Cross-Country Sprint

Days 41 & 42: June 9 & 10
Start: Colorado Springs, CO
Via: Kansas City, MO
States Visited: Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky
End: Louisville, KY
Miles Driven: 1,081
Total Miles: 7,653

Apparently, silence isn’t golden. There has been some concern that we’ve fallen off the face of the earth since we haven’t posted in a couple of days.

With the motoring we’ve been doing, there hasn’t been much to report. We sprinted across the country over two days to get to Kentucky. We’re spending a few days here before hitting the Bourbon Trail, the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We stopped in Louisville to have a short respite before moving on. Thanks to the HUGE number of hotel nights, we already earned a free night in the Drury; in fact, we earned a lovely suite! It just so happens that a former Firetide colleague, Shelly Swift, moved to Louisville about five years ago. So I looked her up and we went out for drinks at Mojito’s. YUM!

To make our sprint as short as possible, we (unfortunately) ran the Interstate to get here. That’s why there’s a severe lack of pictures. Billboards, exit signs, pasture lands. However, you’ll find the most interesting pictures below, PLUS a plethora of dog pictures. Joe was expecting them.

CANDY!

CANDY! Tom knows that I cannot resist CANDY!

Filler up!

Filler up!

Crossing the...um...which river is this?

Crossing the…um…which river is this?

Jasmine loves the Drury Inn & Suites

Jasmine loves the Drury Inn & Suites

Playful pups

Playful pups

Tickle me Juliet!

Tickle me Juliet!

OOOF! That's the SPOT!

OOOF! That’s the SPOT!

A content pup

A content pup. Traveling with dogs is so great!

Did you say DINNER?

Did you say DINNER?

A scratch is all it takes to make this girl happy

A scratch is all it takes to make this girl happy

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Route 66: Joplin, MO to Tulsa, OK

Day 13: Sunday, May 12, 2013
Start: Joplin, MO
End: Tulsa, OK
Miles Driven Today: 166 (including 33 miles in Tulsa)
Total Miles: 2,284

Today was a three-state day. Given that we were only in Missouri for about five minutes after we left the hotel and that Route 66 only traverses 15 miles within Kansas, it wasn’t a great feat. But hey, three states are three states! We started off with our first state-line crossing into Galena, Kansas. We had planned to stop at the “4 Women on The Route” restored O-Tex gas station, but it was closed. Sunday (and Mother’s Day) means empty streets and closed shops and restaurants in these parts!

Welcome to Kansas

Welcome to Kansas

We drove down the road towards Baxter Springs and encountered the Rainbow Curve Bridge. This is the last of three “Marsh Arch” bridges (named for the designer) that were on Route 66 in Kansas.

Rainbow Curve Bridge

Rainbow Curve Bridge near Baxter Springs

Rainbow Curve Bridge Sign

Rainbow Curve Bridge

We really liked the road stamps all across the short stint of Route 66 in Kansas. We saw these everywhere across the 15-ish miles of road across the state.

Route 66 Kansas

Marking the way across Route 66 Kansas

After a few minutes, whoooooosh…we were in Oklahoma!

Into Oklahoma

After a blink of an eye, we were in Oklahoma

We drove through Quawpaw, Commerce, Miami and Narcissa, OK before we made our first stop at the Afton Station and Route 66 Packard Museum in Afton, Oklahoma. Laurel Kane (owner) and Ron (a volunteer) greeted us warmly as we walked into the museum and gift shop. Laurel has acquired and restored quite an impressive collection of Packards (and one odd vehicle). My very favorite was the 1917 Packard Twin Six–what I call the “Original RV.” I also loved the simple but graceful hood ornaments. Laurel had around twenty cars in her collection–all in mint condition! We were encouraged to spend time looking at both garages to view these vintage treasures!

After some time, we went back to chat with Laurel and Ron. She took our picture with the girls, talked about Jay Leno’s interest in her vehicles (she emailed him and invited him to visit when he was touring the area; he received the email too late and called her personally to chat with her about the cars!). It was a worthwhile stop and an incredible collection!

