After bidding adios to our friends at the Water’s Edge Motel in Gravois Mills, we rolled south, first on state highway 5 and then highway 7. The we picked up Route 66 near the Devil’s Elbow and commenced to mosey.
By the time my dearest friend and I made St. Robert after making a number of stops for photos and to explore the beautiful Missouri roadside, the appetite was adequately stimulated. The Route 66 Diner, a passable imitation of a classic 1950’s diner, caught our attention. The food and price was adequate as well as average but it did the trick.
The long closed store and cabins near Stony Dell east of Arlington.
The next stop has become a favorite of ours, the 4 M Vineyards store just to the east of Fanning, home of the world’s largest rocking chair. This is a real throwback that sparks an array of memories from childhood road trips with every stop.
We sampled a wide array of interesting breads and goods including corn cob jam. Then we stocked up on fresh pumpkin bread and added a large jar of sorghum.
The Wagon wheel Motel in Cuba, Missouri.
As we drove into Cuba, and past the colorful murals, Shelly’s, and the charming old homes along the shade dappled road that once carried an endless stream of traffic on Route 66, the now familiar sense of warmth that comes with visiting an old friend chased away an entire year of frustrations, job related issues, worry, and anxieties. Then when we arrived at the time capsule that is the Wagon Wheel Motel and found it to be teeming with members of the Route 66 family that feeling was magnified ten fold.
Only a cursory inspection of the Jeep that revealed a troubling oil leak at the front axle put the slightest of dampers on the warm glow. This, however, was a Route 66 family reunion wrapped in a Norman Rockwell print made manifest in a festival.
Cuba Fest 2014, Cuba, Missouri. (Judy Hinckley)
Mike Wallace, a friend from Ohio and a mechanic confirmed my initial thought that with care and an eye on oil levels, we could drive the Jeep back to Arizona. Then Frank Kocevar, the former owner of Seligman Sundries, offered to tow us home if need be. So, with all concerns alleviated, I made a few phone calls in the hope of finding a shop that would be open on Saturday.
When the first garage I called told me they would be closed on Saturday as the owner had promised to take his nephew fishing, I had to smile. Once again I had followed Route 66 down a rabbit hole that took me back to America circa 1958. What a delightful treat!
Excellent food and the camaraderie of friends at Missouri Hick Barbecue proved to be the perfect elixir and soon the Jeep, the oil leak, the long drive home, a pressing deadline, the need to make arrangements for our trip to Los Angeles in November, the Netherlands in January, and a litany of issues that had flitted through my thoughts as we drove east were pushed aside and swept into the corner.
The evening was still young and the best was yet to come. After dinner a small car show developed at the wagon Wheel Motel, a birthday party for Joe Loesch of the Road Crew unfolded, and a Route 66 family reunion commenced in earnest.
Just like a kid at Christmas, or a pair of Hinckley’s long denied an opportunity for a road trip, we awoke with eager anticipation of the day to come. It commenced with a wonderful breakfast at Shelly’s shared with Mike and Sharon Ward, and Jane Reed.
Then it was off to the commons to set up my table and to kick off the official debut of The Illustrated Route 66 Historic Atlas. The early morning fall chill, the ebb and flow of crowds, the smell of wood smoke under a kettle of slow cooked apple butter, unhurried conversations with friends, the raising of the stars and stripes with troops from Fort Leonard Wood in attendance, laughing children, excellent music, and good food transformed the day into something almost magical. As a bonus, I sold a number of books!
All to soon, it was time to load up the Jeep and close out another delightful Cuba Fest celebration. This, however, was not the end. There was still an evening to be shared with my dearest friend at the wonderful Belmont Winery, a bottle of dogwood wine, an excellent wood fired pizza, the music of the Road Crew, good friends, and lots of laughter.
