Tuesday, June 21, 2011

This Doesn't Look Like Kansas Toto...Oh Wait, Yes it Does

Day 4: 239 Miles
Total: 1,438 Miles

So we're in Baxter Springs, Kansas right now, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. As noted previously, we spent the night at the Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, Missouri. The Wagon Wheel is a beautiful icon of Route 66; probably my new favorite among the many motels I have had the pleasure (and sometimes displeasure) of sleeping in. A bonus is that it sits a short walk from the middle of town. Cuba is known as "Mural City" and it was fun wandering through town trying to spot all of the amazing artwork on various buildings everywhere. We eventually wandered into the Back in the Day Cafe for a filling breakfast before our travels began.

The first leg of our journey didn't take us far; only four miles out of town where we encountered what is claimed to be the world's largest rocking chair. As you can see by the size of Sharon standing next to it, even the Gemini Giant would seem small sitting in this thing.

The next stop was a place I was very interested in tracking down. It is called John's Modern Cabins and is located in Newburg, Missouri. In it's heyday, this camp was very popular among Mother Road travelers, basically between 1935 and 1957. I-44 cut off this section of Route 66 in 1968. The owner died in 1971 and the buildings have been in a state of disrepair since then. I was in a hurry to see them before they completely collapsed, but I only halfway made it. I think that within the next couple of years the only thing that will be left standing is John's rusty neon sign.

Next we stopped in Spencer at this rebuilt Sinclair station. The owner, a man named Gary Turner, loves to entertain visitors who travel the route.We spent a half hour talking with him while he shared his Route 66 brand root beer with us. The station replaces the original one that burned in a fire in 1955. It's a beautiful recreation sitting along a quiet stretch of Route 66.

Among other things that we learned from Gary was that his friend had built an entire town about 30 miles from there, outside the city of Carthage. the town is called Red Oak II. Gary gave us explicit directions to get there, and since it was only 2-3 miles off of Route 66 we decided to check it out. The place is amazingly surreal. The man who owns it lives there in one of the houses and another one is occupied as well. There are dozens of other unoccupied, furnished buildings on the site - houses, gas stations, a church, a marshal's office, and so on. There are also dozens of antique vehicles there. The man was apparently a successful and somewhat wealthy artist who spent most of his money creating this place. Sharon and I said hi to him and spent a while just wandering around. For you Detroiters reading this, the best thing I can equate it to would be if one family owned Greenfield Village and lived on the grounds among all of the tourists.

After we left Red Oak II we proceeded into the 13-mile stretch of Route 66 that is in the state of Kansas. We got there via Joplin, Missouri but missed all of the devastation there by staying on 66. We drove through Galena, Kansas on our way to Baxter Springs, where we ate a nice dinner and are spending the night - my first over-nighter in Kansas! We should be in Oklahoma before lunch tomorrow.



kreekybonz77@aol.com said...

Hi Mike,
I'm not very deep into these tech thingys so am having trouble making comments show up. Poor oled lady! Aunt Mona

kreekybonz77@aol.com said...

Wow! It worked this time! I'm so glad you two have the opportunity to take this wonderful journey into the past, present and future on old 66. I rode this route many years ago with my first husband when Dot was a little girl. I was fascinated by the number of little towns with a population less than 10, and the friendship shown us all along the way. Love you. Aunt Mona