Day 23 – Tuesday 23 May 2017 Branson

Distance travelled today 84 miles.

Before I start today’s ramblings, a note for the person who contacted me about my spelling. Please bear in mind that I am English and we do not spell all words the same as Americans do. Dare I suggest that as the language was ours originally, our spellings are the correct ones.

Yesterday evening we went to see an Eagles Tribute band, at the Branson Tribute Theatre, and they were exceptionally good.

To us Branson, like most entertainment centres, is great at night but can be a bit boring during the day, so this morning we decided to go for a drive into Arkansas,which is a State that we have never visited before,   Quite a few towns are in easy reach of Branson, but we opted to visit Berryville after Googling a few towns to see what they have to offer tourists.  Berryville was a good choice and the Saunders Museum located there more than made the journey worthwhile.  Regretfully, they did not allow photography inside, which is a great shame, as it was full of artefacts from all over the World, plus an historic  gun collection that probably cannot be bettered anywhere.  Although he was successful in his own right,  Charles “Buck” Saunders, the Museum’s benefactor, certainly knew how to make the most of the money that came with marrying an incredibly wealthy widow who was many years older than himself.

Driving through the Ozark Mountains was a real pleasure, and completely different to all of the driving we have done so far on Route 66.  Also, our lunch in the Ozark Cafe, in the Town’s Square, was memorable as, just as it was in Mclean, it was a proper small town eatery with excellent food and service.

A photo of the road we travelled.  It doesn’t really do justice to the many curves, and the high ridges and valleys along the way though:

Just a few photos taken around the Town Square:

Driving Route 66 it is easy to forget that there are other historic highways in America.  This one runs from El Paso up to the Canadian Border:

An old hotel:

Day 22 – Monday 22 May 2017 Branson

Distance travelled 33 miles which takes us over 2,500 for our journey so far.

Another very lazy day.  We went out for a drive to check on our route to the Showboat Branson Belle where we will be spending Thursday evening having Dinner and a Show, whilst cruising Showboat on Table Rock Lake, which has been recommended by a number of people we have spoken to since we set off.  After that, we just went with the flow, without a clue where we were going, but heading vaguely in the direction of Downtown Branson, which we found eventually more by luck than judgement.  Plan A was that we would eventually set the SatNav to bring us back to our resort from wherever we ended up.

We had some lunch in a Steak & Shake; cheap, cheerful and a favourite of youngest daughter, Melanie, and, as it is her Birthday, we thought the venue to be an appropriate one. Not sure she will agree as she was not with us!  After all of the eating out we have been doing for the last 3 weeks, having a basic burger and shake made a pleasant change. When we got back to the car it was time to set up the SatNav  for our journey back, but it was not in the glove compartment!  After 5 minutes of arguing about who was at fault, we set off confident that sooner or later we would hit one of the coloured route markers, designed to keep tourists like us on the route we want, and we managed to get back alright.  As we were getting out of the car I caught my foot in the cable leading to the SatNav which I had hidden under my seat yesterday afternoon…  On the plus side, it proved that Pauline was wrong when she was arguing vehemently that I had taken it inside with me yesterday!

Day 21 – Sunday 21 May 2017 Branson

Very relaxing day.  Pauline had her first lie in this morning for 3 weeks, so the day got off to a good start. Needless to say, I was up hours before that but it allowed me to binge on News programmes, which I have been missing, albeit US channels. Having left Brexit behind us, and the endless arguments about whether we should leave the European Union or not, here it is an endless diet of whether President Trump should, or should not, have been elected.  Why can’t democracy be given a chance to work?  Not our country, but I have yet to hear any convincing argument to support the anti-Trump brigade’s claims.  Enough about politics…

Had a drive around Branson to orientate ourselves ready for the week ahead.  Booked some shows and did some shopping.  Hard to describe Branson – set in a green and leafy mountain, it is a bit like The West End of London, with a large dose of Blackpool, a bit of Las Vegas and a dollop of Disney.  Extremely friendly and helpful people.

