Saturday, June 2, 2012

Kicks: Day Eight (Wired)

IMG_3691smAfter once again not getting enough sleep—I find that I’m a little wound up in the evening as I write about things and start reading about the next day—we got up at a decent time (thanks to the alarm clock) and Ken headed out for a run on Route 66 while I stayed back and got cleaned up. I feel no guilt for skipping a workout this morning...the place we stayed at didn’t have a workout area, and I don’t run. Tomorrow, for sure!

We headed out of Elk City, and with apologies to Elk Citians, I wasn’t sorry to leave that town behind. I really shouldn’t make a judgment based on one visit, but it just didn’t strike me as a charming town at all. Although I’m not going to go as heavy on the sign pictures as I did yesterday, the Western Motel in Sayre, Oklahoma has a gorgeous sign, and I couldn’t resist posting it as the first picture!

Believe me, it's taking everything in my power to not post endless googie pictures. I am just fascinated by these old signs, but I realize that not everyone shares my fascination. I have no idea why not, because they're just so COOL! I'll probably have to post at least one more signage entry...oh, who am I kidding. We'll be spending two nights in Albuquerque, which has an abundance of awesome signage, so you'll probably get a couple more. A few. Several...I don't know, but these are super cool signs!

Hext had some really cool stretches of “ghost” road that are closed off and supposedly scheduled to become bike trails. That hasn’t happened yet, and these are just stretches of old highway that run alongside the current highway. Sometimes you can drive these stretches for a bit, but they were pretty heavily encroached upon by trees and vegetation, so we didn’t attempt it. It was neat to see it running alongside, though!

Erick, Oklahoma had a couple of cool old motels, including the West Winds (although I couldn’t decipher it until I looked at the picture this evening). Note the bucking bronco at the top, ridden by a ghostly cowboy. There would have been neon on there (see the holes?), and there is still some remaining on the rest of the sign. I also noticed a Mustang back in the weeds, and they must get a lot of people driving by and asking to buy it if they had to paint “this is not for sale” on the windshield!

We crossed over into Texas at Texola (a lot of old gas stations there, and mostly had a definite ghost town feel to it) and headed towards Shamrock. The highlight here is the U-Drop Inn and Tower Cafe, an Art Deco delight built in 1936. The Tower Station was a filling station, and the other part of it was a restaurant. It has been preserved and restored, and houses the Chamber of Commerce and a gift shop/welcome center. It’s too bad we weren’t around to see the neon lit up at night, because it’s truly one of the more beautiful buildings on Route 66. The sweet little Texas lady in the gift shop couldn’t have been nicer, and I felt very welcomed in Texas!

After grabbing a bite to eat at Vern’s Steakhouse in Shamrock (Great chopped sirloin with sauteed mushrooms and onions, ice cold Dos Equis...but what was up with that bowl o’ gravy? I tried a taste of it and it was yummy, but who eats a bowl of gravy?), we headed on to McLean.

McLean had a really nice restored Phillips 66 station, the first Phillips built in Texas (in the 1920s). Super cute little station, and it’s so nice to see these little places being preserved! But what was even more special was the Devil’s Rope Museum. I had read about this in the past, and I’ll admit that part of stopping there was for the kitsch value and to get a picture of the balls of barbed wire and the “Tribute to barbed wire” sign. (If you haven’t figured it out yet, “devil’s rope” is a term for barbed wire.) Well, shame on me and hush my mouth for thinking it was just kitsch, because it turned out to be pretty darned interesting! Although I didn’t linger over the barbed wire exhibit, I enjoyed learning that each ranch had its own specific barbed wire, and many of these were patented. There were numerous examples of barbed wire, including the triangle, ridged triangle, spur, sawtooth, and others that I can’t recall now. Hundreds of variations! I was also fascinated by the different brands, because for some reason, when I was a kid, I learned about how to read the symbols of ranches: the Lazy N, the Bar 7, that sort of thing. Honestly, it was surprisingly fascinating!

I also enjoyed their Dust Bowl exhibit. It consisted pretty much of just photographs, but they were some that I hadn’t seen before. Although I had read a book about it several years ago, these pictures graphically showed the extreme devastation of these storms. It’s one thing to read about “dust storms during the ‘30s,” but quite another to see houses almost buried in sand. As someone who grew up in the Midwest, it’s almost incomprehensible to me because we’re usually pretty green and lush during the summer.

