New Mexico’s Salinas Pueblo Missions

Where are the missions?

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument is located near the town of Mountainair in central New Mexico. The national monument features:

  • Main visitor center at Mountainair with a small museum
  • Three mission sites with visitor centers and restrooms at each
  • Bookstores and gift shops at each visitor center
  • Accessible paved walking trails with wayside exhibits
  • Periodic night sky events
  • Free admission

The park’s website can be accessed here.

Snow dusted peaks near Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument.

Why is this site significant?

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument preserves the ruins of three pueblos which were important trading hubs long before Spanish explorers arrived in the 1580s. Salt was harvested from nearby dry lakebeds (salinas) and became the primary commodity for trade at these pueblos. Due to the abundant salt trade, the Spanish government named the area the Salinas Jurisdiction. Other commodities such as pinion nuts and squash were used for trade purposes as well. The missions were built by Spanish priests who were sent to the Salinas Jurisdiction during the early seventeenth century to convert the Puebloan people to Christianity. Drought, famine, disease, and marauding Apaches drove the occupants of these sites away during the late 1600s. While the mission buildings remain today as important archaeological sites, there are still unexcavated mounds which contain remnants of the original pueblos.


Abo (pronounced Ah-bow) was the first stop on our visit. The site is located nine miles west of the main visitor center in Mountainair.

Spanish missionary Fray Francisco Fonte arrived at Abo in 1622 and took up residence in the pueblo until a church and convento (living quarters) could be built. Over the next six years, the Puebloans under Fonte’s direction, built Abo’s first mission church and convento, Mission of San Gregorio de Abo. In 1629, under the direction of another priest, renovations began on the original church and a larger church was built around it. The remains of the second church are what we see today.

The remains of Abo’s church and convento.

Interestingly, Abo’s church also features a kiva which is where Puebloans held their own religious ceremonies. No one knows why the priests would have allowed a kiva to be built in a Catholic church. However, popular belief is that the priests allowed the kivas as a compromise in order to aid in the Puebloans’ transition to Christianity.

Artist’s rendering of how Abo may have looked at its height.

Abo was abandoned in 1673 and remained unoccupied for over a century. Spanish sheep herders settled into Abo around 1815 only to abandon the site in 1830 because of Apache raids. Permanent settlers, namely the family of Juan Jose Sisneros, arrived in the late 1800s and claimed Abo as their home. Descendants of the Sisneros family still live in the area today. The State of New Mexico took over the site in 1938.  

Built from mission rubble, reoccupation structures were constructed and utilized from 1815 – 1830 by Spanish sheep herders.

After visiting Abo, we backtracked to Mountainair, and then it was on to our next site, Gran Quivira.

Gran Quivira

Gran Quivira (pronounced Gran Kuh-veera) is located 25 miles south of the Mountainair visitor center. The largest of the three Salinas Pueblo Missions, Gran Quivira is also the most excavated. Contact with Spanish explorers first occurred in 1583, then again in 1598 when the Don Juan de Onate expedition arrived and referred to the pueblo as Las Humanas.

Artist’s rendering of how Gran Quivira may have looked to Spanish explorers.

Gran Quivira became a satellite mission of Abo in 1629, and at that time, construction began on the first mission church, Iglesia de San Isidro. Construction of the newer, larger church, San Buenaventura, began in 1659 under the direction of its new priest, Fray Diego de Santander.

Remains of San Buenaventura and convento.

Gran Quivira was once a large city occupied by 1500 – 2000 people. A few yards east of the San Buenaventura church lies a small hill, now known as Mound 7. Excavations of the large mound during the mid-1960s revealed the remains of a 226-room pueblo as well as an older pueblo underneath.

Mound 7

According to the National Park Service, indigenous people lived on and around the site for 1200 years. We thought this was interesting because Gran Quivira did not have a nearby water source. Residents had to carry water from distant springs to the site.

Excavated remains of Mound 7.

By 1672 the people of Gran Quivira had gone, leaving the once grand city to lie abandoned for more than 100 years. Eventually, travelers and explorers began to show interest in the site during the mid to late 1800s. President Taft preserved Gran Quivira by establishing it as a national monument in 1909.

Now on to Quarai…


Quarai (pronounced Quar-eye) is located eight miles north and one mile west of the main visitor center in Mountainair. Fray Juan Gutierrez de la Chica established the Quarai Mission in 1626, and under his direction construction began on the church in 1627. The church, La Purisma Concepcion de Quarai, was completed in 1632.

La Purisma Concepcion de Quarai

Like Abo, Quarai has a kiva in its convento. Spanish missionaries most likely thought it would not be a good idea to completely disregard the Puebloan’s old religion while attempting to establish new beliefs. The artist’s rendition below shows what Quarai pueblo might have looked like at its peak.

Like Abo and Gran Quivira, drought, famine, disease and attacks by hostile Apaches caused Quarai’s people to abandon the site in 1678. Settlers Juan and Miguel Lucero brought their families to live at Quarai in the early 1820s when some of the buildings were still habitable. The Lucero family made repairs to the convento and church and then built new homes which are now known as the Lucero Structures.

Some of the remains of the Lucero Structures.

Apache raiders destroyed the Lucero’s homes and burned the church in 1830, causing the Lucero family to abandon Quarai. Some of the Lucero family returned a few years later and began rebuilding as well as adding additional structures. Miguel Lucero sold the property in 1872. Today, the Hopi and Zuni people claim they are descendants of the people of Quarai.

View from inside the church.

The state of New Mexico took over Quarai in the 1930s and preserved the site as a state monument. In 1980, the National Park Service expanded Gran Quivira National Monument to include Quarai and Abo. Renaming of the monument to Salinas Pueblo Missons took place in 1988.

Visiting Salinas Pueblo Missions

There are few accommodation options in the small town of Mountainair. However, there are several options for hotels and RV parks in the cities of Socorro which is south of the national monument and Belen which is north. Both cities are less than an hour’s drive via I-25. Undoubtedly, a visit to the missions would make a perfect day trip from Albuquerque, which is just over an hour north, also via I-25.

The interstate is that way!

We didn’t find much in the way of eateries in Mountainair, but there are a couple of cafes as well as a deli in the local grocery store. Furthermore, we found only one convenience store gas station, and of course the prices were high.

Regardless of where it’s located, the national monument was absolutely worth the trip. The history, the wide-open spaces, and the scenery made for a wonderful road trip adventure. We spent about an hour at each pueblo mission site, and the drive time added another hour and a half to our visit. As always, we recommend making the visitor center the first stop. We also recommend visiting during the spring or fall as the summer heat and the winter cold may be uncomfortable for some.

