May 2nd-4th, 2014: Stanton, Missouri to Springfield, Missouri
Distance: 154 miles
After leaving Stanton, Missouri, our westward Route 66 journey rolled on toward Springfield, Missouri. We had no idea what to expect out of Springfield, but with it being Missouri’s third largest city we decided it was worth a spending a night or two and finding out! It helps that we’re long-time Simpsons fans, so naturally attracted to any city named Springfield.
En route, we were treated to a fun photo opportunity in Bourbon, Missouri at their water tower, which is located across the road from a school. We stopped to get our photo, joked about wishing we’d gone to Bourbon School. Since we were feeling a little weird hanging out in front of a school talking about liquor, we quickly continued on our way.
The first major Route 66 landmark along the way was the beautifully restored Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, Missouri. The motel had a vintage service station out front and several neon signs. Even though the motel office was closed, we walked the grounds with the dogs and it looked like a cozy and well-kept place to stay overnight. Someday I want to do this drive again and have the flexibility to stick around at night to see the neon signs aglow!
Changing the iPod over to “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show, we headed back down the mother road. The town of Cuba was our next stop, famous for its many beautiful murals painted on downtown buildings. We took some time to cruise through this charming little town and take them all in. Cuba also has a restored 1932 Phillips 66 gas station and a drive-in movie theater that’s still in operation.
(Mural photos courtesy of http://cubamomurals.com/ because we were driving and couldn’t stop with a trailer in the middle of the busy roads to get good ones!)
After a quick stop for lunch, we were on our way to our next major roadside
tourist trap attraction: Fanning, Missouri’s World’s Largest Rocking Chair!
We passed several large
tourist traps gift and antique shops before arriving in the quaint college town of Rolla, home to the first nuclear reactor in Missouri and a half-scale Stonehenge, crafted by the University of Missouri’s Rock Mechanics and Explosives Research Center using high pressure water jets. This sculpture’s unique superlative isn’t about size, however: its claim to fame is being the only Stonehenge on Route 66! Who would have ever guessed there was only one?! 😉
Beyond Rolla, a stretch of Route 66 through Hooker, Missouri was the first section of the mother road in the state of Missouri to become four lanes, built in the 1940s to accommodate extra traffic during World War II. Due to ongoing construction and a weight limit on the old bridge into town, we sadly had to pass by Devil’s Elbow, a famous tourist town named for a sharp turn in the river that would jam up the lumberjacks’ logs when floating downstream. We plan to visit it next time we’re in Missouri though!
Continuing onward, we passed through Hooker Cut, a unique section of road that was cut through a ridge of the Ozarks, over 200 feet deep. It was a marvel of engineering in the 1950’s and still very picturesque today. It was a strange, post-apocalyptic kind of picturesque though, as the road is basically deserted and now unnecessarily wide. Two lanes would have been more than enough, but the times change and the addition of nearby I-44 all but replaced this section. We were happy to have it to ourselves, especially since it was an old poured concrete road with no consistent shoulders or turn lanes, and got pretty bumpy at times.
Just east of Waynesville we saw a rock painted like a frog. I have no explanation for this oddity, but he was cool.
Then there was this interesting signage duo. No comment..
We crossed a few more bridges, including this 1923 beauty over the Gasconade River, offering some awesome views and photo ops.
An abandoned gas station and vintage trucks made for a chilling yet beautiful scene as we rolled through the Missouri countryside.
Our last scheduled stop for the day before arriving in Springfield was a quarter-scale replica of the Hubble Telescope in Dr. Edwin Hubble’s hometown of Marshfield, Missouri. The dogs were not overly impressed, but imagining one four times this size floating in outer space left me in awe!
For our first night in Springfield, we decided to stay north of the city and have our first experience parking overnight for free at a winery, thanks to recently joining a great camping club called Harvest Hosts. Well, I say “free”, but really mean that we bought several bottles of tasty wine to offset our lack of camping fees!
It was a lovely evening with great company getting to know the winery owners, drinking tasty wine, and playing yard games. Be sure to check out Oovvda Winery even if you aren’t camping there – they offer a great wine tasting and their bottles are very affordably priced, with a large backyard full of tables to enjoy them.
The next morning, we ventured into Springfield to explore. A positive impression was formed very quickly: it’s a surprisingly modern, artistic, welcoming, bike/pedestrian/dog friendly town with some great restaurants and bars, and two noteworthy breweries.
Our first order of business was a stroll through downtown with our dogs to get a sense of the city. Besides a bustling street fair showcasing local artists, we encountered lots of quirky little shops, a strong environmental movement, and parking meters dubbed “giving meters” to donate money to feed the hungry. Color me impressed!
Our first refreshment of the day was at Springfield Brewing. Who could say no to this sign??
Then, as if there was still any doubt about whether we should be there, the dog friendly second floor patio with complimentary biscuits won us (and the four-legged ones) over.
Our next stop, and an easy few blocks’ walk away, was Mother’s Brewing. We walked into their backyard “patio”, which is their tasting room entrance, to find an all-day Wiffle Ball tournament underway! We grabbed a couple pints and kicked back to watch some of the action. It too was very dog-friendly and we had a wonderful afternoon in the sun watching the games and occasionally catching an errant wiffle ball.
After meeting some of the brewery’s friendly and dog-loving staff, we were invited to spend the night in their parking lot across the street, giving us more time to explore downtown and making it a safe and easy walk back home that night (read: we could try a lot more delicious beer and not worry about driving!).
Later that night, we randomly found ourselves at the scene of the 5th annual Queen City Beard and Moustache competition, which was an absolute blast. A live bluegrass band played both our wedding song,”Swept Away” by the Avett Brothers, and Knoxville’s anthem, “Rocky Top”, which we took to be a strong sign we were exactly where we should be! We met some amazing people that night who we will undoubtedly want to meet back up with in the future.
We had hoped to make it to a minor league baseball game while we were in town, but sadly ran out of time. Springfield is high on our list for a longer visit in the future. There was a lot more culture than we’d expected in central Missouri, and plenty of great food and drink to keep us occupied for much longer than one day!