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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.

Uranus

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.

Mural in Galena, Kansas

The Kansas Stretch

The Kansas stretch of Route 66 was only ever 14 miles long, but remarkably, 13 of them are still drivable. Our first stop was in Galena which is a delightful small town.

Cute Texaco gas station that is now a curio shop, but since it was early evening when we arrived, they were already closed.

Our camera battery died after the shot above, but that didn’t stop us. We drove through the charming little town that helped inspire the Pixar movie “Cars” and used our cell phones for photos. Another converted gas station, Cars on the Route, is a cafe and gift shop that features some of the characters from the movie. We didn’t see Lightning McQueen or Doc Hudson, but the place was fun to see and photograph.

Cars on the Route. We do love retro gas stations.
A replicated “Tow-Mater” at Cars on the Route
“Red” was the shy fire engine in the movie.

After Galena, we drove 12 miles to our next stop near Riverton, Kansas. Brush Creek Bridge is the only Marsh Rainbow Arch Bridge remaining on Route 66 in Kansas. Two others were dismantled in the 1990s. The concrete bridge was built in 1923 and is still drivable! Also known as Rainbow Bridge, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Grant share funds helped make repairs to the bridge in 2005.

Rainbow Bridge

Thanks so much for joining us on Route 66 through Missouri (and Kansas)! Stay tuned for “More Kicks on Route 66” through Oklahoma which is coming soon.

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

Bar Harbor, Maine

Abilene, Texas Road Trip: Things to Do

Death Valley National Park

 

Travel safely, and we will see you down 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.

©2022

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amarillo, Texas

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Not far from the halfway point on the old Route 66 lies the city of Amarillo, Texas. Today, I-40 bisects the city which is hard to miss on any mid-America east-west road trip. Amarillo is a classic, from it’s Route 66 historic area to its museums and quirky Americana. Road trippers will want to spend a day or more checking out everything this city has to offer.

On the beaten path…

American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Museum

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For those who aren’t horse people (we aren’t) and especially for those who are, this is a fantastic experience! Located in a beautiful building at 2601 I-40 east (I-40 and Quarter Horse Drive), this museum and hall of fame is definitely worth a stop for an hour or two.

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Bloodlines from the first recorded quarter horse in America in the 1700s to present day are shown on the floor of the stunning Grand Hall.

Cadillac Ranch

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Ten old Cadillacs (we only captured seven of them due to mud) buried nose down in a field just west of Amarillo on the south side of I-40. Bring your spray paint and leave your own mark on this American classic art installation.

 

Jack Sisemore’s Traveland RV Museum

Bring on the nostalgia – this place is fun and free! Located at 4341 Canyon Drive (off of I-27 and Georgia). Enter the RV dealership for an escort out to the museum. Below are some of the vintage RVs and motorcycles that are on display.

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Trivia: Wally Byam incorporated the Airstream travel trailer company in 1931.
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Happy Max. 1948 Flxible used in the movie “RV” starring Robin Williams.

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1918 Harley Davidson motorcycle with rare left-hand side car.

The Big Texan

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Other points of interest on the beaten path:

  • Route 66 Historic District – west of downtown, beginning at SW 6th Street and McMasters.
  • Amarillo Zoo – 700 Comanchero Trail.
  • Wonderland Amusement Park – 2601 Dumas Drive.

Off the beaten path…

Coyote Bluff Cafe

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Located at 2417 S Grand, this place has some of THE BEST BURGERS we’ve eaten anywhere! Love the laid-back atmosphere here, too. Arrive early for lunch. There are only twelve or thirteen tables and they fill up fast.

Helium Monument

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Officially called the Helium Centennial Time Columns Monument, the 60-foot tall stainless steel structure was erected in 1968 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the discovery of helium. Four time capsules dedicated to the preservation and responsible use of natural resources are contained in the columns. The first capsule was opened in 1993, and the second in 2018. The other two will be opened on the hundredth, and thousandth anniversaries of the 1968 establishment of the monument. Amarillo is home to a former helium plant and the Texas panhandle once held most of the world’s helium reserves.

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Other points of interest off the beaten path:

  • Bill’s Backyard Classics. Classic car museum – 5309 S Washington Street.
  • Texas Air & Space Museum – 10001 American Drive.

Quirky…

Ozymandias on the Plains

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These “two vast and trunkless legs of stone” are located near the southeast corner of the intersection of I-27 and Sundown Lane, south of town. We suspect that people are using their leftover spray paint from Cadillac Ranch to keep this sculpture colorful.

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Second Amendment Cowboy

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This big (muffler man) guy can be found next to the Cadillac RV park at 2601 Hope Road and the south I-40 frontage road, west of Amarillo and just east of the Cadillac Ranch. The site also includes three old Cadillacs that have mannequins of Willie Nelson, John Wayne, and Elvis sitting in the driver’s seats, and a gift shop. The marker in front of the cowboy is a faux historical marker that touts our Second Amendment right to bear arms, but surprisingly the cowboy does not have a gun. Side note: the RV park is fabulous!

Nearby points of interest…

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument

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  • Website: Alibates Flint Quarries
  • Cost: free
  • Visitor center hours: daily 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
  • Where: approximately 40 minutes north of Amarillo off of Highway 136
  • Hiking trails
  • Ranger led tours of the quarries by reservation only

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Come here to learn about the Plains Indians who quarried the harder-than-steel flint to make arrowheads and spear points. Dating as far back as 13,000 years, flint from these quarries has been found far and wide. While at the visitor center, watch a film about the monument, and then enjoy the small museum.

