After we both got in a workout this morning, we headed out of Springfield at a decent hour and were soon out of town and in the countryside. This is a lovely part of Route 66, with rolling hills, grazing cattle, and lots of homes with that Missouri rock siding. (I’ve always thought that was pretty!) There are a lot of tiny little towns along this part, and our first stop was at Paris Springs to visit the Gay Parita Station. Two friends, Laurel and Lynn, both ‘roadies,’ said that this was a must-stop because of the owner, Gary Turner.
They were absolutely right! Mr. Turner has restored this station (named after the original owner’s wife, Gay, and the Italian word for equality) himself, using memorabilia that he’s been collecting for about ten years. Although the memorabilia is wonderful, Mr. Turner is the real attraction. He is just a character, and as lovable as can be. He’s goofy and sweet, and did things like having me sit in the driver’s seat of an old car (nicely restored) with a mannequin dressed as Bonnie (Clyde stood guard in front of the car), while Ken took my picture. He staged another photo where he put on one of those old gas station attendant hats and made an old-fashioned phone ring so I could answer it. I was laughing so hard that I’m sure the photo will come out with me looking really dorky! (Ken has the photos on his camera, so I’ll link to it when he posts them.) Then Mr. Turner had us hold a Route 66 flag while he took our picture. He kept telling me that I’m gorgeous, and then he’d say, “And you know what makes you that way? Your personality. You do my heart good.” He explained that when you get older, you get to say things like that, so he knew he could get away with it even with Ken right there. Haha!
He loves visitors, and he’ll talk your ear off! Definitely a must-stop for anyone passing through little Paris Springs. What a sweet man, and what a wonderful representative of Route 66 he is! We finally moved on, after hugs and handshakes from Mr. Turner, and left him standing at the entrance to his place, waving goodbye to us. Damn, I’m kinda choked up thinking about that. He seemed to enjoy meeting us as much as we enjoyed meeting him. How often do you meet someone who just brightens your day so thoroughly that you know you’ll never forget it? As he said, “We’re making memories here.”
Our next stop was Red Oak II, which is one of the more surreal things I’ve seen, not just on the Road, but ever. Apparently this very well-off eccentric artist has made his own little town, some of the buildings restored and moved from elsewhere, some of them newly built. There are several houses, various shops, a cottage-style gas station, all on this fairly large lot. There are some works of art, although I don’t know if those are the work of this guy. No one lives there...it’s kind of a giant, rural art installation. It was fascinating, but also a little disturbing in a Twilight Zone sort of way. You know what I’m talking about. One of those perfect-seeming little towns where something is just not quite right....Yikes!
A trip through Carthage brought us to the fabulous Boots Motel (you can see more pictures at their website), which dates back to 1939. I’m not sure why this one always fascinated me, but I just love the neon sign, the neon around the office, and the gentle curves of the building. I didn’t realize until today that the units are of the type with an adjoining carport, although the carport is actually built into the building. Rather unique architecture, and the Boots was in serious danger of being demolished a while back, but it has been saved and is open for business! The new owners are in the process of fixing up the rooms (several are already open) and renovating the building. I’m very happy that this charming little motel is a survivor. It’s a beauty!
The drive-in theater in Carthage is also restored and operating, and I loved this booth at the entrance. Isn’t it pretty, with all the glass block?
Only 13 miles of Route 66 go through the southeast corner of Kansas, but one highlight was the restored and preserved “Marsh arch” bridge (named for the designer). There were once three of them in Kansas, but only this one remains. It is known as the Rainbow Bridge, and it really is a sleek and beautiful design.
After passing through the Kansas corner, we hit Oklahoma. We encountered a few miles of what is called Ribbon Road, or sidewalk highway. These are sections of the original road from 1922, where they poured the pavement only 9 feet wide. They are concrete, with concrete sides, with a thin layer of pavement on the top. They are not in great shape, so you have to go slow, but who wants to go fast on these, anyway? It was pretty remarkable to realize we were tooling down a road that’s a hundred years old. (People in countries like England and Italy are laughing right now. Hey, we’re a young country, what can I tell you?!) In one of these shots, you can see our car sitting on the road, so you can get an idea of how narrow it is.
We finally got to Afton Station, a little later than we’d planned, but we made it! It was a pleasure to meet our long-time blogger friend, Laurel, who is the proprietor of this restored gas station. She has a wonderful collection of memorabilia and postcards, and a beautiful group of classic cars, with an emphasis on Packards. (My personal favorite was the Hupmobile, which used Cord chassis.) Her good friend Ron was also there, and I also got to meet Tattoo Man (all regulars on Laurel’s blog). Ken and I looked around and enjoyed the Station, then headed on down the road to Tulsa (more in a moment), where we’d meet up with Laurel and Ron for dinner at a great place called Local Table. It’s Laurel’s favorite, and I can see why. Not only was the food excellent and decently priced, they use local ingredients as much as possible. We toasted Route 66 and our friendship, and had a wonderful time talking not just about the Road, but about our lives, politics, and Oral Roberts. haha It was a great time, and thank you, Laurel, and it was wonderful to meet both you and Ron!
Before Tulsa, we had one more important stop to make: the Blue Whale in Catoosa.
Ever since I’ve been interested in Route 66, I’ve always liked the Blue Whale. There’s just something about him. Maybe it’s his goofy smile, or the way his baseball cap sits askew on his head. That is one happy whale. For me, it’s also the embodiment of roadside kitsch, and there was always plenty of that along Route 66. A big smiling blue whale? It doesn’t get much kitschier than that! This used to be a little park area where you could come in and cool off on a hot day (just like today) by sliding down one of the slides in the whale’s sides, or climbing up the ladder in his tail and jumping into the pond. The whale was in pretty bad shape a while back, but it was saved by a group of volunteers and contributors. He is now sporting a fresh coat of paint, his walkway “innards” are safe to walk on, and although you can no longer swim in the pond, the Blue Whale is the guardian of many happy memories made at his little home. I was happy to visit him today and leave my own memory for him to care for at his pond in Catoosa.