They also had a room dedicated to Texas Route 66, and they had some really nice information and artifacts, including a giant cobra from the old Regal Reptile Ranch (long since bulldozed) in Alanreed. Heavy on history and information, and I recommend the Devil’s Rope Museum to anyone doing 66. The lady there was also super nice and we enjoyed chatting with her!

South of McLean, we took a dirt road alignment of 66 over to Alanreed. It was really in pretty decent shape for a dirt road (and MAN, that is some red dirt in Oklahoma and Texas...I thought Georgia was the reddest dirt around!), and the guidebook navigated us successfully through these circa 1926-1932 era legs of 66. Where we came out from the dirt road to rejoin paved 66 sat another restored filling station, the 66 Super Service Station. It dates to the early ‘30s, and has been beautifully restored! I was even able to shoot a couple of pictures through the windows and get a shot of the interior (if that one seems a little blurry, it’s because I shot it through a dusty window).

IMG_3759smThen it was on to our destination for the evening, Amarillo. Route 66 enters the city on the north side, far from downtown; the original strip is a glut of old motels, although very few googie signs have been preserved. There are some along this strip, but most of them are not in great shape. Still, it’s great to see some of the structures still standing, and I hope that this rather rundown area can get some TLC and spruce things up a little bit (although I’m not going to hold my breath).

Due to inclement weather, we stayed in tonight, which bums me out because it would have been fun to take a little stroll in downtown Amarillo. Tomorrow we’ll make our way to New Mexico (I’m oddly excited to see the almost ghost town of Glenrio on the Texas-New Mexico border) and spend the night in Tucumcari, at the best-known motel on Route 66, the fabulous Blue Swallow. I’m psyched!

Now for a few postcards and an earlier evening, so we can get in a good workout in the morning and then hit the road. One more motel picture for the Road (see what I did there?), the Cowboy Motel in Amarillo. Note the nifty atomic starbursts on the side, and check out those pantaloons!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Kicks: Day Seven (Thanks, Mister!)

IMG_3638smThis morning, we got a brief workout in (I definitely could have slept another half an hour, but it was worth pushing myself a little bit), and then headed out. We tooled around Oklahoma City a bit and I was able to get some more great signage. In fact, I got even more today, so this entry is going to go heavy on the googie. Laurel and Ron told us that the Oklahoma City Memorial was very moving and worth seeing, so we headed downtown to see that.

It is definitely recommended, if you’re ever in the area. The most poignant memorials are able to touch you and evoke memories and emotions; this memorial did both. The expanse of empty “chairs” were a reminder of how many were lost that day, and the Gates of Time were powerful. 9:01, the minute before the explosion, represented innocence. 9:03, the minute after the blast, represented a loss of innocence. Very moving, and I’m glad we went.

That first picture up there is from a hamburger joint in Oklahoma City. I’m not sure how old the sign is, but it looks like it has some wear and tear on it. Even if it’s a fairly new sign, it’s a dandy. It’s huge, and I love the happy little chef! (As always, click on any picture to embiggenize.)

I don’t recall exactly where Mutts Amazing Hot Dogs is at, but it’s in either Warr Acres or Bethany. This is possibly a newer sign as well, but if so, they’ve done a good job on it. The “bubble” strip on the side, the stunted starburst at the top, and the atomic sparkles are all great elements, and it’s a very pretty sign.

The Carlyle is in Warr Acres, just outside of OKC, and it’s in good shape, with some nice slanted rectangular forms.


The Western Motel is in Bethany, and this has the stone base, with some slanted rectangles, and it’s all topped off with a sassy cowboy hat! Oh, and it’s air-conditioned!


The Glancy Motor Hotel is in Clinton, and it’s also another large sign. Nice amoeba and arrow/boomerang on this one. The railings on the balcony of one section of this motel also had some nice detail, with multi-colored diamonds as part of the rails. I would have gotten a picture, but this was a long-term rental place, and there were people sitting out on the stairs. I don’t want to seem too creepy or intrusive when I’m taking these sign pictures. These old motels are often converted into apartments.

Canute sits a little to the south of OK 66, but the old route goes through downtown, and it’s worth the little side trip just for the Cotton Boll and Washita Motel signs. I love the Cotton Boll!

