Today was such an incredibly long day. I’m beat. I saw a lot, but mostly just took it all in.
My day began at the Springfield KOA. There was supposedly a storm coming, so I waiting for it. By 9am, the radar said that it was raining where I was. However, it wasn’t. By 9:30 I decided to be on my way. I got a late start. Again.
My day actually began well before I would have liked it to. All through the night, I was woken up by jets, trains and a huge flood light next to my tent. Springfield KOA really is a nice place. But wow. Even with earplugs, the trains were loud.
I found my way back to Route 66, hung a left and was on my way. I knew today was going to be mostly I-44 free and I was quite thrilled.
This first section from Springfield to Carthage would take me away from the interstate. In fact, I didn’t even see it.
My first duty was to find John’s land. John has been reading my blog and offered to let me stay here. I’m sort of a shower freak, so I couldn’t. But I wanted to check it out anyway. I think I may have found it. It’s a nice chunk and I hope he does something fun with it.
Not too much farther down the road I ran into Gary. I saw what I thought was a restored Sinclare gas station. I pulled over and this fellow motioned for me to enter.
It was weird to talk to someone. I’m sort of doing the loner thing at this point. I don’t usually enter places like this because I feel bad for not being able to spend some money. But he didn’t really seem to care – he didn’t even ask. He just talked about his shop and all the people who visit him.
Before leaving, he gave me a little map to a place called Red Oaks II. He told me to visit it because I would like it. It was a mile or so off of Route 66, but that’s fine.
And hour later, I was on my way. I’m really glad I stopped in.
But eventually, we had to concede to State Route 96. 96 used to be 66. But now it’s widened and full of very fast traffic.
I could keep up, but Ruby wouldn’t do more than 70mph. I could have used a bit more top end here, but she wasn’t giving it up. That’s strange, even with the packs, we can usually do 75 if there isn’t a wind. I figured that she was a bit moody and 70 was all she had at the moment.
We did our best through towns like Albatross, Phelps, Rescue and Plew, stopping for a bit in Avilla, just to take a couple of photos.
I was growing weary of this widened 96 and luckily I spied an old alignment. Even better, it was marked! We rode along, happy as you please, at 55mph. There wasn’t a whole lot to see. Mostly residential. There were a few old tourist cabins and that’s always fine.
This alignment was turning to head back to 96, but as it did, I saw another, older alignment (marked as well) that went off to the left.
Curious, we followed it to see where it might take us. Where it took us was along a nearly over-flowing river and a slightly flooded Kellogg Park. I believe this park was here when the road was first used. What a treat to be driving along windy Ozark roads and come across a perfect river-side park.
And while that fun ended, more was beginning. Red Oak was now approaching. Actually, we had to backtrack a little to get to it. And then a mile off of Route 66 took a Red Oak II sign. A mile farther and we were in Red Oak II.
Now, I don’t know much about Red Oak II. I’m sure some internet searching would come in handy here. But according to the fellows I met working there, an old man whose wife left him took to drinking and brought in all the buildings and made all the sculptures. He then sold it to the folks who own it now. How much of this is accurate, I’m not sure.
This place amazed me. My pictures are accurate, but it doesn’t touch how wonderful this place really is. It’s a weird little town. Only one couple lives here (not the owners), but I’d love to live here. It would be the perfect place for a little intentional community. Please check out my photos from today to see this place. You’ll want to go there too!
I walked around the place for about 30 minutes. I wish I could go back. They’re in the process of restoring it and making it a working little tourist attraction. That’s fine. I just want to live there.
A short ride later and we were in Carthage. There was a Civil War battle fought here and I saw the battlefield park (actually, the whole town was the battlefield – it was even burned during the war!). The town itself is pretty nice. It’s got a town square with a huge city hall in the center of it.
What Carthage is most known for, as far as Route 66 goes, is the Route 66 Drive In Theater. We stopped for a look-see. This is one of two working drive in theaters on Route 66. There were three, but one (may have) burned down.
The road again takes us away from a bit of civilization. It turns and twists, but not obnoxiously so. There is little to no traffic, so the ride is carefree. The sun has even joined us for this leg of the journey!
A few weeks ago, I photographed my way through the next towns of Carterville and Webb City. This time I mostly just got lost.
The signs in Webb City are nonexistent. I’m sure that I’m not the only one two complained about this. It really is a shame.
The same goes for the next town of Joplin as well. Joplin is the last town in Missouri and so here we go for all 13.2 miles of Kansas!
When you go the back way, you see Hell’s Half Acre. This is where nine miners were killed in another massacre, early in the 1900′s (I believe).
According to one of the Route 66 guides that I have:
One of the more interesting stories is the rivalry between Galena and Empire City. A log wall was built between the two towns to keep the good citizens of Empire City form venturing to the rough-and-tumble Galena (or was it the other way around?). The people of Galena watched as the wall was painstakingly built, and when it was completed, proceeded to burn it to the ground.
That’s just wonderful.
When you enter Galena on the old alignment, you also get to see Four Women of the Route. It’s a newish store that’s really making waves in the Route 66 community.
