A ROAD-TRIPPING TEARDROPPER'S PARADISE
The ultimate road trip through the Ozarks into Oklahoma and onward West, 66 has plenty of diverse scenery and plenty of parks and campgrounds along the way. From Oklahoma City on West, Route 66 follows Interstate 40 fairly closely and offers plenty of places to camp for the night. As a bonus, most of the year the weather in the western half of 66 is almost always sunny with lots of cool nights and dry days. The sky is gorgeous and night time star-gazing is incredible. Here is a link to some of the campgrounds in the 8 states Route 66 touches. Campgrounds on Route 66 courtesy of ROUTE 66 NEWS.
Here in pictures is a sample of Route 66 starting in St. Louis. The Mother Road goes through the states of Illinois, Missouri, Kansas (13 miles), Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.
Get that teardrop in prime shape, buy a guidebook and plan the trip of a lifetime. Do your research and you will have a great time searching the Main Street of America for the old and the new places. Most of the original pavement is still driveable and many original businesses are still open to serve you. Talk to them and they will make your trip a wonderful, personal adventure.
A large number of the names in the guest registers in 66 businesses are signed by foreigners; English, German, Japanese, Sweden and other nationalities are fans of the old road and you can hardly travel it without seeing them. They have heard the hit song and seen the TV show and are excited about seing the country they grew up watching on the screen. What an advantage we have as 66 is in our own backyard.
I hope you enjoy looking at a few of the locations the old highway has to offer and I encourage you to do
some research and plan a trip. The more studying you do, the more fun and rewarding your trip will be.
Thanks for looking, Terry Beck
At one time this was Route 66, the Chain of Rocks bridge over the Mighty Mississippi River at St. Louis. The bridge with the "bend in the middle" goes from Missouri to Illinois and is now a pedestrian walkway. Note the curve in the photo above.
Chain of Rocks bridge over the Mighty Mississippi River -This display is near the St. Louis end of the bridge. A toll booth and an amusement park were both located at the western end of the bridge.
These old photos show that what is now a quiet place was once a busy spot. The amusement park operated until 1977 when the new Six Flags on the other side of town became too much competition for them.
Rolla, Missouri has been home to the Totem Pole Trading Post since 1933 and sits on 66 on the western edge of town. The original totem pole that was displayed on top of the building is now inside the store along with this pair of devil fish. One of the strangest things I have ever seen, this was quite a topic of conversation in my traveling group. The original owner's son was running the store this day in September of 2010 and he said his Dad bought them. The note on the display says "Caught in 1961 at Brownsville, Texas."
The Wagon Wheel Motel opened in 1936 and has been in continuous operation. Recently restored, the place is immaculate with all new accomodations inside. New owner Connie Echols has done a great job of keeping it alive and this day I caught her in the office playing cards with several of her friends. She gave me the keys to several rooms and went back to playing cards while I checked out the rooms. Note that the old picture on the left is the same building as the one in the picture above on the right. This is the office and the rooms are in the rock cabins behind.
This monument to the Trail of Tears is hidden in a curve on an old section of 66 near Jerome, MO. Several folk art pieces are hidden in the trees and bushes as the place is overgrown and has been neglected. Several rock art pieces can be seen by the roadside but behind the arch is posted. Lots of memories from vacations can be traced to this place from when it was alive.
Devil's Elbow, MO, named for a bend in this river that caused grief to loggers, is one of the quaintest spots on the old road. The tiny community has this little post office that offers a few staples for sale, apparently by the post master. The bridge the picture was taken from is one of the old steel truss type and lush grass below it near water-side offers camping on a carpet of green. This quiet spot is very old 66 and is on a bypass of a bypass that was old 66 and just near a famous section called Hooker Cut. I-44 now bypasses both of them.
The sign reads "Johns Modern Cabins" but they have all about rotted away. These once were cute log cabins for rent on 66 near Newburg, Missouri but now just memories and collapsing logs remain. Also here at one time was a tavern where a young man murdered his wife on Halloween in 1935. Today this spot is quite remote but just a few years ago I-44 ran just in front of it. Since then, I-44 has been re-routed so this old section of 66 sits alone and quiet across from the strip of bare land that was the old interstate. It is kind of eerie to visit it now.
Lebanon, Missouri is home of the Munger Moss Motel that opened in 1946. A favorite vintage Motel for avid 66-er's the place has been owned by Ramona and her husband since the early seventies. When I visited she was cooking country-fried steak and hollered to us in the lobby that she would be right out. Then she proceeded to advise us with her recipe for this dish. Below is the famous Route 66 decorated room at the Munger Moss, which is filled with photos from the highway. If you need a break from the teardrop one night, this would be a neat place to take it. Munger and Moss were previous owners that gave it the odd name.
