Friday, June 29, 2012
Route 66: Traveling the Mother Road (Days 3, 4& 5)
Monday, June 25th: Would have liked to eat at the Cafe on the Route, but they only serve lunch and dinner. So we opted for a small diner called Weston's Cafe. It doesn't look like much on the outside...but inside is good old-fashioned, down-home cooking. The cafe is decorated in country style with vintage car models displayed on shelves. And we got to listen to plenty of local "expert" political commentary over our bacon and eggs.
We left Baxter Springs and before we could blink, we were in Oklahoma. Route 66 only travels through 13 miles of Kansas, cutting across the southeastern corner. In Quapaw, we passed by more murals (deteriorating) with some showing scenes of a steam engine and an old gas station and saw the Dallas Dairyette, a cute little ice cream stand with small-town eats. From Quapaw, we traveled through Commerce and Miami, but we didn't really see anything on our trip west that struck our fancy (we did see some of the sights on the way back...more on that later). After Miami, we decided to take the Pre-1937 optional route and travel one of the oldest sections of Route 66. This section was paved in 1922, but little of the asphalt remains. The road is mostly just a narrow concrete base with asphalt bits and pieces (few & far between) and covered over with gravel. It was a very bumpy ride and we thought we might have lost Route 66 at one point, but we successfully exited back onto the newer Route 66 and can chalk up the "real old-time" experience.
From there, we traveled through Afton and Narcissa--crossing the Horse Creek Bridge and seeing the "giant" (not) penguin statue transferred from the Tulsa zoo to decorate a car lot (why? I don't know). Theoretically, we also went 'round Dead Man's Corner, but neither Brad nor I noticed a particularly tricky corner or any dead men on our way to Vinita. At Vinita we did notice the signs for the "World's Largest McDonald's" (I'm ready to believe this one) and we made a side trip for a pit stop (ice cream for Bev!) and see this massive restaurant which spans the Interstate. When you go inside to the dining area, you can watch semis (and other traffic) zoom by underneath your feet.
Onward to Chelsea, we saw the remnants of two old motel signs--the Chelsea Motel and the Country Court. We stopped in Chelsea for lunch at the Main Street Cafe (nostalgic Route 66 decor and home cooking) and browsed in Aunt Nannie's Antiques where I bought two books (that I have managed to mix in with the list of books bought at ABC Books in Springfield and I can't remember which is which) and Brad almost bought a Blondie & Dagwood comic book. Leaving Chelsea, we went through Bushyhead and Foyil, home of the Tin Foyil Cafe...really...as well as Andy Payne, winner of the 1928 "Bunion Derby" (a Transcontinental Foot Race from LA to NYC along Route 66). In town there is a statue commemorating Andy's bunions. Or something like that.
Next up was Claremore, once famous for "radium" baths--mineral water discovered in 1903. Claremore is also the hometown of Will Rogers and the place is loaded with Will Rogers memorabilia--from statues along Route 66 to Will Rogers Blvd to the Will Rogers Memorial and Museum--which we visited and spent about an hour and a half looking at the displays and taking pictures. There is also rumored to be a statue of Will somewhere along his boulevard with him sitting on a park bench so you can sit with Will and have your picture taken. It must be invisible at the end of June because we couldn't find it. For arms and ammunition enthusiasts, Claremore is also the home of the J M Davis Arms & Historical Museum which contains the World's Largest Private Firearms collection PLUS an Army Tank outside! We settled for looking at the tank as we went by. We also saw the "giant" plastic cowboy boot outside Dottie's Western Wear.
We left Claremore and headed for Verdigris where we crossed the Twin Bridges which span what once was a channel of the Verdigris River (now down-graded to be named Bird Creek) and also crossed the McClellan-Kerr Navigation System--a 445 mile waterway that links Tulsa to the Gulf of Mexico. After Verdigris, came Catoosa...site of the famous Blue Whale, a grinning contraption made of concrete that sits in a former swimming hole. Tourists used to be able to slide out the whale's ears and dive from his tail when Hugh and Zelta Davis owned the property--until 1988. Now, although the whale has been restored and repainted, there is no swimming allowed (and, really, seeing the pond--you wouldn't want to; it needs dragged and cleaned), but you can walk into the belly of the whale, snap lots of pictures, and enjoy the picnic area.
Given the time of day we approached Tulsa, we decided to zip by on the interstate, picking Route 66 up west of town. We saw several abandoned motels (some re-vamped into apartments) and old gas stations on our way to Sapulpa. We snapped a picture of a restored caboose in front of the offices of the Tulsa-Sapulpa Union Railway Company; a caboose that tells us to "Ship it on the Frisco!" Then we stopped at Happy Burger, the oldest hamburger stand in Supulpa, which has been open since 1957. Well-known for their burgers (which are good), but I was even more impressed with their tater tots. Extra crispy and extra tasty! There are lots of "ghost ads" in downtown Sapulpa--making it look like vintage motels, restaurants, soda fountains, pharmacies, and gas stations are in business and waiting for you to stop by.
We headed into Stroud and stopped at the classic Skyliner Motel for our last night west on Route 66. It still has the historic Skyliner neon sign outside and it's definitely a motor court kind of stop, but for a night's stop, it's good value.
Tuesday, June 26th: With the progress we made in four days, we decided it might be wise to head home on Tuesday rather Wednesday. We wanted to be sure to have at least a full day of rest before going back to work on Monday. We packed up and had breakfast at the historic Rock Cafe. A Route 66 eatery since 1939, the restaurant burned in a devastating fire in 2008. The rock walls remained and the owner rebuilt--making it as close to original as possible. The place is beautiful inside with all the wood and even though you can tell it's new, it still has that classic feel. By the way, the owner was the inspiration for the Sally Carrers in the movie Cars.