1953 Packard

Afton Station – Route 66 Packards – 1953 Packard

1950 Studebaker

1950 Studebaker – Tom said that his family had one of these when he was growing up!

Hood Ornament

Love the hood ornaments!

Maserati

What’s a Maserati doing here?

1917 Packard Twin Six

1917 Packard Twin Six – The first off the line, according to Laurel! This is the true original RV!

Off we went down the open road, once again enjoying a beautiful day.

Fine day

A fine day

Open Road

Another day across open road. I could get real used to this!

We decided to take a side trip off Route 66 near the town of Foyil to visit the Totm Pole Park, home of the World’s LARGEST Totem Pole. Built by Ed Galloway between 1937 and 1948, Galloway built this and a number of other concrete totems in this little park. The park also houses the 11-sided Fiddle House that once housed over 400 hand-carved violins. A collection of about 100 of them still resides in the museum/gift shop.

Tallest Totem Pole

World’s Largest Totem Pole – Ed Galloway built the totem pole over 11 years (1937-1948). Over 90 feet tall!

Another Ed Galloway Totem

Another Ed Galloway Totem

After we got back on Route 66, we had to stop and visit the Blue Whale. A remnant of an old amusement park, this whale now resides at a pond and is open to the public. When we visited, a couple of families with kids were fishing off the tail of the whale. There were squeals of excitement as one of the little girls caught a fish! Whee! Okay, it was kitschy, but cute.

The Blue Whale Catoosa OK

The Blue Whale in Catoosa, OK

The Blue Whale

Isn’t he cute?

The Catoosa Blue Whale

Tom in the belly of the whale! EEK!

We made it to Tulsa today, We settled into our dog-friendly room at a La Quinta, and then drove around town. We saw Oral Roberts University, more churches than we could count, and had dinner at the traditional Tulsa Vietnamese Pho house. But seriously, we did have dinner at Pho Da Cao (FABULOUS) and then followed that up with frozen custard at Freckles.

Tomorrow, we plan on reaching Oklahoma City and Amarillo, TX the following day. That is, unless we see something/someplace that pushes us in a different direction or makes us want to stay in a different place! That’s how we roll!

Route 66: Springfield to Joplin

Day 12: Saturday, May 11, 2013
Start: Springfield, MO
End: Joplin, MO
Miles Driven Today: 82
Total Miles: 2,118

Today was not a huge travel day, but it was definitely FULL. This blog post is full of pictures of the many interesting things we saw today!

We had a slow start to the morning and didn’t leave the hotel until around 11 a.m. We were aiming to get to Tulsa, Oklahoma by the end of the day, but given the miles we’d have to cover, we just decided to wing it and figure out the game plan around 2 or 3 p.m. We left Springfield and started out, once again, on the open road.

The Cuba-to-Springfield route yesterday was quite a zig-zag across Interstate 44. Sometimes running parallel to the main artery, sometimes crossing, sometimes going through some more pristine country, following the precise Historic route requires some very specific directions. We are using the Route 66: EZ66 Guide for Travelers by Jerry McClanahan. It gives turn-by-turn directions, sites to see and great side-trip options for the Route 66 pilgrim. However, today’s route was relatively free of twists and turns, and we had a lot of open road with old barns, stone buildings, and farmland to mark our way.

Open Road Again

The open road. Today’s travels were less fussy and more direct.

The second town we came to after leaving Springfield was Paris Springs. There, we found the Gay Parita Sinclair Station, a replica of an old Sinclair gas station with vintage trucks, cars, gas pumps, signs and other great memorabilia. Gary Turner and his wife Lena run the place. What was clear when we pulled up and walked in was that it wasn’t going to be a short visit. Gary invited (okay, cajoled) us to eat one of his delicious (yum) donuts and have a cup of coffee. He sat us down on his porch and started to chat about travels in the area. He autographed and gave us a picture of his station.