 

Day 20 – Saturday 20 May 2017 Joplin – Springfield MO – then on to Branson

Distance travelled 171 miles.  Time on the road 6.5 hours.

Today’s planned mileage was just under 130 miles, but then some unavoidable detours got in the way!  We never managed to retrace our steps in Joplin, to take pictures that the rain got in the way of yesterday.  Unfortunately, today was Joplin’s Marathon day, so we graciously decided to respect all the closed off routes and headed out of town for today’s journey.  Being a Saturday morning, the roads were really empty to begin with, and we passed through Webb City without seeing another living soul.

In Carterville, which was almost as quiet, we spotted this helpful sign.  If we were keeping to the shortest alignments, we would have been roughly three quarters of the way through our journey at this point:

Roads were getting a bit busier as we passed through Carthage:

The Route 66 signs are now Blue!

Although it was raining quite heavily (just for a change) Pauline managed to get a reasonable shot of the Court House:

The Boots Court Motel, which opened in 1939.  It still looks immaculate:

Lots of quirky sculptures:

and then the wheels fell off, which seems an appropriate expression to outline what happened next.  As we came out of Carthage, with just over 6 miles to run to an historic old Route 66 Airfield in Avilla, the road was closed.  Not a problem we thought.  There will be a detour.  There was not!  By the time we went all around Missouri finding our own way to the airfield, using some very lonely country lanes, we had carried out a detour of over 30 miles!  When the TomTom started squawking at us that we had arrived, we did not believe it.  We were looking for a small approach road that turned out to be a County Lane aka a narrow gravelled track.  We knew we had arrived because, despite the murky weather, we could see a strange looking aeroplane mock-up in the distance, plus a windsock so, presumably, the airfield is still in use.  We never went very far along the track and that is probably why we never spotted the sign below (copied from the internet).  Huge detour and missed the sign…

Avilla’s 1915 Post Office:

Avilla is described as a living ghost town:

The century-old restored School in the tiny Route 66 hamlet of Phelp;

and the single pump remnant of their gas station:

A bit further along the road we diverted onto an older alignment, and went across the 1926 Spencer Bridge:

and saw some of the remains of the hamlet of Spencer which are being restored:

A bit further along the same old alignment we came to Paris Springs, and this was undoubtedly the highlight of our day.  The old Sinclair Station is the sort of place that the American Pickers would drool over, and the owners were exceptionally friendly:

Some miles further on we spotted some really lonely looking pumps sat in the middle of a field:

and our final Route 66 icon of the day was the Rest Haven Court in Springfield MO.

After Springfield, we headed South, for 50 Miles, to Branson for a week’s break from driving long distances every day.

Day 19 – Friday 19 May 2017 Tulsa – Joplin via Kansas

Distance travelled 144 miles.  Time on the Road 6 hours.

The word of the day for today is “Wet”!.

Late yesterday evening, from about 2000, the weather worsened and we had high winds and a torrential downpour, and our hotel lost all power for a while.  I took a picture of the TV screen to illustrate just what is was like, and the Red was just about to pass over us in Tulsa.:

This morning all the News channels were reporting the storm damage, and the weather for today which they promised would be a repeat of yesterday. This morning, we made an early start for Joplin, via the Kansas loop, and managed to stay ahead of the weather until just after 1200 when the lightening and thunder started, and about 30 minutes later the sky just collapsed! The last 5 miles or so into Joplin was horrendous with the rain coming down so heavily that 20 mph was too fast. Surface water is very deep in places so it is not hard to see why flash floods occur.

On the plus side, the Weather Reporters are optimistic that things are about to improve!

We did not take too many photo’s today, and a lot of what we did were through the car window because we did not want to get soaked.  Luckily we were able to get some good stops in before the rain started, and then some before the rain really got going.  Hopefully, the weather will be better in the morning and we can scoop up all the Joplin sights that we bypassed today in the deluge.

