As you may have noticed from recent postings, my dearest friend and I had an absolutely delightful adventure on the old double six even though we spent a great deal of every day, as well as some nights, behind the wheel resultant of a very tight schedule. The trip further convinced me that the worst day on Route 66 is better than the best day anywhere else. It also confirmed my suspicion that it is quite difficult to not enjoy an outing on legendary Route 66.
My dearest friend and I at Harley and Annabelle’s.
Counted among the many highlights of the recent excursion was a visit with Harley and Annabelle in Erick, Oklahoma. In spite of a rather serious illness Annabelle still does her part to ensure every visitor leaves with a smile and pocket full of memories. Even though I have some very important updates and a few tidbits to share today it seemed important to mention this first. Please keep these wonderful people in your prayers as they are facing more than a few challenges. Now, the tidbits, the news, and a mystery photo. Yesterday I was privileged by an opportunity to talk with Dale Butel’s tour group from the land down under about the history of Sitgreaves Pass and then share dinner with Steve Brewer, Dale Butel, his charming wife, Kristi-Anne, Daniel Azzopardi, and a few other folks. I am always a bit saddened when the season begins to draw to a close as we greatly enjoy the opportunity to spend time with visitors and old friends from the four corners of the globe. It is one of the highlights of our association with old Route 66. From that perspective this has been a most exciting year on the double six. We met with Zdnek Jurasek of the Czech Republic, and Roger Fox and the Ride for the Relay group as well as travelers from England, Austria, Sweden, Russia, China, Spain, France, Holland, Germany, and a few other countries. By next spring we are hoping to be in a position to offer visitors a bit more when they stop by. Suffice to say we are working out details that will culminate with a place on Route 66 where we can meet with tour groups of any size, offer a few unique souvenirs such as signed copies of our books as well as books by other noted Route 66 authors such as Jim Ross and Joe Sonderman, and display a bit of our photography. It won’t be Harley and Annabelle’s but the old road isn’t big enough for two places like that! As many of you are aware the owner of the recently refurbished El Trovatore Motel in Kingman, Sam Frisher, recently launched a service offering day tours to Seligman. When the schedule allows I will be serving as the tour guide. Even when I am not on board my services as tour guide will still be available, sort of, as a copy of one of my books is included in the tour price.
I am always pleasantly surprised and honored when people ask me to speak to their group, when someone asks me to speak with their family when they pass through Kingman, or someone stops by the office and asks I autograph a book purchased in Munich, or London, or New York. I hope this doesn’t seem vain but it just seems a bit odd, a bit surprising as in my minds eye I am just plain and simple Jim Hinckley of Kingman, Arizona, that dusty old town made famous in an ode to a highway. With that thought in mind imagine the surprise derived from people asking if I have ever considered serving as a guide for tours on the whole of Route 66, or in the desert southwest. As much as I enjoy visiting with people, and sharing the history as well as hidden places found in short detours along the way, questions such as these unleash my imagination.
And that takes us to the next bit of news. Over a pleasant breakfast at Shelly’s in Cuba shared with my dearest friend, Rich Henry of Henry’s Rabbit Ranch, and David and Kathy Alexander of Legends of America, I agreed to write feature columns on travel as well as automotive history for the Alexander’s website. As I have been a fan of this site for some time, this is a rather exciting opportunity that has my imagination running in high gear. Details on this development will be posted soon. In an unrelated note, after numerous delays I am now able to accept orders for signed copies of The Route 66 Encyclopedia through the blog utilizing Paypal. The order segment for this and other titles is found at the top of the blog post. Please note, at this time I am only offering domestic shipping. For international orders please drop me a note so we can discuss shipping options. The next item is unrelated to Route 66. Still, as fans of that highway love old motels, hotels, diners, cafes, and roadside time capsules, I felt this would be a place of interest. We deviated a bit from our Route 66 focus and made a detour on the last trip to visit with my dad in Jackson, Michigan. As I wanted to surprise my dearest friend with something speciala search was launched several months ago.
That something special was Marshall, Michigan, just to the west of Jackson, and the National House Inn, the oldest operating inn in Michigan that dates to the 1830s. What an absolute treasure! I will have more to say about this delightful place, Marshall, and the inn keeper in future posts but now it is time to get to work.