Lake Meredith National Recreation Area

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  • Website: Lake Meredith
  • Cost: free entrance
  • Visitor center located in Fritch, Texas open daily 8:00 am to 4:30 pm, except holidays
  • Where: seven minutes west of Fritch, Texas, which is approximately 40 minutes north of Amarillo
  • Hiking, RV and tent camping, boating, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, hunting
  • Hotels, additional RV campgounds, restaurants, and groceries available in Fritch and in Borger, which is approximately 20 minutes east of Fritch

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Check with the park regarding lake levels and boat preparation before arrival. Hunters must comply with park and state regulations. Texas fishing licenses are required. Camping is free at all sites, except for the electric/water hook-up sites at Sanford-Yake. See the website for details.

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Other nearby points of interest:

  • Palo Duro Canyon State Park – approximately 30 minutes south and east of Amarillo. Beautiful Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the US. Click here for our Palo Duro Canyon post.
  • Large Cross in Groom, Texas – approximately 45 minutes east of Amarillo on the south side of I-40. Great stop with Stations of the Cross, which are life-size sculptures depicting the crucifixion of Jesus, and a visitor center that displays an exact replica of the Shroud of Turin. Free, but donations are appreciated.

Okay, that’s going to do it for our Amarillo, Texas overview. We hope you enjoy your journey. We love that you joined us on ours. Please come back again! You never know where we’re going to take you. Until next time…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

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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.

©2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Petrified Forest National Park

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  • Website link: Petrified Forest National Park
  • Cost: $20.00 per car (one week pass)
  • Hiking, biking (on paved roads), backpacking, horseback riding, backcountry camping with permit
  • Scenic drive
  • Historic Landmarks
  • Museums
  • Picnic areas
  • Restaurant in the park
  • Accommodations and restaurants in Holbrook, Arizona (30 miles west on I-40 or US Highway 180). Check out the Wigwam Motel for some Route 66 nostalgia. Here’s a link: Wigwam Motel. RV campgrounds also available in Holbrook.
  • When to go: anytime, but note that summer temperatures can be very high.

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The Teepees

Petrified Forest National Park is 208 miles from Albuquerque, New Mexico, which has a major airport. This is our starting point, so gas up the car, drop the top, and turn on some golden oldies. We’re going to get some kicks on Route 66!

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From Albuquerque, take I-40 west toward Gallup, New Mexico via Grants. Cross the Arizona state line and continue on I-40 to Petrified Forest National Park. Drive time between Albuquerque and Petrified Forest: 3 hours.

*Recommended hotels in Albuquerque: Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express

Campgrounds and RV parks are also available in Albuquerque.

Bonus stop: El Malpais National Monument. Website link: El Malpais. Stop by the visitor center in Grants, New Mexico then head south on Highway 53 to the monument. Entrance is free. Drive time between Albuquerque and Grants: 1 hour. Drive time between Grants and El Malpais: 30 minutes.

Bonus stop: El Morro National Monument. Only 15 minutes from El Malpais on Highway 53. Entrance is free. Website link: El Morro.

*Recommended hotel in Grants: Holiday Inn Express

RV parks are also available in Grants.

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From El Morrow National Monument take Highway 53 west to Highway 602 north to Gallup, New Mexico. Drive time: 1 hour.

Continue west on I-40 to Petrified Forest National Park. Drive time between Gallup and Petrified Forest: 1 hour.

⇒Side Trip: Chaco Culture National Historic Park. Located 86 miles north of Grants via Highway 509. Cost: $25.00 per vehicle for a one week pass. Camping available, but no RV hook-ups. Closest hotels and restaurants are approximately 1.5 hours north of the park. Here’s the website link: Chaco Culture National Historic Park. Backtrack to Grants to resume your journey to Petrified Forest National Park. Drive time between Chaco Culure and Grants: 2 hours.

Destination: Petrified Forest National Park

This is a big park! The park road is 28 miles long and includes many pull outs and stops. Come for the scenery and the learning experience. (We also like the nostalgia of Route 66.) There are photo ops around every turn, and as you will see, the sights in the park are spectacular. Be sure to stop at the visitor centers, the Painted Desert Inn Museum, and the Rainbow Forest Museum. The park also features archaeological sites, including Puerco Pueblo, Newspaper Rock, and Agate House. Theodore Roosevelt did us all a favor when he made Petrified Forest a national monument in 1906. It became a national park 56 years later in 1962.

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Petrified Tree Trunk
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Wood turned to stone
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These logs appear to have been cut and purposely placed here by an ancient lumberjack.

Below are some up-close views of the beauty of the petrified wood. Just look at those colors!

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Where else can you see this?
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Or this?
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Painted Desert Vista
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Another view of Painted Desert
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Oh, the colors!

Much of the park can be seen from the car, but we highly recommend getting out, taking a hike on or off the trails (see website), and absorbing the sights, sounds, and smells this amazing place has to offer.

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⇒Side trip: Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Entrance is free. Website link: Canyon de Chelly.

Take I-40 east to Chambers, Arizona. At Chambers, take Highway 191 north toward Ganado, Arizona.

Bonus stopHubbell Trading Post National Historic Site. Website link: Hubbell Trading Post. Cost: $5.00 per person to tour the Hubbell Home. Kids 15 and under are admitted free.

Continue north to Chinle, Arizona and Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Drive time between Petrified Forest and Canyon de Chelly: 1.5 hours.

This concludes our trip to Petrified Forest National Park. Thank you for joining us, and we hope you enjoyed the journey. We would love to hear from you, so leave us a comment and tell us about your road trips. In closing, we are leaving you with one last photo because it reminds us of a vintage postcard that might have been found in a Route 66 curio shop back in the day!

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Hoodoos

Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

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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.

©2018