This scene from Gran Quivira probably hasn’t changed much over the centuries.

Thank you so much for joining us at New Mexico’s Salinas Pueblo Missions!

Need additional road trip ideas? Take a look at these other great New Mexico destinations:

Fort Union National Monument
Albuquerque to Taos Road Trip: Things to Do
Pecos National Monument
Ruidoso Road Trip: Things to Do


Happy, safe travels, y’all!

Mike and Kellye

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.



A Road Trip in Ruins

Some of you might be wondering why we haven’t posted in a while. Well, it’s because we’ve been on the road. Now that we’re home, we look forward to sharing our latest adventures with you, so stay tuned. In the meantime, here’s a short synopsis of some of what we encountered on our latest winter road trip.

New Mexico

This is what the central part of eastern New Mexico looks like. The only wildlife you might see when traveling this road is a pronghorn or two and possibly a hawk. Mainly it’s wild grasses and cactus for what seems like endless miles and hours. We were glad to finally see mountains (and even a little snow) when we got to central New Mexico.

Our trek covered some fun cities and national parks in central and southwestern New Mexico and southern Arizona. The trip was fun and uneventful except for some weather issues. On day two we were met with 70 mile per hour winds near Las Cruces, New Mexico. Not only were we plagued with zero visibility in the blowing dust, but a tractor-trailer rig blew over in front of us and blocked the interstate. Fortunately, the driver was only slightly injured but had to be pulled out of the cab through the broken windshield. We didn’t get any photos because it was just too terrifying trying to help the driver and worrying if drivers behind us were going to see that traffic was stopped.

Blowing dust on I-25 near Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Our planned hike in the mountains at Las Cruces was out of the question, so we spent a couple of hours eating lunch in a Subway sandwich shop and watching the awnings over their windows blow away. Luckily, our hotel let us check in early enabling us a place to get out of the wind.


Day three was perfectly gorgeous: a bit chilly but with just a slight breeze. As we drove toward our first stop of the day in Arizona, we began to see some snow-capped peaks. But when we crossed the border, Arizona greeted us with gorgeous desert peaks, all topped with glistening snow. It was a scene that we would see throughout our trip, but it got even better.

Snowcapped mountains in southern Arizona.

Our first destination of the day was in those mountains, but not at a high elevation, so the weather was perfect for hiking and perusing the park site. We were blessed with perfect hiking and sightseeing weather for the next few days until we woke up to the scene below on day six. Our itinerary called for a morning of hiking in a national park, so we went prepared to be cold and muddy.

View from our hotel room on Day Six. It was amusing to see palm trees and snow in the same shot.

As luck would have it, the skies cleared, and we were able to enjoy the park as planned. While driving northward toward our next stop, we saw even more frosted peaks with fresh snow. 

Then we saw this:

There were nine of them, but we couldn’t get them all in one shot.

One day we went from this cold and wet mountainous landscape…

We have high praises for snowplow operators!

…to this dry and windy desert landscape, all in the matter of a few hours.


In all, we traveled through three desert ecosystems with each one being unique in its climate, flora, and fauna. We also saw some breathtaking mountain scenery along with a few lonely backroads. Where Arizona meets Mexico, we saw the border wall and talked to a park ranger who regularly shares her lunches with hungry immigrants who have crossed said wall.

This is a spectacular cloud rainbow that we saw while we were on a backroad in Arizona. It’s fuzzy because we took it with a fully zoomed cell phone through the windshield while looking directly into the sun and driving down the highway!

It was an amazing road trip covering just under 2,400 miles. With that said, you might be wondering about the title of this post. No, it wasn’t a ruined road trip at all, even though we had to change the itinerary a couple of times due to snow. For now, let’s just say we learned a lot of history, visited some nice towns and cities, and did a lot of walking, hiking, and eating. We’re excited to be back in the blogosphere and cannot wait to share our latest destinations with you!

Mike and Kellye






Vulcan: A Birmingham Icon

Vulcan, the largest cast iron statue in the world, stands in Vulcan Park on top of Red Mountain in Birmingham, Alabama. A depiction of the Roman god of fire and forge, he is the symbol of the city due to its locally abundant reserves of coal, limestone, and iron ore and its history of using those resources to make iron.

Standing guard over Birmingham.

Vulcan is composed of 29 separate pieces that are bolted together inside the body which stands 56 feet tall and contains 100,000 pounds of iron. 

Vulcan statue, the city symbol, Birmingham, Alabama - original digital file | Library of Congress
Vulcan holds a spear in his right hand. His left hand holds a hammer which rests atop an anvil. Photo Credit: Carol M. Highsmith, Library of Congress

The Birth of Vulcan

In 1903, the Birmingham Commercial Club commissioned Italian-born artist Giuseppi Moretti to sculpt the statue that would become the city’s entry in the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Moretti made the molds, and the Birmingham Steel and Iron Company cast them to complete the statue. Vulcan and his representation of Birmingham’s iron industry was such a hit at the fair, also known as the St. Louis World’s Fair, that he won a grand prize. 

A historic image of the exhibit at the St. Louis World’s Fair.

Vulcan’s Life in Birmingham

Following the World’s Fair, Vulcan was disassembled and sent by rail back to Birmingham. Sadly, the statue’s parts were dumped next to the railroad tracks because of unpaid freight fees. Someone finally took pity on the poor guy, and he reappeared in Birmingham at the Alabama State Fairgrounds. Despite his missing spear and his arms reassembled incorrectly, Vulcan became an advertising gimmick. During his stint at the fairgrounds, he advertised Coca-Cola, ice cream, and even Heinz pickles!

Vulcan holds what we believe is a snow cone (or maybe popcorn) in his left hand.

Vulcan Gets a Permanent Home

In 1936, several Birmingham civic groups and various government agencies, including the Works Progress Administration, raised money to build a park to serve as Vulcan’s permanent home. Once the land atop Red Mountain was acquired, a park was created along with a 126-foot-tall sandstone pedestal for the statue. As Vulcan was affixed to the pedestal, it was filled to the chest with concrete for stability. Vulcan Park was dedicated on May 7, 1939, with a crowd of 5,000 people in attendance.

The first piece of the Vulcan statue, a leg and foot, is hoisted to the top of the pedestal.
Kids pose on Vulcan’s 11,000 lb. head while the statue’s pieces await their permanent home.

In 1946, a green neon light was placed in Vulcan’s right hand to promote traffic safety. Though after fatal traffic accidents, the light would glow red for 24 hours.

We believe this aerial view of Vulcan shows the traffic safety light in his right hand.