Gay Parita Filling Station

Gay Parita Filling Station in Paris Springs, Missouri

Gary Turner

Gary Turner, Owner & Proprietor, Gay Parita Sinclair Station. Come visit with the expectation of staying awhile.

The station, garage and grounds were one big antique “museum.” Old signs, restored gas pumps, vehicles in various stages of restoration, vignettes, kitsch, trinkets and stories…this was a gem of a stop. We sat with Gary as he told us about the region and as he quizzed us about our travels and goals. He told us about the “best steak ever” and the “nicest motel to stay in Carthage” and the most “beautiful vintage town.” His wife Lena sat with us for a few minutes as well when Gary went to greet some new visitors and then showed us to the barn and the vintage outhouse, AKA Gary’s ‘doghouse.’

Old police cruiser

Old police cruiser; one of the many old vehicles on the Gay Parita property.

Perpetual fixer-upper

Perpetual fixer-upper

Mater's uncle

Mater’s uncle?

Gary's dog house

Lena says this is Gary’s place when he’s in the “dog house”

While we were ‘visiting’, another Route 66 pilgrim pulled up in his vintage 1950 Ford. Of course, it was as if he was pulling up to a filling station in the right era…pefect!

Vintage Ford

Vintage Ford on the Route 66 pilgrimage. The owner is on the road with his restored cruiser.

Vintage 1950 Ford

Vintage 1950 Ford. WOW!

We had a couple of photos, bought a pictoral guide to Route 66 (autographed specially for us by Gary), and were sent on our way with a hand-drawn map to Red Oak II, a town of restored buildings and artwork. This really was a great way to learn more about the area and to be welcomed with some genuine interest and hospitality!

Tom Mahgrit and Gary

Tom, Mahgrit and Gary

Photo Op!

Gary is very much into the Route 66 experience. It was by far our favorite stop!

As we made our way to our next stop, we traversed Johnson Creek across this bridge, built in 1926, and passed a vintage Phillips 66 station. Just a couple of pieces of history that make this route so special!

1926 Johnson Creek Bridge

1926 Johnson Creek Bridge

Vintage Phillips 66 Station

Vintage Phillips 66 Station in Spencer, MO

We followed Gary’s map and found Red Oak II, the brainchild of Lowell Davis. There was an original Red Oak, but Lowell Davis moved it to this new location. It’s a collection of old buildings, lovingly restored, as well as wonderful sculptures by Davis. It’s an obvious labor of love. We were greeted by Davis himself, as he rode his John Deere mower across the grass. Unassuming and very sweet. We told him how much we were enjoying his work. He smiled, chatted for a few minutes, and went on mowing. His dog, Duke, followed us for awhile as we ambled up the streets of this “town.”

Red Oak II

Red Oak II near Carthage, MO. An entire village of relocated and restored buildings and automobiles is the brainchild and labor of love by artist Lowell Davis.

Red Oak Biplane Art

Biplane Art/Sculpture at Red Oak II

Self-made convertible

Self-made convertible

Acres of fun

Acres of buildings, sculptures and vintage machines

The Boys Night Out

The Boys Night Out

Water sculpture

Love this water fountain sculpture!

Missoura Summer Night

Missoura Summer Night

Biplane

Not quite flight-ready

Billy Goat

Billy Goat. Love that it’s chewing on a tin can!

Democrats Outnumbered

Democrats are in the minority here!

Sign to Red Oak

Sign to Red Oak on Historic 66

After we left Red Oak, we went on to Carthage, relaxed a bit downtown and enjoyed an ice cream cone. Carthage’s downtown was a bit…quiet. But the courthouse was quite spectacular.

