Roadtripper’s Guide to the Southeastern Kansas

For the first 22 years of my life I didn’t care about directions. Someone gave me a compass once but I never figured out how to use it. And why would I need to? All my travelling was done with someone else driving, piloting or engineering (or however you refer to driving a train). Now, when I have my own steering wheel to turn, the directions are important and indispensable. If you can find South on the map you can visit the Southeastern part of Kansas – an oasis of greatness bordering by the depressed and hostile Southwestern Missouri and Northeastern Oklahoma.

Just take Hwy 7 towards historic Paola, KS and Osawatomie, KS – home-base of John Brown, famous abolitionist and the leader of the Pottawatomie Massacre (it’s hard to refer to the killing of five people as a “massacre”, but everything has to be over-dramatized in the American history so just roll with it). These two towns are fine destinations on their own, but if you keep moving south you will find no less interesting sightseeing in the Linn County and beyond.
For example, Linn County courthouse in Mound City.

Modern businesses don’t feel permanent enough to write their names in stone anymore.

Yes, I am still sewing!

Lawn ornament stores…

…and home-made anti-abortion signs are plentiful.

In Devon, KS $10,000 will buy you a whole block, corner-to-corner…

the sign “Midwest rednecks” and this building are included.

Further down the road you stop seeing people and cars and only an occasional hawk can be seen in the middle of the road pecking on a fresh roadkill. When every radio station turns into KOW and country music fills your car, you know you have arrived.

Your destination is South of Ft.Scott and Pittsburg, KS – a short portion of the original Route 66 passing through Kansas from Missouri on its way to Oklahoma.

Route 66 was built by the socialist Federal Government during the second half of the 1920’s for some obviously evil but undisclosed purposes. That’s why the American people hate the Federal Government – the highways and socialism.

There are only 13.2 miles of the Route 66 in Kansas…

…but there is plenty to see in the towns of Galena and Baxter Springs.

Baxter Springs is neatly kept little town…

…with a visitor center and a souvenir shop inside an old gas station.

As in many Kansas towns, nostalgic murals and horse sculptures depict cattle drives of the olden days.

Moving west on the Route 66…

you pass the point “where East meets West” into Oklahoma.

Few miles down the road is Miami, OK with its claim to fame – the Coleman Theatre.

But the main attractions in Miami, OK are without argument the Ku Ku Hamburgers…

…and a tiny Statue of Liberty.

Oklahoma has a large portion of the Route 66 but there is so much time a person can spend in this sad state. Turn around…

…and drive past this building in Commerce, OK…

…where “flats made round”.

Keep going East past the Rainbow Bridge..

…and eventually you will find yourself in Galena, KS – a town that inspired the movie Cars and was portrayed as the Radiator Springs.

This wall appeared in the movie…

and so did this one.

But the movie’s most  famous character Tow-Mater was inspired by this rusty tow truck which is now called Tow-Tater for some copyright reasons.

It belongs to this business in the old Kanotex gas station – 4 Women on the Route, where the owner Melba “The Mouth” will give you a 30 minute tour in less than ten minutes.

The guestbook in this place is filled with entries from the visitors from all over the world – from Russia to Japan, from Australia to Norway.

The kitchen closes at three but Melba sticks around to greet the visitors.

Melba also owns the former brothel…

…and several other buildings which she hopes to remodel in the future.

Apparently the creators of Cars asked to be brought to a ghost town along the Route 66 for inspiration. Galena, KS had population of 3,000 then and qualified as such. Since that time the population doubled and several more businesses and restaurants opened up in the area. 4 Women On The Route is seasonal and closes in October.

Galena, KS started out as a mining town.

Along the Route the naming conventions for businesses are pretty simple.

To defend itself from the potential threats from the neighboring states, Galena had to purchase a tank.

On the way home you have to stop for some fried chicken in Pittsburg, KS. If you are not from Pittsburg, there is no difference if you pick Chicken Annie’s…

…or Chicken Mary’s

Delicious fried chicken with sides and onion rings for two will set you back $20 with drinks included. You will not be able to eat it all.

There must be something special about the Route 66 that compels people from all over the country and the world to drive this old road. It can’t be all nostalgia since most of the people who make these trips are not old enough to remember, or are not even from here. Being there it’s easy to imagine the great cars of the old driving on this road, carrying their passengers with the record-breaking speeds of that time. Some parts of the road hardly changed at all and in many places have been lovingly restored by the volunteers and enthusiasts. For me it’s easier to relate to the old road than to the Civil War battles or many other “historic” sites.

On the way home we talked about making the trip down the old Mother Road during our vacation next year. We may not get an honorable license plate but I am sure there will be a lot of memories.

  • SKC Observer

    Very cool post!  Thanks for sharing.  The route 66 phenomenon is an interesting one–it is as if the whole country adopted that road for itself as a symbol of those days that now seem so innocent and simple.

  • Mark Smith

    I actually remember eating at that ku ku burger when I was, 6, maybe younger. It’s been there for a minute…. obviously.  That sign is probably worth more than the building it marks. Good stuff. You should write a travel guide. It would be the opposite of  Frommers.

  • Mark Smith

    I actually remember eating at that ku ku burger when I was, 6, maybe younger. It’s been there for a minute…. obviously.  That sign is probably worth more than the building it marks. Good stuff. You should write a travel guide. It would be the opposite of  Frommers.

  • Rick in PV

    Great post! I’ve been wanting to check out Route 66 lately. Did you eat a Ku Ku burger? I suppose not, or there would have been a photo.

  • Joe

    I always enjoy your trips to the rural part of Kansas. Great post.

  • jjskck

    Loved this post. I hope to drive route 66 at some point, though I get the impression my excitement would wane by the time I got midway through Illinois.

    • We would probably start in KS or OK. I’ve seen enough of IL and MO to skip that part.

  • nuke

    Great pictures, and as usual your commentary makes it even more fascinating.  It makes me feel guilty that I would just ignore most of the local color if I was the one driving thru.  Thanks for shariing it with us.

  • David Remley

    Love the post. Noticed that there’s not a living being in any of the pictures… radiation?

    • We should take a trip together. There are places to see besides Cliff Dr.