I need to start off with the requisite quote from the famous song, “If you ever plan to motor west / Travel my way, take the highway that is best / Get your kicks on Route sixty six” There has been so much written about the famous stretch of road and romanticized travel of the early days on the mother road. You probably know something about the highway that runs from Chicago to Santa Monica so I won’t get into the details. This is our take on the 13 miles that cross the southeast corner of Kansas.
Our first stop was Galena, a cute little town with plenty of charm, and a lot of great photo ops for the 66er. Is that a term? If not I’ll take credit for creating it. The road just outside of town is the most intact section of the original Highway 66 in Kansas.
There is a great place to get plenty of fun pics just to the east of the Front Street Bridge. Among the artifacts is a 19 foot tall homemade tribute to the Muffler Men that decorated our country’s highways. Muffler Men are giant, fiberglass statues built from the mid 60’s to the early 70’s. They were about 22 feet tall and produced in Venice, CA by International Fiberglass. It is believed only 120 or so remain standing in the U.S. This new version also pays tribute to the miners in the area. This particular giant is named Frecs, short for Freckles which was the nickname of the creator’s grandfather.
Next to Frecs is a bicycle with a basket painted all white. It is called a “Ghost Bike” and it honors those hit by a vehicle along Route 66.
Moving across the parking lot is a shed, not sure of the purpose, it looks like it might be used to serve food along with plenty of picnic tables.
On one side is a giant pair of ruby slippers which make up the sides of a bench that creates a perfect spot for a cheesy souvenir photo.
The shed has several additional photo ops and a number of “rural art pieces” The other end of the building has Luigi from “Cars” busting through the wall for yet another photo op. At the end of the lot is a recreation of the sheriff’s car from the movie, “Cars”
Back in the car and heading down the street to “Cars on the Route” an original gas station turned tourist shop. Outside sits what some believe is the inspiration for Tow Mater, along with two other cars from “Cars.”
Next stop is a little park, it’s named the “Route 66 Howard “Pappy” Litch Park”. There’s a gazebo and water fountain along with a monument to Will Rogers and his travels on Route 66. His home is about an hour away in Claremore, OK.
Next stop is an old Texaco Gas Station, I believe it’s a car repair shop now. The highlight besides the original look of the station is that you can pose with Doc Hudson, that was the car voiced by Paul Newman in the movie, “Cars.”
Farther down the road we stopped on the famous Rainbow Bridge; it is the only Marsh Arch bridge still standing on Route 66. It might look familiar to you Wichita folks as it is the same designer as our John Mack Bridge. This bridge was built in 1923. I walked across it to get some pics. It really is a photogenic spot, once I crossed over Jeremy rolled up to my rescue. I was baking in the Kansas sun. Our last stop on the route was in Baxter Springs.
We paid a very quick visit to the Baxter Springs Heritage Center and Museum. Tons of artifacts from the region tracing the area from the Civil War to modern day. As one of those guys that likes unusual stuff I really loved the “world’s Longest Hand-Carved Wooden Chain.” It’s about a quarter of a mile long. The man who whittled it, James Porter, is pictured appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. According to the signage, Mr. Porter spent 22 minutes chatting with Johnny about whittling.
We made two more stops that are not technically on the Route, but I wanted to mention them here. The first was the casino in Quapaw, OK. The Downstream Casino is beautiful. It was the only casino of the three that we actually ended up breaking even. On the casino’s property is a pen full of bison. Just beyond the pen is a dirt road. Follow it to the marker and you can stand on three states at once. Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas. Jeremy and I took the standard tourist photo and headed to our next destination – Coffeyville, KS.