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Mid-Century Roadtrip: Route 66 Part 2

August 15, 2018

Note: This post was originally published in our June, 2018 newsletter. Not a subscriber? Join here.

For those of you who are old readers of our blog, you might remember our Road Trip series of posts. One of them was the start of our Route 66 adventures. Our headquarters are in St. Louis - just two blocks off the old Route 66.  Last year in September, we got a wild hair to get in the car and go - just to see how far we could get down the Mother Road. This Memorial Day weekend we decided to pick up where we left off in Conway, Missouri, and continue west as far as we could get over the long weekend.

Map-All

First, our road rules. If you see something, say something, even if that means a U-turn (and we made a lot). Many of our photos are just a quick stop taken from the window while some required longer stops. We also rented a fun car (a 2018 Mustang with cooled seats) and we stayed in old motels still in business. Let's go!

Such a cute little house in Conway, Missouri.
Such a cute little house in Conway, Missouri.

Our first out-the-window photo was this cute house just outside of Conway, Missouri. Check out those shutters!

Just east of Springfield, Missouri we saw the remains of an old drive-in theater, the Holiday.

The old Holiday Drive-In sign in Springfield, Missouri.
The old Holiday Drive-In sign in Springfield, Missouri.
The Holiday ruins in Springfield, Missouri.
The Holiday ruins in Springfield, Missouri.

The first of many old motels along the route, this one still in service. The Rest Haven Court is a beautiful example of the traditional Ozark rock masonry used in the construction of the motel rooms.

Rancho Motel just down the route is currently used as housing. It, too, is made of the Ozark rock masonry with beautiful brick accents.

The day we were in Springfield was also a car show, and there were amazing cars all over town.

Rest Haven Court sign in Springfield, Missouri.
Rest Haven Court sign in Springfield, Missouri.
The Rancho Motel with some fabulous brickwork.
The Rancho Motel with some fabulous brickwork.
A hot-rod out and about in Springfield, Missouri.
A hot-rod out and about in Springfield, Missouri.

Just for a little fun, how about the hula shake (or a Pineapple Whip)?

Boots Court Motel at night.
Boots Court Motel at night.

Eventually, we made it to Carthage where we spent the night at the Boots Court Motel. The Boots Court Cabins, originally constructed in 1939, are being lovingly restored by two sisters to their 1949 appearance. No TV's in 1949, but there is a (vintage) radio in every room, just like the original sign says.

Boot Court Motel sign.
Boot Court Motel sign.
Boots Court Motel office - we got the second to last room!
Boots Court Motel office - we got the second to last room!

Day Two brought a number of small cities along the route. Carterville and Webb City in Missouri, Then on to the 12 miles of Route 66 that cut off the southeastern corner of Kansas. At the visitor's center in Baxter Springs, we had the pleasure of meeting Dean "Crazy-Legs" Walker who was the inspiration for Mater in the Cars movie.

Route 66 drive-in in Carthage, Missouri is still operating - and popular!
Route 66 drive-in in Carthage, Missouri is still operating - and popular!
Route 66 in Kansas.
Route 66 in Kansas.
Route 66 Visitor's Center in Baxter Springs, Kansas.
Route 66 Visitor's Center in Baxter Springs, Kansas.
The Rainbow Bridge in Baxter Springs, Kansas.
The Rainbow Bridge in Baxter Springs, Kansas.

After our short jaunt in Kansas, it was on to Oklahoma. Our first photos were of the tiny-five-foot deep gas station in Commerce.

Next, it was on to Miami, Oklahoma. For those of your now in the know, it's My-Am-Uh, not My-Am-Ee.

Five-foot deep gas station in Commerce, Oklahoma.
Five-foot deep gas station in Commerce, Oklahoma.
The Ku-Ku Hamburgers sign in Miami, Oklahoma.
The Ku-Ku Hamburgers sign in Miami, Oklahoma.

As we drove into town, one of our first sites was this amazing original neon sign for Waylon's Ku-Ku Hamburgers (think cuckoo clock). Founded as part of a chain in the 1960's, this is the only remaining location.

Next up was this beautiful 1960's library. That breeze block is magnificent and check out the wide-V canopy over the entrance and that great railing!

Miami Public Library. Such a great mid-century design!
Miami Public Library. Such a great mid-century design!

Driving out of Miami, you have the option of taking an old alignment of Route 66, the Ribbon Road, known even more colloquially as the Sidewalk Highway.

Apparently, the young State of Oklahoma did not have enough money to fund a full highway in this area, so they decided to cut it in half (one lane) in order to afford the construction. All of nine-feet wide, the road is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Sidewalk Highway just outside of Miami, Oklahoma.
The Sidewalk Highway just outside of Miami, Oklahoma.
Abandoned motel ruin outside Afton, Oklahoma.
Abandoned motel ruin outside Afton, Oklahoma.
Clanton's Cafe in Vinita, Oklahoma.
Clanton's Cafe in Vinita, Oklahoma.
The abandoned Chelsea Motel in Chelsea, Oklahoma. Who knows how many more years this will be here?
The abandoned Chelsea Motel in Chelsea, Oklahoma. Who knows how many more years this will be here?
The Pryor Creek Bridge in Chelsea, Oklahoma.
The Pryor Creek Bridge in Chelsea, Oklahoma.
The Blue Whale of Catoosa (Oklahoma).
The Blue Whale of Catoosa (Oklahoma).