Foxfire Farm

Foxfire Farm – Another Lowell Davis sculpture in Carthage

Jasper County Courthouse

Jasper County Courthouse in downtown Carthage

Jasmine and Juliet

Jasmine and Juliet enjoy downtown Carthage

We decided to venture off to the next metro area, Joplin, for the night (another Drury…love it!). Joplin, Missouri was the town that was all but leveled by a tornado not so long ago. From what we saw, it has bounced back!

I’m not sure how far we’ll make it tomorrow, but we’ll most likely make it through the corner of Kansas and into Oklahoma. Perhaps we’ll make it to Tulsa as we originally planned! But hey, if we don’t…there’s nothing wrong with that! That’s the beauty of this kind of travel!

Route 66 – Cuba to Springfield

Day 11: Friday, May 10, 2013
Start: Cuba, MO
End: Springfield, MO
Miles Driven Today: 139
Total Miles: 2,036

Historic Route 66 - Cuba MO

Historic Route 66 in Cuba, MO

Today was our first full day on Historic Route 66. We had violent thunderstorms late last night, but the weather gods smiled upon us, and we had a mild day of travel and no rain.

We started the day with a light breakfast at Shelly’s Route 66 Cafe. Right. Light? No. Tom had the Slinger–a full order of biscuits and gravy, topped with hash brown potatoes, a grilled hamburger patty, chili and a fried egg. All this for a whopping $6.95. I had some oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar and a half order of biscuits and gravy. The gravy was by far the best I’ve had in years. Our bill (including two cups of coffee) came out to be a whopping $13. That was the plus. The minus is that there are no anti-smoking laws here in Missouri. Some of the places we visited today reeked of cigarette smoke.

The Slinger

The Slinger at Shelly’s Route 66 Cafe in Cuba, MO

We packed up and started our journey on Route 66. About four miles outside of Cuba, we encountered the Route 66 Outpost in Fanning, home of the World’s Largest Rocker. Of course, we had to stop!

World's Largest Rocker

World’s Largest Rocker – Route 66 Outpost

Trading posts were the theme of the day. Right outside of Rolla, we stopped at the Mule Trading Post, home of the Big Hillbilly sign. Carl and Zelma Smith, owners of the Mule, were as gracious and sweet as can be. We chatted about how they bought the place, how they salvaged and refurbished the sign, and how they are spending their “retirement.” They were the sweetest people, and their guest book is about 3″ thick!

Mule Trading Post - Route 66

Mule Trading Post on Route 66

Out between Clementine and St. Robert, we traversed through Hooker Cut and Devil’s Elbow. Hooker Cut was once the deepest road cut in Missouri. Devil’s Elbow was a pretty drive through hilly country. We traveled across the Devil’s Elbow Bridge over the Big Piney River. We would have stopped at the Elbow Inn Bar & BBQ, but we were a little full from breakfast!

Devil's Elbow Bridge

Devil’s Elbow Bridge

We loved the open spaces between the towns. Route 66 often parallels I-44, but it also goes inland, through open terrain, farmland and homesteads. It’s a great ride.

The Open Road

Historic Route 66 appeals to those who love the open road…and more

We haven’t found many places that we want to explore, but we have still been enjoying the sights and vistas. Rusty bridges, two-lane roads, cows, horses and other livestock…it’s a relaxing way to see the country.

Bridge

Bridge on the way to Springfield

But we also go through towns of all sizes. From the ones that barely make a blip on a map to the larger towns like Lebanon, there’s always something that makes us wonder how people spend their lives. When we were driving through Waynesville, we noticed scores of people lining the road. Many were holding American flags. Flags were also planted on the road. We thought there was going to be some sort of parade. As we made our way, we kept seeing people lining the street. We finally stopped to ask what was happening.

The people were out, waiting for the funeral procession of a local fallen soldier. They were honoring his service. But this wasn’t a small thing. It wasn’t just friends and family. As we drove on, the line of people spread for miles into the next town. It was simple honor for someone who gave his life for his country. It really touched me.