On 66 in Springfield, MO sits one of the old Steak n Shake restaurants where the waiters wear black pants, white shirts and bow ties. Classy fast food!
Gary Turner owns this retro gas station that you can't miss if you are traveling old 66 in the Western part of Missouri and he can usually be found inside here ready to give you a lesson about the old days from when he drove the old road many times. Across the yard is a very old rock building with gas pumps, and other road memorabilia for your viewing pleasure. Gary lives in the great rock cottage just behind the station. He gives you an autographed photo of his place and takes your group picture too. He also encourages you to have your photo made in this new automobile. If you stop here plan to spend 30 minutes visiting with Gary and buy the cheapest souvenir shirts on the road. $7 buys any shirt, long sleeve or short, so don't pass this deal up.
This is Gary in his Sinclair hat offering the use of thie old crank phone to a lost customer.
Red Oak 2 is just a couple of miles east of Carthage and is an entire town from the early 1900's transplanted around a circle drive in the Missouri prairie. It is open to the public and persusers are welcome to walk around or drive and visit the vintage school house, jail, church, boot hill, barnyard, diner, gas station...you name. This is definitely one of the neatest places to visit on 66 and cannot be described. It is usually quiet and a few people live in some of the old houses arund the loop. Chickens and ducks run around the place and a metalworked sculptures old airplane sits among the other artwork. The concrete sidewalk with old metal tools, nuts, bolts, etc, flushed into the cement made a great looking walkway. Lowell Davis, an artist built this place as an homage to his childhood town, I believe. This gas station is typical of all the buidings here and all traces of the present except your vehicle are gone.
Carthage, Missouri is home to the original Route 66 Drive-In Theater (not pictured) which became a salvage yard for awhile before being restored back into its original purpose. Open during the milder months, it is a fun place to watch a couple of current movies.
Kansas is home to 13 miles of 66 and in the town of Galena is the orginal tow truck that the Pixar producers of 'Cars' saw and based the famous Tow Mater on. This place where he is displayed is called Four Women on the Route, a restored gas station offering souvenirs and food for sale, and is a couple of blocks north of the old road in downtown Galena. Definetely worth a stop and a picture for the kiddies, if not for yourself.
The Eisler Bros. store in Riverton Kansas, opened in 1925 and has been open ever since. Route 66 opened in 1926 so that makes this a rare spot since it is older than the Mother Road. This great old store just a few feet off of the road offers groceries, plants and other items, including a Route 66 room with memorabilia and literature for sale. A sandwich counter plus a covered front porch to eat it under make a fun place to visit for lunch. The Coke box has drinks chilled in ice water just like in the old days.
This original stretch of 66 is near Miami, Oklahoma and is still open to the public and driveable. It is 9 feet wide and my brother is proving iy by stretching from one end to the other. The white curbs are interesting and I think I read they created a problem because when it rained the water would bank up against them instead of draining and create a hazard. One car would have to pull over to let an oncoming vehicle by and I will bet this caused many fights along the way.
As you enter Oklahoma one of the first towns you come to is Commerce where Mickey Mantle grew up. You can see his childhood home in Commerce.
Foyil, Oklahoma was the home of Andy Payne, a teenager who won a foot race from Los Angelos, CA to New York City as it went down Route 66. He won several thousand dollars and it had to be interesting when he ran through his home town and was cheered on by fellow citizens. A statue of him stands near the highway. It was the Transcontinental Footrace in 1928. A few miles from Foyil is Totem Pole Park where this large totem pole and several other items are on display at the home of Ed Galloway who created these items during his lifetime. He was born in 1898 and died in 1962 and was quoted as saying “All my life, I did the best I knew. I built these things by the side of the road to be a friend to you.” Stop by and see your friends that Ed left for you to enjoy.
On Westward to Claremore where you have to visit the Blue Whale, an old swimming park that started as a gift a zoologist built for his wife for her anniverary. This place symbolizes the spirit of 66 as it stands for individualism and entreprenuerism, if that is a word. A relatively new roadside attraction, this was built in the early seventies. Both Hugh Davis and his wife Zelta enjoyed animals and beside the Whale is the decaying ruins of the Animal Reptile Kingdom (ARK) where the couple taught children about reptiles. Look across the street which is now busy highway 66 and you will see the buiding that was once the Arrowood Trading Post and still shows the name painted on it. This was ran by Hugh's brother-in-law, a full blooded Acoma Indian, Chief Wolf-Robe Hunt.
