|12-08-2011, 08:01 AM||#1|
Suffer Fools; Gladly!
Joined: Aug 2004
Location: Somewhere North of Dover, AR
Just a little bit of R66
There are many more knowledgeable people on this subject & many of you may have ridden more of Route 66 than I ever will but this will be my little story. I did my 2-week Army training time at Fort Leonard wood, MO and took the liberty to explore a little.
The right brain gets all romantic and melancholy thinking of all the history, stories & lives impacted by one of the best examples of seeing Americana by this road. As any Route 66 devotee will tell you, what makes this part of the road great is that instead of running in a straight line, the road snakes up, over & around hills, down through valleys & along rivers. In short; it follows the contours of the land as opposed to punching through it. The left brain function sez: “Jeeze, get over it. This is just a stupid worn out road that has lost its usefulness for getting from point A to point B. For the sake of this ride report, I’ll go with the right brain line of thought.
We’ll start with a little history.
Route 66 was built (well, completed) in 1926, totaling 2,448 miles but it took another 12 years to get it all paved. In Missouri, Route 66 pretty much follows a limestone & dolomite ridgeline that has served Missouri travelers since before Missouri was Missouri. Supposedly there is evidence that this route was even used as a primary trail for migrating Mastodons (not to be confused with Mammoths) from the Clovis culture, which existed in the area between 4,000 and 14,000 years ago. Anyway, following those Mastodons came Indians, explorer’s, trappers, hunters, homesteaders, Union and Confederate Armies, Indians again (Trail of Tears) & railroads all utilizing this rock ridgeline before anyone imagined the internal combustion engine or asphalt as a road surface. Those hairy, tusky Mastodons apparently preferred easier routes & were onto something. Besides the land, there are other parallels between the Ozarks in Missouri and Arkansas. Both required hearty individuals to survive in the area, and when the Civil War came, it laid waste to the men, women and families alike. Although in this region of Missouri there was little postbellum violence from mobs or vigilantes that plagued the Ozark communities of Arkansas. When Fort Leonard Wood was built it displaced hundreds of hill folks and ended a dozen tiny towns. Of course, it wasn’t a total loss for these folks as they got paid for their shacks and property, giving them the freedom (i.e. cash) to relocate out of an area that was pretty much exhausted from a natural resource point of view (over timbered, over hunted and over farmed). Today at Fort Leonard Wood there is little evidence other than a school building, a house and about a dozen cemeteries with headstones that date back to the late 1700’s, of what was once a rural hill folk area consisting of people that relied on the land to survive.
With the completion of I-44, R66 was officially decommissioned & removed from the United States Highway System on June 27, 1985. You can thank Dwight David Eisenhower for that as after seeing the cool high-speed autobahns in Germany during WWII guess what? Yup, when Eisenhower became Prez it was interstate building time!
A few tips
First, your trip will be more fun and less frustrating if you understand & accept some general commonalities about Route 66, (this especially holds true in Missouri). Due to man-made features (read: I-44 & Fort Leonard Wood) the landscape, topography, terrain or whatever you choose to call it, the original Route 66 has been sliced, diced, spliced, obliterated or cut into or off dozens of times while making its way through Missouri. So don’t think you will be on the REAL Mother Road all the time without some luck or a real good background of where it is. In fact it’s impossible because the thing just doesn’t exist as one continuous chunk of tarmac.
You will be jumping on & off the real deal all along the way, but fear not; it’s still a great ride.
This brings my second point or subject: Signs. You can find plenty of “Historic Route 66” and “Route 66 Bypass” signs sprinkled along roads, but don’t be fooled; sometimes they only indicate a general area, direction or reference as to where R66 actually was. Following these signs is kind of like getting a tourist map brochure: You only get the basic budget version.
This one is the real deal:
and another Tourist version:
And finally my third point: You can upgrade from the basic version to the premium package by doing a little poking around, talking to the locals, backtracking, etc to find out where the good stuff is…well at least the real stuff. If you choose to explore this roadway, it will be A LOT more fun if you learn & pre-plan just a little bit about the route you plan to travel. With that knowledge at hand it makes it more fun to travel as you anticipate & pick out landmarks & features along the way & understand the meaning behind them.