We got to our final destination today, Elk City, in time to walk through the Route 66 National Museum. We were both a tad disappointed. The state park visitor’s center in Eureka, Missouri had a better display of artifacts. This museum was more of a staged display of situations than a true, detailed history. We also felt that the two staffers we encountered were a little on the chilly side. Ken said that that’s the difference between it being your job and being something you love. I think that hit the nail on the head. We’ve encountered so many nice people so far, and they truly love the Road and are enthusiastic about it, and are happy to chat with you. These ladies were like yeah, whatever, three bucks, go through there. I have to say that the Route 66 National Museum needs to think about public relations, and get some people in there who want to engage the public and be good ambassadors instead of soulless automatons. It left a bad taste in our mouths, and I think that’s the first time that has happened on this trip so far.

To backtrack a bit...El Reno was a neat stop outside of OKC, because we stopped at a little place called Gilmore’s Pub for lunch. Just a little hole in the wall kind of place, with huge ashtrays on each table...yuck! At least no one was smoking right around us. But they have a kitchen next door, and we had some really good sandwiches—a ribeye steak sandwich for Ken, and a grilled chicken for me. I had potato salad instead of fries, and DANG, was it good! (One of the cooks took our order, and after he took mine, he asked my name. I said, “Beth,” and he wrote that down. He took Ken’s order, and asked Ken’s name. Ken said, “Ken,” and the guy said, as he wrote it down, “Kenny.” heeheehee) For some odd reason, one of the guys at the bar bought us both a beer (thanks, mister!). We thought it was this one guy, and thanked him on our way out, but he said, “Oh, that wasn’t was that guy down there.” We thanked HIM on the way out, and we still have no idea why he bought us a beer. But if you ever stop in El Reno, go to Gilmore’s Pub, because they seem to be a pretty friendly bunch!


Almost the entire Road out of Oklahoma City was some of the best we’ve encountered so far. The majority of it is the original Portland concrete (I really need to look that up, if I haven’t mentioned that already), and much of it has the rolled curbs, which you can see clearly in the above picture. This is 1930’s-era original pavement, and it is still in incredible shape. There were so few cars on this stretch that we were able to stand out in the middle of the road and get pictures...including one of this fellow who stopped in the roadway. That’s a buzzard, and I wonder if he was trying to tell us something...!

One of my favorite things today was encountering the ruins of Kobel’s Place, at the intersection of 66 and 44, near Foss, Oklahoma. It was a gas station/cafe/bus stop back in the day, but it is very dilapidated now. The concrete of the lot is still there, but it is buckled and broken by the large tree; the roof has fallen in on most of it. I walked around the back—sending dozens of grasshoppers hopping and flying away as I walked—and saw that it has a basement (spooky!!), but the floor has also fallen in, so everything has just fallen through into the basement. I’m adventurous, but I wasn’t foolish enough to head down to that basement! Hey, I’ve seen plenty of horror movies!

One section of it sat on a slab, and although that roof was also in bad shape, I was able to get in there and poke around a bit. I didn’t venture in very far, though. If something looks unstable and unsafe (this was both...times two), I don’t take chances.

After a couple of nights of not enough sleep, I think we’re both looking forward to an early night tonight (not that there seems to be a whole lot to do in Elk City!). Tomorrow we’re heading for Texas—yeeeehaw!—and staying in Amarillo. We will be traversing the Llano Estacado, something I learned about from Shane. It’s been fascinating to see the different terrain as we continue west. I’m guessing that the switch to desert climate is really going to knock me for a loop!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Kicks: Day Six (Breakin’ the law!)

IMG_3556sm**Note** Click on photos to embiggenate. 

We headed out this morning to take a drive around Tulsa to get photos of some of the cool signs we’d seen on our previous trips around town, as well as to check out the downtown area and see some of the Art Deco architecture that Tulsa is famous for. We saw some great examples of each, but we sure could have used Laurel and Ron to show us all the great architecture in the city! Next time, for sure!

And I will definitely be doing several entries of googie sign pictures eventually. I’ve seen some amazing ones, including this picture of the Oasis Motel. Note the triangle, boomerang, and rectangle shapes, all in the same sign. What a beauty!

Today, we were able to find quite a few older alignments to drive, and almost always chose those rather than the current state 66 road. Many of these were narrow and twisty, often very rough, and sometimes dead ends. The guidebook I’m using, Jerry McClanahan’s EZ66, has many of these listed, but points out that this area contains many forgotten spurs and previous incarnations of early road (dating back to the ‘20s), and basically says just to watch out for them. You can drive some of them, but others are on private property, and you’ll find those blocked off. I told Ken that I don’t blame those property owners...if you didn’t block it off in some way, you’d get all kinds of people (like us) cruising through your property.