Not all of Route 66's stops are from the heyday of the road. Meet the Blue Whale of Catoosa, built in 1972 as a wedding anniversary gift.

The whale has jumping platforms and slides into a small pond along with a sandy beach and picnic tables.

On to Tulsa! These photos show the signage Tulsa has created along Route 66, the abandoned Brookshire Motel (about to be demolished), the Motel Oasis and the Desert Hills Motel (both still in business), the El Rancho Grande restaurant which has been around since 1953, and the MeadowGold sign which was restored and returned to Route 66.

Tulsa, Oklahoma Route 66 signage.
Tulsa, Oklahoma Route 66 signage.
The Brookshire Motel in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (She may be gone by now...)
The Brookshire Motel in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (She may be gone by now...)
The restored MeadowGold sign in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The restored MeadowGold sign in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Oasis Motel sign in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Oasis Motel sign in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
El Rancho Grande restaurant signage in Tulsa.
El Rancho Grande restaurant signage in Tulsa.
The Desert Hills Motel sign in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (This has to be one of my favorites - probably because I have a history with cactus.)
The Desert Hills Motel sign in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (This has to be one of my favorites - probably because I have a history with cactus.)

On the way out of town, we saw a great Googie Goodwill sign and stumbled upon the start of the new Route 66 Village, with an oil well and Frisco train. This new village is the work of the Tulsa Vision 2025 program which has allocated $15M to the restoration of Route 66 through Tulsa.

If only they could save the Brookshire Motel! (See above).

A new, but throw-back sign for the Goodwill in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
A new, but throw-back sign for the Goodwill in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Check out the Frisco train at the Route 66 Village in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Check out the Frisco train at the Route 66 Village in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The oil well at the  Route 66 Village in Tulsa.
The oil well at the Route 66 Village in Tulsa.
The Rock Cafe in Stroud. Good food and good people!
The Rock Cafe in Stroud. Good food and good people!

Continuing down the road through Sapulpa and Bristow, we eventually made it to Stroud. Stroud is home to the Rock Cafe which has been a fixture on Route 66 since 1939. The "rock" in the Rock Cafe is local sandstone. The owner of the cafe, Dawn Welch, was the inspiration for Sally in the Pixar movie Cars.

The Skyliner Motel in Stroud, Oklahoma.
The Skyliner Motel in Stroud, Oklahoma.
The Skyliner Motel sign at night.
The Skyliner Motel sign at night.

We stayed at the Skyliner Motel, a basic motel along the route with a fabulous sign, day and night.

On day three, we ventured on to the town of Chandler, Oklahoma where we saw  The Lincoln Motel (still in service), the Route 66 Interpretive Center (closed for Memorial Day - we're going back), an old Phillips 66 station, and the Boomerang Diner (yum!) where we ate breakfast.

The Lincoln Motel, still in service in Chandler, Oklahoma.
The Lincoln Motel, still in service in Chandler, Oklahoma.
Route 66 Interpretive Center in Chandler, Oklahoma.
Route 66 Interpretive Center in Chandler, Oklahoma.
The Boomerang Diner in Chandler, Oklahoma. Yummy!
The Boomerang Diner in Chandler, Oklahoma. Yummy!
An old Phillips 66 station in Chandler, Oklahoma.
An old Phillips 66 station in Chandler, Oklahoma.

Do you love all of the neon signs along Route 66 as much as we do? Enter Glassboy Studios in Arcadia, Oklahoma. They create miniature versions of old Route 66 signs - check out the awesome miniature replica El Cajon Motel sign in the window. I would want them all...

Glassboy Studios in Arcadia, Oklahoma.
Glassboy Studios in Arcadia, Oklahoma.
More fun cars, this time outside the round barn in Arcadia, Oklahoma.
More fun cars, this time outside the round barn in Arcadia, Oklahoma.

Further down the road in Arcadia is the Arcadia Round Barn. What an amazing building! The barn was neglected, though, and the entire dome had to be rebuilt after it collapsed. Now, what a beauty! The barn now hosts public events including a number of musical events.

A panoramic photo of the inside of the Arcadia Round Barn in Arcadia, Oklahoma.
A panoramic photo of the inside of the Arcadia Round Barn in Arcadia, Oklahoma.

Our last stop on our trip was Pop's just down the road from the Round Barn in Arcadia. Another good example of a modern addition to Route 66, Pop's has a restaurant and soda shop with thousands of soda pops from all over the world, arranged by color and also by flavor. The highlight of this roadside attraction is the giant soda sculpture which is also illuminated at night.

The giant soda bottle at Pop's in Arcadia, Oklahoma.
The giant soda bottle at Pop's in Arcadia, Oklahoma.

If you stayed with me this long, you can see it was quite a trip! There are a ton more photographs that we couldn't share with you without having your eyes glaze over (if they haven't already). We are hoping to do Route 66 east to Chicago yet this summer. We've discussed our next trip west, which we think will entail flying to Oklahoma City, renting a one-way car and taking it all the way to Albuquerque. That will take much more planning (and more time off).

Have you traveled this stretch of Route 66? What were your highlights? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

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