Route 66 Honeymoon Days 3-4: Cuba, MO to Sepulpa, OK
Day 3 of our Route 66 Honeymoon Extraordinaire. We woke up in the classic Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, MO to find this super-sweet note from the couple in the room next to us. I briefly met them the night before, but names weren’t even exchanged. They were really nice, but we had just smiled and said hello in passing.
They left us Girl Scout cookies! Seriously, people in Illinois and Missouri, at least on these stretches, are the nicest people on the planet. Southern hospitality, my ass. These people make Atlanta residents look like…well, I’m having a happy trip so we won’t discuss my opinions on where I currently reside right now. Below is another photo of the Wagon Wheel and – little downtown Cuba is covered completely with historical murals – photos of said murals. There were tons…I picked a couple of my favorites but I have more if you ever want to see. They’re pretty amazing.
This roadside trading post holds the Guiness Record for World’s Largest Rocker. Yes, like the World’s Largest Covered Wagon, that really exists.
Another trading post in Rolla (which was supposed to be Raleigh but this was their interpretation of a Southern accent. No kidding.) Usually this hillbilly’s arms are flailing. I guess he wasn’t excited that day. We found a really cool salvaged Pepsi crate there for $15. Sold.
Super cool bridge on a very remote stretch of Route 66 in Devil’s Elbow, MO. Photos can’t show how incredible this view was…you just have to see it yourself.
Residents of Waynesville, MO decided this rock sticking out of a cliff looked like a frog. So they painted it like one. If only everything in life were that easy.
Abandoned buildings in the Ozark foothills.
Lebanon, MO. We found what looks to be the remains of a couple of old diners, the Munger Moss Motel which is still fully functional, and Wrink’s Market, which went under when Mr. Wrinkle passed 8 years ago. We wound up eating at this great little local place called Fay’s that has one of the coolest collection of old license plates from every single state as well as other countries on the walls, most donated by patrons.
We passed the ruins of an old school or rec center in Philipsburg. When we stopped, the lady across the street hollered at us, “Congratulations!!” We still have “Just Married” on the back of the car (so cops will leave us alone!) “Take lots of pictures!” she called. “It’s famous!” Missouri people are so cool.
Near Strafford, MO is the Wild Animal Safari. If you are ever in the area, you have to do this. No question. You can feed the animals. Lots…and lots…of animals…First there is a petting zoo, then you drive your car through miles of backcountry where exotics animals come up to your car and eat your hand off. The animals are all rescues and seem extremely happy – probably because they just chill and are fed all day.
The following photos are from the drive-thru safari. We saw how ligers are made, evidently. The water buffalo nearly ate Adam’s hand off and he was covered in buffalo drool…He was yelling, I had tears from laughter, couldn’t breathe. We were chased by emus who learned that if they stand in the way of your car, you will have to throw food off the sides to get them away. If you don’t, they run up the car and stare at you. “I know you have food, fool!” We were also chased by these zebra-donkey hybrids called zedonks who evidently run faster on gravel than an SUV can drive. This place was awesome.
Just outside Springfield is an old drive-in sign and an abandoned motor court. We also ate the oldest existing Steak and Shake, circa 1930s. They still do curbside service.
Super creepy ghost town at a crossroads with an abandoned casket shop. At dusk. We didn’t stay long.
Paris Springs, MO is the home of the completed restored Sinclair gas station with one Mr. Gary Tucker. This gentleman has met more people and has more stories about Route 66 than anyone we’ve met so far. He gave me a shirt as a wedding gift and sat with us on his front porch for a while, just chatting. He told us this trip would change our lives and we should take the time to really experience the journey, not rush just to get to Santa Monica. His words really hit home. We later found out Mr. Tucker has been voted the number one character on Route 66. I would abide by that…such a cool guy.
Old bridge outside of Spencer, completely renovated tourist stop in Spencer, and an abandoned schoolhouse in Phelps. A lot of these towns that flourished when Route 66 came through their areas completely died when the interstate system was created. Not just the businesses…the schools, libraries, churches. Everything. They’re evidence how sometimes what we consider progress – like interstates, shiny new buildings, Walmarts – can be so damaging to our culture.
We stayed at the Boots Motel in Carthage, MO. It only recently reopened, and you have never met women who love their local history and this little motor court more than the current owners. One even lives on the property. 5 of the 13 rooms have been renovated – the innkeeper showed us around every one of the finished rooms (each with a different flair) as well as one of the unrenovated ones. They are completely true to the original rooms – no TVs, old-time radios, vanities with original mirrors, and even the original doors that Mr. Boots created from scratch. We stayed in room 10, where Clark Gable used to stay on his way cross-country. Seriously. Recommend, recommend, recommend. My favorite stop so far.
The old 66 Drive-In in Carthage still plays every weekend.
Joplin, MO has recovered nicely from the tornado, but we still saw some evidence on the outskirts of town.
Kansas! All 13 miles of it. We met Melba the Mouth in Galena, the proprietor of “Cars on the Route.” “Mater” from the movie “Cars” was inspired by a tow truck on their property, of which the Roaming Animal was a fan. We also met a mother and daughter from Kentucky doing a Route 66 trip in the same direction we were – we wound up meeting many – and also found some cool murals throughout Galena. We had lunch in the Eisler Brothers Store in Riverton and stopped off at the Rainbow Bridge, on the National Register of Historic Places as the oldest domed bridge on the route. We ran into the ladies from Kentucky there too.
Oklahoma…very, very straight and flat. (Insert joke here.) Commerce, OK is home to Mickey Mantle, but Miami next door isn’t afraid to own it (check out the photo of us from Miami’s tourism center.) Miami also has a beautiful old theatre, the Coleman, that reminds me of the Fox. Except their community theatre performs there. I would die.
There are several different incarnations of Route 66. We ventured onto the O.G., the oldest. They didn’t have enough concrete, so they only went across 9 feet. For 9 miles. That’s right, we braved it. I do what I want!!
There used to be a buffalo ranch at this truck stop in Narcissa. The wind was blowing so hard I literally had gravel in my ear.
Old remnants of motor courts and tourist traps between Afton and Foyil, OK.
Ed Galloway created the Totem Pole Park on his property in Foyil. There is seriously a 90-foot totem pole surrounded by shorter, 10 foot or so. Something else I couldn’t make up if I tried. It’s just kind of awesome. It’s off the beaten path a couple of miles, but so worth the trip.
Then there’s Blue, the renovated roadside attraction whale in Catoosa. They are trying to raise money to restore the ark on the property. I heart Blue. Blue rocks.
The stretch through Tulsa, OK is a little terrifying. The tourism board in Tulsa is doing everything in their power to draw Route 66-ers to town, and the residents make it very clear that, with the rare exception, they do not want you there. Most were incredibly rude and disengaged. If you take the trip, still give Tulsa a chance because the sites deserve it and the city put the work into it, but be wary of the locals. We did have a really good lunch at the Rancho Grande, a Mexican restaurant from 1951, and they pretty much built a shrine to the salvaged Meadow Gold sign. The wind was blowing like crazy, but we braved downtown (almost wrecked twice when we were cut off and flipped off by locals, felt like home) where we were chased away by a bellhop who yelled that we were not allowed to take photos of her building. Damn shame I had already taken two, one of which is now posted publicly. Seriously. People in Tulsa are not a happy bunch.
We stayed for the night in Sepulpa, where an evicted couple was moving into a downstairs room. The hotel itself was part of a very respectable national chain, but the people staying (read: living) there were interesting, as evidenced by the collective lack of teeth and good skin. At that point, we were praying Oklahoma could win us over the next day!