Authors Cheryl Eichar Jett and Joe Sonderman at the 2014 Cuba Fest in Cuba, Missouri. (Judy Hinckley)
The schedule for Sunday called for a leisurely drive to Route 66 State Park for their open house where I was to make a presentation and sign books, meet with Rich Dinkela to discuss development of his Route 66 events website, and then commencement of the long return trip with the days end scheduled for the Munger Moss in Lebanon. First, however, was a wonderful early morning visit with Connie Echols, owner of the Wagon Wheel Motel, that included pleasant conversation, fresh coffee, and pumpkin bread from the 4-M Vineyards store.
We were soon joined by Mary Frances of Mid Century Style magazine, and gift shop customers traveling Route 66. What a wonderful way to start a day!
In the next post, tales of the 2014 fall adventure will continue. Stay tuned as I have a few things to share such as the discovery of a few delightful restaurants, motel reveiws, and an introduction to a stunning museum.
The trusty Jeep in Elk City during the fall 2014 road trip.
Being somewhat technologically impaired (a fancy way of saying that I just don’t seem to get it) hindered regular postings during our road trip, the fall 2014 edition. These problems were compounded by very long days on the road that resulted in some pretty late arrivals at motels, some early starts that found us enjoying the sunrise as it unfolded over the highway, and the simple fact that some of our evenings were consumed with the need to restock supplies, lively conversations, incredible dinners with friends, good music, and in general, good times.
As there was a need for speed on day one, we followed I-40 to Holbrook for lunch at Joe & Aggies with David Heward, a local with very long roots in the community that is becoming a leader in the rebirth of the historic city. Then it was back on the road with an eye on Santa Rosa and a dinner at Joseph’s with Dean Kennedy, a friend with a shared passion for Route 66 and the people that make it special.
An oasis in Guymon, Oklahoma
The following day was another long one with the final destination being El Dorado, Kansas a few miles to the east of Wichita. Magnifying the long hours was the vast emptiness of the Panhandle of Texas and Oklahoma, and western Kansas.
The saving grace during the first half of the day was the discovery of a wonderful little restaurant in Guymon, Oklahoma. Our second stop later that afternoon merely fueled a very long running joke that is now well into its third decade.
From our very first road trip as husband and wife, when an attraction failed to meet expectations, or was deemed a bit hokey, I would quip that it was the World’s Largest Hand Dug Well. Well, on this trip my plans was to introduce my dearest friend to this one of a kind road side attraction that is the claim to fame in Greensburg, Kansas.
On my last visit the well was surround by a beautiful park and covered by a gazebo type roof. Now, the park is still there but the well is encased in a shrine, a shrine that I might add, closed ten minutes before our arrival. The joke continues.
The third day marked the start of a more relaxed pace for our adventure. After a wonderful and hearty breakfast, we explored a beautiful park that embraces an intriguing county and oil field museum.
The next stop was Fort Scott, the historic community as well as the fort itself. This will most definitely be added to our very long list of must see places.
The historic district is truly an architectural treasure. It is also amply peppered with wonderful shops (including a book store!) and restaurants.
The fort itself is scenic as well as historic. Walking the grounds, and exploring the buildings with exhibits that captures the essence of military life on the frontier, there is an almost palpable sense of history.
The morning view from our room at the Water’s Edge Motel in Gravois Mills, Missouri.
In El Dorado Springs, Missouri, we discovered an unexpected time capsule in the form of a small café where everyone smoked. The waitress, the cook, the cashier and most everyone except for the kid coloring his menu and enjoying his grilled cheese sandwich seemed to have a cigarette hanging from their mouth.
To be honest I had almost forgotten what it was like when restaurants were often as smoky as a skid row pool room. I seem to have also forgotten that there was a time when I contributed to the foul atmosphere.
As it has been a tough year for us, and as this was our first major road trip in 2014, I had a surprise for my wife in the guise of a beautiful lake cradled by mountains bedecked in fall colors. The bonus was to be our haven for the evening, the Water’s Edge Motel, a wonderful gem that hearkens to a time before the Lake of the Ozarks was almost entirely ringed by condos and resorts.
