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Route 66—Day 12—Baxter Springs, KS to Tulsa, OK

100_7277Louise Speaks:  Day 12:  August 7, 2015.  What a great place to stop last night.  Turns out there is a “City Park” right along the river that allows overnight RV parking.  There is electricity and restrooms and it only costs $10 a night.  I wonder if every state has city parks that allow RV camping?  Anyway, it was a great stop and today we are off to do the 13 miles of Kansas.  Our first stop is the Kan-O-Tex- Service Station in Galena.  This is a vintage service station of the 1930’s on the original alignment of Route 66.  The service station sold regional 100_0449brand gas in the states of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, hence the name Kan-O-Tex.  The brand’s logo was a sunflower set behind a five pointed star.  It was previously known as “Little Service Station”  The boom truck that sits outside inspired a character in the movie “Cars”.  This station is situated on the main street of Galena and in 1937 a repair shop and garage were added to the service station.  In 1961 the new four lane Route 66 moved from main street to 7th street leaving the service station far from the flow of travelers.  When I-44 bypassed the town and the entire state of Kansas the service station went out of business until it was restored in 2007.  The restored station now services as somewhat of a visitors center.  We spent more time here and got more information than you could imagine.  It still has the facade and gas pumps but now includes a diner and a souvenir shop.  A definite must stop, and make sure you talk to the old timers inside.

100_0451You would thing with Route 66 only covering 13 miles of Kansas we would just breeze through the state….but not us.  After talking to the guys at the Kan-O-Tex we found a few other places to stop.  Going through Riverton, KS we came across a unique country store.  Williams’ Store is a historic store located along Route 66.  Leo Williams built the store in 1925, the year before Route 100_045266 was designated. The store sold a variety of goods; while it was mainly a grocery and general store. Williams and his wife Lora sold chili and barbecue beef to travelers on Route 66, and the store also had a gas stations.  The store even had a croquet court at one point, which hosted local tournaments; the court was eventually removed to add the parking.  Leo Williams leased the 100_7285store to Lloyd Paxon in 1945.  Leo died before the lease expired, so after it did Lora ran the store until 1970.  The store is now known as the Eisler Brothers Old Riverton Store.  It is still in operation and serves as the headquarters of the Route 66 Association of Kansas.  This place was the inspiration for the Route 66 songs for the Pixar movie Cars.  We spent quite a bit of time in here as it is almost a museum with all the old stuff they have.  Seems odd saying “old stuff”  when I can remember buying this stuff when I was a kid.  The store was added to the National Register of Historic Places on August 29, 2003.

100_7293Also in Riverton is the Marsh Arch Bridge of Route 66.  This is just on the outskirts of Baster Springs.  The Rainbow Bridge is an old bridge over Brush Creek approximately two miles west of Riverton on Route 66.  It is  now a county road, but we still found it.   The bridge is a single-span concrete Marsh arch bridge  and is the sole surviving bridge of this type on the entire length of the former 100_0474highway.  It was built in 1923.  The bridge has often been covered with graffiti, but was recently re-painted white. The bridge has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places  (as the Brush Creek Bridge) on March 10, 1983, due to its connection with Route 66 and is also a Kansas state landmark.  The bridge is fairly narrow, and due to traffic on the road, a replacement bridge has been built. The bridge had been listed with the National Register, which prohibited condemnation of the old bridge.  In the year 2000, country singer Brad Paisley  performed “Route 66”  on this very bridge for the TLC special, “Route 66:  Main Street America”.

100_0467Our last stop in Kansas, is another gas station.  It seems that is the most common building left on Route 66, but I guess that’s what lined the road…places to get gas, to eat and to sleep.  We came across a 1930 Phillips 66 gas station.  With the depression going on, companies used marketing strategies to blend into the towns scenery.  The service stations had a pleasant cottage design to sooth locals and to provide a sense of security to travelers.  Some towns have really gone way out to restore and bring back to life these remaining buildings from the 1930’s and Route 66.

100_0477We crossed the state line going into Oklahoma.  Since we have been through Oklahoma before, it was going to be fun to see the smaller towns versus the larger cities.  First stop, Commerce, OK.  Here we found an old Conoco Service Station and an old Dairy Queen.  The service station followed the cottage look like the one in Kansas.  This little shop is still serving ice 100_7309cream, but we just knew it used to be a Dairy Queen.