From 1969 to 1971, the park and pedestal underwent a $1 million renovation with the pedestal being clad in beige marble. Renovations included the addition of an elevator and an enclosed observation deck.

Vulcan after the 1969-1971 renovation showing the marble clad pedestal, elevator, and enclosed observation deck.

Vulcan’s Latest Restoration

In the early 1990s, engineers determined that Vulcan was at risk of collapse. Concrete and cast iron do not expand and contract at the same rate which took a toll on the aging statue, so plans began for another major facelift. This time, however, the repaired and repainted statue would be fitted around a steel framework rather than concrete for stability. Restoration efforts, which were completed in 2004, included restoring Vulcan and his pedestal to their original 1938 appearance and the construction of Vulcan Center. 

Everything old is new again!

Vulcan Park

The park features beautiful landscapes with green spaces, accessible walkways, and a terrace that is perfect for picnics.
A view of downtown Birmingham from Vulcan Park.

The park’s interesting museum, which is located inside Vulcan Center, covers the history of Vulcan as well as the history of Birmingham. For visitors who want to take home a souvenir or two, Vulcan Center also features a gift shop.

Since 1949 Vulcan Park has shared its space atop Red Mountain with two television stations and their towers, however, the park remains a beautiful oasis in their midst. For additional information, click here: Vulcan Park.

The grass terraces shown above were originally cascades, but the water features were eliminated during the renovation that was completed in 1971.

Did You Know That Birmingham Also Has a National Park?

Visitors to Birmingham should not miss the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute as an integral part of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument. The monument is relatively new and still under development, however, visitors to the park can visit several historic sites. The Civil Rights Institute is a Smithsonian Institution affiliate and features exhibits covering the history of the American Civil Rights Movement. Visitors will need to purchase timed tickets online.

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
Included in the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, 16th Street Baptist Church is where four young girls were killed in a racially motivated bombing in 1963.

This is just one of nine national park sites in Alabama. We are anxious to visit the rest of them and, of course, we will share them with you. Thank you so much for joining us in Birmingham!

Looking for more American road trip ideas? Check these out:

Fort Union National Monument

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Franconia Notch State Park

  Safe travels, y’all. We will see you on the road.

Mike and Kellye

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.





Clinton Presidential Library

The William J. Clinton Presidential Library

Where is it?

The Clinton Presidential Library is located at 1200 President Clinton Avenue in Little Rock, Arkansas.

In addition to the library, the site features:

  • Clinton Presidential Park – 30-acre city park
  • Anne Frank Installation – outdoor exhibit featuring a history of human rights issues
  • William E. “Bill” Clark Presidential Park Wetlands – restored wetlands with a boardwalk
  • Clinton Presidential Park Bridge – 1899 steel truss bridge spanning the Arkansas River as part of the 14-mile Arkansas River Trail
  • Choctaw Station, Sturgis Hall – 1899 restored railroad station that houses the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, and the Clinton Foundation offices

The library’s website can be accessed here.

A glimpse of downtown Little Rock from Clinton Presidential Park

What is it?

Presidential libraries are part museum and part archives. In 1955, Congress passed the Presidential Libraries Act which, through establishment of the libraries, preserves documents and artifacts pertaining to our presidents. The 15 current presidential libraries are overseen by a division of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Hope, Arkansas

Our visit to the Clinton Library actually began 112 miles southwest of Little Rock with a stop at Bill Clinton’s birthplace in the small town of Hope, Arkansas. Hope is not only famous for being President Clinton’s hometown, but it is also the hometown of former Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee. Huckabee ran for the Republican nomination for president in 2008 and 2016. Actress Melinda Dillon of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “A Christmas Story” fame is from Hope too. Hope’s next biggest claim to fame is that it is the watermelon capital of Arkansas. We think that’s a pretty decent resume for a town with less than 8,800 residents.

President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site

“In this house I learned to walk and talk. I learned to pray, I learned to read, and I learned to count by number cards my grandparents tacked on the kitchen window.” ~President Clinton, Dedication Speech at the Birthplace House in 1999.

Bill Clinton’s birthplace home

Bill Clinton was born William Jefferson Blythe, III, in 1946, just three months after his father’s death in an automobile accident. He and his mother, Virginia, lived in the home with her parents until Bill was four years old. The house, which is available for ranger-guided tours, represents a typical 1940s era home.

In 1950, Virginia married Roger Clinton, Sr. who owned an auto dealership in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The couple eventually divorced but remarried shortly thereafter. Bill had adopted Roger’s last name at a young age, however, when he was fifteen years old, he formally changed his last name to Clinton out of respect for his mother’s second marriage to Roger.

Link to the website: Clinton Birthplace

The Clinton Presidential Library

Oval Office replica

One of the library’s most popular exhibits is a full-scale replica of President Clinton’s Oval Office. A replica of the historic Resolute Desk, which was given to President Rutherford B. Hayes by Queen Victoria in 1880, is the centerpiece of the exhibit. The items on the desk actually sat on President Clinton’s desk in the White House Oval Office.

The Cabinet Room

Another of the library’s permanent exhibits, the Cabinet Room, is a replica of the meeting room where cabinet members as well as presidential advisors make decisions that affect our country.

Timeline exhibit

Features of the library include a timeline covering the highlights of Clinton’s presidency, as well as exhibits and documents regarding domestic and foreign policy, artifacts depicting life in the White House, and thousands of other items. In all, the collection includes over 100,000 objects and artworks. Additionally, the library’s archives include: 78 million pages of official records, 20 million emails, 2 million photographs, and 12,500 videotapes.

This photo shows a foreign policy display as well as one of the many cherry wood cabinets that are seen throughout the library and house over 4,500 boxes of documents and records.

Although we enjoyed all of the museum exhibits, our favorite was the extensive collection of gifts that were given to Bill and Hillary Clinton during his presidency. Perhaps the most notable object in the collection, though, is the 10-foot-tall Dale Chihuly blown glass sculpture, titled “Crystal Tree of Light”. Chihuly created the sculpture for the White House Millennium Celebration in 1999.

Crystal Tree of Light

Clinton Presidential Park

While we enjoyed the Clinton Presidential Library, we absolutely loved the park surrounding it. The grounds, which abut the Arkansas River, feature paths for walking and biking. Some paths, such as the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge, connect to the 14.2-mile Arkansas River Trail as well.

The Clinton Presidential Park Bridge was originally a railroad bridge that dates to 1899. Renovations to convert the bridge to a pedestrian and cyclist pathway were completed in 2011.