As this motel is accessed by a relatively short but extraordinarily scenic drive from Route 66, I wholeheartedly suggest travelers consider adding it to the travel itinerary.
Water’s Edge Motel, Gravois Mills, Missouri.
Enhancing our visit was an excellent dinner and wonderful conversation shared with Bob Swengrosh, and Robin, friends as well as the proprietors of this wonderful motel and ardent Route 66 enthusiasts. Our only regret was that the pressing schedule prevented staying for a second, or third, or fourth day.
It was a late start day. The stunning sunrise, a hearty breakfast, as well as coffee and conversation shared with our hosts, kept us from hitting the road until almost 10:00.
We meandered south and picked up Route 66 just east of Lebanon, and then motored through the Devil’s Elbow on our way to Cuba. And that is where will pick up the story with our next posting.
Shortly after arriving in Cuba, in the process of checking oil, tires, and the overall condition of the Jeep after a run of almost 1,800 miles in three days I discovered a slight oil leak at the left front axle. After a fruitless effort to find a repair facility I decided that the options were limited to two; drive it carefully while keeping an eye on the differential oil level or towing it home.
To make an informed decision it seemed a good idea to contact Penske Truck Leasing and find out what the cost for a truck and trailer would be. With that one phone call the options narrowed to one, drive.
Incredibly, a visitor to Cuba Fest from Arizona offered to tow the Jeep back for us. The generosity of the Route 66 community never ceases to amaze me.
However, as we did not want to ask the good Samaritan to adjust their schedule by a day, and as I thought that we could avoid problems by taking it easy, we bid adios to our benefactor and set out for Route 66 State Park on Sunday morning.
After the presentation and the signing of a dozen or so books, my dearest friend and I head west with plans to end the day at Lebanon and the Munger Moss Motel. Keeping the speed down prevented a serious loss of oil but it added a few hours to the trip.
After a wonderful visit with Bob and Ramona, the proprietors of the time capsule that is the Munger Moss, we met Mike and Sharon Ward, and a couple met in the motel lobby, for dinner at Dowds, an excellent restaurant.
The planned schedule was adjusted to compensate for the slower speeds, and we set out the following morning for Galena, Kansas. After meeting with Renee Charles of the Kansas Route 66 Association, we had lunch (an excellent buffalo burger) at Waylan’s KuKu Burger in Miami, Oklahoma.
Then with our eyes on Weatherford, and with diminished speeds in mind, we alternated between Route 66 and the turnpike. We missed Laurel Kane at Afton Station, spent an hour at the astounding JM Davis museum, missed Jerry McClanahan, and after a nice dinner at Lucille’s Roadhouse, hit the motel near 10:00.
As we were to meet with Pat Smith at the Route 66 Museum in Clinton, we didn’t hit the road until just after 8:00. After talking with Pat, and signing books, we moved on to the National Route 66 Museum and signed books there.
Pie and coffee at Watering Hole #2 in Texola was followed with a stop at the U Drop Inn in Shamrock for a meeting with Larry Clounts of the Texas Route 66 Association. Unfortunately a family situation resulted in him having to leave town and the postponement of our meeting.
The next stop was a meeting with “Texas Ivey” and lunch at the historic Golden Light restaurant in Amarillo. By now it was near three, and we were dealing with another issue in the guise of a chirping AC compressor and a hint of metal shavings at the compressor head.
There was little we could do but drive west, at a reduced speed. As a result, we missed the planned dinner with Mike and Sharon Ward in Albuquerque.
Still, there was a silver lining in the form of stunning storm that enhanced our photo shoot in Montoya. Wait until you see this! Now, it is time to unwind at the Monterrey Non Smokers Motel in Albuquerque with a cold bottle of beer. In the morning we will say a prayer, top off the differential, have breakfast with Mike and Sharon, and prepare for a long day on the road.
Okay, postings have been a bit sporadic but rest assured that in the coming days a detailed report with photos will be provided as there are an array of exciting developments on the road. I also want to share a few information about interesting restaurants and attractions discovered on our fall 2014 adventure.
