Monday, May 28, 2012

Ozarks, Barbecue and Archaeology

Monday May 28, 2012

The day started with a visit to the Wagon Wheel Motel office. We got to hear the owner talking about the adventure restoring the place had been. It had been a nice stay in a special place but it was time to move on.
Shelly’s CafĂ© was suggested but it was closed for the holiday. We ended up doing breakfast at Hardee’s, a Burger King sort of chain. If I’m not forgetting anything it’s the first such joint of the trip. We’ve been doing pretty good at enjoying the local fare.

With that we were off and rolling. The day was spent rolling though the Ozarks, nice rolling hill country. Wooded and sparsely farmed it was in stark contrast to most of Illinois. It was a nice travel day with mostly blue skies. There was a storm front around but we only had a few cloudy spells. It was hot and breezy. More often than not the interstate was nowhere to be seen and that added to the experience. Today we had no big stops, just a lot of hit and run sightseeing including a few loops onto older alignments or the route.
As we left town the GPS flagged us to a back street where we found Friscos Public House. Listed as a historic place in the town it may date back to the heyday of route 66. In any case it had some nice murals along the sidewalk.
The next stop was about 4 miles out of town in Fanning at the 66 Outpost. Their claim to fame is the world’s largest rocking chair, over 42 feet tall! Like many route 66 stops the idea is to have something so audacious that people just have to say “look at that!” and then hope they stop to patronize. "In the day" traffic was heavy and the goal was to catch as much of the passing cash as possible. With that much traffic and competition one-upmanship was inevitable. This continues even with newcomers to the road.

The also had a nice mural outside.  The riding mower was clever, a bicycle outfitted with a reel type push mower for the front wheel. After getting a bag of ice and a few souvenirs we were off again.

Down the road in St. James we found an old DERBY filling station. It was an uncommon brand with signs intact. The station was cluttered with some old vehicles and rubbish bit it was worth a few quick pictures. As we crossed town the main road opened up being a divided street. The sidewalk was smack dab down the center with grass and trees bordering each side of the sidewalk. The edges of the street are also tree lines making for a pretty and shaded roadway. 

Rolla was the next stop. Here we found the Mule Trading Post featuring a giant Hillbilly. His arms are made to swing back and forth but they were still today. They have a very tall highway sign the spells out MULE TRADING with each letter being a box on the sign frame. Some are missing, one hanging from the frame making you guess like playing a game of Wheel of Fortune. Can I have a vowel Vanna?

They have a neon mule sign with the neck extending from a US Highway shield. There is a barn down back with a mule sign, probably an old petting zoo to draw families. There were a few Corvairs hanging around out front. Lorna made sure I got pictures of those. Other than that it was a basic gift/souvenir shop.

Still in Rolla we found the Totem Pole Antiques and Fireworks. They claim to be the oldest business on Missouri route 66 dating back to 1933. This building looked like a converted Shell gasoline station with a sign that went up into the sky with many panels hawking its wares. The place had a lot of old gasoline pumps, and other antiquities hanging around in addition to the requisite souvenir items. Tourist trap alert.

Farther into Rolla we found the sign to Zeno’s steak house. From what I can find they recently closed and operated a motel, Zeno’s Studio Motel. They had been in business since 1957.
On the outskirts of Rolla were the remains of “Pingas”, a golden stucco building. They had offered an eclectic mix of Hand Made Leather Goods, Indian Jeweler, Salsa, BBQ Beef Chili, Pozole, Tamales’s and Green Chili Soup. It’s getting overgrown but even now in Google street view it looks like it had been in recent operation. You can tell that vegetation can grow fast down here!
We left Rolla and traveled a lovely stretch of traditional 2 lane route 66. 1 lane each way with no shoulders, the way roads used to be. It does give a certain intimacy with the surroundings. Often we have been going for long stretches on the  mother road with no sign of another vehicle in either direction. This was through nice rolling curving terrain.

On an old alignment in Newberg we found Vernellel’s Motel still in operation. It began when 66 was a 2 lane road right at the doorstep, got moved back when it became a divided 4 lane roadway. Since then 66 got reduced to 2 lanes, realigned and ultimately the traffic went to the interstate. Today Vernelle’s is operating in the shadow of it’s own billboard from the day when the Mother Road was at it’s doorstep. It’s a decent, simple property that harkens back to another time.

Just down a way we spotted John’s Modern Cabins. Built in the 1930’s and operating into the 1960’s sometime. The cabins are now caving in and severely decayed. At least one outhouse is still standing and perhaps usable. One of the more sound cabins has the sign for John’s Modern Cabins perched on the roof. The sign is weathered, surrounded with tree limbs that have grown in and still has some neon tube glass. With a little focusing you can still read the sign.

Looking around I spotted some metal fence posts lined up in front of the property, one with a small wooden sign. Further scouting found another matching sign that fit. It appears they had a Burma Shave style sign series. They read, “WHILE YOU ARE HERE” and PHOTOGRAPH THESE”, so we did. A US ROUTE 66 shield remains painted on the pavement out front. Down the road a bit we spotted a cabin in a yard up on blocks that may have been rescued from John’s.

We're using a lot of books and GPS tools to find these places and they aren't always obvious. It's fun to pick these places apart to see what's there behind the brush and clutter.  Sometimes it's almost like archaeology so see a place go from nondescript to telling a rich story.
Heading down to the dead end of the road in the shadows of I-44 we found the few homes forming Arlington. Formerly home to the Stony Dell Resort community on route 66. Progress left it at the end of a long dead end and it is now considered a ghost town. When we passed by it seemed everyone was out sweeping, painting and gardening. all 6 of them. 