Additionally, the William E. “Bill” Clark Presidential Park Wetlands provides a peaceful place to walk, learn, and reflect. The 13-acre green space preserves a variety of plants and serves as a riparian wildlife habitat.

William E. “Bill” Clark Presidential Park Wetlands

Thanks so much for joining us at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library! We are closing the post with a view of the Arkansas River.

Trivia: The McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System originates at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa, Oklahoma and runs 445 miles through Oklahoma and Arkansas to the Mississippi River. While the primary waterway is the Arkansas River, the navigation system also utilizes the Verdigris River in Oklahoma, the White River in Arkansas and the Arkansas Post Canal. The Tulsa Port of Catoosa is the farthest inland port in the United States, but remarkably, it isn’t the only port in Oklahoma. The city of Muskogee also has a port on the Arkansas River.

While you’re here, check out these other exciting road trip destinations:

Strawbery Banke Museum and Portsmouth, New Hampshire

National Route 66 Museum

Annapolis, Maryland and the United States Naval Academy


Travel safely, and we will see you on the road!

Mike and Kellye


As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.






Texas Panhandle – Route 66

Welcome to Texas

The road itself became less desirable as we made our way from the Oklahoma state line to Shamrock, Texas on our “Eastern Texas Panhandle Route 66 Tour”. Here, the route runs next to I-40, which isn’t very exciting because there is nothing unique about driving this part of the route. We stayed true to our plans though and made the 20-minute drive while watching the I-40 traffic whiz by us in the opposite direction.

Shamrock, Texas

For those who have seen the movie “Cars” the highlight of Shamrock will be reminiscent of Ramone’s Auto Body and Paint Shop in the movie. Tower Station, also known as the U-Drop Inn and the Tower Cafe were built in 1936. The gorgeous Art Deco style building passed through several owners until it was foreclosed on in the mid-1990s. Shamrock’s First National Bank gave the building to the city in 1999. The city procured a $1.7 million-dollar federal grant to refurbish its beloved landmark, and restorations were completed in 2006. The property was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.

Tower Station, Route 66, Shamrock, Texas.
The U-Drop Inn Cafe is located on the opposite end of the building. A Chamber of Commerce visitor center sits between the gas station and the cafe.
A view inside the cafe today. By the way, their food is great!

We are particularly enamored with the Tower Station because we watched it transform over the course of several years during its renovations while traveling I-40 to Oklahoma City.

Ironic twist: This new Tesla charging station is right next to the cafe. Times are certainly changing!

The Tower Station isn’t the only refurbished filling station in Shamrock, we also found this nostalgic Magnolia Station. The station originally opened in 1929.

Magnolia filling station, Shamrock, Texas.

In addition to the sites we’ve highlighted here, Shamrock’s stretch of Route 66 features several vintage hotel properties and other gas stations that are either closed or are being used for other purposes. We spent over an hour checking out the town before grabbing a bite at the U-Drop Inn cafe. Then we were on our way to our next stop, McLean.

McLean, Texas

The tiny town of McLean has an interesting history. An English cattle rancher by the name of Alfred Rowe, who sadly died in the sinking of the Titanic, donated the land for the town in 1901. Prior to that time, there was nothing on the future townsite except for a railroad stop used for loading cattle for transport. The railroad built a water well and the town began to grow when a post office opened in 1902. By 1903, the town claimed two banks, two cafes, and a newspaper, among other thriving businesses. Route 66 came through the town in 1927, and by that time, McLean had established itself as an oil, gas, and agricultural hub. In 1929, McLean became the home of the first Phillips 66 Service Station in Texas.

Though it needs a little TLC now, this Phillips 66 was the first restored station on old Route 66.
We’re kind of enamored with the cottage gas stations.
The name Phillips 66 and their shield shaped signs, which were introduced in 1930, are in honor of Route 66.

Trivia: Barbed wire is also known as devil’s rope. McLean is home to the Devil’s Rope Museum which a contains a large collection of information and examples of different types of barbed wire. The museum is housed in a former brassiere factory and also features some Route 66 memorabilia.

Alanreed, Texas

Alanreed’s townsite was selected because it was on a stagecoach route between two of the Texas Panhandle’s first two towns. Before Alanreed had been formally established, the community had been called Springtown, Spring Tank, Gouge Eye, and Prairie Dog Town. The official name came from the railroad surveying company, Alan and Reed, which laid out the townsite. In 1901, the first school was built, and a post office was moved to Alanreed from six miles away in 1902. At its height in 1927, the town’s population reached 500. Over the next four decades, Alanreed’s population rose and fell but never again surpassed 350 residents. By 2001 there were reportedly only 52 people and a couple of businesses left. We saw no signs of commerce or inhabitants when we visited in 2022.

We found this Texaco service station in what used to be downtown Alanreed. A sign on the building says the service station was built in 1930 by Bradley Kiser. The building with the Merit Feed & Seed sign appears to be an old garage.
This is the landscape around Alanreed and McLean which are just seven miles apart on old Route 66.  The land shown here once belonged to Alfred Rowe’s 100,000-acre RO Ranch. The RO, though now much smaller, still exists today under different ownership.

Groom, Texas

Groom is still a thriving little town with a population of 547 residents. As with many of its neighboring towns, Groom was established on ranchland and grew because of the railroad. Today, the town’s claim to fame is the 190-foot Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the second largest cross in the Western Hemisphere.

The Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ was built in 1995.

Around the base of the cross are thirteen stations of the cross, depicting Jesus’ walk to Calvary on the day of his crucifixion, plus the tomb and resurrection site. Other features include a replica of the Shroud of Turin and a gift shop.

Stations of the Cross
The Thirteenth Station.
The beautiful Divine Mercy Fountain.

The leaning Britten USA water tower is on the I-40 access road (old Route 66) on the east side of Groom. Once an advertisement for a truck stop that burned down in the 1980s, the purposely tilted water tower is a favorite Route 66 landmark.

Sixteen miles to our next stop…

Conway, Texas

Conway is a ghost town with little left standing to indicate that a town ever existed. A closed hotel and cafe, an old school that has been closed for years, and a couple of grain elevators are pretty much all that’s left. However, where old Route 66 intersects with I-40, there is one landmark that is a popular stop for Mother Road travelers – Bug Ranch!

Bug Ranch, Route 66, Conway, Texas

Bug Ranch was created as a takeoff on the iconic Cadillac Ranch (located 35 miles away in Amarillo, Texas) to attract travelers to a gas station, trading post, and rattlesnake ranch at Conway. As with Cadillac Ranch, the five Volkswagen Beetles buried nose down have become a place for visitors to express their creativity with spray paint. The spray paint doesn’t stop with the cars though. The surrounding buildings have also become “works of art”, one of which is our featured photo.

