We left Joplin by way Route 66 toward Kansas. This will be our last stretch of Route 66 until we start our homeward trek from California in late September. We are traveling the same 13.2 miles we traveled the other night but will make some stops this time in Galena. We stopped to see 4 Women on the Route, an old gas station resurrected by you guessed it, 4 women. Today, Melba the “mouth” (her name for herself, not ours), one of the 4 owners, was in the gas station telling its history and how she got involved in the renovation and the resurrection of Galena as a tourist attraction. Her nickname comes from the fact that she never stops talking and can talk so fast you can barely understand her.
4 Women is an old Kan-O-Tex gas station built during Route 66' heydays and later a service bay was added. Once Galena's mining days were over, as well as those of the historic highway, the station was abandoned. Today it has been fully restored closely to its original design and features shining Kan-O-Tex gas pumps in front. One of the main features that 4 Women on the Route displays is "Tow Tater," a 1951 International boom truck that was the inspiration for "Tow Mater" in the movie Cars (voice by Larry the Cable Guy). I don’t know too much about the movie as my kids were too old when it came out in 2006 (?), but I’m learning more and more as we travel 66. There’s even a Cars theme park that recently opened in California. We may have to check it out when we get to Cali in September. Tater's a long-time victim of neglect as rust covers the body, its seats are torn and frayed, and its odometer reads more than 99, 000 miles. Amazingly, Tater still runs and is used in parades. The 4 Women’s next project is to renovate a former brothel located across the street into a bed and breakfast. It may be easier to knock it down and start over. Take a look at the picture
We stopped for lunch in Baxter Springs not at Café on the Route, but at Angel on the Route for sandwiches and ice cream. It was more satisfying that Café. While having lunch, Sue overheard a couple talking to the owner of the restaurant about the photography studio they opened and opportunities to generate business from people traveling Route 66 by having a dress-up type photo opportunity. Sue suggested to them that they name it “Get your Pics on Route 66”. The guy was impressed and wanted to use it. So if you are passing through Baxter Springs and see the studio next to the Route 66 Soda Fountain, look for the sign “Get your Pics on Route 66”.
Soon after leaving Baxter Springs, you enter Oklahoma. The first town is Quapaw. It’s notable for murals on some of the building. We only saw 3 and they were pretty faded. The town of Commerce was next in line and its claim to fame is that it is the boyhood home on Mickey Mantle. The town water tower is dressed in a facsimile of Yankee pinstripes with the number 7 painted on it. The town also has one of the oldest grocery store on Route 66 (Star Cash Grocery) apparently closed since 2010 after surviving the Great Depression, Dairy King, a 1931 Marathon gas station, that serves ice cream, hamburgers, and Route 66 shield shaped cookies, and Allen’s Filling Station, a recently restored gas station built into the side of a brick wall. We missed the monthly vintage car show they have on the first Friday of the month, but there was a sweet tangerine colored custom Ford pick-up truck.
Moving into Miami (pronounced Mi-am-muh) we had to stop at Waylan’s Ku Ku Burger. Even though we just ate in Baxter Springs, we had to try a Ku Ku Burger. Waylan’s was opened in 1960 so it’s a relative newcomer to Route 66. Eugene Waylan, the owner then and now, had over 200 drive-ins in the chain, but this one is the only one left. As you can see from the pictures, the building was supposed to resemble a kookoo clock. The bird at the top sounded every hour. Like the early Mickey D’s, hamburger started at 15 cents. We missed the local Cruise Night by a week, but we didn’t miss the Ku Ku burger as Sue and I shared one.
Coming out of Miami, you have a choice of following what is called “The Sidewalk Highway” of sticking to the newer alignment of Route 66 that follows Route 69 (the stated reportedly have a hard time keeping these signs on the road). Of course we unknowingly took “The Sidewalk Highway” route and as it turns out the name fits the road. The first several miles were equivalent to a county maintained road, narrow and fair pavement; however, we were soon to find out that this stretch of Route 66 is one of the few remaining section of 9 ft. wide roadway with concrete edges. It was originally paved in 1926 and looks like it hasn’t been paved too many time since with a lot of gravel sections. There was no place to turn Winnie around so we had to tough it out for the next 4 or 5 miles traveling at about 10 or 15 mph. The poor Fit was covered in a dust cloud for the entire stretch of road. I’m going to try to include a video of the road, but it’s late and the internet is slow again. If not tonight, then tomorrow. Once we got off the sidewalk, we decided to make a bee line for our stop for the night at the Will Rogers Downs KOA in Claremore, OK.
This KOA is at a Cherokee Nation casino. It’s a racino like Delaware Park and Dover Downs. Ponies don’t run again until after Labor Day. We ate in the casino restaurant (gag), but it was only $17 including the tip for both of us. This trip has not been a good food trip so far. I sure hope it improves. After dinner we walked through the slot parlor and dropped about $10 or $15 into the machines. I cashed out of the last machine (a penny slot) for $0.02. I was going to take it to the cashier, but I thought it would make a good picture.
We’ll continue to head south into hell tomorrow.