Circle Theatre in Tulsa:

Tally’s Cafe:

Desert Hills Motel:

Admiral Drive-In:

Rose Bowl:

Nice parking:

Then on to Catoosa for the Blue Whale:

We then headed for “Twin Bridges” where there were 6!

and then we found the Pryor Creek Bridge (b. 1926), in Chelsea, further down the road, where it marks the end of an older alignment that was bypassed by a newer one:

Afton, a dying town… Apologies for the rain drops:

Coleman Theatre in Miami – the Oklahoma Miami which they pronounce Miamuh!

We ate lunch at Waylan’s Ku-Ku Hamburgers, also in Miami, which was on the tick list:

We crossed into Kansas for the very short Route 66 loop:

Baxter Springs:

There’s nothing worse than a Civil War:

Another bridge:

and then we left Kansas and went into Missouri:

Day 18 – Thursday18 May 2017 Oklahoma City – Tulsa

Distance travelled 137 miles.  Time on the road 5.75 hours.

A quick weather update.  Having left Oklahoma City this morning, we are now hearing that it is expecting tornado’s this evening.  Here in Tulsa we only have to worry about thunderstorms, with up to 2 inches of rain, flash floods but, on the plus side, the hail is now only expected to be golf ball size, sometimes tennis ball size.  We heard a car dealership on the radio advertising bargains on hail damaged new cars!

Despite the strong winds, we really like Oklahoma.  Having heard jokes about it, in US TV shows, over the years, it turned out to be a really great place to travel through.  Very fertile, with greenery everywhere, plus some very friendly people along the way.  I keep forgetting to mention how cheap we are finding fuel for the car so, whilst the thought is in my head – we put 25 USD‘s worth into the car this morning, which we have been doing every other day, and got 10.4 Gallons.  That is for less that £20!

Apart from a short section of bumpy road today, Route 66 has followed some well maintained roads that we have been able to just cruise along at a nice pace.  Yesterday evening, I went onto Google Earth and found the missing golden dome from yesterday, so we started today’s journey from there.  Just across the road was the giant Milk Bottle that was also on the tick list, so we were on a roll.

Then it was onto Arcadia to photograph the giant Pop Bottle:

and in the cafe there was the most comprehensive collections of pop we have ever seen:

and the famous round barn was just down the road:

In Warwick we called in at the Motorcycle Museum, in an old 1924 Seaba Gas Station, and I have never seen so many motorcycles in one place before.  Two friends with a hobby that had completely taken over their lives!

This one was from a Captain America film:

Out back was an original stone-built outhouse:

We passed a couple of dome shaped buildings:

We passed through Chandler:

This sign used to stand outside a bowling alley in Oklahoma City, but the new owners of the property did not want it, and I had read that it had been relocated, but I did not know where to, so it was quite a surprise when we came across it in Chandler.

Another town we passed through:

Skyliner Motel in Stroud:

We had lunch in the Rock Cafe, also in Stroud:

I had a Buffalo Burger!

and we added our names to the thousands of others on the walls:

The 1921 Rock Creek Bridge and the old Rock Creek Teepee Drive In Movie Theatre, in Sepulpa.  These were at the end of our only bumpy stretch today:

An Easy Rider mural:

Signs on the way into Tulsa:

Before, and during, our trip, Pauline had been chatting with  another former Wren (Women’s Royal Naval Service) on Facebook, but who she had never met before, who lives in Tulsa, and we met up with Pam Beene, and her husband Ron, and we spent 3 very enjoyable hours with them, including them taking us out for Dinner which was really nice of them.  Pam has lived in Tulsa for about 40 years, but she still visits the UK as often as she can as she has a Daughter and Grandchildren in Harrow, which is just outside London.  Ron is a former USAF Pilot, so we all had a lot common with our Armed Forces backgrounds, plus they share our love of travel.   All in all, a great evening that ended too soon.

Just as I finished typing, the storm has started.  Thunder, lightening, rain…  Well the car does need a wash!

 

Day 17 – Wednesday 17 May 2017 Oklahoma City

Distance travelled 58 miles – quite a lot when all we were doing was going backwards and forwards across the City for the day.