On the way back through Oklahoma, we actually saw some of things we missed on the way West. Like the second "giant" (not) penguin at another car dealer ("Whosit's Used Cars has a giant penguin--I've got to have one too!"), another mural in Sapulpa advertising the D. W. Correll Museum, the Nut House ("Pecans and other nuts") beside Hot Mama's Cafe, and The Top Hat Dairy Bar. We also got to cross the Twin Bridges at Verdigris (it's a one-way, east-bound kind of thing). And then we liked the Main Street Cafe in Chelsea so much, we decided to stop there again for lunch.
When we stopped in Afton for gas and a break, we were much surprised to look up at the area beside the station to see a Buffalo Ranch. Not as big as it once was, there are still plenty of of buffalo for camera-happy Route 66-ers (like myself) to snap pictures of. Also along the way was they Waylan's Hamburgers the Ku-Ku sign (and the restaurant's still in business if you happen to be hungry when you pass through Miami, OK--we weren't). We also saw the Mickey Mantle statue (outside Mutt Mantle Field--named for the ball player's dad) in his hometown of Commerce, OK. We kept our eyes peeled for a little bookstore that we thought we had seen on a downtown corner in one of the small Oklahoma towns (closed when we went west), but never did find it again.
After going through Joplin, MO for the second time, we decided that we would cheat and make the rest of the journey from Missouri to western Illinois via Interstate. My rarely-travels husband was feeling the toll of being on the road and wanted to get home even quicker than planned. But we did make a few stops...like in Springfield, Missouri, we spied the ABC Bookstore where I went a little crazy with book buying, but not too much. See my Route 66 Book Bonanza post for full details.
Stopped for the night at the classic Route 66 Motel in Lebanon. It was a decent room with the Route 66 shield on the door--and a nice price. But if we make this trip again and need a room in Lebanon, then I'm going to vote that we try the classic Munger Moss Motel. The Munger Moss is reputed to be decorated with more Route 66 nostalgia and to be an even better stay.
Wednesday, June 27: In the morning, we got up and had breakfast at the world's tiniest Waffle House (well, maybe not....but it was definitely the smallest one I'd ever been in). It had a sign advertizing "Buses Welcome!"--I have no idea how they thought a busload of people would fit in there.
Who would have thought that driving the Interstate would cut our travel time in half? We knew we'd get home sooner than anticipated, but certainly didn't anticipate being home by midweek. Even with that being the case, we still managed to spy a few Route 66 icons when the route jumped on board the interstate for a few miles...like the sign directing us to the Toy Museum and Gift shop right beside the Jesse James Wax Museum in Stanton, MO. We stopped off expressly to visit the Toy Museum...only to find it closed (permanently) when we got there. We took advantage of their large "Welcome to Main St. America, Route 66" sign out front for a Route 66 photo op for each of us. Then we popped into the Wax Museum to see if we thought we wanted to take the tour. We opted out, but did find a few souvenirs in the gift shop. Speaking of...we later stopped at the Ozarkland Gift Shop ("worth waiting for") and I couldn't leave the store without buying a jar of strawberry-rhubarb jam. I love strawberry-rhubarb pie, but had never seen it as jam. I couldn't wait to try the jam on toast. (Now that I'm home, I have. It's yummy!)
We enjoyed the pleasant Missouri scenery again while we made our way back to St. Louis. It was nice to have the calm before the storm....You see, the plan was to take the Route 66 option along Winston, Chippewa, and Gravois as we head on our way east until we got to I-70. We we going to follow that North along the Mississippi and stop at the Chain of Rocks Bridge for a nice little break and Route 66 moment. The Chain of Rocks Bridge is rumored to be "awesome"--built in 1929, it was abandoned in 1968 and fell into disrepair. Trailnet, Inc. began refurbishing it in 1997, but didn't finish the job, so it's open for foot and bike traffic only. But the point was, we could walk out over the river and take cool pictures. Right?
Yeah, no. This would be where the navigator (me again) lost map/sign-reading skills again. We managed to miss our turn onto I-70 (twice) and wound up seeing more of downtown St. Louis than we really needed (or wanted) to. By the time we missed the proper exit the second time and found ourselves headed across the river using our previous southern route, we were frazzled enough that we just wanted to put that area of Missouri/Illinois behind us as quickly as possible. Once we calmed down, we were headed for Route 66 north to Virden and Springfield, Illinois. Why, Virden? Well, if you check out my Book Bonanza post, you'll see that we were on target to stop at The Sly Fox, advertized as the only mystery bookstore in that section of Illinois and on Route 66. That stop led me to the most awesome used bookstore in recent years--Books on the Square (across the square from The Sly Fox)--where I unloaded a large portion of vacation cash. We thought we might make it up to Springfield to have dinner at the Cozy Dog, home of the original corn dog, but Brad decided he definitely wanted to make it home that night, so we headed southeast to Indiana instead. We settled for A&W Rootbeer (paired with Long John Silvers) for dinner. That rootbeer sure tasted good on a hot day! We caught I-70 east as soon as we could and buzzed home--hitting the driveway at 11:30pm.
We had a great vacation--lots of memories and we saw a lot of interesting sights. And--we have a plan for a future trip. Back to Route 66 for corn dogs at the Cozy Dog and another book-buying binge for Bev at Books on the Square!
If you'd like to see more pictures from our road trip, please click HERE. (same pictures as linked to Days 1 & 2)