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Moving west along Route 66, we reach Miami, OK.  This is a more historic town that has a remarkable theater.  The Coleman Theater has a very art deco design and the stories I’m sure that building could tell.  The 1600 seat  Theatre  was built by George L. Coleman Sr. and enjoyed a festive grand opening on April 18, 1929.  At a cost of $600,000 to construct, the elegant Louis XV interior includes gold leaf trim, silk damask panels, stained glass panels, marble accents, a carved mahogany staircase, a pipe organ, decorative plaster moldings, and bronze railings.  In 1983 the Coleman Theater was placed on the National Register of Historical Places.  Miami is also 100_7311home to the Waylan’s Ku Ku Burger.  Everybody goes nuts for the hamburgers at this Route 66 landmark, famous for its giant yellow fiberglass cuckoo bird emerging from the front wall and a huge, green-and-yellow neon sign. Here you can  soak up the unique atmosphere, and treat yourself to a fantastic, cooked-to-order burger. Waylan’s Ku-Ku Burger is one of the best burger joints, and burger experiences, anywhere on the Mother Road.

100_7325Continuing West we go through the town of Afton, OK where we found yet another gas station and an historic walking bridge.  From there it was Vinita, OK, home of the Clanton’s CafeChelsea, OK is home to the Chelsea Motor Inn. 

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Next we had an attraction to find.  It is suppose to be the World’s Largest Concrete Totem Pole.  We arrive in Foyil, OK and we didn’t see any sign or any directions on how to find this attraction.  We asked a few people and everyone said it’s on the outskirts of town.  What does that  mean???  We did finally find it but it is several miles off the original Route 66.

The creator of the Totem pole is Ed Galloway.  Ed Galloway was on his way  to California with his family when he took a temporary job in Foyil, OK.  This ended up being home.  Working mostly by himself, Galloway started the Totem 100_0506Pole in 1937 and finished in 1948.  Although sometimes credited as a monument to Native American tribes, Galloway said he built it after he retired so he would simply have something to do. He thought it would be a good thing for Route 66 adventurers to visit.  The totem pole is constructed of concrete over a scrap metal and sandstone rock skeleton.  Sixty feet tall, 30 feet in circumference, the pole rests on the back of a turtle.  A doorway to the inner chamber is locked; and  inside is a ladder that climbs through four stories of circular and increasingly narrow chambers.  While we were there they were painting or adding to the totem pole.

100_0500Ed built other sculptures on his property, but none as big as the Totem Pole. An Indian arrowhead sticks up out of the ground; stylized birds and smaller totem poles are spread across Totem Pole Park.  Ed also built the Fiddle House to show off his handmade fiddles.  It is supported inside and out by 25 concrete Totem Poles.  At one time it contained Ed’s handmade furniture, and  portraits of all U.S. Presidents up to JFK.  Ed worked every day on his creations.  He was up at 5 a.m. and continuing past sunset right up until his death 100_0497of cancer in 1962.  In the decades following Galloway’s death, all the sculptures began to deteriorate from weather and neglect. The bulk of the pieces in the Fiddle House were stolen in 1970 and never recovered.   In the 1990s, a large restoration effort was undertaken by the Rogers County Historical Society.  The outdoor sculptures were restored and repainted, and the Fiddle House was brought back from the brink of collapse.

100_0492Totem Pole Park is a quiet sloping expanse of lawn, with stands of trees and concrete picnic tables.  Regarding the “World’s Largest Totem Pole” claim, there are some current competitors.  The World’s Largest Totem Pole (carved from a single tree) is claimed by several towns.   But Ed’s probably continues to be the World’s Largest Concrete Totem Pole.  It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.

100_0507 We then reached the town of Claremore, OK.  In Claremore we found the J.M. Davis Museum, Swan Brothers Dairy, and the Belvidere Mansion. 