Tumbleweeds grow among the cars and buildings of Bug Ranch.

Next stop: Amarillo…

Trivia: Pantex, located 17 miles northeast of Amarillo, is the nation’s only assembly and disassembly facility for nuclear weapons. The plant is Amarillo’s largest non-school district employer with over 4,000 full-time employees.

Amarillo, Texas

Amarillo was established in 1887 as a cattle shipping center and soon became the largest “cow town” in the world. At times there were 50,000 head of cattle in pens around Amarillo just waiting to be shipped. By 1910, the city was home to almost 10,000 residents, and today’s population tops 200,000. Amarillo means yellow in Spanish.

Route 66, Amarillo, also known as Amarillo Boulevard and Business I-40.

There are several old hotels, gas stations, and other businesses on the old Route 66 through Amarillo, but nothing that really grabbed our attention. The historic 6th Street area boasts of its Mother Road roots, but it is mostly bars, restaurants, a couple of galleries and an antique shop or two. Amarillo does have some great attractions, but most of them are actually on I-40. Cadillac Ranch and the Big Texan Steak Ranch are probably the most iconic. Speaking of icons, the beautiful and talented Tula Ellice Finklea was born in Amarillo. 

Cadillac Ranch
Home of the free 72 oz. steak dinner if eaten within an hour!

To see the best things to do in Amarillo, check out our post Amarillo, Texas. We have come to the end of our Route 66 adventure – at least for now. Illinois, and the entire western half of the route are on our list to do at some point. Stay tuned for those posts in the future. Thank you so much for joining us on the Mother Road.

Need more American road trip inspiration? Check out these great destinations:

Rocky Mountain National Park

Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park


  Safe travels, y’all. We will see you on the road!

Mike and Kellye

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.




Route 66 – The Adventure Continues

Oklahoma City was the halfway point on our Route 66 adventure through Oklahoma, although we didn’t stop there. We have spent a lot of time in Oklahoma City over the years and decided to skip it for the sake of saving time. Though for anyone who has not visited Oklahoma’s capital, we highly recommend spending a few days checking out everything this wonderful destination has to offer.

The Gold Dome Building, Route 66, Oklahoma City. Built as a bank in 1958, and designed by renowned architect, Buckminster Fuller, the building is one of the city’s most iconic sights.

Trivia: The world’s first parking meter was installed in downtown Oklahoma City in 1935. Additionally, shopping carts, bread twist ties, and aerosol cans were all invented in Oklahoma.

Parking meters in downtown Oklahoma City.

Now, back to the route…

Arcadia, Oklahoma

Inside the city limits of Edmond, Oklahoma lies the one square mile town of Arcadia. The tiny town is home to two favorite Route 66 stops: Arcadia Round Barn and Pops.

Round Barn, Route 66, Arcadia, Oklahoma

Arcadia Round Barn

The unique round barn was built in 1898 by William Odor. The reason he went to the trouble to build a round barn: he thought if it was hit by a tornado, the tornado would go around it instead of through it. By the 1970s the structure had almost collapsed, but volunteers in and around Arcadia came together to restore the old barn. Restoration efforts were completed in 1992 and the round barn has been a beloved Route 66 landmark ever since. Admission to the barn, which also features a gift shop, is free.


Pops is a convenience store, restaurant, and gas station located just around a curve from the round barn. Its claims to fame are its thousands of bottles of soda pop in hundreds of varieties and its landmark pop bottle sign.

Pops iconic 66-foot-tall soda bottle, its height a nod to its Route 66 location.

Colorful sodas on glass shelves line the store’s windows.

Having only been open since 2007, Pops isn’t one of the vintage Route 66 stops, but it has become a very popular one. While there, we opted for a grape soda and a root beer. We don’t usually drink sugary sodas, but when in Rome… Would you try a spaghetti or blue cheese dressing soda?

Spaghetti? Not for us, thanks.


Moving on…

Will Rogers

One of the Route 66 nicknames is the Will Rogers Highway. Oklahomans are passionate about the label because Will Rogers was, and probably still is, their favorite native son. Will Rogers was born a citizen of the Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory (about half of Oklahoma before it became a state) in 1879 to parents of mixed heritages. In his lifetime, Rogers wore many hats: cowboy and rodeo star, humorist, world traveler, and actor. He even took a brief turn as Mayor of Hollywood, California. Rogers was best known for his acting career which found him first in vaudeville shows then in Hollywood where he appeared in seventy-one movies. He also wrote a humorous political column that was syndicated in over 4,000 newspapers. Rogers, along with fellow Oklahoman and aviator Wylie Post, died in 1935 when Post’s plane crashed in Alaska Territory.

One of the many Will Rogers Highway/Route 66 wayside monuments in Oklahoma.

As we made our way along Route 66 in Oklahoma, we found impressive granite “Will Rogers Highway” wayside markers at many of the landmarks. The one above outlines the history of Lucille’s Filling Station near Hydro, Oklahoma.

Lucille’s, Route 66, Hydro, Oklahoma

Clinton, Oklahoma

Our only stop in Clinton was at the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum which should not be confused with the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma.

We found this museum to be exceptional as it truly does tell the story of the route through Oklahoma. Carefully curated displays take visitors through the decades of the Route 66 era complete with vintage vehicles, multimedia presentations, and plenty of other sights and sounds. Click on any image below for full views.

Service stations were such an important part of the history of Route 66

We spent about an hour and a half here, though we could have stayed longer. The Oklahoma Historical Society has done an outstanding job with this museum, and we believe it is a stop that any traveler would enjoy.

Traveling on, we skipped Elk City and Sayer because we had visited those cities on a previous trip.

Erick, Oklahoma

Continuing on the route, we arrived in Erick just after noon on a Saturday. Erick is a neat little town surrounded by ranch land and farms. Sadly, its main street and downtown appeared to be completely deserted when we were there. Erick is the hometown of singer-songwriter, Roger Miller, of “King of the Road” fame. The town once had a museum dedicated to Miller, but it is now closed. We found the mural below featuring Miller on an empty building that may have once been the museum.

Roger Miller mural on Route 66 aka Roger Miller Blvd., Erick, Oklahoma

Erick’s other claim to fame is that it is also the hometown of singer and actor, Sheb Wooley. Wooley’s hit song “The Purple People Eater” hit number one on the Billboard pop charts in 1958. He also co-starred as Pete Nolan on the TV series “Rawhide”, among other acting roles. We didn’t find a mural of Wooley in Erick, however, we did find the Sandhills Curiosity Shop, another source of inspiration for Disney Pixar’s movie “Cars”.