A couple of these old alignments shared the roadway with the Ozark Trail, and I’m going to have to read more about that, because I know very little about it. One of these alignments, just outside of Sapulpa, went by a defunct drive-in theater. The entrance was closed off by an iron gate, but...oh, what’s that over there? Looks like a gap between the fences! Oh, I hope I don’t walk by there and fall through that narrow gap...OH! I fell! Look, I’m inside the grounds of the drive-in theater! Guess I’d better take some pictures.

This was a rather eerie place for me. I don’t think such places are haunted or anything (Or ARE they?! Bahaha!), but I remember going to drive-ins as a kid, and there is just something so ineffably sad about seeing a deserted drive-in. The pictures I’ve seen of deserted amusement parks strike me the same way, but I haven’t walked around a deserted amusement park. It was once a place of social activity and in a small town, such places are sometimes one of the rare sources of entertainment and interaction. It was very hot as we walked around and took pictures, and there were no sounds other than the chirping of grasshoppers and the buzzing of dragonflies. In a couple of these pictures, you’ll see large, rolled bales of hay. That’s because they are growing hay in the spaces where the cars used to park. If that doesn’t give your heart a little twinge, I don’t know what will.

Part of the fun for me today was finding all these old alignments; it wasn’t always easy, and we had to backtrack a few times. Ken is getting good at spotting them, too, so he’s turning into a Roadie! haha I get turned around very easily, but with watching closely, I was able to find a couple that would be easy to miss. Even with the guidebook, they can be easily missed. It helps to know a few things about how the Road usually followed the railroad, and telephone and electric lines. But with these odd little loops and spurs, you can’t count on that. These loops are often the original Portland concrete pavement, and there is just something about that that fascinates me. Some of this pavement is almost 100 years old, but it has often held up incredibly well. The foliage encroaches, and the weeds will eventually break up the concrete (just like the Pretenders!), but it hasn’t happened yet.

This is an interesting shot, because this is one of those old side loops (I don’t recall if this was mentioned in the guidebook or not), but there was an additional dead-end portion that went straight ahead rather than curving. We drove down the dead-end dogleg and looking back, you can clearly see the curve and how the other portion just went straight on. I wonder if there has ever been a road that had so many changes, both big and small, over the years? Heck, poor Kansas’s portion of the Road got completely cut out in 1961!

Speaking of original concrete and bypasses, we encountered one of the best examples of that today in itty bitty Depew, Oklahoma (population not quite 600). The 1926-1928 route made a loop through downtown Depew (all five or six blocks of it). As far as I can tell, the road that is today’s OK 66 bypassed the town in 1928, but there is also a short straight strip of original 66 that is cut off in front of the town. It’s not drivable, because it is cut off at either end by a deep enough depression to discourage anything but four wheel drive vehicles. The downtown loop of Depew consists of original concrete, and I don’t know of any other “main street” portion of Route 66 that is original (although I could be wrong). This was another sad town, though. It’s so tiny, and the “frontier” looking storefronts were mostly empty and deserted. There were just a few things open, and a handful of cars there. Also an eerie place to me.

Oh, and we got pulled over just west of Arcadia. Whoops! Ken thought that the speed limit had gone up on a certain stretch, but it hadn’t. So he was going a “few” miles over the speed limit. The deputy was a decent sort, and he realized pretty quickly that we were okay people who were just doing Route 66. Our rental car has out-of-state plates (New Jersey, and it’s entirely possible that they automatically distrust anything New Jersey!), and he cautioned us that they are quick to stop anyone from out of state on that stretch of highway. It’s not the main highway, so they get people who are running drugs and guns trying to avoid the main drag. Good grief! At least I didn’t break down and confess: “Okay! It’s true! I’ve got a Route 66 brick in the back seat!” We got a warning (although he said his computer wasn’t working, so we didn’t get a written warning...I’m guessing he just said, “Screw it” and didn’t pursue it) and he sent us on our way, with our promises to be more careful. Whew! What’s stupid about this is that for plenty of this trip, we’ve been going UNDER the speed limit, so we can pull over quickly for a cool photo op!

