In a day, we drive across the borders of three states: Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma. As we roll down the remote road, I can’t help but feel we are in the epicenter of America’s heartland.
We have roughly 80 miles left in the Show-Me state of Missouri. Our first stop outside of Springfield is at the Gay Parita Filling Station. The late Gary Turner transformed the 1934 station into a must-stop on the Glory Road.
We meet a couple from Spain posing for pictures, but the conversation is cut short due to their broken English and our lack of skills in the Spanish department. It surprises us to find out how many Europeans come over to drive Route 66. A girl working at the Car Museum in Springfield told us about two-thirds of visitors are international guests. The appeal of the open road of Route 66 has gained interest from all around the world!
We mosey on through to the small town of Carthage before hitting a surprise detour.
Precious Moments Chapel, an Unexpected Treat
I grew up in a house dotted with Precious Moments – my mom collected them – so I am familiar with the big-eyed baby-faced figurines. For those that do not know, Precious Moments are collectibles for all different occasions that spread messages of love and peace.
The Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage has been on my radar the moment I first read about it years ago. My husband, on the other hand, had NO idea it was on the itinerary. He has some unexplained hatred for the precious knick-knacks. You should have seen his face when I told him where we were turning off to! He only agreed to keep driving once he found out it was free.
Curiosity was the main reason I wanted to take a gander at the chapel. Never did I imagine enjoying the stop as much as we did. Notice, I typed “we.”
The man behind the Precious Moments creations, Sam J. Butcher, is a devout Christian who built the chapel as a gift of thanks to God.
The pathway in the gardens is lined with angels leading to a fountain.
At the end of the gardens is another walkway which leads you to the Chapel.
I remembered reading that it is often described as, “America’s Sistine Chapel” which is another reason it stuck with me as a place to visit. Precious Moments and the Sistine Chapel? Sure…
Well, I think we now understand where that analogy came from! When we walk in the first room, 84 stunning hand-painted murals surround us.
In the smaller rooms on each side of the main entryway we find lovely pieces of colorful stained glass.
There is a room dedicated to Sam and his story on how he became the man behind the Moments. All in all, we are both happy we stopped by and now we are off to Kansas!
A Short Trip In and Out of Kansas
Route 66 only runs through Kansas for roughly 13 miles so it was a quick trip through the state. Don’t let the lack of mileage fool you though, Kansas is deep-rooted in the history of the Mother Road.
We stop in Galena, an old mining town, that first gained notoriety from the book, The Grapes of Wrath. Two characters, Sairy and Ivy Wilson, called Galena home.
Then in 2006, Disney’s Cars movie shed new light on the town. It is home to the 1951 International Boom truck that inspired the character of “Tow Mater.” The old Kan-O-Tex service station now serves travelers as a diner and souvenir shop.
It’s time to head into Oklahoma, our third state of the day!
The Blue Whale of Catoosa
One of the most recognizable attractions on Route 66 is the Blue Whale of Catoosa. It was built by a husband in the 70s as a gift to his wife who loved whale figurines. The pond, which was originally spring-fed, later became a popular swimming whole for locals and 66 travelers.
Once the couple couldn’t manage it any longer, it fell into disrepair in the 90s, like so many other places along the route. With fundraising efforts breathing new life into the giant whale, it is now a popular stop again with a no swimming clause though.
Heading into Tulsa
We will be spending the next three nights in Tulsa not only exploring Route 66, but all the other wonderful things the city has to offer. More on that to come in our next post!