Sandhills Curiosity Shop, just off Route 66, Erick, Oklahoma

Trivia: Sheb Wooley recorded the Wilhelm Scream sound effect that has been used in hundreds of movies and TV shows since 1951 and is still being used today. Check it out here: Wilhelm Scream.

Route 66 between Sayre and Erick was a divided highway and one of the nicest parts of the Mother Road that we experienced on our trip. The four-lane road continued to Texola, Oklahoma (a ghost town) and went back to two lanes just past the Texas border.

Goodbye, Oklahoma. It’s been fun!

Thanks so much for cruising Oklahoma’s Route 66 with us! One more post covering our Mother Road stops in the eastern half of Texas is coming soon.

If you love American road trips as much as we do, check out these other cool places:

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Antietam National Battlefield

Abilene, Texas Road Trip: Things to Do


Safe travels, y’all. We’ll see you on the road!

Mike & Kellye


As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.















More Kicks on Route 66

More Kicks on Route 66 – Eastern Oklahoma

Our recent Route 66 trek began in St. Louis, Missouri and ended in Amarillo, Texas. We drove about 800 miles between the two cities over four days. Traveling Route 66 truly is a kick, but navigating it is sometimes tricky. Although, having to get on and off of the interstate highways when the route ends or backtracking because it’s easy to get lost is just part of the adventure.

Now, on to our first stop…

OK-KS-MO Tri-State Marker

Three state corner – Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma – stand in all three states at once!

Thanks to Google Maps, we had to backtrack to find this off-route site. While Google took us close to it, we kept ending up at a casino and resort in Oklahoma. We finally found it on an almost hidden gravel road next to the resort. Sadly, after all the time and gasoline spent looking for the marker, we found it to be quite unremarkable. We got the cheap thrill of standing in three states at once though, so the stop wasn’t a total failure.

The original marker was built in 1938, but it is about 50 feet from the actual point.

Tired and hungry, we got on the turnpike, paid our toll, and headed west. We couldn’t find a place to eat, so we got back on Route 66 near Afton, Oklahoma hoping to find food. All we found was barbecue, so we paid another turnpike toll and headed to Catoosa which was our stop for the night. Just when we were both on the verge of becoming hangry, we were gifted with a spectacular Oklahoma sunset. Oh, how nature’s beauty soothes the soul!

Shot with an iPhone while driving 80 mph down the interstate! Not too bad for a couple of tired and hungry amateurs.

Catoosa, Oklahoma

Catoosa is located on the banks of the Arkansas River and is home to about 7,100 residents. A couple of museums, the Hard Rock Casino, and the Tulsa Port of Catoosa also call the city home. The reason for our stop? The Blue Whale of Catoosa, of course!

The Blue Whale of Catoosa, Route 66, Catoosa, Oklahoma

In the early 1970s, Hugh Davis built the whale on the edge of his family’s swimming hole as an anniversary gift for his wife Zelta who collected whale figurines. Local residents showed so much interest in the site that the Davis family eventually added a picnic area and opened it to the public. The swimming hole was closed in 1988 due to Hugh’s failing health. He died in 1990. When Zelta died in 2001, the park fell into disrepair, however, local volunteers joined forces to restore the beloved whale. The City of Catoosa purchased the property in 2020, and today it remains a favorite stop for travelers on Route 66.

Signpost showing other Route 66 icons and their distance from the Blue Whale.

Oklahoma, the eastern part of which was known as Indian Territory
prior to becoming a state, has some of the greatest place names ever. Most of them are from Native American names or words, such as: Quapaw, Catoosa, Pawhuska, Chickasha, and Watonga, just to name a few. Our next stop got its name from a derivative of the Creek tribe’s word tallasi which means “old town.”

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Windshield shot of Tulsa’s skyline as we pulled into town. We apologize for the bugs.

With only a couple of things we wanted to see in Tulsa, we didn’t spend much time there. Our goal was to see relatives who live just south of the city. Luckily, we were able stop long enough to learn about Cyrus Avery, the “Father of Route 66.”

Sculpture “East Meets West” – Robert Summers, 2012 – Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza, Tulsa

This beautiful bronze sculpture depicts Avery stopping his Ford on the 11th Street Bridge as the automobile startles two horses pulling a wagon carrying oil barrels.

U.S. Highway 66 Association

In 1927, while serving as a member of a board appointed to create the Federal Highway System, Cyrus Avery successfully advocated for the establishment of the U.S. Highway 66 Association. The association was instrumental in ensuring that the road was paved in its entirety, a major undertaking which was completed in 1938. Furthermore, the association continued to promote Route 66 tourism for more than forty years. In 1970 the association changed its name to Main Street of America Association. However, with new interstates bypassing the old highway, or replacing sections of it completely, the association dissolved in 1976. Click here for a short National Park Service article about the origins of Route 66.

The 11th Street Bridge, Tulsa, Oklahoma. Note the art deco railings.

One picture, three eras. The photo above shows the current Route 66 Bridge (left) crossing the Arkansas River, the original Route 66 Bridge (middle) also known as the Cyrus Avery Memorial Bridge, and Interstate 44 (right). Cyrus Avery Memorial Bridge is included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Pedestrian bridge over Route 66, Tulsa

University Club Tower, Tulsa, Oklahoma

We found the 32-story University Club Tower apartment building to be intriguing with its retro vibe and location overlooking the Arkansas River. Completed in 1966, the tower is supposedly the first major building in the U.S. to be designed using a computer.

Moving on Down the Road

Mainer Ford in Bristow, Oklahoma. The building, while delightfully deco, was actually built in 2010 and features a very cool retro neon sign. We applaud Mainer Ford for keeping the spirit of Route 66 alive.

Here’s the cool retro sign for the Skyliner Motel in Stroud, Oklahoma – an oldie but goodie – and the motel is still in business!

Trivia: Indian Territory, which was comprised of most of the eastern half of Oklahoma, almost became the state of Sequoyah. Tribespeople living in Indian Territory held a constitutional convention and overwhelmingly voted for Sequoyah’s statehood. However, due to party politics on the national level, the plan failed. The people of Indian Territory were forced to see their lands merge with Oklahoma Territory to become the 46th state as Oklahoma officially joined the union on November 16, 1907.

Route 66, The Mother Road, America’s Main Street, Will Rogers Highway – they’re all names for America’s U.S. Highway 66.

