The peak time of year for Route 66 tourism is always the summer season. This is because the old Mother Road has been America’s vacationland travel route since its conception in the 1920s. During the winter months the seasonal Route 66 businesses put up the “Gone Fishing” sign till spring arrives. When spring rolls around, a fresh coat of paint is applied and the Route 66 theme is refreshed for the next round of tourists passing through. New business pop up in time for the summer season, while others fade away into the void while awaiting the next entrepreneur to take interest. While the flash in the pan opportunists come and go, the old standby businesses that are integral to towns along this old road continue to preserve the local Route 66 traditions. As one cruises the Mother Road, the economics of Route 66 tourism become plain to see and the heartbeat of this old highway can still be felt by those who take interest.
Traveling on the old bypassed Route 66 alignment through southwestern Missouri is a sobering experience. Few other places along the Mother Road were affected by economic downfall more than this region. Basically, many Route 66 entrepreneurs ended up in financial ruin because of the bypass, yet this long abandoned section of Route 66 has become an attraction in its own right in recent years. If it were not for the dedicated fans of the Mother Road, the pathway that runs from southwestern Missouri through Kansas into Oklahoma would be long forgotten.
Those who relish the thought of reliving the golden age of automobile travel have kept businesses along the old bypassed Route 66 Kansas alignment alive. Even Hollywood got into the act of romanticizing the old Mother Road a few years ago too. The idea for the movie Cars came from an old historic Route 66 gas station just across the border in Kansas. Apparently some Hollywood execs touring the Mother Road took heart in matters after looking at the old rusty cars with an animated perspective. If cars could talk, the old rust buckets parked along Route 66 certainly would have volumes to say. In fact, the old rusty cars along Route 66 in this section of Kansas look like they are begging for an audience. This kind of thought process is part of what inspired the animated Cars film, which was a blockbuster success.
As mentioned in previous articles, I tried to tour as much of Route 66 Missouri as possible in one day, while trying to keep the goal of getting to Kansas by sunset. The Kansas section of Route 66 is only 14 miles long, so it was a fitting night-capper for the long day. The travel plan went off without a hitch and I was able to photograph the two Kansas Route 66 scenic sites that interested me the most as the sun slowly sank in the west.
There was plenty of daylight left for photographing the Cars On The Route 66 Gas Station, but by the time I got to the historic Rainbow Bridge darkness was settling in. Fortunately, my animated Dodge muscle car was able to use the headlights to illuminate the one and only remaining Marsh Arch Bridge on the Mother Road, so the Rainbow Bridge photos turned out okay. The Rainbow Bridge is one of the most famous Route 66 attractions, so spending more time at this historic spot than I was able to do is highly suggested for all that pass through.
Needless to say, I was pretty darn tired after sunset, because it was a very long day of touring the Mother Road. I continued doing the photo tour of Route 66 Kansas after dark, just for the sake of capturing a few of the old neon lights on film. Some of the old antique painted advertisements on the side of buildings were lit up for all to see, so I got a few pictures of these too. Corner drug stores from the 1940s and old soda fountain shops from an even earlier age can be found along this stretch of Route 66 in Kansas. It is as if the I-44 bypass sealed the Kansas section of Route 66 in a time capsule that awaits for somebody to take a peek.
The Kansas section of the old Route 66 alignment definitely is worth experiencing if you happen to be a true fan of the Mother Road. Cruising through this section awakens the nostalgia buff in us all and any money spent at shops along the way does help the cause. All it takes is one look at the animated rusty old cars to put a smile on a face! If these animated cars from an age gone by could talk, passers by would surely stop to listen. This is the charm of the old Mother Road in Kansas!
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