IMG_3633smA more pleasant experience was finding that John Hargrove’s Oklahoma County 66 Auto Trim and Mini Museum’s gate was open. He had just gotten back from the store in his flame-painted hot rod (not sure what it was...Model T?) and invited us in to see his collection. He makes miniatures (not tiny, but medium-sized) of various Route 66 attractions, including the Catoosa Blue Whale, but there is so much more. He took us into his garage, and just kept leading us into more and more rooms. There was his workroom, with tons of memorabilia and a Model A up on the risers and being worked on. Then there was a small room with a glass counter display case full of stuff. Then there was a counter styled like that of a soda fountain or diner, and when you turned around in that room, there were booths and tables and theater seats and a big movie screen and a projector. Upstairs was a pool table and a balcony, and a Herbie VW bug half-in (the driver and passenger seats) and half-out (the windshield and grill) of the building!

It was bizarre and eclectic and charming all at once. Mr. Hargrove seemed happy to talk with us, and his dog seemed to like us, too. I have no idea how someone is able to do such things and collect so many things, or what motivates them. His work seems to be a combination of art and a fascination with engineering and just plain building things. One thing that I’m learning about Route 66 is that there is a definite creative element to it. It seems to attract a fair number of artists, and the large scale of the road invites large-scale art projects (see: Cadillac Ranch for the most famous example). Travelers are often invited to leave their own mark, whether it’s writing your name on a wall in a visitor’s center or painting something on one of those Cadillacs, or tying one of your shoes to the Shoe Tree outside of Stroud, Oklahoma. Some of it strikes me as installation art, with the participation of travelers welcomed and part of the art. I find this fascinating.

Just another aspect of Route 66 to add to its mystique!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Kicks: Day Five

IMG_3493smAfter 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’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.

IMG_3545smWe 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.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Kicks: Day Four

IMG_3452smAfter spending an enjoyable night at the lovely Munger Moss Motel, we headed out to do a little backtracking. I can’t recommend the Munger Moss highly enough. It is wonderfully maintained and incredibly clean. We were in Room 72 rather than Cabin 1, so we survived the night! Seriously, this is just a wonderful place, and even if you’re not traveling Route 66, it’s right off of I-44, and offers very reasonable rates, very clean rooms, and a super cool retro vibe. You simply can’t go wrong with the Munger Moss! And that sign boss, or what? You should see it lit up at night!

After we checked out, we went back to Devil’s Elbow to do that stretch again, because it really is spectacular. I thought that that stretch of the road was the original pavement, and Shane agrees that it is. Apparently the four lane was built during WWII to help with traffic in and out of Fort Leonard Wood. Shane also pointed out that this stretch of 66 has the “rolled” curbs that were supposed to help keep people from going off the narrow road. I wonder how that worked?!

We headed south on 66, all the way to Springfield. Since I had not done this stretch before, I was surprised at how much of the original road is left to travel...IF you seek it out. I had thought that as you got closer to Springfield, it was all obliterated. Not so. It might be paved over and given other names, but the route is still there, and several roads in Springfield have the old buildings and the googie to prove it. (As I mentioned on Facebook, I think I’m going to have to do at least one entry devoted to googie signage.) It’s fun to try to figure out if a sign is original or not. Good clue: that sort of weird fiberglass shell is NOT original!

IMG_3461smA question for my fellow roadies...we came across a little group of bungalows north of Hazelgreen. These were built of stone, and there was a small home in a line with these stone cabins (I would guess the home of the owner and where the office was located). I saw no sign, and we didn’t explore beyond taking pictures because it was posted as private property. But it reminded me very much of John’s Modern Cabins in its layout. All of the buildings, large and small, seemed to be long abandoned. Although the stone cabins were intact, some of the roofs were not. Does anyone know what this might have been?

After we found a place to hang our hats (on old 66, so that’s cool!), we met family nearby. It was great to see Terri and to meet her husband, and we had a very enjoyable time!

Tomorrow we’ll be heading to Oklahoma (with a brief trip through the corner of Kansas) to see more things and to visit our friend Laurel at Afton Station. I’m looking forward to what Laurel calls the Ribbon Road and what Shane and others refer to as “sidewalk” pavement. I thought the 16-foot wide alignments in Illinois were wild...this road is NINE feet wide, yo!

One more thought for today. I was telling Ken today that one of the really cool things about this trip is that we’re experiencing so many different environments and ecosystems! We’re going from midwestern farmland to prairie to desert to oceanside. Go ahead and call me a geek, but I think that’s pretty amazing. We have a remarkable country with a remarkable variety of’s wonderful to experience them all, and I hope that kids who are born today will have a chance to have this same experience. It really is a helluva lot of fun!