As we went on, we saw a small racetrack and some fun, kitschy places like Redmond’s World’s Largest Gift Shop. Of course, we had to stop. Inside the gift shop, they had “Lucy’s Cadillac” from I Love Lucy. I guess all those Route 66 Souvenirs made someone rich! 🙂

I-44 Speedway

I-44 Speedway in Lebanon, MO

Lucy's Cadillac

Lucy’s Cadillac at Redmond’s “World’s Largest Gift Shop”

Of course, not all the driving was pleasant. We hit some serious Missouri Gridlock.

Missouri Gridlock

Missouri Gridlock

We’re now chillaxin’ at the Drury Inn with the pups. We met some fellow road warriors from the UK at the hotel and spent some of the evening chatting with them about their Lost in America plans. It’s nice to meet like-minded travelers on the road!

Tomorrow, we plan on leaving Missouri, skirting the corner of Kansas and making it to Oklahoma. The tentative plan is to make it to Tulsa…but we’ll see what happens!

Jasmine helps me blog

Jasmine helps me blog

Mark Twain National Forest

Day 10: Thursday, May 9, 2013
Start: Poplar Bluff, MO
End: Cuba, MO
Miles Driven Today: 208
Total Miles: 1,897

Today’s drive took us through the Ozarks and through the Mark Twain National Forest. We have really enjoyed the lonely roads that we have chosen; in most cases, we rarely encountered other cars and were able to drive at a leisurely pace without having to pull over to let a Speedy Gonzales pass by. While thunderstorms were forecast for the area, we were fortunate to skirt the rain and to even enjoy some bright sunshine and warm weather in the afternoon.

Ozarks

Into the Ozarks we go!

We first went through the Ozark National Scenic Riverways area. Two major rivers snake through the Ozarks–the Current River and the Jacks Fork River. The Ozark National Scenic Riverways area was the first National Park area created to protect a wild river system. We went over both rivers while winding our way West on Route 106 and then North on Route 19. There were campgrounds, plenty of places to rent kayaks or inner tubes and lots of open road to enjoy the lush greenry of this area.

Ozark National Scenic Riverways

Fabulous drive through the Ozark National Scenic Riverways

After leaving the Riverways, we meandered Northeast to the Mark Twain National Forest towards the metropolis (NOT) of Bunker. We drove 16 miles up a very bumpy, windy, hilly Route A. But the forest was fabulous and the drive was well worth it. Butler itself was just a few buildings shy of a blip on the map, but we’re focused on journey rather than destination! Thank goodness for that!

Mark Twain National Forest

Entrance to the Mark Twain National Forest

Open road

Oh the open road!

After leaving the Forest, we headed for tonight’s destination: Cuba, Missouri. Cuba is our ‘entry point’ to the next chapter of our journey–driving through the small towns along Historic Route 66! And to start off our Route 66 journey, we booked a room at the Wagon Wheel Motel in downtown Cuba. While I’m unsure why this little motel got so many accolades on TripAdvisor, it certainly has some charm. I just wish the motel owner, Connie, had as much charm as her property. She was as unwelcoming as could be–a very big change from yesterday’s stellar service at the Drury Inn. The room we have is tiny, but it’s clean and quiet. That’s fine with us!

Wagon Wheel Motel Cuba MO

Route 66 Kitsch – Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, MO

After settling into our room, we decided to walk through downtown Cuba. Apparently, Cuba is known as the “Mural City” of Route 66. In 2001, the local bank commissioned a mural to commemorate its 100th birthday. A local beautification group soon created a public art project that resulted in a dozen murals created by local and nationally known artists. Bette Davis, Amelia Earhart and Harry Truman are depicted in murals around town, each with a story of their visit to Cuba. I liked the Prosperity Corner mural the best, which wrapped around the building.