You would be plum crazy if you did not visit the Will Rogers Memorial while in Claremore, a beautiful tribute to one of America's best loved citizen's. Even if you don't know who he was, you will be entertained and a better person after learning about him. Also in town is the world's largest private gun museum which has some incredible displays. Both are free admission and accept donations.
Meramec Caverns is just west of St. Louis at Stanton, Missouri and have been advertising on barns over several states for decades. This cute little barn is seen after leaving Chandler, Oklahoma going west but you have to look over your shoulder to see it as it is for eastbound travelers heading towards St. Louis naturally.
The Rock Cafe in Stroud, Oklahoma is another 66 oldie and has strong ties to the 'Cars" movie too. The owner, Dawn Welch, was the human whom the character of Sally was based. This historic building burned down in 2008 but was rebuilt and reopened in 2009.
Before you get to Oklahoma City the town of Arcadia has the beautiful round barn to greet you at a bend in old 66. Built in 1898 this place too has been restored and another interesting stop as it has history and souvenirs for sale and another fellow 66'er inside to answer your questions. The upper floor is available for parties and all kinds of dancing except for one certain old-fashioned step. That's right, the 'square' dance is not allowed in the 'round' barn.
Not everything on 66 is old. POPS also in Arcadia and just a few miles from Oklahoma City is a sit down restaurant that happens to over over 500 flavors of soda pop. Lining the walls in perfect symmetry are an array of colored bottles of just about every flavor imaginable at its Soda Ranch. POPS opened in August, 2007 and serves over 1000 customers a day. The 66 feet tall LED bottle standing on the road can transform into an awesome display of colors moving up and down its rings at night. The next time I am there I want to try the last real Dr. Pepper made by a bottler in Texas who uses the original formula that most of us over 50 grew up drinking.
For a time of reflection, the Memorial in Oklahoma City offers a place to remember the bombing of the Federal Building. This beautiful spot is downtown and allows you to read the stories and pay respects to the citizens who were murdered there in April of 1995.
GAS STATION- RED OAK 2
After OKC you pass through Garth Brooks hometown and venture onto a quiet section of 66 through farmland as the hills and trees thin out and the view widens. You are now entering the changing landscape of the Western U.S. In Clinton is the famous Route 66 Museum, which is across the stree from the Hotel Elvis himself spend several nights in. It is also the same hotel where I forgot and left my favorite pillow in 2003.
As you near the Texas border you will come to the town of Sayre whose courthouse is seen in the famous Henry Fonda movie, "The Grapes of Wrath" from the Steinbeck book about folks in the dust bowl going West on 66 to find a better life in California. If you really get into the spirit watch this movie before yo head out with your teardrop and imagine what it was like for the millions who carried all their possessions on that trip. In Sayre also see this underground tunnel that allowed pedestrians to safely cross old 66 which was too busy to safely cross above ground. In this picture you can see the tunnel doorways on both sides of 66.
Wow, this teardrop page is getting rather long but I just want to note that I am not covering nearly all there is to see on 66, Oklahoma itself puts out a very nice, free guide to Route 66 that is several pages in length and quite detailed. You can pick them up while traveling or order a free one by mail.
Texas is so spread out that there is a lot of rooms between towns and quite a bit of the way 66 closely parallels Interstate 40 and is often used as the access road for the freeway. In Shamrock is the amazing U-Drop-Inn which is not to be missed and in Groom stands one of the world's largest crosses along with other sculptures from the figures of the New Testament and the crucifixion story. You have to be blind to miss the cross. Somewhere before McLean is the leaning water tower of Britten and the mini- water tower just West of it, quite interesting spectacles. The line points to the mini-tower on top of a sign pole.
As you leave Oklahoma and just before entering Texas you pass through the very still Texola and pass this old establishment. If you look on your left near the roadside just before entering Texas you can find a monument to the highway dedicating it to Will Rogers which was placed there in the 1950's.
In a field on the South side of I-40 and the Western edge of Amarillo is the only artwork I know of that you are encouraged to graffiti up with spray paint. A rich man had these 10 Cadillacs planted here for some reason and folks like me enjoy buying a can of spray paint at Wal-Mart and writing my name or anything else on them. I have never seen this field empty and usually there are folks coming and going out to this oddity which was created in the 1970's.