Chandler, Oklahoma

Chandler, Oklahoma helps to preserve its Mother Road heritage with the Chandler Route 66 Interpretive Center. The center is housed in the Chandler Armory building which was constructed in 1937 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. While the center is part museum, it also has a gallery that features videos and artwork depicting the history of the route. We enjoyed watching the videos from the unique seating the center has installed for the comfort of its guests. It even has vinyl beds to lounge on while watching the videos. Needless to say, it is a very laid back, relaxing experience, especially for weary travelers.

Chandler Route 66 Interpretive Center

We found this painting of Chandler’s Phillips 66 Cottage Gas Station in the interpretive center. The actual building is pictured below.

The colorful Phillips 66 Cottage Gas Station in Chandler, Oklahoma was built in 1932 and continued to function as a gas station until 1992.

Warwick, Oklahoma

Eight miles west of Chandler is Warwick, Oklahoma, home of the Seaba Station Motorcycle Museum. We spent over an hour in the museum where we saw some unique motorcycles and learned the history of the building as well.

Seaba Station

The building was constructed for use as a gas station in 1921 by John Seaba and his wife, Alice. Later John turned the building into a machine and engine rebuilding shop but sold the business in 1951. In 1995, the building was sold again, refurbished, and reopened as an antiques store. The current owners purchased the property in 2007 and have restored the front to look like the original gas station. The addition of the motorcycle museum was completed in 2010.

Inside the motorcycle museum

This bike is outfitted with a Johnson Motor Wheel which turned an ordinary bicycle into a motorcycle and cost about $80.00. Circa 1920.

Trivia: Oklahoma’s official state meal includes barbecued pork, chicken fried steak, sausages and gravy, fried okra, grits and squash. The state bean is the black-eyed pea, and the state fruit is the strawberry. Pecan pie is the official state dessert.

This is where we close the post but stay tuned for more of our Route 66 adventure coming soon. Thank you so much for joining us on the eastern half of Route 66 Oklahoma.

If you like American road trips, we think you will enjoy these posts:

Route 66 – Missouri

Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire

Death Valley National Park


Travel safely, and we will see you on the road!

Mike and Kellye


As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.








Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield

Where is it?

Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield is located at 5242 S. State Hwy ZZ,
Republic, Missouri.

The thistle and other wildflowers were showing off their end of summer beauty when we visited Wilson’s Creek.

The park features:

  • Visitor center with gift shop
  • Museum
  • Self-guided auto tour
  • Hiking and horseback riding trails
  • Civil War research library – by appointment only

When using Google Maps for directions to this park, be sure to use the address above in Republic, Missouri. This public service announcement is brought to you by our wild goose chase through Springfield, Missouri’s industrial district.

Here is a link to the park’s website: Wilson’s Creek 

Wilson’s Creek

Why is Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield significant?

The Battle of Wilson’s Creek, which took place on August 10, 1861, was the second major battle of the Civil War and the first battle west of the Mississippi River. Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon was killed in the battle and was the first Union general to die in action in the Civil War. Confederate troops, who outnumbered the Union troops by almost double, won the battle giving the Confederacy control of southwestern Missouri.

Interesting map showing Civil War battles in the western U.S.

Trivia: Nearly as many men died in Civil War prison camps as died in the Viet Nam War.

Did the battle at Wilson’s Creek result in Missouri’s secession?

No, although the state remained deeply divided throughout the Civil War. While some Missourians wanted to secede from the Union to join the pro-slavery Confederate States, others chose to side with the pro-abolitionist Union. Missouri, according to Wikipedia, “…sent armies, generals, and supplies to both sides, maintained dual governments, and endured a bloody neighbor-against-neighbor intrastate war within the larger national war.”

The Ray House

Ray House, Wilson’s Creek

An excerpt describing the Ray family and their house from the National Park Service’s wayside information board:

“The Ray House is the only park structure on its original site that dates back to the Battle of Wilson’s Creek. Postmaster and farmer John Ray built it in the 1850s. For ten years it served as the Wilson’s Creek Post Office, a stopping place on the old Wire Road that connected Springfield, Missouri with Fort Smith, Arkansas. In 1861, twelve people were living here: John and Roxanna Ray, their nine children, and a mail carrier. Their slave “Aunt Rhoda” and her four children occupied a small cabin to the rear of the house. On August 10, 1861, they found themselves in the path of war.”

The Ray’s original springhouse still exists today.

The Ray family used the cool springhouse as a place to store perishable foods, and it also provided them with water. Their house served as a Confederate field hospital during and after the battle. Water from the springhouse was vital to the wounded soldiers as well as to the surgeons tending to their injuries.

John Ray stood on his front porch and watched the battle take place in his cornfield and on Bloody Hill. The rest of the family hid in a cellar, but when they emerged hours later, soldiers who lay wounded and dying were everywhere in and around their house.

Trivia: Senator John J. Crittendon of Kentucky had two sons who became generals during the Civil War – one for the North and one for the South.

Bloody Hill

This is an unnamed section of Bloody Hill where Lyon began his advance. The Ray House is located near the barely visible clearing on the horizon at center right.

The Battle of Wilson’s Creek began and ended at Bloody Hill. Union soldiers managed to hold their ground for a while, but they were dreadfully outnumbered. Finally, with a quarter of their men lost after five hours of courageous fighting, the Union soldiers were forced to retreat. Among the dead was their leader, Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon. Lyon was a fearless warrior though. He was shot in the knee and in the head, and his horse was also killed. Even after suffering two life-threatening wounds, he mounted another horse and continued to lead his men in the battle. A third and final shot to the heart was the mortal wound.

A three-quarter mile trail at Bloody Hill takes visitors through the Union line and other areas where the battle took place.

In the chaotic aftermath of the battle, Lyon’s body was somehow forgotten on the battlefield. Confederate soldiers found his body and took it to the Ray house where they placed it on a bed in their living room so a surgeon could assess the wounds. (The bed is on display in the park’s museum.) Lyon’s final resting place is in a family cemetery in Eastford, Connecticut, although he was initially buried on a farm in Springfield, Missouri. Click here to read some interesting personal recollections of Lyon’s post-mortem and first burial.

Trivia: The Gettysburg Address is one of the greatest and most famous speeches of all time, but it contained just 272 words and was only two minutes long.

Thank you for joining us on our visit to Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield!


Need more road trip inspiration? Click on these great destinations:
Antietam National Battlefield
Portland, Maine
Gettysburg National Military Park

Travel safe, and we will see you on the road.

Mike and Kellye  


As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.









Route 66 – Missouri

While the title of our post is Route 66 – Missouri, we have covered the route stops we made in Kansas too. Kansas only has 14 miles of the route, but we didn’t want to leave it out. Enjoy the trip!

Americana at its best!