Watching the news last night, and again this morning, all of the talk was about the tornado that ripped through Elk City, where we spent the night, during the late afternoon, destroying over 100 homes, and then another one that went through Clinton, where we spent the early afternoon, later on.  During our drive yesterday the sky was looking ominous the whole time, but we never realised what was coming behind us.  We did pass a school in one small town that had its own “Tornado Shelter” which illustrates how dangerous the weather can be. Tomorrow, we are heading for Tulsa where “severe thunderstorms” are forecast through until Friday…  Hearing about yesterday’s baseball size hail stones is a bit perturbing too!

Fairly lazy day today.  On the way in yesterday we passed an old Route 66 bridge, that the modern highway had bypassed because it would not be able to cope with the traffic, so we retraced our steps to it.  We would not have been able to stop yesterday as we were in high speed, rush hour, traffic.  Built in 1925, the Lake Overholser Bridge is still open to local traffic:

We then headed for the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, just outside Oklahoma City, and, having been raised on a late 50’s and  60’s diet of Western Movies, it was really enjoyable.  Even Pauline enjoyed it.  We chatted to the Cowboy, who was a volunteer greeter at the entrance, and despite being about the same age as me, he said that he had only ever seen one tornado.  He did confirm that the wind never stops blowing though!

John Wayne guarding the entrance!

There was a whole section devoted to actors, and actresses, who had starred in the Western Movies, with a lot of the exhibits being donated by them or their families.  John Wayne, in particular, had a very large section devoted to him, but that is not surprising when considering how many iconic films he starred in.

Ronald Reagan before he went into politics:

Charlton Heston:

 

The Museum even has a small mock up of a Wild West town:

The Marshall’s Office:

After we left the Museum we travelled about 14 miles to where we should have found a huge golden dome.  It wasn’t there!  This has happened a few times, and I have to seriously question whether the guide book authors ever actually visit the places they feature in their books.

Finally, we headed for a small park, not far from Downtown, to see the Centennial Land Run Monument that commemorates the 1889 land grab.  Some amazing sculptures:

 

Day 16 – Tuesday 16 May 2017 Elk City – Oklahoma City

Distance travelled 137 miles.  Time on the road 4.5 hours.

We knew that we had quite a lazy day ahead of us, with not too far to travel, so before we left Elk City we spent about 2 hours in the National Route 66 Museum, which is coupled with the City’s own Old Town Museum.  Without a doubt, the Museums were amongst the best we have ever visited.   As well as the Route 66 Museum, in effect, a small town had been created to recreate pioneer life. and both of the Museums had succeeded in their aims.  I had read that Elk City benefited from the oil industry, and was not particularly affected when Route 66 bypassed them, and it was apparent that a considerable amount of investment, including by  wealthy local benefactors, had gone into making their Museums special.  We took hundreds of photos, and those that follow give a flavour of what we saw:

A motorcycle caravan!

T Shirts:

Hitchhiking Sailor – suspect his White Summer uniform would be more than a little dirty from carrying his kitbag!

Drool…

The Old Town Museum:

Some photo’s from inside the family residence:

WAVE (US Navy Wren equivalent) uniform on the right:

The 1981 Miss America was a local girl:

Once we set off, we did not see as many old motels and gas stations as we had on previous days.  However, these two, in Canute, are interesting in that they are in the front yards of private houses.

When we stayed in the Blue Swallow in Tucumcari, we were told that the Route 66 in Clinton was one of the best so, although we had already spent 2 hours in a museum, we still called in and, again, a lot of effort had gone into turning it into an iconic museum.  Just a few pictures:

Pauline pointing out where we are:

The reason roads were given Numbers.  They all had their own names/colours/logo’s, often painted on rocks alongside the roads, and it was getting too confusing for the motorists:

The curse of motorists everywhere was invented in Oklahoma:

For Martin and Sara:

No more pictures of gas stations and motels today, except for this one which is one of the “must see’s” on Route 66:

And a final sight for today, It is perhaps the most iconic bridge on all of Route 66, this yellow pony-truss bridge with 38 spans was built in 1933. Known by three names — the William H. Murray Bridge, the Bridgeport Bridge, and the Pony Bridge, it is nearly three-quarters of a mile long — it was built in 1933 to span the South Canadian River, 21 miles west of El Reno, Oklahoma.  Apparently, the bridge is in danger of closing because it is so much narrower than the accepted minimum width for highway bridges:

 

 

Day 15 – Monday 15 May 2017 Amarillo – Elk City

Distance travelled 154 miles.  Time on the road just over 7 hours.

