Day Five on Route 66 — The incredible Kansas link

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(June 28, 2016) Only 13 miles of the historic Route 66 that connected Chicago with Santa Monica, Calif., via a hard-surface road runs through Kansas linking Joplin, Mo., with Miami, Okla. We discovered Monday that the short stretch of Kansas road has been preserved in its original state in several places, one of Route 66's most historic bridges is still standing — and we drove across it — and the people in the towns of Galena, Riverton and Baxter Springs have gone to great lengths to preserve their little section of the national treasure.

The historic Rainbow Arch Brush Creek Bridge on Route 66 in Kansas

The Brush Creek Bridge is truly a work of art with its graceful Rainbow Arch design created in 1912 by bridge designer James Barney Marsh. Three of the Marsh bridges were used on the short section of Kansas 66, but two were dismantled in 1991. Built in 1923, the 130-foot bridge carried Route 66 motorists over Brush Creek until the 1960s when it was bypassed by the interstate highway system.

After the dismantling of the two other bridges, the Kansas Historic Route 66 Association worked to save the bridge when a new bridge was built to carry the bulk of the highway traffic. It has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Bringing an old Sinclair station to life — check out Day Four on Route 66

We were also fascinated by some of the original pavement that is still in use, particularly just over the state line coming into Galena. It vividly brings to life what driving the Mother Road was like in the '20s, '30s and '40s as you cross over the 215-foot long, 1923 viaduct in the picture below.

Monday marked the fifth day of MotorwayAmerica's trek from one end of the 2,400-mile Route 66 to the other. MotorwayAmerica editors Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman and their wives are making their way across country to rediscover one of the most famous highway routes in the world. Monday was a long driving day as we traveled from Carthage, Mo., to Yukon, Okla., just outside Oklahoma City. Today will be another big travel day as we trek nearly 250 miles from Yukon to Amarillo, Texas.

We stayed at another renovated motel from the early days of Route 66, Boots Court in Carthage, arriving in a pouring rain storm that produced many bolts of lightning with the accompaniment of loud rumbles of thunder. The motel was built in 1938 by Arthur Boots. After going through a series of owners, the small motel was saved from demolition by two sisters who are presently restoring the property to the way it was in 1949. Five of the 13 rooms were completed and opened for business in 2012.

We found the restoration impressive with highly polished hardwood floors and old-fashioned titled bathroom floors and shower — and with a radio in every room! The owners point out that there were no televisions in 1949. Prices are good too — $66 (in commemoration of Route 66) for the one-bed rooms and $71 in commemoration of U.S. 71 for two beds. Route 66 intersected with 71 at the corner where Boots is located.

Luci Meachen and Trudye Biederman hug Tow-Tater, the old International Harvester wrecker

Back in Kansas, when you enter the town of Galena one of the first things that comes into view is an old International Harvester wrecker patterned after Mater in the movie Cars, which was set in a town called Radiator Springs. The buildings of Galena helped inspire the fictional community. The "Tow-Tater" wrecker is parked at a restored 1920s KanOtex service station — tagged Cars on the Route 66" that was opened in 2007 as a cafe and gift shop.

On our travels Monday, we saw the usual assortment of old neglected cars and trucks that dot the landscape around Route 66, some landmarks such as a large Coke bottle atop Woody's Pizza in Joplin, and more murals on the sides of buildings in almost every small town.

So it is on to Texas today to see what other strange and interesting sites we can find on Route 66.