Even though our recent excursion along Route 66 was a hurried affair with only 9.5 days to drive from Kingman to Joliet and home again, with a detour into Michigan to see my dad, it was a most delightful adventure. The stunning fall colors in the Missouri Ozarks added to the adventure as did the opportunity to seek out unusual and overlooked places along the way.
Big Red and Rich Henry at Henry’s Rabbit Ranch.
Still, the true magic of Route 66, that something special that seems to sweep away the cares of the world and transport the visitor back to the era of the tail fin and I Like Ike buttons are the people. The heart of soul of this legendary old road are the fans who come together at small town events, the folks who lovingly serve as caretakers of its time capsules, and those who just simply enjoy having a special place where people can visit and leave with a smile and memories. On the recent excursion our first visit was with Bob “Croc” Lile, a talented and colorful artist with a gallery (2719 SW 6th Avenue or www.crocodilelile.com) in the very heart of the often overlooked Route 66 corridor that runs along SW 6th Avenue in Amarillo. If your only association with this interesting city has been The Big Texan or Cadillac Ranch you have been missing something really spectacular and I hope you can rectify that on your next trip.
Left to right, Annabelle, Jim Hinckley, and Harley.
In Erick we made an unscheduled stop to visit with the unofficial clowns of Route 66, Harley and Annabelle. Mere words can not adequately express what a stop here is like. As with so much of Route 66, it must be experienced to be believed. The next scheduled stop was to sign books at the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma. It was a pleasure to visit with Maxine and her staff but the highlight of the stop was a personal tour of the museum and grounds given by L.V. Baker, a museum board member with extensive knowledge of the areas history who happens to own the Safari B Ranch with a healthy population of exotic deer, longhorn cattle, zebras, giraffes, and antelope. We followed this with a stop to visit Pat Smith and sign books for the museum in Clinton. The passionate enthusiasm found here is quite contagious and as always, we had a pleasant but abbreviated visit. Schedules are almost impossible to keep on Route 66 and plans often fall by the wayside. On this trip the problem was compounded by what seemed to be endless construction related delays and detours, and the need to gather photos for the current book project. We had hoped to visit with Jerry McClanahan and, perhaps, talk Route 66 over lunch at the Rock Cafe. Of course we had also wanted to stop at Afton Station, visit with Laurel Kane and the gang there, and see the fascinating Packard truck/motor home I have been hearing about. Afton Station is another one of the places that is difficult to describe. It is an automotive museum, unofficial Route 66 visitor center, and hang out for a wide array of very colorful people. Laurel keeps an interestingblog that will give you a bit of insight about what goes on there. Suffice to say we didn’t make it. In fact we were photographing Miami, Oklahoma at around 10:00 that evening after a late evening dinner in Bristow. As we motored east the next morning we did catch up with Melba at 4 Women on the Route as well as Scott Nelson at the Old Riverton Store. In Carthage we signed books at the most fascinating Powers Museum but missed Ron Hart and as a result had to satisfy ourselves with photographing the outside of the old roadside classic that is the Boots Motel. On the drive through Missouri we had the privilege of meeting Scott at Mr. C’s where we signed copies of the new encyclopedia as well as copies of Ghost Towns of Route 66. Of course we also stocked up on his signature Route 66 soda pop.
Among the fascinating people met on this trip were Kathleen Avilla at Route 66 State Park, another book signing stop, Sandra at the Barret Station Gift Shop in the transportation museum near St. Louis, another book signing stop, and Barabara Bradley, the innkeeper at the National House Inn (not on Route 66 but an interesting story for another day). This old road seems to attract the most interesting and passionate individuals. Of course the high point on the trip was Cuba Fest, an event that brought the Route 66 family together from every corner of the nation to enjoy the best of a community that seems to have distilled the very essence of the Route 66 experience into an intoxicating brew that leaves even a desert rat like me with thoughts of moving east. It was such a delight to have another opportunity to visit with the talented folks from Fading Nostalgia, Katie Nelson and Chris Robleski (see above), Rich Dinkella, Joe Sonderman, Richard Talley, Jane Reed, Connie and Riva Echols, Buzz Waldmire, and to finally meet with people like Kathy and David Alexander of Legends of America, and so many others. With each trip along Route 66 the list of friends seems to grow. With each trip along Route 66 there are regrets about the friends there wasn’t time to visit with. To each of you that we missed on this trip, we hope to see you next year – at your place, at mine, or on the road.