Back out and down I-44 we located another old alignment that included a few points of interest. First was the site commemorating the “Trail of Tears”.

This relates to the forced migration of the Cherokee Indians. The site is no longer maintained but stone archways, monuments and symbolic statues remain though some are damaged or being overgrown. Enough is apparent to tell the story.

An Indian and Buffalo are visible up on the hill above but a private residence is uncomfortably close to the trail the leads there. I got pictures from afar. The Trail is gated to keep vehicles out but is not posted.

Farther down we came to the remains of the Stony Dell Resort that was once the pride of Arlington. One building is standing with a weathered sign for gas, food, bait and handmade gifts. Many other road side structures are collapsed.

 A stone entry archway is standing and I could spot other overgrown stone-work.

Sections of roadside split rail fencing and some cabins in varying states of decay remain. The remains of a large HOME COOKING sign can be spotted.

Next in Clementine we came to beautiful 4 lane section of route 66 left in it’s 1944-45 constructed state. 2 lanes in each direction, no shoulders and a grass median strip perhaps 5-6 feet wide. The edges of the pavement rise up like slight curbs and water runs down the roadway until it reaches run-off aprons.

Along this roadway is hooker cut, at the time  it was the deepest road cut at 90 feet. The rock walls are covered with kudzu.

Next we came to a section of the road called Devil’s Elbow. Named for a bend in the nearby river it is also the town’s name. This stretch of road is a diversion from the straight roadway. Here the local market sells tobacco, souvenirs and is the local post office, 65457. The sale of tobacco is prominent in Missouri with tobacco on many signs and smoke shops common.

The road makes its way up to a high ridge with a view of the Devil’s Elbow in the Piney River below. There is a marked scenic turnout and a stone wall with plantings maintained by the Planters of Pulaski County Garden Club.

A very long steel and wood railroad trestle can be seen spanning the river and flood plain below.

 The Hardees breakfast was a while ago and before 1:00 we found SWEETWATER BAR-B-QUE, “a Taste of the Ozarks” in St. Robert.  My Ham and turkey were delicious and fork tender. Lorna’s Ribs were good too with a nice bark of rub on the backs. Lorna liked the Hillbilly Beans and I enjoyed the Missouri potato salad, it had a subtle kick. We threw more food than we could eat. 

Much of the afternoon we were striking gold with old motel properties in and out of the towns. Some were operating and others were either abandoned or repurposed. If I cover them all I’ll never end! A few were pretty cool and need to be mentioned. We got lots of nice photo’s Would you like to stay at the Humble House Inn? All rooms are $19.95 for up to 4 people!

In Waynesville we spotted the boulder projecting from the hill to look like a frogs head.

Down the road a giant bowling pin (ten pin style) shares the sky with a sign for the ADULT SUPERSTORE.

The remains including a huge sign in the sky for the Whitmore Farms restaurant down in Buckhorn can be spotted from the same place on the hill. 

Back into the woods of Buckhorn we located the Pleasant Grove Cabins. There remain 3 or 4 field stone cabins in states of decay. The property is abandoned.

 Off to the left side is a large stone fireplace where generations of guests probably enjoyed summer evenings and smores. A unique hoop shaped sign or lantern frame remains up front but is being overgrown.

In Hazel Green we crossed the Gasconade river on a magnificent 1923 bridge including 3 thru-truss spans and a pony truss. At the base is a public access area where locals were swimming, boating, fishing and sunbathing. Driving around it’s not uncommon to see fishermen working the streams in waders. 

Lebanon gave is the Munger Moss Motor Court. This would have been another nice one to stay at but the time of day just wasn’t working out. The font office has a 2 lane welcome port and the rooms ramble back around the property. This place has been restored and under management that goes back 30 years. Latter I was down the road photographing a restaurant and a lady came out of a convenience store to make sure I got Munger Moss at night! She lives near there and say’s the neon is awesome. Like many of these places there is a huge MOTEL sign perched in the sky so travelers can find the place.

Across the street the Forest Manor Motel operates but looks much more dated.

In downtown Lebanon we found the Bell restaurant. This huge rambling place featured  BBQ Ribs, Steak and Seafood. I can just picture the station wagons packing the parking lot.

I wiped some grime from the windows and got some pictures without flash. The long fountain counter looks like a time capsule with salt, pepper, cups and ashtrays waiting. There are dozens of orange stools with tufted back rests.

It closed early in 2011 but was a campaign stop for Barack Obama in 2008. It was built in  1964 and looks very “60’s”. Just so there’s no confusion there are 3, count em, three big RESTAURANT signs.
Past Lebanon is a pair of Meramec Cavern painted bars for northbound travelers on the adjacent interstate. Only 115 miles! I guess we have made some progress on this trip.

We stopped at the Candy Factory where I bought a chocolate cover Twinkie just for the heck of it. We also shopped next door at the World’s Largest Gift Shop. I got a T Shirt, Lorna some of her Start of David Pressed Glass. Buy UPS stock! They had Lucy’s 1940 Cadillac on display.

 In Philipsburg we noticed a long tall flagstone wall along the road. A metal Pepsi sign was on the wall and farther down over a door was a Gymnasium sign. A couple was sitting across the street and I approached them to ask about the original structure. It used to be the local high school but latter was a store, hence the mixed signs. This guy had owned it and some added on steel building for years. He used to do trucking up to Maine! A fire consumed the building leaving the stone wall.

We’re spending the night in Marshfield Holiday Inn Express. After a week of road food we got a light meal at Subway, some fruit at the market and dined in our room while pictures downloaded from the camera. The chocolate covered Twinkie went down good .

1 comment:

  1. We are all following you, and can't wait to hear the stories when you get back!