End of week 2, distance travelled 1884 miles.

Although we did not have many planned stops today, we still managed to spend over 7 hours on the road but only covered 154 miles.  Contrary to what we were expecting, we ended up spending a lot of time in a couple of places that were really interesting, but where we thought a 10 minutes’ stop was the most we were likely to do.  Just goes to show that detailed planning is not always the answer!

Getting out of Amarillo was a doddle.  Our hotel last night was just a few yards off the I40, and the road went straight through the centre of the city.  A bit perturbing was the sign spotted by Pauline that there had been 1139 deaths on the road, coincidentally the same number of miles to yesterday’s Midpoint stop, but traffic was very light and we were soon well out into the countryside.

I can’t sum up this part of Texas is just one word but flat, windy, windmills and vast grain farms will give you an idea.  Interestingly, for the first time on this trip, we saw substantial houses built out of brick, and we wondered whether that was to stand up to the wind or, perhaps, tornados come through the area.  I should say that although it was very windy, the wind was extremely warm.

For most of the day we managed to stay on the old road, again paralleling the Interstate most of the time, and our first stop was at the Bug Ranch, in Conway, which is a bit like a poor cousin of the Cadillac Ranch on the other side or Amarillo:

After Conway, we headed for Groom, where the guidebooks and maps told us we could expect to see a big Cross.  Well it was a bit more than that.  Sat between old Route 66, and the Interstate, was a truly big Cross (190 feet), set in a small park full of bronze statues depicting the various stages of Christ’s Crucifixion, and there was also a beautifully maintained Visitors’ Centre.  Whilst I am not the slightest bit religious, I had to admire the work that had gone into turning a bit of land into a haven of peace and tranquillity, and we spent a lot of time there soaking up the atmosphere.  We took numerous photos and these are just a few:

On the way out of Groom we were able to take a distant shot of the famous leaning water tower:

The landscape continued to change and, by the time we reached the small town of Alanread, it started to look a bit like the English countryside.  Instead of being sun-bleached, this old gas station was in surprisingly good condition:

Pauline getting complacent about the complete absence of traffic in the area.  I wanted a picture of the road signs.  We never saw a single Route 66 Texas sign, so this had to do.  Chances are there were a lot going the other way, as that is the direction most people travel.

Our next stop was the highlight of our day.  I had seen numerous mentions of the Devil’s Rope Museum, in Mclean, when researching this trip, and had seen a bit about it on the History Channel some years ago.  We were expecting a dingy old room full of barbed wire, but the reality is that it is a spectacular museum, and we spent a long time there.  Before going into the exhibits area we had a long chat with Cenita Day, and she gave us a lot of information about the history of the museum.  Just a few photographs from a very enjoyable visit.  Even Pauline, who had grumbled at the thought of looking at “a load of barbed wire”, enjoyed it:

The Dust Bowl exhibition with lots of pictures depicting the poverty of the times.

A couple of days ago we saw dozens of the Burma Shave signs, and Cenita explained what they are for us.  They all have a Safe Driving theme, and are posted by the Burma Shave company along busy roads.

I had to add the hitch hiking Sailor!

We stayed in Mclean for lunch in Lolly’s Market, where we had sandwiches so full that we could barely get our mouths around them.  As well as enjoying a good meal. It was good to be in a genuine American Market cum Diner, with good service and no glitz.  On the way out, a young man said “Welcome to the Middle of Nowhere” which I suppose it is to the youngsters who live locally:

and across the road was the Town’s cinema:

After lunch, we stopped in Shamrock; a large town compared to most we had passed through today, and it has a very well preserved historical section:

We think this mural, which surrounds a vacant piece of land, probably depicts an Irish town around the time so many Irish people came to the US to escape the famine in Ireland:

We knew that we had crossed into Oklahoma when we stopped in Texola.  The name confused us, as it could have been either State, but the signs put us right!