Prosperity Corner Mural Cuba MO

The Prosperity Corner Mural in Cuba, MO

Bette Davis Mural Cuba MO

Bette Davis Mural – Cuba, MO

We took Jasmine and Juliet with us on our stroll through Cuba. We got strange stares from the locals since they were in the doggie stroller. In fact, we made such a big splash that the waitress from the Missouri Hick Barbecue recognized us…we had looked at the take-out menu when we began our stroll, and she saw the dogs. She told us her life story, including her quest to find a Dachshund puppy. Finally, there was something even more incredible to look at than the rare Asian: dogs in a stroller!

Speaking of dogs, Jasmine and Juliet are simply exhausted from all this travel. Sleeping in the back seat is really hard work. 🙂

tired puppies

Juliet and Jasmine rest after an exhausting day of sleeping in the back seat

Tomorrow, we start our Route 66 journey in earnest! Can’t wait!

Shawnee National Forest

Day 10: Wednesday, May 5, 2013
Start: Evansville, IN
End: Poplar Bluff, MO
Miles Driven Today: 267
Total Miles: 1,689

Today was another four-state trek. We went from Indiana, back into Kentucky, over to Illinois and finally into Missouri.

We started out in Evansville, Indiana after a good night’s sleep and a nice (free) breakfast at the hotel. We immediately headed for Kentucky to take the Ohio River Scenic Byway and then crossed over into Illinois at the Shawneetown Bridge. On our way to the bridge, we were amazed at the huge farms with what we guessed were these enormous grain conveyor belts. These contraptions crossed many miles of farmland. I wonder if it’s more economical to run the grain across the farms on these belts than to use dump trucks.

Grain Conveyor

We saw miles of this. We think it is a grain conveyor belt.

Spring is in full bloom around here. The sunny day seemed to coax the flowers into an explosion of color; bright yellow mustard flowers contrasted with the green hay fields and the dark tilled earth that was waiting for the new crop to arrive. We were pleased with our route; it couldn’t have been prettier.

Flowers

We saw bursts of bright yellow across the area in these fields of mustard flowers

We soon crossed over into Southern Illinois and into the Shawnee National Forest. Right after we crossed over into Illinois, we encountered Old Shawneetown. Aside from the mobile homes, there was an old ghost town (Shawneetown Bank Historic District) with old buildings that seemed to have some recent life in them (neon signs were not the rage way back when…). But today, it’s deserted and the area is sad. We quickly moved on and wound our way through the forest.

Shawneetown Bridge

Shawneetown Bridge across the Ohio River

Illinois State Line

Welcome to Illinois – Across the Shawneetown Bridge

The drive was, once again, quiet and lovely. While the area is a national forest, it also includes a number of small Illinois towns. We stopped at Cave-In-Rock (and the Cave-In-Rock State Park) for a short rest, and saw yet another commuter ferry that traversed the Ohio River. The park itself was not very large, but it included a nice waterfront view of the Ohio and shady picnic spots to enjoy the day. We stretched our legs and then ventured on.

We were going to try cross over into Missouri and take in some of the Mark Twain National Forest and the Ozarks, but we were getting a bit road weary. I fired up my trusty TripAdvisor to start looking for a place to stay, and we settled on a Drury Hotel in Poplar Bluff, MO. From here, we’ll have a short drive to the Mark Twain Forest and our chosen route.

I do have to say that I’m impressed with the Drury. It is a very pet-friendly hotel chain (NO additional fee) that offers both a free happy hour AND hot dinner buffet as well as a free breakfast buffet and free wi-fi. I think we’ll be staying at more Drury Hotels during this trip, but tomorrow night’s stay is a special selection! You’ll have to check back and find out what we have planned!

Pig-mobile

Pig-mobile!

Crossing the Mississippi

Crossing the Mississippi

Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge

Bill Emerson Memoria Bridge, Cape Girardeau, MO

Missouri State Line

Welcome to Missouri

It’s great to see that Jasmine has finally recovered from her stomach problems and is starting to bond more with Juliet. The girls are often snuggling together in the back seat, and both are looking out to see the sights whenever we stop.

Travel Buddies

Jasmine and Juliet are becoming travel buddies!