The Route

U.S. Highway 66, better known as Route 66, was the first paved highway to connect the Midwest to the West Coast. The highway runs 2,448 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles, passing through the states of Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. After the creation of the first national highway system, construction on the road began in 1926.

Route 66 was decommissioned in 1985 which led to the demise of many small towns and businesses whose survival depended on the road. Today the cities and states through which the old route passes preserve portions of the original road. Additionally, in 2001, the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program was established to help preserve historic places along the route. Administered by the National Park Service, the program collaborates with businesses, cities, and others by providing cost-share grants for restoration of some of the route’s icons.

Our kind of backroad. With the occasional farm, a few scattered houses, and a town once in a while, Route 66 through Missouri looked much like this.

Click here for a short National Park Service article on the history of Route 66.

Cuba, Missouri

The Missouri stretch of the Mother Road begins in St. Louis, or Joplin depending on which direction you’re going. However, our journey began in St. Louis, and we hopped on and off the route as we navigated our way through the city. Our first stop was in Cuba where we had lunch at Missouri Hick Bar-B-Q. The restaurant is not an original icon on the route, though with their delicious food it is undoubtedly a new one. Who doesn’t love a barbecue restaurant that has five different sauces on its tables along with cucumber and onion salad on their menu as a side?

Missouri Hick Bar-B-Q

Next door to Missouri Hick is the historic Wagon Wheel Motel which opened in 1936 as tourist cabins along with a gas station and cafe. Originally named Wagon Wheel Cabins, the motel was a popular stop on Route 66. During the mid 1940s the gas station and cafe were sold separately to other owners. A change of the name to Wagon Wheel Motel came with a change in ownership in 1947. In 2003, the motel was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and upon receiving grant assistance through the National Park Service, it was renovated in 2010. The Wagon Wheel still hosts overnight guests as the oldest continuously operated motel on Route 66. Today the gas station and cafe house a gift shop.

Route 66 icon – Wagon Wheel Motel

The Wagon Wheel Motel’s gas station and cafe

Navagating the Route

By the time we left Cuba, we had figured out how to travel the route using Google Maps. Even though we had three Route 66 guidebooks at our fingertips, Google turned out to be a better option for us. Google doesn’t show the route as a major highway, nor does it use the old road for trip planning. However, Route 66 is designated on Google Maps and can be seen by zooming in on the screen. Our trick was to ask Google for directions to the next town on the route and selecting the “avoid highways” option. This method worked very well for us though we did refer to the guidebooks at times. Sometimes the route dead ends, which requires getting on the interstate.

The Fanning Route 66 Outpost and General Store is located four miles west of Cuba, Missouri in the unincorporated community of Fanning.

The Route 66 Red Rocker sits next to the Fanning Route 66 Outpost and General Store.

Built in 2008 for the purpose of becoming the world’s largest rocking chair, this big guy actually claimed the Guiness Book of World Records title. However, a bigger rocking chair in Casey, Illinois took the title away in 2015. Renamed Route 66 Red Rocker, it is now touted as the biggest rocker on the route. The gigantic chair is 42 feet tall, 20 feet wide, and weighs in at 27,500 pounds.


Yes, it’s a place. Yes, it’s a funny name. And yes, there’s a guy in Missouri who is laughing all the way to the bank! According to the guy, Louie Keen, who is the owner and mayor, Uranus is not a town it is a destination. We thought Uranus was the ultimate tourist trap, and we are (almost) ashamed to admit that we dropped a wad of cash there.

Uranus – good for some kicks on Route 66

The fudge factory does, in fact, have some of the best fudge we’ve ever tasted. We ended up leaving there with some of the chocolate-peanut butter, the cookies and creme, and Butterfinger flavors. All were sinfully delicious. Unfortunately, the gigantic gift shop attached to the fudge factory was out – yes, out – of Christmas ornaments. What tourist trap gift shop runs out of Christmas ornaments? Anyway, since ornaments are the only souvenirs that we ever buy, we had to settle for this car air freshener:

We’re almost afraid to open the package for fear of it smelling like an overly strong pine scented cleaning product. Maybe we will just leave it in its wrapper and find a place for it on the back of the tree.

Nope, definitely no false advertising here. There really is a Circus Sideshow Museum in Uranus, and at $6.00 per person… Well, let’s just say it was a deal for somebody, but not us. Though for those who’ve never seen a real merman or a two-headed baboon, it might be worth the money.

There’s even a jail in Uranus.

Moving on to Lebanon

Lebanon, Missouri was a nice place to stop for the night. While we did cruise Route 66 through the town, we didn’t find much in the way of nostalgic sights. Like so many cities on Route 66, old motels and gas stations that are now other businesses or in ruins are basically all that are left. We did, however, find a lovely city park that had murals and timelines depicting the city’s history and Route 66 heritage.

Mural in Boswell Park, Lebanon, Missouri

After being in the car all day, we were glad to have time to learn about the city and take a short stroll around the park’s pretty garden area.

After leaving the park, we headed to the most famous Route 66 icon in Lebanon: The Munger-Moss Motel. Nellie Draper Munger and her husband, Emmett Moss opened a cafe and filling station on the site 1945. In 1946, they added the motel which, under different ownership, still welcomes guests today.

Route 66 icon

Although the motel looks very nice, the vintage sign is what we fell in love with. With its mid-century style and bright colors, it brought back childhood vacation memories for both of us.

The neon sign was refurbished in 2010 with a grant share through the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see it at night. Though we did get to eat dinner at a great restaurant, Brickhouse Grill, which serves classic American fare ranging from wings and burgers to steaks and seafood. The food and service were wonderful, creating a perfect ending to a long day on the route.

Carthage, Missouri

For those who might be wondering why we skipped Springfield, it’s because we chose to visit a couple of national park sites instead. Since we’re trying to visit all of them, national parks are always our first priority. After the second park, however, we got back on Route 66 at Carthage. Carthage has several notable Route 66 sites, but our mission was to see the Jasper County courthouse.

Jasper County courthouse

The Jasper County courthouse was built in 1894-1895 and is constructed of local Carthage marble This gorgeous building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Town square, Carthage, Missouri

While we were there, we took a stroll around the town square. Our walk led to learning about a Civil War battle that we had not heard of before. The Battle of Carthage took place right where we were in the town square on July 5, 1861.

From Carthage, we took Route 66 west to Joplin. There are some murals that we wanted to see there, but not much else with regard to nostalgia. However, we arrived in the 5:00 traffic, and by the time we got to our turn-off downtown, we found the streets blocked off for some sort of street fair. Of course, we were disappointed, but we decided to skip Joplin and drive on to Galena, Kansas.