Route 66 – Morning, Day 4: St. Louis to Tulsa

Yesterday’s drive from St. Louis to Tulsa was pretty long. I knew when we were still at the hotel and they had 6 stops listed before we were supposed to be in Barton Springs, Kansas for lunch that our trip leaders were a bit overly-optimistic about what we could accomplish. We hopped on parts of I-44 just to keep up time, but even that didn’t help keep us on schedule.

We stopped first at Meramec Caverns, one of the oldest tourist traps along Route 66. This was supposedly the one of the hideouts for the Jesse James gang, a nice sized cave with guided tours. We opted to take pictures in front of the signs and visited the entrance to the cave before heading out to the next stop.

Meramec Caverns Billboard

Phoebe at Meramec Caverns

Meramec Caverns "Ballroom" Cave Entrance

Part of the group broke off unexpectedly to visit a toy museum, so the rest of us did a drive-through of little-bitty Cuba where they have some Route 66 murals. We went hunting a giant faucet sign there (totally not my idea, even) and only found it somewhere further on the road.

Lots of great old gas stations, googie hotel and restaurant signs and antique cars along the road that I snapped picture of. To gather the whole group back together, we stopped at the Mule Trading post, where we stopped last year on the way to my cousin Sarah’s wedding. There’s also a nostalgia car place nearby with some awesome old gas station signs.

Mobil Oil Sign

Mule Trading Post Windmill Guy

Tom Bodett just called and said we won ten million dollars. Then he said he was kidding, and it’s time to get up. Stephanie notes that it’s strange there’s no meowing going on right now.

After we gathered everyone up, we stopped at the Devil’s Elbow, an old curved bridge, for a photo op. Because we were about 2 hours behind, we ate at the Elbow Inn, a little bar/restaurant that was both thrilled and overwhelmed by 15 VW Beetles. Basically a pretty rough-neck biker bar; one of their things is having women’s bras hanging from the ceiling. We killed almost 2 hours there before everyone got fed and back on the road.

Elbow Inn at the Devil's Elbow

Bras on the ceiling at the Elbow Inn

Beetles in front of the Elbow Inn

Beetles driving over the Devil's Elbow

Our next stop was the Munger Moss, famous old Route 66 hotel still in operation with a great googie sign that we did a photo op in front of. Then we headed to Riverton and Baxter Springs, Kansas. Kansas has only about 12 miles of Route 66 on the south east corner of the state. When the interstates went through, they bypassed Kansas altogether, sadly, and re-routed traffic directly from Missouri to Oklahoma. Riverton had a little cafe giftshop where we caught everyone up again ( people kept breaking off to do their own thing, or get gas or shop or eat.)

Phoebe at the Munger Moss Motel

After that, we visited the rainbow bridge, which is one of the only remaining marsh arch bridges on Route 66. It’s been restored in the last 10 years, and was a great photo with the beetles lined up on it.

Beetles on the Rainbow Bridge

Then we headed out to Catoosa to see the Big Blue Whale. We stayed on old Route 66 for this and got a bit lost winding around, but managed to see lots more cool googie signs and old restaurants I got photos of out the window.

We stopped for gas, which seemed to be the point where several people lost their cool for awhile. Some wanted to skip the Blue Whale and go on to Tulsa, but rather than just break away and do that, they tried to persuade the whole caravan to go along with them. People gassed up and paid for gas, but then left their cars parked at the pumps while they stood around for 10 minutes and debated the whale stop, so when we finally got people moved so we could gas up, people started bitching on the radio that we were taking too long. This is the point at which I lost MY cool. I’m still pissed off about it.

Anyways, we saw the blue whale, which was excellent, and I loved it. And I want to build one in my backyard. Seriously. You think I’m kidding.

The Blue Whale in Catoosa

Me and Stephanie in the Blue Whale

After that long day, we headed into Tulsa and ate at Cracker Barrel before finding the motel 6. Again, the light wasn’t on for us; the room was dark. Those liars. I took 147 pictures, but again, we’re not on high-speed wireless, so don’t think I’ll try to upload them.

Today is going to be interesting. We travel across Oklahoma and through the Texas pan handle. Most of the caravan are staying in Amarillo, but five or six of us are traveling on to Tucumcari, New Mexico to stay at the Blue Swallow Motel, which is one of the continuously operating 50’s era hotels on the road. The neons signs for it are amazing.

But it seems like the guys planning travel are planning are packing the day with events timed for those staying in Amarillo, and those of us traveling on have an extra 2 hours are going to be kinda screwed. I’m trying to figure out whether it would be better to break off the Tucumcari group to see an abbreviated version of everyone else’s sight-seeing list, or try to stay with the group and skip stuff at the end.

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