Last of Missouri, All of Kansas, Bit of Oklahoma

Day 8 — Monday, September 24

Happy Birthday to my late Mom, who would have been been 88 today.

Now, a wee rant about signage.  Missouri has terrible signage.  We managed to avoid mishaps after leaving Branson, heading back to Rt. 66, but if I had $1 for every false turn across MO, it would pay for a night in a luxury hotel.  Add highway construction to poor signage, you have places that would make a priest pray for help.

That said, I’m loving the Missouri 66 sights.

First stop, headed west on MO 66 was the vintage Sinclair gas station, Gay Parita, in Paris Springs.  The 66 book says that owner Gary Turner is eager to meet you and may talk your leg off, but the station was closed as we passed through.

Red Oak II is a hoot and worth every minute of a 23-mile detour between Paris Springs and Carthage.  The 66 book warns that it won’t be on any road map, and it wasn’t.  With patience and sleuthing, we took a series of country roads off 66 and finally found it.  Red Oak II is a village of homes and buildings, inhabited by a few real people (4-5) and a lot of cardboard cutout people, even a plywood dog.  The village has a general store, diner, filling station, church, school, mock boot hill cemetery with no one under the headstones, blacksmith, sheriff’s office, and more.  Red Oak II is the creation of local artist, Lowell Davis, who has spent 20 years building the village.  He moved original buildings from Red Oak I, which no longer exists, and lives in a house with an attached log cabin with his wife Rose in Red Oak II, and continues to add to the town. We stopped a tall, dashing man to ask a question, and so we met the former Mayor of Carthage, MO who lost his wife three years ago and has poured his heart, soul and wallet into a striking man cave of a modern semi-log cabin home.  He was moving in that day and invited us inside.  Big wow: massive stone fireplace, equally massive chandelier of horns, great vintage furniture, interesting details everywhere, and a chef’s dream kitchen with everything built for his 6′ 3″ frame.  The village is open daily, no charge but donations welcome, and it is a sterling site of Americana.

In Carthage, we snapped a photo of the Boots Motel, a small hotel with covered carports for each room, doubtful that today’s SUVs and trucks would fit.  Although Clark Gable once stayed there, now it sits silent waiting for a new owner.

GOODBY MISSOURI, HELLO KANSAS

Kansas has only 13.2 miles of  Rt. 66, but those miles are full of great places.

The Motor Mouth lady started our day in Galena.  Melba the Mouth is one of the 4 Women On The Route shop which serves as a welcome center, pit stop, gift shop and snack bar.  The morning we stopped in, a group of 8 Czechoslovakian bicyclists had just rolled up.  Melba talked and sign-languaged to us and the Czechs that she is one of 4 ladies who opened the shop in 2006; the 4 women are Melba, sister Renee, Judy and the late Betty Jean Courtney.  She told us about how the rusty tow truck out front made them famous.  Seems Disney came into town, spotted the tow car, and spent an hour talking to Melba while five white limos sat in the parking lot.  The tow truck became Tow Mater from the first “Cars” movie.  Galena town folks insisted that Melba and partners get rid of the eyesore tow.  Melba got rid of it.  Then she got a call from Drew Knowles, Rt. 66 champion and author of “66 Adventure Handbook”.  Knowles told Melba to get the tow mater back asap because “it’s money, honey.”  Melba got it back, parked it proudly, and now everyone in Galena loves the eyesore.  Melba can talk faster than any single person I’ve ever met, including auctioneers.  Letterman or Leno should invite her.

A few miles away in Riverton is the former Eisler Brothers Store, circa 1925, recently purchased and renamed the Nelson General Store.  Forrest Nelson, 90, welcomed us.  His late brother-in-law and wife owned the store for many years.  His son took over “only 30 years” ago.   Luscious hanging baskets and pots of flowers run along the store’s parking lot.  What used to be the front porch is now an overhang with complimentary coffee and chairs for 66ers and visitors.  Inside: shelves packed with old wares, an ancient Coke tub, and equally ancient soda fountain that sports a sign ‘no diet, sorry’.  It’s a current-day mini-mart with a deli counter that serves homemade soup, sandwiches and desserts, and the best 66 gift shop we’ve seen to date.  The store serves as the de facto Kansas Route 66 Association.  Some 66 Christmas lights called my name and I had to buy them, thinking they will find a place in our guest bedroom or guest bath.  The Czech cyclists were resting with water bottles on the porch as we left, and a tour bus of UK tourists left lots of money in the store’s antique register.

A bit outside West Mineral, we found Big Brutus, the second largest power shovel ever built, 16 stories high.  One scoop could fill three ra

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