Anyone want to take bets on whether or not I’m going to sing “Oklahoma!” as we cross into that state? “And when we SAY! A-yippee-yo-kiyay...we’re only saying you’re doing fine Oklahoma, Oklahoma, okay!”
Poor Ken.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Kicks: Day Three - Angry Birds

IMG_3342smHoly moley, what a long day. I’m about wiped, but Beth the Intrepid makes an entry about today! There is much to say, but I’ll just hit some highlights.

Our day began with a trip to the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge. It has been reopened to bikes and pedestrians for a little over a decade now, but when Shane and I came through in 2001, we got there when it was closed for the day. It was a pleasure to walk across it today and feel the breeze across the river—even at 9 am, it was hot and humid—and look out at the Mississippi. The bridge has a 22 degree angle, and I’m not sure how many bridges have such a thing. It’s a unique bridge, and I was very glad to get to walk the mile over to Missouri and then walk a mile back. (That was my exercise for the day!)

IMG_3345smI’m afraid that some were not as happy as I was that I was walking across the bridge. Ken and I were accosted by two very pissed off ospreys. It’s obvious that they were nesting, because one of them (I’d guess the male) was hollering at us from up in the beams, and then started dive-bombing us. It was actually a little frightening! I thought of our friend Sheria, who really does not like birds, and about how awful that would be for her. Heck, I LOVE birds, and I was a little freaked out!

Speaking of bridges…Shane, we crossed over the Mississippi on the McKinley Bridge! They obviously put about a zillion dollars into that thing, because when Shane and I crossed over, it was one of the scariest bridge experiences I’ve ever had. There were outer metal lanes—rickety and rusty metal lanes—hanging off of the sides, and that is what we drove on. There were minimal guard rails, and I recall looking out over the side and thinking “Holy shit!” It’s much more structurally sound now, the dangling metal outer lanes are gone, as are the toll booths. I’m honestly amazed that they refurbished the bridge rather than tearing it down. It was super scary when we went across in 2001!

IMG_3363smI was very impressed by the display at Route 66 State Park. They had some great stuff, including a nice little collection of Coral Court memorabilia. We had just driven by the site where the Coral Court stood, and got a couple of pictures by the original stone pillars that bordered the motel grounds. I got similar pictures in 2001, but was happy to see that those pillars are still there. As I think about it, isn’t it odd that there is a group of us who knows what those pillars are and why they are there? How many people in that neighborhood of St. Louis walk by them every day and don’t give them another thought? And here I am practically worshipping at them, asking Ken to take my picture by one. Seeking out stone pillars in St. Louis. Go figure.

IMG_3399smOne of our other goals was to visit Meramec Caverns. It’s one of those places that is engraved upon your mind if you did any traveling with your parents when you were a kid. You’d see signs everywhere, like Ruby Falls and Rock City in Tennessee. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this is actually a pretty damn cool place to visit, and the caverns are amazing! I don’t think I’d been to a cave since I was a kid and we went to ones in southern Indiana. From what I’ve read, the whole Jesse James Hideout thing is a little dubious, but there is no denying that nature is always more impressive than outlaws. One formation is estimated to be 75 million years old. In your face, Jesse James!

And if we’re doing Route 66, a stop at John’s Modern Cabins is a necessity…if only because the place is really beginning to collapse. At least a couple of cabins are down since we first stopped there in (I think) 2005. I was very sad to see that a branch has bent over the arrow on the sign. Will anyone try to save this sign? Or is it destined to become an archaeological artifact?

IMG_3429smAnother highlight for me today was the Devil’s Elbow area of Route 66 in Missouri. Shane and I didn’t come this far, so this is new to me. It’s amazing to see this four lane stretch of 66 wend its way through the bluffs. I’ve seen this on postcards, and now I’m seeing it for real. Unfortunately, I badly underestimated our travel time and how much time we’d spend at the other things, so we didn’t get to the fabulous Munger Moss Motel until about 9 pm. Even then, we had to get off of Route 66 after Devil’s Elbow and hit the Interstate to make some time. Ken is kind and understanding enough to be okay with heading back the other way tomorrow to pick up where we left off. Our day is a light one tomorrow as we head about 50 miles into Springfield, so doubling back will work out okay. I really don’t want to miss this stretch of it, because I think it is some of the most gorgeous scenery I’ve seen along Route 66 so far. When you’re driving the image on a postcard, you know you’re doing something right!