Day 25: First (and hopefully last) Car Hiccup

Trip Start Jun 01, 2010
Trip End Jul 29, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Kansas
Friday, June 25, 2010

Route: From St. Louis, MO to Wichita, Kansas (KS)
Kilometres: 835 (our longest yet!)

After a hot breakfast at the hotel this morning, we hit the road in search of the classic Route 66. Although the 'mother road' starts in Chicago, we were mostly on the highway yesterday and so we didn’t see much of the original route. The original route has changed many times over the years, and weaves all over (but kind of around the new interstates). We knew we were only going to hit part of it today, before heading up into Kansas, so we kept our eyes peeled.

After a couple hours of driving, and seeing some random signs on the side roads leading to Historic Route 66 byways, we pulled off at the tourist centre in the town of Cuba and picked up some (limited) maps & info. It actually took us to our first Route 66 stop – the World’s Largest Rocking Chair! (we know, quite enthralling really). It had a cute trading post where we picked up some local Route 66 Missouri wine – it tasted delicious and we knew it’d hit the spot after a long day of driving! We kept on Route 66, many times running right alongside the new interstates, but really interesting to see the unique antique shops or trading posts or typical small-America houses with great looking old trucks on the front lawn. About 1 hour into that drive we hit a dead end... literally. Guess someone forgot to put some new signposts up... oh well – we headed back on the 115km interstate and moved on.

Just as we were driving past the towns of Bourbon and Lebanon (great names, eh?), we got nailed by a flying rock on the interstate and a few minutes later noticed a good 15cm crack form on the top of our windshield. Excellent. We had already gotten past that the "Maint Req’d" light lit up on the dashboard didn’t mean anything was wrong, just that it was due for scheduled maintenance. As for the crack, we got out our handy whiteboard markers (true teachers, always have them near), marked where it stopped, and kept our eyes on it as we drove on in the 37C heat.

During our next driver swatch and stop for petrol and coffee, we noticed there was free Wi-Fi so we quickly looked up some auto glass repair shops in Wichita. We realised it would be the last major city we’d hit in about a week, plus it was already Friday afternoon, plus we’d be driving some backroads and high heats in the next couple days. Didn’t want to take the risk so we found a place in Wichita that was open on a Saturday and booked the car in for first thing in the morning!

We kept on the main roads until we left Missouri and crossed into Kansas state. Our first stop here was at Baxter Springs, an iconic Route 66 town (the original route only cuts the corner of Kansas, literally only 13.6miles). It had its quiet main street, but as it was dinner time, we found ‘Cafe On The Route’, another Triple D location, and a Route 66 historic landmark. This place used to be the town bank, and it was robbed once by the notorious Jesse James. Dinner was fantastic, with a beef brisket sandwich, Kansas-style jambalaya, and topped off by a complimentary deep-fried cheesecake! So full yet again. We drove a bit through town and found an original fort, and the Oklahoma state line (this was where Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma all meet), then kept heading west.

Our next stop in Kansas was in the town of Coffeyville, notorious for the where the Dalton gang went to rob the town bank (The Condon Bank) and a large showdown shoot-out ensued. Since it was after 8pm when we finally reached here, unfortunately the bank was closed where they gave you a map to show where the shootings occurred, even where bullet holes and gangster outlines lay, but we had to rely on the large mural we found painted on one of the town’s buildings. We were able to find the original bank, plus markers to show where some of the gang members were shot down (even one down ‘death alley’). A bit dismayed we couldn’t find more within town, we ventured a bit out of town to find the Dalton graves at the local cemetery. We followed the signs and did a couple loops, not quite sure if we kept missing them or if dusk was playing tricks on our eyes – though we then realised we were foiled in the path by a train on the tracks! (we could see the cemetery through the cars) We drove down a couple blocks to see if we could go around the parked train, but then as we were about to give up, the whistles blew and the train started moving! We drove to the entrance of the cemetery and its opening hours were 9-9... and it was 9:05 on our clocks... but the gates were still open so we decided to quickly drive in (although worried we might get locked in! Paranoid, I know). In the (barely) light of dusk we found the grave sites, Cam jumped out to take some pics, and then we quickly (but not so speedily, as it was a cemetery after all) made our way back out the gates. Needless to say it was a bit eerie, made even more so (albeit neat) by the fireflies throughout the grounds.

We still had about 200kms to cover to Wichita, and the sun was pretty set – our first night driving in the whole trip... on the back road highways of Kansas nonetheless! It was mostly one lane both ways, no street lights (or a rare few) and some crazy truckies and kids on motorbikes (it was Friday night). We gathered up a lot of bug souvenirs on the grill and windshield (it’s getting replaced anyhow!) and it took some adjusting to the lights in the ‘big’ city. Most mileage today so far... although tomorrow is looking like a doozy!
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