clyde statues (yup – he had all sorts!). He told us stories from his life (an incredibly rich and varied tale) and from his time on the road. He spoke of the people that he meets from all over the world – his whole life now is all about meeting Route 66 travellers.
He gave us some Route 66 soda to keep and encouraged us to pose in one of his old vehicles:
He gave us a signed image of his garage and introduced us to Lena, his wife, in the little office which was crammed to the rafters with memorabilia and Route 66 artifacts.
We loved the old cars at the place – they really do have a funny kind of beauty now that they are past their useful life.
This little place was pure magic. Gary is a true legend of the Road – welcoming us with open arms, spending time telling stories and listening to ours. He is so proud of his little patch on this earth and delights in meeting those who happen across it. He is genuinely passionate about his life, his family and the people that he meets. This is what a Route 66 trip is all about. If you do this trip – stop here. It is one of the highlights of our journey. You can check out Gary’s website here and maybe you’ll even spot some of our other pictures on his site (our pics are here on the second page of the photo section on the bottom 2 rows).
Despite the fact that we could have stayed here all day chatting with Gary and learning about the road (he really is a wealth of information!), we had a lot of travelling left to do so had to move on.
The road in Missouri is a real mixture of the old and rusty:
And the old and grand:
This is the Jasper County Courthouse in Carthage, MO, which was built in 1894 and is a beautiful (if somewhat unexpected)structure in a sweet little town of otherwise squat and very ordinary looking buildings.
Before long, we found ourselves driving through Joplin, MO and crossing the State line into Kansas. Route 66 runs a mere 13 miles across the south-east corner of Kansas, through Galena, Riverton and Baxter Springs – all towns with lots of closed down businesses and shops. We passed through on a Sunday, and so had little hope of finding anything open. We thought we may have to stop for lunch in a worldwide chain (such as the dreaded McDonald’s, which we really didn’t want to do!).
However, in Galena sits a little gem: Cars on the Route.
We were delighted to find that the little shop and restaurant was open and serving food. It was lunchtime by now and were more than a little peckish. Formerly known as 4 Women on the Route, the place is now under new management (and open on Sundays), and is one of the most friendly places we stopped at along the whole route. They even let us use their Wifi so that I could FaceTime my sister back in the UK (she loves the Wizard of Oz and all things Kansas).
The old tow truck outside (now complete with cartoon eyes) served as the original inspiration for the character ‘Tow Mater’ in Disney Pixar’s ‘Cars’- and the owners of Cars on the Route are maximising that famous link. And why not? We had a simple but delicious burger lunch here, and then reluctantly had to head off. It was good to support this little business in what was otherwise almost a ghost town (although things are picking up, thanks in no small part to the ambition of 4 women who restored this old garage with the aim of breathing life into their town once more – a job well done!).
Our very brief sojourn in Kansas was over, and we departed towards Oklahoma, our 3rd state of the day.
The first highlight we hit in Oklahoma was the 9ft highway, or the ribbon road, just outside Miami, OK. This section of the road was built in 1922 when the costs of paving the Route were piling up – someone had a brainwave that paving half the road should cost half as much – you can’t fault the logic, even if it is a crazy idea. You can still drive this section of the road, even though it was decommissioned many years ago.
And then came one of the most famous and possibly most kitschy icons of Route 66: The Blue Whale of Catoosa. The whale was the brainchild of Hugh Davis, who built it in the 1970s as an anniversary present to his wife. It took 2 years to build and is now owned by Hugh’s daughter and it’s still open to the public.
We love this unique roadside attraction. It’s such a peaceful place, a true respite from the road. We sat by the still water for a while, walked inside and climbed up the whale, and took a welcome breather. Although the pond itself is no longer in use, we could imagine the water full of children playing, sliding off the whale and jumping off his tail. What a fun thing. And of course, it’s HUGE!
Once again, time was against us, and we had to go back onto the Interstate once we had got through Tulsa. It was our first wedding anniversary after all, and we had a nice hotel and a lovely meal waiting for us in Oklahoma City. We’d had a great day – in a very different way from the same day the year before – when we said ‘I will’ on a sunny autumn day in Nottingham.
After being welcomed to the Oklahoma City hotel by a group of Oklahoman guests, singing a complete rendition of the title song from the musical ‘Oklahoma’ (I so wish I had that on video – it was priceless), we settled in to our beautiful Anniversary Meal, tired but very happy.