Heading toward the state line you come into the flat lands and one of the few towns out here to offer a place to eat is Adrian, Texas, home of the Mid Point Cafe, so named because it is about half-way from Chicago to Los Angelos. Good burgers and pies and a gift shop too. A block east of the diner is the place pictured here, once called the Bent Door due to the entrance door being.....bent. It was from an airport tower and the builder said he wanted his 66 business to be different. Well, it is. You can see the structure of the control tower on the left side of the building here. The last time I was here a lady had big plans for opening an eatery and an RV Park behind it. The blue 'street sign' you see on the left is one of several sponsored by the same man who funded the Cadillac Ranch. They have odd phrases on them that I have yet to understand. The 'Ant Farm' is the group of artists who come up with the ideas. This is mostly farm land and if you are low on gas, don't pass up a station, it may be awhile before you see another.
The border at New Mexico and Texas has an exit named Glenrio for the town that used to be here. It is kind of spooky at night and is pretty deserted. This Motel sign used to say FIRST MOTEL IN TEXAS and it was. The other side said LAST MOTEL IN TEXAS. You can only get here from the east by interstate but going West you have two old 66 options to Tucumcari, an old dirt road section and a nice two lane blacktop. You would need a guide book to find them and I would not recommend the dirt road pulling a teardrop.
It is very easy to follow Route 66 in Tucumcari as it is the main drag through town and passes lots of vintage Motel signs. It is about two hours from Amarillo so a lot of travelers end up here for the night. Not too many towns have the great neon Tucumcari has to offer, especially the Blue Swallow.
Santa Rosa is the next large town after Tucumcari and has many 'cool' places as I can testify to. The picture above shows my son and I jumping into the Blue Hole, a very cold, famous spring in the area that is popular for scuba diving as it is at least 80 feet deep and exteremely clear. This is quite a sight in this scrubby looking landscape. The old diner is one of several classic places to eat in this town.
Though not on 66, Fort Sumner, New Mexico is not too far south from here and you can visit the old Billy the Kid Museum. A few miles out of town is his gravesite, pictured here in a photo I took just at sunset.
This old trading post was once a very popular spot for native Americans until it burned down. It is supposed to be restored and reopened according to a recent news article. Notice the sign says it was featured in LIFE and LOOK magazine. Until the 1930's Route 66 took a northward turn and went through Santa Fe before arcing back down to Albuquerque. This old bulding is on the loop and most 66er's miss it. A fellow named Indian Dan who had a smalle grocery/ antique store on a reservation near here told me of how he and his Dad used to come here and that it was a special place for him. He also gave me a postcard of him in his Indian dance outfit. I really enjoyed talking with him and hearing his tales. I hope to visit him again some day.
Amarillo is loaded with vintage 66 Motels with lots of great road signs but it is the main drag through town so it is a very busy five lane with lots of traffic lights. If you go through town allow plenty of time for the busy intersections. After Amarillo you head into some of the neatest scenery of the Route as you enter Cubero, Budville, and come upon the Continental Divide. I had heard of this in my childhood and always wondered what it would be like. A few trading posts mark the spot here and you are heading into the wide open West along with lots of Native American country.
Near Thoreau, New Mexico I ventured off the beaten path and found some incredible scenery. These pictures can't portray the vivid colors of the land out here. To me it is like visiting the art gallery of the world's best artists.
Grants, New Mexico became a hot spot when uranium was found in the ground out here. After it ran out, the big corporations pulled out and the town is a shell of its old self. Quite a few old closed buildings run along Main Street 66 while I-40 traffic zips along just a mile or so to the South. Still Grants offer fast food and several Hotel chains if you need either and a Tru Value Hardware store that came in handy for me after I drove over a railroad crossing too fast and broke a latch on my teardrop. Not too far from Grants is Acoma Pueblo or Sky City, the oldest continuously inhabited dwelling in the U.S. It is open for tours. Also the fascinating El Moro National Monument is less than an hour from here and is far from the interstate. Besides being a very interesting place to face that only takes about an hour, the park also has a camp site for six bucks a night that will provide a night not to be forgotten. Water is available and toilets. If you need full hookups, just a mile or two away is an RV Park with a cafe. If you want a peaceful spot to camp with beautiful scenery, this is a good choice. With luck you can hear the wolves howling at dusk.
Nearing the western border of New Mexico you come upon the old town of Gallup and tis neat stretch of the old highway. Gallup is a thriving busy city and I-40 slashes right through the center of it it seems like. Old 66 and the railroad, which is very busy here, parallel the interstate and there are businesses for several miles along the Mother Road here. The Hotel below is a fun visit with charming western decor and was built to accomodate movie stars in the old days as many movies, especially westerns were filmed out here. The rooms have the names of famous guests displayed on their doors and the huge log lobby is filled with autographed photos of people you will recognize. Rumor is John Wayne rode his horse in here once. This is definitely a classic Route 66 stop!
