Friday, April 7, 2023

2021-03-31: Exploring the Historic Route 66 Through Missouri on Day 9 of Our 3400 Mile Roadtrip Adventure

Winding down on Day 9 of our crazy 3400 mile geocaching and sightseeing roadtrip adventure through history, we spent the day in Missouri trying to follow the original sections of the famous Route 66 highway from St Louis to Joplin. Along the way we stopped at many of the roadside attractions that Route 66 is famous for: a super-sized rocking chair, historic gas stations, old abandoned bridges and more. Oh and let's not forget picking up new geocaching counties along the way too! So hop on board the GeoJeep and let's go for a drive...

Our first two county cache stops was in Crawford County. A travel bug hotel geocache (GCKC79) next to the Crawford County Historical Marker.

Continuing westbound on Old Route 66, we enter the town of Cuba, MO. There we spot several places that look interesting. Among them were the Missouri Hick BBQ with an old garage out building to the side. Or perhaps it was the smoker shack where they slow cooked their BBQ. Don't know but it looked pretty cool.

Next door to it is the Wagon Wheel Motel. Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it was built in 1935 and originally called the Wagon Wheel Cabins, Cafe, and Station. Standard Oil leased the station for one year after WWII. The cabin rooms have been upgraded and modernized while still maintaining the exterior historic charm.

A couple of other noteworthy places to stop for a photo in Cuba would be the Holy Cross Catholic Church and the Crawford County Historical Museum, both made of the same stone walls as the motel.

Just a few minutes further in the town of Fanning is our next geocache (GC1G43E). The Rockin' on Route 66 cache brings you to the Fanning US 66 Outpost and the World Famous Rocker seen at the top of this blog post. After a few photos and finding the geocache, we started to drive off.

At the same time I took a drink from my McD's iced coffee I just purchased a few miles back in Cuba. I think I only got 3 or for sips from it as it was more ICE than coffee! So I looped right around and parked back by the Outpost. We went inside to see if they had some bottled Starbucks or Dunkin coffee to pour into my cup. Yep! We ended up spending much more as we walked out with the coffee, a few novelty soda's and some homemade fudge. The proprietor was also very friendly and welcoming. I highly recommend that you be sure to take a look around inside the Outpost as well after getting your required Rocking Chair photo.

While staying on the Old Route 66 can be very interesting, it is also a slower pace and very time consuming. We still have to get to Texas for the next project before too long. Since I already had a geocache found in the next county, Phelps, I jumped back onto the parallel I-44 to quickly put some miles behind us.

Exiting back off into Pulaski County, we make a stop for our next geocache and our first ghost town in a while. "A Gathering of Hookers" geocache (GC174AZ) brings you to the only remnants of the small community that was once called Hooker, MO. Built in 1900, this church building and cemetery are the only evidence of the early pioneers. The slow curving Old Route 66 (1926-43 alignment) passed by right in front of the church. When the new and improved 4-lane US-66 was built (1943-77 alignment), it was straightened and by-passed many of these communities.

A few Route 66 curves later and we arrive at the Devil's Elbow. A small lumberjack settlement began here after the Civil War around 1870. The name derived from a tight U-shaped bend in the Big Piney River. When the lumberjacks would send their logs downstream, they often got jammed up in "a devil of an elbow," which became known as Devil's Elbow.

Also here at the Devil's Elbow are my next three geocaches (GC175JD, GC1TG2P, GC17E9W). I'm just gonna give you a brief description of my two photos below before telling you about a great web page to go look at for more. This bridge was actually built in 1923 as part of the MO-14 state road connecting the communities. Three years later it became part of the original Route 66 alignment. However with the 4-lane realignment of Route 66 in 1943, came a new bridge. This was used only for local traffic and without regular maintenance, it was eventually condemned. Route 66 enthusiasts saved, restored it in 2013, and now open for vehicular traffic once again.

Following the curve around a half-mile to higher ground you get a good look at a section of the Big Piney River where the double truss railroad bridge crosses over.

Now for more historical information and lots of old and new, before and after photos, if you really get into history like I do, take a look at this web page I found on the Devil's Elbow community. It's a quick read and along with the photos and map will give you a better understanding of the Route 66 alignments. As well as some of the businesses that came and gone, and a revealing photo of the 2017 flood.

