June 15, 2018
The previous night, before dinner and the big thunderstorm, we drove through Springfield to see the Gillioz Theatre at 325 Park Central East, which is also the historic Route 66, brand new in 1926 when the theater was built. It was one of the first theaters to introduce “talkies” to the Midwest in 1928 and was restored in 2006 to its original Spanish Colonial Revival design.
Our hotel in Springfield, Missouri, Best Western Rail Haven, was filled with features of the bygone days of Route 66, including this ’57 Chevy.
The office looked like it was designed in the 1950s and the breakfast area resembled an old-fashioned diner.
Our room’s bathroom was fitted with vintage fixtures.
It was only after we were on the road today that I read about a few things we had missed in the Joplin area of Missouri, which we had already passed:
Precious Moments Chapel, 4321 S. Chapel Rd., Carthage, MO; 1-800-543-7975
The true meaning of kitsch, this chapel was designed by the creator of Precious Moments porcelain figurines, Samuel Butcher.
Thomas Hart Benton Mural & Exhibit, in Joplin City Hall at 602 S. Main St.; 1-800-657-2534. Called Joplin at the Turn of the Century, 1896-1906, it was the Missouri artist’s final work. Other public art in Joplin features scenes of Route 66, by different artists.
After we checked out of the hotel, we headed to Fantastic Caverns (4872 N. Farm Road 125, Springfield, MO), Missouri’s largest caverns. This cavern was used as a speakeasy in the 1920s and a country music theater in the 1960s & 1970s. Now it offers 50-minute tram tours which highlight cave features. In a large open room of the cave, we were shown a video of the history of the cavern and its discovery.
Question: What is the difference between a cave and a cavern?
Answer: Nothing. They are two names for the same thing.
The first explorers of the caverns was a group of women, in 1876. They left the first – and only – “graffiti” – here!
A group of young people were traveling with their dog and brought him (or her) along on the tour, which I thought was an odd thing to do. What if he got scared? What if she jumped out? But none of that happened. With the calm coaxing of his owners, he settled down and mostly slept.
I did not realize at the time that we were near Wilson ‘s Creek Battlefield, (6424 W. Farm Road 182, Republic, MO) the site of the first major Civil War battle west of the Mississippi (1861). Over 2,500 men perished there. I definitely would have wanted to stop there if I’d known, because it is a National Historic Site and therefore part of the National Park Service. There is a 5-mile self-guided auto tour and a museum.
Back on Route 66 again, which parallels I-44, we headed toward St. Robert, to find the Devils Elbow Bridge, (I-44 Exit 163, south to Hwy Z/Route 66 and south to Teardrop Rd.) However, before we reached the bridge, we arrived at one of the most kitschy and bizarre places on our route! Uranus, Missouri is the home of the Uranus Fudge Factory and Sideshow.
This was obviously a place created specifically for travelers on Route 66. You can watch a short video about Uranus on their web site. However, I think our photos do it just as much justice (except we didn’t go into the fudge factory).
A lot of weird, seemingly unrelated objects crowd near the entrance – a dinosaur, an old-fashioned police car, a weather vane, a double-decker bus, a rocket.
The “town” is just a strip mall of connected buildings designed to look like an Old West town. There’s a freak show, a “museum”, a gun range, a general store, a restaurant, and of course, the fudge shop.
Entertainment for the whole family! Plus some rather humorous signs.
If you like bizarre places, you MUST visit Uranus, Missouri – the height of kitsch!
Stay tuned for Getting Our Kicks Day 8-Part 2!