Blink and you’ll miss it is more true than you’d think when driving the Kansas leg of Route 66. The Mother Road in Kansas is a quick 13-miles, barely crossing into the state between Missouri and Oklahoma. That being said, it’s a fun addition and even though the drive takes only 15-minutes or so, there are a few sights to enjoy.
At one time Galena was one of the most prosperous towns in the state thanks to the local mining industry. While those days are long gone, remnants of this golden era can be found throughout town, mostly through the elaborate Victorian buildings placed incongruously along mostly deserted streets. The main stop of Route 66 in Kansas is also here just as you cross the border – Cars on the Route. I’m not sure if Disney has approved this or not, but this quirky rest stop pays homage to the Pixar film in a variety of ways, embracing the Route 66 theme of the movie. The stop also has a decent café and lots of information of Route 66 not only in Kansas, but in nearby Missouri and Oklahoma as well.
Baseball and Bridges
Kansas was the only state to be completely bypassed when the new interstate system replaced Route 66, which means there are many remnants of the old glory days throughout the 13-mile drive. Another important, albeit brief, stop is at the Brush Creek Bridge. It’s the only remaining example of a Marsh Arch bridge on the Route, named after the original designer. His unique style features two arched ribs on either side that look like the top of a wagon wheel. The bridge is still open and completely sound, which means you can join the millions who have come before you in crossing this historic site. Before leaving the state, we made an impromptu stop at the Baxter Springs Field of Dreams baseball complex. Not to be confused with the “real” Field of Dreams, the field here is I think just as interesting. The culmination of a dream, local residents carved out the immaculately maintained field from farmland on the edge of town and ever since it has served the local community as well as neighboring towns and villages. It’s quirky, but worth a stop.
The Real Route 66
Driving through open farmland that seemed to go one forever, we soon left the state but not before I could pause to appreciate the moment. Although Route 66 in Kansas is a mere blip on the longer 2,400-mile trek, it’s arguably the most important. Since it’s the only state to have been completely bypassed by the modern highway system, it’s the only state on the drive where you don’t see what Route 66 aficionados call the superslab, the interstate. It’s here where you get a taste of what driving Route 66 during its heyday must have been really like. Small towns, quirky stops and open country – this is all still found in Kansas and for most of us is what defines the Route 66 experience. The Mother Road is so much more than a cross-country drive, it’s about connecting with a different side of the country and even a different era. It’s a dream, it’s a feeling, it’s an ethereal blend of fact and fiction that’s as close to magical realism as we’ll find in the 21st century. Maybe I’m waxing a bit too poetic, but this unlikely stretch of road in Kansas is critical not only to truly understanding what Route 66 is all about, but to understanding the complexities of the nation through which it leads.
This post was created in partnership with Marriott International, but all thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.