Ok, for the most part I stuck to about a 50-mile section of R66 with Waynesville, MO & the Fort Leonard Wood area as a mid point. This area was arguably the most difficult piece to build of R66 in Missouri but is also the best ride. Along this chunk of Route 66 roadway you could easily spend a full day exploring its features. If you decided to do a little sightseeing of local areas you could probably triple that time. A street bike is fine but a 650cc or larger dual sport bike is the preferred mount for this area as ideal speeds are relatively slow ranging from first gear speeds; for poking along, up to about 50mph but occasionally you need to jump onto the interstate for a few miles to connect the dots. Plus with the D/S bike you get the flexibility to expand your exploring beyond the tarmac. I found this section of R66 interesting & fun to ride on the BGP (Big Green Pig). Other areas of Route 66, especially west of Missouri may be better traveled on a more dedicated street bike. Route 66 is like seeing and endless series of mini ghost towns & their eerie, deserted charm interspersed with more modern structures but occasionally you will spot a restored or well-kept original period building. Regardless of the glamour some would like to affix to these forgotten structures, there was only one basic reason for their existence: The all mighty dollar…or lack thereof. When this road was built (1926) it brought traffic through many rural parts of the country & Missouri is a prime example. With the Great Depression (1929-1939) right on its heels; every money hungry, opportunistic Ozark country man, woman, child & family came out of the woods and lined up along Route 66 to try their hand at parting travelers from their cash & a few are still doing that today. Most R66 resources I found were rather general and brief or hard to translate between what I had read and what I was seeing on the actual route. One of the best sources for information I came across for learning about this route was a DVD put together by Pulaski County Tourism, detailing the route thru the county. Even then, I might ride an area 2-4 times to figure it out and understand who, what, why and how of where I was and what I was seeing. Maybe it was just me, but was still fun.
I started out in a tiny town named Doolittle, named after Jimmy Doolittle who led the famous Doolittle raid over Tokyo with a bunch of B-25 medium bombers. The story goes that there was this little area was trying to agree on a name for their town when Jimmy Doolittle stopped there while traveling. They figured his name was as good as any; hence Doolittle, Missouri was born. Anyway I went west out of Doolittle, MO. BUT if you follow the Route 66 signs you will miss this part of the original Route 66 featuring John’s Modern Cabins.
Now here is a funny story: I used to be able to see these cabins on the north side of I-44 when I traveled to Michigan. Then after I got back from my deployment in 2005 I never saw them again. Then I found out why: While I was deployed that sneaky MDOT rerouted the Interstate in that area has made the cabins invisible to Interstate travelers! Now you need the secret map to find them (I just made that secret map part up). Want to know more about these cabins and more? Go to this very cool link:
If you continue down this dead end road adjacent to these cabins you will come to the long lost town of Arlington, MO. This road could be good for an adventure ride as it stops at an old railroad crossing but if you are adventurous enough you could easily slip around some gates and continue on where the old road used to go.
After you this you pretty much need to get on I-44 to the next exit, which after a few miles will bring you to The Elbow Inn Bar & BBQ.
The Elbow Inn Bar & BBQ is a famous traditional eatery and watering hole along the Big Piney River. Right past the Elbow Inn you will come to the bridge at Devil’s Elbow (below) was built in 1923 is not named for the bend in the road but rather the twisty Piney River that runs through this area of Route 66.
When the Army was building Fort Leonard Wood & WWII started, all this curvy Route 66 nonsense in this area led the them to create a four lane By Pass to get war supplies to Fort Leonard Wood and beyond. This required cutting out a rock formation, now known as Hooker’s Cut because it was at the town of Hooker, MO. They didn’t know it at the time but this was a trendsetter for future interstate construction. One, the largest rock cut, two, the first road median and three, the precursor for what the US interstate system was going to look like. Looks like they beat Eisenhower to the punch on this one.
Ok, after Hooker’s Cut you end up more or less traveling down the frontage road leading towards Waynesville, MO. Every town has its stories and Waynesville is no different. It’s a classic Route 66 town with a couple of interesting old historical spots. They have a good museum, the Rubidux (pronounced Ruby-doo) River and an old stagecoach stop plus a few other attractions, worth checking out. If you go to the museum (open only on Saturday) Betty or Marge will fill you in. Once you’re on this Route 66 for a while you start to naturally pick out old stuff hidden on the roadside. Cruise on out of Waynesville and you start picking them out:
Anyway, let’s wrap this up. I turned around at Lebanon, MO area and headed back but it’s tempting to keep going to see what is around the next corner. This Route 66 stuff is good default ride when you want to do something a little different and less demanding than dirt but still fun. I didn’t even get into the other back roads that are all over this area. Might be good for an early fall color tour. There are cabins and camping areas all over this part of Missouri and I went to some interesting eateries. The road is still fun to ride and it really takes you back in the day (if you let it). Not bad for just a stupid worn out road.
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