Making my way further westbound, we arrive in the town of Waynesville, still in Pulaski County, and our next two geocaches. The "Wire Road Stop" virtual geocache (GCE7E0) brings you to an old Stagecoach Stop listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Originally built as a complex with two log cabins in the 1850's, it was later rebuilt with wood in the antebellum style. A stagecoach stop for the Burden and Woodson Stage, also a tavern, used as a hospital during the Civil War, and a hotel after the war. Later abandoned and rundown it had been condemned by the city in 1982. Local citizens got together and saved the historical building. It is now the Old Stagecoach Stop Museum.

The other geocache was at the Talbot House (GC46FPX). One of Waynesville's oldest homes, it was constructed in 1885 by the Rev Albert Washington Davis. Dr. C.A. Talbot purchased the home in 1915 and used it as a residence for his family as well as an office for his medical practice for the next 30 years. After his death in 1945, his widow then rented rooms to boarders. Today, the current owners use it as an Antiques, Collectibles, and Gift Shop business.

Moving on down the road into Laclede County and some more geocaches along the Mother Road. The Gasconade River Bridge (GC8V6TP) is next on the list. I love these old bridges. Like the Devil's Elbow Bridge, this bridge was built during the construction of Missouri's State Highway 14 a few years before Route 66. And again with the new expanded 4-lane Route 66, the lack of maintenance and repairs led to the closure and condemnation by the state in 2014. The Route 66 enthusiasts are trying to rescue and restore this bridge as well.

My next two geocaches are in Lebanon, MO. A quick stop and find for the Graffiti Tunnel (GC8AVN3).

The other geocache has over 500 favorite points and is the second largest cache that I've ever found, with the old Space Coast Geocaching Store cache in Florida being the largest. This one is called Jolly Green Giant (GC1MDCE) and is Missouri's largest ammo can.

There was just one more geocache we stopped for right before leaving the county. Nothing really to see here. But it was a Challenge cache (GC41F8V) that required you to have found a cache in at least 25 states before claiming the find. Well we've found one in 49 states, so I figured I'd stop quickly and sign the log sheet.

Another chance to make up some time as we already have Webster County, I jumped onto I-44 over to Greene County. There were two geocaches (GC2ZFAA, GC2Z72F) near the intersection of I-44 and US-65 that had some favorite points because of their creativity. They were easy to get to and easy to find. Had an interesting containers. What I liked most and wasn't even mentioned on the geocaching listing, was the historical pioneer cemetery just down the short trail.

It was the Union Campground Cemetery which was established in 1840 by the Presbyterian Church for open air camp meetings. Historical research by locals and decedents put the number of burials at around 200. However, documentation has only confirmed 84 burials.

Staying on the Interstate to get through Springfield, I took the first exit into Lawrence County to once again pick up the Old Route 66. Knowing that Route 66 was being built to the west following the old stagecoach trail, Sydney Casey purchased some property in 1925 in the small community of Spencer near Johnson Creek. There he built his businesses in a row of connected buildings, kinda like a mini shopping center. There was a gas station / garage, barber shop, cafe, and grocery store.

Strategically placed on the right just past the Johnson Creek Bridge (GC7TE1D) which was built two years earlier, Casey was open for business from the Route 66 travelers crossing the bridge. Looking west through the bridge, you can just make out his shops on the right past the Jeep. Then another 1/4 mile beyond and further up the hill was the Camp Lookout Cabins for the weary travelers looking for a break from the road.

The businesses prospered until the new Route 66 alignment a couple miles to the north bypassed this section of the original roadway in 1960. Then eventually killed any thru traffic with the construction of Interstate-44. The cabins no longer exist except for a couple of the foundations can be seen in the grass. Fortunately with the historical interest and fans of Route 66, what does remain here in Spencer has been rescued and slowly restored. Along with the geocache on the bridge, there are 4 easy multi-caches going up the hill using clues gathered from the shops (GC7RPV0, GC7RPY7, GC7RPZ0, GC7RQ04).

Passing through west into the community of Phelps, I spotted this old school building. The Phelps School was a one-room school built in 1888. Classes were held there until 1952. It was later abandoned and fell into disrepair in the 1980's. Eventually the community got together and restored it.

Entering into Jasper County and approaching the town of Carthage, we arrive at our next geocache. The Jalopy (GC4QMA6) is another example of artist Lowell Davis creations, an old car driven by a hillbilly and his hound dog.

Well that's our quick tour of Route 66 through Missouri. One day in the future, probably after retirement, we'll get to take a slower and complete roadtrip stopping in all the small communities. But it's late now and we made it to Joplin. Believe it or not we found a great Greek restaurant called Mythos. Time for a bite to eat and then get some sleep! She got the grilled chicken salad and I got the sampler platter.

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