Some days can be a mixture of simple fun and bitter sweetness.
This was the last day that Markus Foerster and I would be traveling together, he was on a deadline make his way up to Nebraska to cover an international volleyball tournament. He would have to leave by mid-afternoon and there was a lot to see along the way, so we had to use our time wisely. Markus really wanted to see the famous “CARS on the ROUTE” cafe in Galena, Kansas. This quirky little place was instrumental inspiring characters, such as Tow Mater in 2006 Pixar Movie “Cars”. This was my 3rd visit to Galena and I was looking forward to seeing it again.
Springfield, MO. A Very Short Visit
After breakfast, we made a quick drive through downtown Springfield, MO and photographed a few buildings. No doubt, Springfield has a lot more to offer, but we had to be in Kansas by early afternoon.
66 Drive-In. Not Quite As I Remembered It.
A good Route 66 roadside attraction in Missouri is the “66 Drive In” located in Carthage. If you open up any of the tour books on Route 66, you can find its image, but what we saw was not quite the same. The large “66 Drive In Theatre” writing that used to adorn the back of the movie screen was gone. Perhaps they are repainting it and will restore the writing, after all, that was its stand out feature.
The theatre opened in 1949 and during the 1950’s the screen was widened from the original 4:3 aspect ratio to 16:9 widescreen to lure people away from their TV sets. It remained in business until it was closed in 1985, it was renovated and re-opened in 1998. The theatre has operated continuously since then and shows movies on fridays and weekends.
Gary’s Gay Parita Sinclair Gas Station. Another Route 66 Legend Closes Down
Our next stop was another famed Route 66 roadside attraction, Gary’s Gay Parita Sinclair Gas Station, in Ash Grove, MO. Gary Turner’s Sinclair Gas Station was a re-creation of a circa-1930 gas station owned by Fred and Gay Mason that stood in the tiny hamlet of Paris Springs, Missouri, until it burned down in 1955. Gary Turner passed away in January, 2015 and the business was closed. There is a great interview with Gary Turner done by National Geographic if you want to learn a bit more.
I really hope someone steps up to the plate and re-opens this historic business that entertained visitors from around the world. Many of the old guard along the Mother Road are passing on and the next generation needs to keep it alive.
Cars on the Route and Melba The Mouth: The Origin of Tow Mater
Anyone who has seen the Pixar Movie, “Cars” would recognize the character Tow Mater. Well, the origin for the character and allegedly the movie, can be found at “Cars on the Route“, in Galena, Kansas.
Back in 2008, I first visited this great little spot and it was called “4 Women on the Route”, so called because the 4 owners were all female. This little cafe and gift shop is a restored Kan-O-Tex service station originally built in 1934. It remained vacant and abandoned until 2007 when it was fully refurbished, complete with old gas station pumps and vintage cars.
Parked outside there is 1951 International boom towing truck which inspired the creation of Tow Mater. As I recall, back in 2008, the truck only had a pair of eyes places inside the windshield and since the release of “Cars”, it has undergone modification to more closely resemble Tow Mater. Apparently, John Lasseter, the creator of “Cars” visited this establishment several years ago and was inspired to create characters based on the old vehicles parked outside. As to what extent “4 Women on the Route”, helped form the storyline and movie is open to interpretation, yet there is no Lasseter’s drew deep influence from Route 66.
One of the original owners of “4 Women on the Route”, Melba Rigg, aka “Melba the Mouth”, happened to be working that day and boy, were we in for a treat. She is a veritable bundle of energy and information about Route 66 and the old trucks parked outside. She can definitely talk up a storm and does a fantastic job entertaining visitors from around the world.
In the hour or so Markus and I were at “Cars on the Route”, we saw dozens of visitors running the gamut from bikers, to families, international tourists and children. It seems that Galena has seen a renaissance since the release of “Cars”. Back in 2008, I thought Galena was on the verge of becoming a ghost town. Most businesses were boarded up and there were no people around, I’m glad to see this is no longer the case.
Farewell to Markus Foerster, It’s Been a Pleasure Traveling With You.
The visit to Galena was the bittersweet portion of the day. It was time to bid farewell to Markus Foerster, who had traveled with me for the last 4 days and it was time for me to travel solo out to Barstow, California, well over 1300 miles west.
The sun would soon be setting and I figured I had just enough time to see visit Miami, OK, a town I had overlooked on my previous Route 66 road trips. I made a brief stop there and took a few photos and got back on the interstate to ride out to Tulsa, OK and call it a day. There is really not much in Miami and I though the best roadside attraction was Waylan’s Ku Ku Hamburgers. It is an old school hamburger restaurant that would have been right at home in the 1950s.
Overall, this day was a bit thin on miles traveled. No matter, it was my last day with Markus and we decided to spend it at more leisurely pace and enjoy our last few hours together over some lunch and beers at “Cars on the Route”. Time well spent I dare say and hearing “Melba the Mouth” entertain and educate visitors about Route 66 brought a certain magic and charm into our lives.
Where has the Time Gone?
Tomorrow was another day and I was starting to feel the heavy crunch of time weighing down upon me. I had not traveled as many miles as planned and knew I would have to make up time by taking the interstate out to Texas and forgo a number of stops along the way. Two and half weeks on the road to travel from Ajax, Ontario to Barstow California is a lot of ground to cover. Perhaps even a tad too ambitions. That said, I did not regret the 4 days that Markus and I traveled together, it was a one of a kind experience that could only happen on Route 66.