The most noticeable of these waves being Mater. Mater is a character in the Route 66-based movie Cars. The Four Women have the original Mater. The fellows from Pixar (who produced the movie) were traveling 66 and saw this old boom truck (like a tow truck) and decided that they’d make a character based upon it. They have it.
I hung out with M (I forget her name – I’m REALLY horrible with names. It began with an M) and she told me all sorts of fun stuff.
Like the house across Route 66 from their store used to be a whore house. It was one of three in the town. This one served the miners. The other two served blacks and the non-miners who were white – that one was called The Pink Elephant). The Four Women own the old whore house and want to make it a Victorian style B&B. She said that it was confirmed that Belle Starr was a cook there! ((From the Rittenhouse Guide: Her maiden name was Myra Belle Shirley, and she spent her girlhood before the Civil War in her father’s hotel on the north side of Carthage’s court house square. Belle’s brother, Bud, a Confederate guerrilla, was killed during the war and the family went to Texas. Belle was an excellent shot and took her brother’s place as a member of the band of the guerrilla raider, Quantrill. Her second marriage was to Same Starr, whose ranch became the headquarters for her band until she was shot by another outlaw.))
We talked for the better part of two hours and it was great to hear all about Galena. I wish I could have stayed longer and I wish I could have spent money. She made Galena sound like such a cool place to live. I don’t know for sure if it is, but it would definitely be a fun place to hang out from time to time.
She and Gary (the fellow I talked to earlier that day) have a little competition going about who can talk the longest. I believe she has him beat.
Kansas has two towns along Route 66, Galena and Baxter Springs. Baxter Springs was surprisingly busy. Almost annoyingly so. I didn’t stay long and instead opted to head into Oklahoma.
The towns of Quapaw and Commerce were both rundown mining towns. Much like Galena and Baxter Springs. Commerce had a nifty gas station randomly emerging from an old warehouse style building. I wasn’t really sure why, but it tickled me greatly.
I was getting to the end of the places that I most recently saw with Sarah and Becky. We stopped just south of Miami and Miami, with its Coleman Theater, was next. Miami is a pretty big town. It was a mining town, but somehow managed to find itself anyway.
While leaving Miami, part of the road was flooded. I stopped and assessed it. Cars and trucks were wading through it with little problem. And luckily, my side of the road wasn’t as flooded at “their” side. So I gave it a shot. Half way through, I felt the water up to the underside of the scooter, I got a little worried that I might not clear it.
But all ended well and in ten seconds we were across and it good shape. Ruby’s belly got a little bath courtesy of the overflowing Spring River.
For six miles, Route 66 is only 9 feet wide. It was built in 1922, before it was officially Route 66. The roadway itself is asphalt over concrete and the “curbs” are about 5 inches wide and serve as “lines” on the road.
Much of the Sidewalk Highway is fairly well preserved in two sections, a testament to its construction. Folks still live along this stretch and it even crosses over I-44.
Shortly after the cross over, it’s a quick right into Afton.
I should also note that this is where Sarah, Becky and I turned east, heading into Arkansas a few weeks ago. That makes this next section of road – all the way to Oklahoma City – the only section of Route 66 that I’ve only driven once.
It’s a strange thing. Everything I’ve seen so far has been familiar. And if not familiar, like in the case of Illinois Route 4, well studied. I barely remember the last time I was through in, in 2006.
Also noteworthy is the fact that I was weary. Very weary. I wanted to pull over and set up camp right here along the side of whichever alignment I was riding.
This is in part to Ruby. I can blame her, can’t I? For some reason, after gassing up before the Sidewalk Highway, she was peppier. In fact, on a slight incline, she reached 75mph with room to spare! We hit 80 on a straight stretch. I’m not sure what happened, but I was tired of riding and anything she could do to get me to camp was fine by me.
I did have to stop in Foyle to visit an lovely old stretch of concrete 66 and the Andy Payne monument. Andy Payne was a long distance runner who grew up in Foyle. He was also the winner of the cross-continent “Bunion Derby.” It was a footrace from Los Angeles to New York City in 1928. The winner would receive $25,000. And so Mr. Payne, only 19 years old, got his 25 grand.
There’s a park and monument dedicated to him just south of town.
My weariness got me a bit lost while trying to find my next and final stop: The Blue Whale. Instead of following a “very Route 66-esque” turn in the road, I continued straight. Doing that took me over a bridge that spanned an abandoned section of interstate. It always impresses me when they completely abandon and close off to all traffic a huge chunk of four lane.
This added to my weariness and when I finally reached the Whale, I just didn’t much care.
From the Whale, my campground was only a couple miles away. That short distance didn’t stop me from getting confused and lost. And while the campground was exactly where my directions said it would be, I was too out of it to really make that distinction.
Tomorrow, on a stretch of 66 that I’ve only seen once, let’s hope it’s a fun day of riding. From just north of Tulsa to just west of Oklahoma City. California, here I come!
Miles today: 223
Miles total: 1857