At this time the schedule and technical difficulties only allow for a brief summary.
Lets see, after leaving Lake of the Ozarks we rolled south to pick up Route 66 just to the west of Devils Elbow. We were looking for some fall color to dress up a few photos, and were also evaluating a GPS based Route 66 tour program.
It was a leisurely drive through stunning landscapes. Indicative of just how leisurely the drive was is the fact that we made the Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba just after three in the afternoon; about 130 miles in five hours that included a pleasant lunch at the Route 66 Diner.
Shortly after arrival the Route 66 family reunion that included Dean Kennedy, Frank Kocevar, Mike and Sharon Ward, my dearest friend, Joe Sonderman, and a few others moved to Missouri Hick Barbecue. Laughter, stories, and good food set the mood for the rest of the evening.
The Wagon Wheel Motel was ground zero for a birthday party for Joe Loesch of the Road Crew, vintage cars, a bonfire, and warm cider to keep the fall chill at bay. It was the type of event that exemplifies the essence of a gathering of Route 66 enthusiasts.
On Saturday morning, after breakfast at Shelly’s (excellent!) with Mike and Sharon War, Jane Reed, and my dearest friend, we moved to the main event. Simply put, if Norman Rockwell organized events, Cuba Fest would be his baby.
What a wonderful day! To top off a spectacular day there was dinner, the music of the Road Crew, wine, and friends at the Belmont Winery east of town.
Sunday started with coffee, fresh pumpkin bread, and inspirational conversation shared with Connie Echols, the proprietor at the Wagon Wheel Motel. Then it was off to Route 66 State Park for my presentation at their annual open house, and a meeting with Tommy Pike of the Missouri Route 66 Association, Rich Dinkela, Joe Sonderman, and Mike Ward.
We are closing out the day, and the weekend, at the Munger Moss in Lebanon, after another tremendous dinner, and wonderful conversation shared with Bob and Ramona Lehman. ,
Last evenings post was a bit truncated but it had been very long day and I was behind on correspondence.
The drive from Tucumcari northeast on U.S. 54 will never make a top ten list for scenic wonders. Still, there is a stark beauty to the featureless hills that roll toward the distant horizon like swells on the sea.
Dalhart is a bustling community but it has a feel of a rough and tumble, worn at the heal sort of place. Guymon was just the opposite and we enjoyed a pleasant lunch with the locals at Marla’s.
We crossed into Kansas at Liberal, and rolled across the high plains on our eastward journey. For years my dearest friend and I have had a running joke about the world’s largest hand dug well at Greensburg. That joke continues.
On my last visit the well was in a little park covered by a wood shingled gazebo. Now it is housed in a stunning shrine, that closed ten minutes before we arrived.
Greensburg itself is no joke. The community was almost erased by a tornado several years ago but they had the grit to pull together and rebuild.
By the time we made Pratt, the landscape had transformed into a beautiful green tapestry dotted with interesting old towns peppered with an array of architectural gems. Wait until you see the photos of the theater at Iola!
The late day ended at El Dorado just east of Wichita. Dinner was a simple affair of microwave food from Walmart, and a couple of beers.
The following morning kicked off with a hearty breakfast at the El Dorado Chop House and a stop at the oil museum that dominates a beautiful park. The next stop was to explore historic Fort Scott, the city as well as the military outpost. This should be added to every adventurers list.
From Fort Scott we rolled through the Ozarks with a stop for lunch at El Dorado Springs, and stops to take in the fall covers. The days destination was the Waters Edge Motel at Gravois Mills on the Lake of the Ozarks, a special treat for my dearest friend and an opportunity to visit with our friends Bob and Robin.
This is a short but scenic drive north of Route 66 and if time allows it should be added to a list of detours. Stunning scenery, an excellent dinner, and wonderful conversation rounded a perfect day of adventure on one of America’s wonderful two lane highways through the heartland.
Today, we head south, pick up Route 66 near the Devil’s Elbow, and head for the festivities at Cuba.