Route 66-Westward


An idyllic trip through the countryside and back in time; thus was our day traveling Route 66 from Carthage, MO to Baxter Springs, KS.  Food, fun, sunshine and happy grandbabies were the cherries on top! 

Our morning started with a trip to the Circle E Market east of Carthage.  A market and deli filled with delicious home made pies, pastries and breads is always a perfect way to start any adventure.  The folks at Circle E have always been so helpful and friendly, and if you are lucky you might catch folks sitting around the picnic tables that will tell you some local stories.

The next stop, on our little travelling Saturday was Red Oak II.  A quaint town full of period building from the last 100 years, which have been moved in and re-homed.  There is a store, school, sheriff’s office, church and several other buildings.  There is an art gallery which holds Lowell Davis paintings, and the grounds have several sculptural pieces from him as well.  

The church at Red Oak was originally on property about a mile from where I grew up.  I very much loved walking into it, and reminiscing about what it looked like now compared to the last time I entered its doors about 40 years ago.  The still quiet interior took me back to the Salem church of my childhood, and was a wonderful opportunity to tell my grandson that I remembered it from its original location when I was little. He was more impressed by the tiny broom he found inside the door, and the rocks outside. ;)

As we headed out of Carthage, the tree lined meandering roads reminded me of country drives on Sunday afternoons from the 70’s. As we came into Joplin, we stopped to check out the murals on the side of Pearl Brothers Hardware Store.  The 3D corvette was an unexpected bonus! 

We were now headed out 7th Street in Joplin, toward the Missouri/Kansas state line, and our next stop, Galena KS.  Our grandson was extremely excited when we arrived at Cars on the Route.  A restored gas station from the late 1930’s that now serves a gift shop, restaurant and Route 66 Welcome Center.  In front of the station is a 1951 International Boom Truck that inspired the character “Tow Mater” in the Cars movies.  The original, now named Tow Tater is there for pictures along with an additional tow truck and fire engine; three vehicles that made our two year old super happy!

Now I mentioned food as one of my big happy moments of the trip.  At this point, the above mentioned 2 year old was hungry…..again.  We stopped at a great Mexican restaurant in Galena called Mi Torito, it was an unexpected surprise on the trip.  It was super clean, bright and the staff was very friendly.  Most importantly, the food was amazing!  But if you are so inclined, pack a picnic, drive a couple miles off the route to have lunch at Schermerhorn Park.  We didn’t go that day, but have had friends say it’s a gorgeous park with a cave, creek, visitors center and lots of nature to see.  

Following Route 66 out of Galena, we passed through Riverton, where we stopped at the Old Riverton Store.  You still feel like you are walking into a grocery store and deli from yesteryear.  There was an old Coke a Cola cooler that still had glass bottles waiting for purchase, as well as a couple nice young people taking sandwich orders.  There was also a room of Route 66 history and memorabilia to see and purchase.  To the South of the Old Riverton store is the Empire Electric power plant, one of the oldest power plants in the US.  You can also see the Empire Power Dam Falls, a quarter mile long fall that was a wonder to see and hear.  We drove past it with the windows down, and just enjoyed the simple sound of the rushing water.  

Our tour completed at Baxter Springs.  We did pass over Rainbow Bridge on the way.  Rainbow Bridge is the only remaining drivable Marsh Arch bridge constructed on Route 66.  We had a great time looking at wildlife in the water below, as well as tossing rocks just to hear them splash(insert 2 year old boy and you have the makings of fun when you include rocks and water).  Baxter was a town that not only boasted Route 66 history, but history from the Civil War as well.  The Heritage Center and Museum tell the history of the town, the battles in the area, and the mining history as well. We had sleeping babies at the time, so we didn’t get to go into the museum, but will definitely go back when it’s just Grandpa and I! 

If you want more than just our version of Route 66 in Kansas, I would highly suggest going to  Its got great turn by turn directions and lots of links to each place of interest.  Be safe and have a great time traveling Route 66 and learning about days gone by!