The scenery is wide open out here and you can see for many miles. In the distance are huge walls of red earth with bands of varying color marking their composition that stretch for miles. At the border these red cliffs are used as a backdrop for several trading posts with indian teepees and blankets, wild animal figures and other tempting western themes designed to get you to stop and shop. This is a pretty incredible spot to walk around and look at the huge rock cliffs towering behind the trading posts and perched on the cliffs are horses, hawks, and other animal figures, put there just for you.
Here we go into the seventh state on the trek toward the Pacific, the amazing state of Arizona. If you have not seen the Grand Canyon then what are you waiting for. It is a rite of passage for Americans. But before you get there you will come to the Petrified Forest National Park which takes a 27 mile drive through the Painted Desert, so you can see both in one loop af a road that allows easy viewing of them.
One view of what the painted desert has to offer above and a picture of the newly renovated Painted Desert Inn built in 1924, both are seen in the National park. The entrance is from I-40.
If you where to find it, the Painted Desert Trading Post still stands a few miles off of Pinta Road exit from I-40. It sits in a serene spot on old, old 66 which is now about overgrown with weeds but is still driveable. I visited it in a Lincoln Towncar twice. In the distance the interstate can be seen but no heard a mile or two south. This would make a fun teardrop spot, but would be a bit spooky due to its isolation. Old 66 that leads to this store continues across an old concrete bridge and finally is closed off as reaches the border of the Petrified Forest National Park. The scar of 66 can be seen running through the Park.
66 has been over ridden by I-40 quite a bit out here in eastern Arizona but there are still unique places to visit. Stewart's Petrified Wood also sells meteorites and here are several large space rocks you can get a grip on. They are very heavy. This place also sells ostrich eggs for $20 and I asked what people did with ostrich eggs. The answer is make one big omelet. I'll stick to chicken eggs until the price comes down.
You are not allowed to pick up petrified wood in the park but plenty of places sell it. This store is Holbrook had the best selection and prices I saw along with great museum quality displays inside. Holbrook also has an old courthouse with lots of history on display and a scary old jail too. Holbrook was a wild west town and retains a lot of old signs and buildings to make it very nostalgic. The Wigwam Motel is here too with the teepee rooms for rent.
Below is San Diego Ralston's Old Frontier Trading Post in Joseph City, Missouri. It later became Ella's Frontier, this is one of my favorite photo stops. Joseph City was founded by the Mormon's in the 1800's. The famous Jackrabbit Trading Post is out here today, famous for it's big, yellow billboards posted all over the highway proclaiming, "Here It Is!"
Arizona is my favorite state because it is so wide open and unexplored. Old structures and even metal junk don't deteriorate like they do in Arkansas. Stuff just hangs around longer in this climate and I love finding old junk and looking through old buildings. Who doesn't? After Holbrook somewhere in this vast expanse of land is my favorite Route 66 location. Two Guns, Arizona is a large collection of tourist traps where entrepreneurs tried over and over to make a go of it. The interstate exit leads to no businesses in operation anymore but several dead ones. The history goes way back to the 1800's and includes, mystery, murder, animal attacks and an indian massacre in a hidden cave that once was open for touring.
The state now owns the property and it is open for exploring at your own risk. Canyon Diablo runs right through and an old concrete bridge towers several feet over the canyon and makes for an uptight crossing wondering if the large, cracking bridge will hold up for one more car. I spent a few night teardropping out here and enjoying the clear sky and dark, star light sky. A book about Two Guns was written in the sixties and can be found online and True West magazine had an article on the indian massacre in the Apache Death Cave that is on the same web site as the book.
The 'town' of Two Guns is on the south side of the Two Guns I-40 exit. On the north side an old dirt road takes you a few miles to the ghost town of one of the meanest of the cowboy towns called Canyon Diablo where just some rock remains can be found along the railroad track. The track ended here when this town was in its prime because the Canyon was too big to cross. When it finally did become trestled the town was no longer needed and died out. One old grave lost in the large landscape out here can be be found with some exploring. It belongs to Herman Wolf who started the trading post out here. I ventures across the long train bridging over Canyon Diablo to read the sign on the other side that was facing me. When I got over there, the small letters printed out the warning, "Do not cross track." Kind of funny. Here is Herman's grave with the town in view behind it.