The current book project is a Route 66 guide with a twist or two in the form of very short detours from the Main Street of America. On our recent Route 66 adventure we found some rather amazing places hidden in the shadows of that legendary highway. Yesterday, I shared our discovery of the Cave Restaurant. I have another one from the Show Me State to share today.
Located a mere six miles south of St. James on state highway 8, Maramec Spring Park is a veritable oasis for hikers, history buffs, fishermen, or anyone looking for little more than a quiet place of stunning beauty. Add a touch of fall color and even Stevie Wonder would be taking beautiful photos here. The heart of this stunning park is the spring itself, one of the largest in the state with almost one million gallons of water per day flowing from a submerged cavern. A paved trail of less than a half mile makes for an ideal introduction to the entrancing beauty of this place. In years past the springs provided ample water for the small town that developed around the Maramec Iron Works established in 1826, and in the 1920s, to drive a turbine that produced 27 kilowatts/hour of electricity for area dairy farms and residents. Today the waters sustain a trout fish hatchery that makes this a destination for fishermen from throughout the area. During the years bracketing the American Civil War the iron works situated near a large, easily accessible body of iron ore, and surrounded by dense hardwood forests suitable for charcoal, was the largest of its kind in the south. Initially products produced here included items such as plows and kettles but during the war a wide array of military hardware was produced here.
The remnants of the Maramec Iron Works.
Before its closure in 1876, bar and pig iron became the primary product. This valuable commodity was shipped down the Meramec and Gasconade Rivers or by wagon to the rail head at St. James or Gray Summit. The massive remnants from the old iron works appear as relics from a lost civilization. Additional vestiges of this history are found on the drive that includes stops with interpretive kiosks at the old cemetery, the mine, and other sites. On the second full weekend of each October the park is transformed into a living time capsule during Old Iron Works days. The centerpiece of this fascinating weekend are the artisans and craftsman who demonstrate skills of the 19th century. The park is a multi faceted facility that includes two museums, camping sites with showers and electricity, fishing, a cafe and store, and ample opportunity for picnics. The cost of admission is $5.00 per car, a bargain at twice the price.
So, the next time you are motoring through Missouri my suggestion is to bring a picnic basket. I would also suggest visiting during mid October when the fall leaves add a truly awe inspiring touch to the parks raw beauty.
Just a few miles north of Route 66 near Laquey, Missouri is a fascinating restaurant and resort complex that has to rate near the top of any list of unusual places for lunch or dinner. In fact, I would be willing to go out on a limb and say this IS the most unusual restaurant in America.
These are a few of the quaint shops that line the road to the restaurant.
However, before you can enjoy the unique ambiance, or select from the many interesting dishes on the menu, or enjoy the breathtaking view from the bar, you must first embark on an adventure. As a sound track for this particular Route 66 detour I would suggest the now classic sounds of dueling banjos. The odyssey begins at the junction of state highway 7 and exit 150 on I-44. Follow highway 7 north for several scenic miles past old farmsteads and through a series of twists and turns that flow with the mountainous landscapes. At Rochester Road, marked with a small sign proclaiming the Cave Restaurant is just ahead, turn right. This road was in good repair during the time of our visit but it should be noted that in places it is graded gravel. After driving a couple of scenic miles doubts begin to creep into your mind. Did I miss the turn? Is this a trick, a joke? I wonder if there will be a place to turn around on the other side of that beautiful bridge? And then a sign appears that directs you into a gravel parking lot dominated by what appears to be an open front stable. Here is where you wait for the “bus” that will take you to the restaurant.
Rustic gift shops with a view at the Cave Restaurant.
