Carthage to St. Louis: The end of the line
The sixth and final day of our Route 66 Retro Road Trip dawned bright and sunny, and we decided to give the Route 66 Drive-In Theatre another go, despite being mistaken for marauding Europeans the night before and summarily dismissed from the premises.
After a few photos (taken from the road!), we cruised into downtown Carthage for a quick stop at AutoZone. The Interceptor was still experiencing fuel issues, and we hoped that an additive might make the ride a little smoother. Incidentally, the Lucas Oil additive we picked up worked phenomenally well, eliminating the problems for the remainder of the trip.
While some of us puttered around inside the shop, writer Jeff Peek and photographer Ignacio Salas-Humara wandered down the road to check out The Boots Motel. The Boots was opened in 1939, and its advertisements promised “a radio in every room.” Each room also has its own attached covered carport, and the building is the last example of streamline modern architecture on Route 66.
The motel recently was purchased by new owners who are treating it to a period-correct restoration. We were treated to tours of two restored rooms, which opened for business on May 8, as well as Room 6, which once housed Hollywood superstar Clark Gable and his wife during a cross-country trip to visit her family in Ohio.
The revitalization of The Boots was yet another reassuring example we saw of people working to preserve a bit of Route 66 history.
Back on the road, we set a course for Lebanon, Mo., home of Wrinks Market, a longtime Route 66 staple. The market is now a Western museum of sorts, known as D.C. Decker’s Cowboy Emporium, though it does feature some truly delicious Arbuckle’s Ariosa Coffee and the best (only?) fried pie you’ve ever had – Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pie. We spent a few minutes chatting with proprietor Don Decker, a former rodeo star, custom boot maker, rancher, Old West expert, etc., etc. Mr. Decker told such fascinating stories, we found ourselves hesitant to leave. (Be sure to set aside some time for conversation during your stop at Wrinks – you won’t regret it.)
With only about 165 miles to go in our journey, everyone was definitely starting to feel a little stir crazy. We amused ourselves with our ’70s-era walkie talkie set then made a quick pass through Cuba, Mo., which Ignacio with his Cuban ancestry appreciated.
On a rather lonely stretch of Route 66, we decided to get some video drive-bys of our classic cars, then pulled up on the shoulder in front of a field containing a slew of black-and-white Holsteins in the distance. Those cows must have been fans of ’70s sports cars, because they amassed on us quickly and silently, which was actually a little creepy.
After a few photos, a concerned citizen pulled up and threatened to call the police. Apparently, there’d been some incidences of cattle rustlin’ ’round those parts, and she sure didn’t like the looks of us. After a solid 10 minutes of appeals by Jonathan Stein and the gift of several magazines to convince her we were there in a somewhat official capacity, she left us to our photo shoot.
I’m still interested to learn how she thought we were going to spirit away a 1,500-lb. Holstein in a hatchback, although that Interceptor’s backseat is roomier than you’d think.
We made a somewhat hasty departure after that, with only an hour or so of open road until our final destination – St. Louis.
Pulling into the city and positioning the cars for one final set of photos in front of Busch Stadium, with the iconic Gateway Arch in the background, was a bittersweet feeling.
For me personally, the trip provided some firsts: my first road trip in classic cars and a wonderful exploration of five states I’d never visited. And though we certainly encountered FAR MORE than our share of hiccups along the way, we managed to take all of those mechanical difficulties in stride and ended the journey friendlier than we’d started it.
More importantly, the trip provided the realization that although Route 66 has long been decommissioned, there still are many people working to ensure its history isn’t lost. So get out there and see it for yourself – just make sure your car is fully prepped first.