The town of Erick had some interesting Route 66 contributions!

The Western Motel in Sayre which was the last town we passed through before reaching Elk City:

 

 

Day 14 – Sunday 14 May 2017 Tucumcari – Amarillo

Distance travelled 120 miles.  Time on the road 5 hours.

Before we set off for the day, we had the pleasure of meeting Ben Labaree, the owner of the red Corvette in yesterday’s pictures.  Sandy, Ben’s late wife, started the Corvettes Conquer Cancer Tour charity when they realised that Sandy had incurable cancer and, before she sadly passed away in 2000, they covered over 50,000 miles touring Corvette events to raise money for the charity.  Since then, Ben has continued with the Tour, and he has covered hundreds of thousands of miles.  I have met a lot of people in my time, and admired a few.  Ben falls into that category, and Sandy would too, had I been lucky enough to have met her.

Although we did not travel far today, it was a really interesting journey, and we crossed into another time zone when we entered Texas.

We had a leisurely start and went to ”Kix on 66” for breakfast and, as it is Mothers’ Day here in the States, it was very busy.  After breakfast, we drove slowly along Route 66 through Tucumcari to get a few more pictures of the many murals, old motels and gas stations.

We have seen old Whiting Bros. gas stations all over the place.  They must have had quite a business empire.

Half a plane in the garden!

Is this the way?

Once we were out of Tucumcari we headed for the Glenrio ghost town which pretty much straddles the New Mexico/Texas border.  For most of the day, Route 66 paralleled the Interstate which often appears to be the case.

Spotted this motel en-route, which must be the smallest we have seen so far:

We then got onto just over 14 miles of old dirt road towards Glenrio.  Bouncing is not ideal just after breakfast!

The dirt road ran parallel to an old railway line:

and we crossed a number of old wooden bridges ourselves:

Probably the most interesting Route 66 relic before reaching Glenrio was this old Rest Area:

We knew that we were entering Texas as the sign telling us that we were about to come off the unpaved stretch of road, was full of bullet holes!

Although Glenrio is a ghost town, I had read that it has one resident who keeps a couple of aggressive German Shepherds and, as I could hear them barking, we did not get out of the car to take our pictures!

Just after we crossed into Texas we spotted 4 or 5 wind farm windmills, between two hills, and I made the mistake of saying to Pauline that it appeared that a lot of effort had gone into making the wind farm discreet by putting them in a valley.  She then spent the next 50 miles; it was literally that big, with hundreds of windmills stretching as far as the eye could see, teasing me about how discreet they were.  She came close to walking…

We stopped for lunch at the Midpoint Café in Adrian, and had to wait quite a while for some seats.  It is not particularly big and, as well as more than a few Mothers being taken out for lunch, a large party from the local Baptist Church were there too.  We had some of their “Ugly Pie” and a drink.  Pauline had Pecan, but mine was an exotic mix of Peanut Butter, Chocolate and Banana and, whilst that might sound revolting to some, it was delicious.

The actual Midpoint mileage is 1139 and ours was 1681 at that point.  Even accounting for our side trip to Las Vegas, we have obviously been on more of the alternative alignments than we realised!

A few more pictures on the way out of Adrian:

To give a sense of scale, Pauline stood as near as she dare to this old house.  However, raised off the ground meant that snakes were a possibility…

In case it is not clear, the sign reads Crock of Gin!

and then on to Vega to “Dot’s Mini-Museum” which was closed for the Winter!  A great shame as I have read some excellent reviews.

Some of the small towns, that don’t get much of a mention in the Route 66 guide books, are often the most interesting, and Vega certainly had a lot to offer the tourist:

A restored Magnolia Service Station:

The arrow marks an old Comanche campsite:

Our final stop before our run into Amarillo was at the famous Cadillac Ranch.  It was hot!

Unfortunately, to stop off at the shop, to buy spray paint to make your own contribution to the art work on the cars, you need to be travelling in the opposite direction to what we are.  The “Second Amendment Cowboy” outside the shop.: