Day 8: Route 66

Trip Start Jul 21, 2010
Trip End Jul 29, 2010

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Cafe on the Route
Baxter Springs Museum
4 Women on the Route

Flag of United States  , Kansas
Tuesday, July 27, 2010

After the Little House, we took the "scenic" route east following the 13.2 miles of old Route 66 that winds through Kansas. Apparently, when Mom was looking up and planning our route for the day, from Independence where the Little House was to Mansfield where Laura lived as an adult, she realized that we'd be right along Route 66 and could actually follow the entire piece of the road that goes through Kansas.  Then there was no stopping her.  You can't get more “road trip-y” than Route 66 and this turned out to be quite an adventure. Our first stop on the journey was Baxter Springs, Kansas, the first city in Kansas on Route 66 (in fact, we had to drive one mile south of Baxter Springs, leave Kansas and then re-enter to make it really authentic following the entire Kansas stretch).   I had been napping until we reached the old road, then I had to wake up to be a part of the “experience”.  We have a video documenting our entrance to the historic road.

I don't know if I really believed it was as big a deal as mom was making out of it, but we actually could have spent a lot longer in Baxter Springs. We stopped at the information center, an old gas station, that had lots of information.  It was another hit-brakes-and-turn stop but turned out to be worth it.  A very nice woman there suggested we have lunch  at “Café on the Route” (recently featured on the Food Channel’s “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives”), and said we really should go to the Baxter Springs Museum.  So we did.  Lunch was amazingly good with lots of fresh vegetables.  And then we walked to the museum that was 4 blocks away.  This museum was a treasure-trove of Baxter Spring’s history, WWII memorabilia, and local artifacts.  On the lower floor, there is a fully recreated 1910 farmhouse, wooden boardwalk, general store, blacksmiths’ shop, and jail.  There was also an exhibit on the mining history of the area, the American Indian influence, local Black history, and firefighters.  Like I said, we could have spent a few more hours wandering around. 

We continue following Route 66 out of Kansas.  We made a few circles around the old road to go back west and then east again, driving across the Rainbow Curve Bridge constructed in 1923.  Mom insisted that this wasn’t that weird, to make it less weird she stalked the other people driving by and taking their pictures.  :)    ****Laurel/Mom inserts:  NO, not stalking!  I slow down so we can read the sign next to the bridge; Sarah protests saying we are in the middle of the road; I point out the only reason for people to be on this particular stretch is if they are also following the route: sure enough, the car behind us slows to a stop by the sign just as we are pulling away; and that car is still at the bridge even after we drive another mile, turn and come back.  Plus by then there is another stopped car with a man outside it taking a video!

Our next slightly unintended stop was “4 women on the route,” in Galena, Kansas.  The claim to fame for little gift shop and dining room is that it is the home of the inspiration for “Tow Mater” in the movie Cars.  The proprietor, Melba, is a fireball of a women who told us all about how this came to be.  She tells us right away that she is known as "the mouth," then takes out a scrapbook showing us how she and her family renovated this building and of their plans for several other buildings in the area.  It’s a long story so I won’t relay the whole thing here; we did learn that all of the vehicles in the movie were based on real vehicles and that that characters were all real as well, including two characters who were based on local Galenda legends.  If you are Cars fans and want the details, you can ask Mom. We spent a bit of time browsing and chatting with Melba before we got back on the road to drive the last couple miles of the 13.2 miles of Route 66 in Kansas.

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