The “bus” is a well used, battered mini van with mismatched tires and a broken windshield that will transport five guests at a time. The driver, in our case a polite young man that seemed better suited for a tractor, opens the doors, provides a step stool for entry, and then during the drive over a rutted rocky road that provides occasional glimpses of the river below, provides a commentary on the cabins (now rentals), the clay tennis court, and other traces of what was once a classy resort a century ago. With abrupt suddenness the road is squeezed between a sheer rock wall and a series of small log cabins that overhang the river bank linked by a covered walkway. These are gift shops that specialize in hand crafted Ozark goods as well as candies and similar items.
A spiral staircase hugs the rock wall. This I later learned was the fire escape. The restaurant itself is accessed via a covered staircase or an elevator housed in what appears to be a grain silo combined with a frontier era control tower. We chose the climb as it was a crisp fall afternoon accentuated with a misty rain and the views of the river below were most stunning. If the view from the stair case was stunning the one from the porch and bar were absolutely breathtaking. The splash of fall color added to the sense of awe. Well, the menu here runs the gamut from simple items such as a grilled chicken salad to the exotic (alligator tale in apricot sauce). The prices follow a similar scale with a salad running around $9.00 and steak dinners starting at $14.00. Judging by our lunch (salads), the comments from diners, and the fact that on weekends the place is packed, I would say that the food ranges from good to superb. Suffice to say this is not a dining experience we will soon forget. And rest assured it will be featured in the current book project, a Route 66 guide that features very short detours like this. Here are a few more photos of the amazing Cave Restuarant.
Well, after surviving nine days on the road and 4,350 miles filled with road construction related delays, we made it home late Tuesday evening. What an amazing adventure!
If your looking for a great place to have breakfast in Cuba, Missouri this is my suggestion.
It was filled with stops at classic Route 66 roadside stops framed by breathtaking fall colors, a few short detours to amazing places that will be featured in a new book, and, of course, visits with friends old and new. There were also ample opportunities for trying new foods and discovering great new places to eat them. Officially we had two reasons for making this grand adventure along Route 66. One was to promote the release of The Route 66 Encyclopedia (signed copies can now be ordered through this blog using Paypal. Please inquire about international shipping rates). Signed copies of the book, in limited supplies, are also available at numerous locations along Route 66. These include the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, the Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, Mr. C’s in Lebanon, and the transportation museum in St. Louis.
Author Jim Hinckley at Cuba Fest.
The second was to gather photographs and information for the current book project. This time I am crafting a Route 66 guide book with a very distinct Jim Hinckley, hence our short detour to the very unique Cave Restaurant near Richland, Missouri. As the ideal behind our work is to promote the people and places that make the old road special, that give it life and vibrancy, we had decided that Cuba Fest in Cuba, Missouri would be the ideal place for the books official debut. What an amazing event, what an amazing community!
Enhancing our weekend in Cuba that included a delightful bonfire party hosted by Connie Echols of the Wagon Wheel Motel, and dinner accompanied by the sounds of Joe Loesch and the Road Crew at the Belmont Winery, was the opportunity to gather with friends such as Tom Dion, Rich Henry of the legendary Henry’s Rabbit Ranch, Buzz Waldmire, Rich Dinkella, Joe Sonderman, Chris Robleski, Katie Nelson, and Dean Kennedy at such a refreshing event. Cuba and Cuba Fest were the frosting on the cake as this was a trip filled with memory making days and nights. There was a wonderful evening savoring the company of my dearest friend as we shared a beer in the lobby of the historic El Rancho Hotel in Gallup and the discovery of the charming National House Inn in Marshall, Michigan. We had an unforgettable lunch at the Cave Restaurant and another at the time capsule Palm Grill Cafe in Atlanta, Illinois. There was a detour to the breathtakingly beautiful Maramec Springs Park and another into the Painted Desert. And, of course, we visited with friends – Harley and Annabelle, Rich Henry, Croc Lile, John and Judy Springs, and so many others. Sadly, time constraints and long days on the road meant that we missed others such as Laurel Kane at Afton Station and Jerry McClanahan. In the weeks to come I will be sharing details about the adventure and our discoveries. In addition there will be some announcements that just might inspire you to make your own adventure of discovery in 2013.