 

 

 

100_0516One of the funniest, stops was in Catoosa, OK.  Here is the home of the Blue Whale.  The Blue Whale of Catoosa is a waterfront structure, located just east of the town.  It has become one of the most recognizable attractions on Route 66. Hugh Davis built the Blue Whale in the early 1970s as a surprise anniversary gift to his wife Zelta, who collected whale figurines.  The Blue Whale and its 100_0514pond became a favored swimming hole for both locals and travelers along Route 66 alike.  Originally, the pond surrounding the massive Blue Whale was spring fed and intended only for family use.  However, as many locals began to come to enjoy its waters, Davis brought in tons of sand, built picnic tables, hired life guards, and opened it to the public.  Just by looking at it you can tell it was quite the place when in full operation.

thOriginally called Nature’s Acres, Mr. Davis continued to add to the roadside attraction until it eventually included The Fun and Swim Blue Whale and the A.R.K. (Animal Reptile Kingdom). The attraction also featured Hugh’s brother-in-law, Indian Chief Wolf Robe Hunt, a full blooded Indian who was famous, in his own right, for his Indian 100_7343paintings and as a highly skilled silversmith. By 1988, the Davises were not able to continue managing the attraction, so they closed it to the public.  In January 1990 Mr. Davis died followed by his wife Zelta in 2001.  The park soon fell into disrepair, crumbling from neglect and weather.  However, after a decade the people of  Catossa  and employees of the Hampton Inn  launched a fund-raising and volunteer effort to restore the Route 66 landmark. The Blue Whale was restored and repainted to its original brilliant blue.  The adjacent picnic area has also been restored.  Today it is in need of a face lift.  Although it has been restored, it still needs to be cared for and updated regularly.  The gift shop on site is taking donations to help save the whale.

We finally made it to Tulsa, OK but that wasn’t our stopping for today….but it requires it’s own blog entry….so onto the next blog.

Thelma Speaks:

 

 



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Worlds Largest Egg, Wilson, Kansas

100_6417Louise Speaks:  I had just read about this “EGG” before leaving on our trip, and since it was on the way, had to stop and find it.  It is a site we will have to come back to as it is not yet finished.  Once we found the egg, it was a great surprise to see a volunteer working on painting the egg.  You can see the size of the egg in comparison to the artist painting it.  Let me give you some information.

Wilson Kansas has been designated at the Czechoslovakian capital of Kansas.  The local art teacher,  Christine Slechta,  has been making these eggs since she was 16.  In fact  in talking with her, she tells us that for her 16th birthday all she wanted was the supplies needed to make Czech eggs…apparently it is an art.  Several years ago she designed the pattern that is now being painted on the egg.

100_6419The egg was made in 2012 and it was just a white fiberglass egg.  In 2014 it was painted solid black and sat for quite some time.  Christine is the one that designed the pattern for the egg and herself along with many volunteers has been painting the egg since April 2015, that is why it still isn’t done, but it’s close.  The egg has to be turned and is attached to some contraption so that it can be painted in sections.  There are signs everywhere saying “don’t turn the egg”.  Christine hopes to have the egg completed by the end of the summer.  The design has special meaning to the Czechs and to Christine.

100_6420But that isn’t all.  Currently the egg is resting sideways.  This is to make the painting easier.  Once it is completely painted and sealed, a huge gazebo will be made and the egg will be lifted so that it is standing straight up, inside the gazebo.  The egg will stand 22 feet tall and is 15 feet wide.  So far the project has cost $18,000 and has been in the works for about 10 years.

Decorating Czech eggs is a cultural tradition much like a Christmas Tree, Coloring Eggs or an Pinata.  But there are very specific meanings to the design.  Christine used the 8 pointed star which is a symbol of birth.  It is believed that with every birth a star is born and everyone has their own star.  Czech stars always have even number of points, unlike an American star.  To the Czech an odd numbered star meant death.  Christine put much thought into the design and has worked on the egg everyday.  She has many volunteers, mostly her students, and progress is definetly being made.  I for one will stop by again to see the egg finished and in the upright position.

Wilson Kansas began this project to help increase tourism in this small Czech community.  Well we stopped and hopefully others will stop as well, and it will help keep Wilson Kansas on the map.  This of course is not in Patricia’s book, but it’s worth a stop if you’re looking for quirky things to do in Kansas.

We have now completed the state of Kansas.  Even though we have to drive through Kansas to go just about anywhere back east, I’m sure we’ll drive through here again…and I’m sure we’ll stop and see the Egg.

Thelma Speaks:  Well Louise, we will be back here and see the egg when it is finished.  It is amazing to see how large this egg is and to see how many people it has taken to get it finished.  My Kansas friends told me of other things to see in this area so I know we will be back again.  I would love to watch them put this in place when everything is finished, but seeing the finished project will have to do!  Very well worth your time to come and see the egg and if you hurry you might see one of the volunteers painting.  We were just very fortunate to see Christine and learn the whole story about this egg! I hope they type up a story about the egg and how the project began and progressed.  See you again Christine and how the egg looks standing up.


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Monument Rocks National Natural Landmark, Grinnell, Kansas

Louise Speaks:  In Patricia’s book “1000 Places To See Before You Die”  she has this listed as The Niobrara Chalk, mainly because of the density of the rock 100_6412structure.  Finding Monument Rocks is an adventure.  There are no directions, there is a sign we found at the end, but nothing at the beginning.  Since Patricia had mentioned the Key Stone Gallery and it is only 7 miles from Monument Rocks, we figured we’d go to the gallery first and then get directions.  This was a smart move.

 

Key Stone Gallery

Key Stone Gallery

The gallery is just a one room building with geographric rocks and pieces of things found around the location.  The woman who worked there was very helpful and gave us much information including how to get to Monument Rocks.  Nowhere does it say however, that it is about 6 miles on a dirt road…a well maintained dirt road, but none the less an adventure in an RV.

 

You’ve heard me say several times during the past 4 years that I have doubts that Patricia actually visits some of the places in her book.  Now I know for a fact that is true.  You see while we were talking with the lady at the gift shop I asked if she knew that the gallery was in Patricia’s book.  She said yes.  She then said that some woman called her for directions on how to get to Monument Rocks.  When she gave her the step by step directions “the woman on the phone” said thanks, and we’ll put you in the book too…hence the Key Stone Gallery is listed in Patricia’s book…meaning Patricia called for directions but never visited Monument Rocks…but we did.

Like I said, it was about 6 miles of dirt / gravel county road.  It really was an easy road to drive but there are several steep hills to climb…a not so easy task in the RV…but we made it and are we glad.  I’m sure everyone knows that Kansas is as flat as a pancake, but when you see these rocks you have to stop and say how did these formations get here.  You can see where some of the tall spires are falling and crumbling and I’m sure it is only a matter of time before they are gone forever.

100_6407Monument Rocks also called Chalk Pyramids are a series of large chalk formations rich in fossils. These rocks  were the first landmark chosen by the US Department of Interiors as a national natural landmark. The chalk formations reach a height of up to 70 ft. and include formations such as buttes and arches. They are estimated to have been formed 80 million years ago.  In 2007 Monument Rocks was selected as one of the eight wonders of Kansas.

Gracie is so photogetic

Gracie is so photogetic

When we arrived there was no one there.  We let Gracie out to wonder around the rocks and she loved it.  It was a beautiful day and the temperatures were perfect.  There is a road that actually runs right next to the rocks so you can see all the monuments from your car.  We did get out just to walk around, but you can literally see it all from your car.  As like with anything else people give names to rock formations.  One of the most photographed rock is called “keyhole rock” and it is seen in many different books and magazines.  I made sure to have a picture of Gracie in the key hole.  That was one of the clues I gave to find where we were.  I said the most photographed key hole in Kansas.  My daughter was looking at doors but my son in law found the rock.

See how close you can drive to the rocks.

See how close you can drive to the rocks.

This was something I had never heard of, never seen pictures of, and here it is in the middle of Kansas.  These rocks are spectacular.  It’s hard to imagine…in Kansas that these bad lands were at one time under water and part of the sea.  It’s a free attractions, very difficult to find, but very easy with the right directions.  There is a brochure at the gallery with very explicit directions.  Yes this is in Patricia’s book and yes it is a must see…mainly because these rocks are so unusual.  I truly enjoyed this stop and I would give it an A rating.

AM…611

Thelma Speaks:  If you come back in 100 years I think you will see some spots where you will find flat land and nothing left. I suggest you come and see the chalk rocks sooner rather than later.  You can walk right up to the rocks and see where they have been and are not just loose piles of dust.  It was a perfect day to visit this natural wonder as the temperatures were not too hot and humid.  I enjoyed the area but would give a B + rating .  It is very unusual and interesting to see.  However traveling out of normal travel areas makes it less accessible to most travels on a schedule, which we do not have.  Worth the travel if you have the time and want some up and  down hill travel on gravel roads.