Rides, Rallies and Events Recap

Mini-Route 66 Ride with the Greater Kansas City H.O.G. Chapter

Written by  August 31, 2005

Cyrus Stevens Avery was known as the “Father of Route 66.” A resident of Oklahoma, Avery was appointed in 1925 to a board assigned to designate the new federal highways and mark them. Congress had requested one route from Virginia Beach, Virginia to Los Angeles, California. From Virginia Beach to Springfield, Missouri, the route would follow what now is U.S. Highway 60. As originally planned, the route would continue through Kansas, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada, then angle southwest to L.A. To avoid the Rocky Mountains, Avery argued that the highway should follow a course from Springfield through Tulsa, Oklahoma City, the Texas Panhandle, New Mexico, Arizona, and southern California. He suggested that the highway should pass through St. Louis and Chicago. Avery’s plan was adopted. The Chicago to L.A. segment of the highway was at one point planned to be U.S. Highway 62, but Avery disliked that number for some reason, and succeeded in changing the number to 66 in November, 1926. Until the construction of the interstate highway system beginning in the 1950’s, Route 66 was a primary route for east-west traffic from the middle of the continent to the West. It became a historic highway, and towns along the route are doing their best to preserve the legend.

Tom Countryman, a member of the Greater Kansas City Chapter of the Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.) decided to plan a weekend trip during which chapter members and guests could ride Route 66 through portions of three states in one day. The trip was designated as the “Mini-Route 66 Ride” and was promoted at chapter meetings and in the newsletter for several months. Tom did significant research in preparation for the trip and became the leader, tour guide, and history teacher for the group. Dates for the ride were July 15-17.

Our Friday rendezvous point was the Flying J truck stop in Peculiar, Missouri. At 6:30 p.m., after a welcome/informational talk from Tom, about 40 riders and passengers on 30 bikes departed for Springfield. Some of our group had gotten an early start and were waiting by the pool at the Rail Haven Motel to greet us. Like many places of business along the route, the motel had some items of Route 66 memorabilia on display. Just outside the lobby stood an antique telephone booth and a Phillips 66 gas pump from which travelers had once filled their tanks with Ethyl. The price indicated on the pump was 32-9/10 cents per gallon, which probably seemed outrageous at the time. After unloading luggage, many of the group took a short ride for a late dinner at a Steak & Shake that was reported to be one of the original restaurants in the chain.

Everyone was ready bright and early Saturday morning to embark on our mini-Route 66 journey. The first order of business was a group meeting during which Tom presented an overview of the route and handed copies of the tentative itinerary to everyone in case anyone became separated from the group. With that many riders, it’s important to have an well-organized plan, and Tom’s certainly was. He had made several pre-rides to map out stops and determine how much time would be required for each leg of the trip. Tom’s effort was commendable, but we soon learned that everything takes longer with a big group. Just before our departure everyone posed for the first of several group photos with the chapter flag and a route 66 banner that Tom brought. For each photo, the little Route 66 sign was held by the person who could answer a Route 66 trivia question asked by Tom.

We left Springfield behind and were right on schedule—for the last time. The historic Boots Motel in Carthage, Missouri, was our first stop. It was once a motel highly preferred by Route 66 travelers. It is currently in the process of being remodeled. We parked our bikes in the motel parking lot and many walked to a restaurant at the other end of the block for breakfast. Some of us had taken advantage of continental breakfast at the Rail Haven and decided to wait outside for the others. While we were waiting, a local lady arrived on a bicycle and informed us that she had always wanted to ride on a Harley and had never had the opportunity. Tom decided, correctly, that he would have time to give the lady a ride on his Ultra. She was delighted and made arrangements for me to send her photographs of her first ride. By the time everyone had finished eating, our schedule was shot. We found out that, in spite of multiple advance warnings, small-town restaurants just do not deal well with large groups. After another quick briefing from Tom, we made a ten-minute ride to the 66 Drive-In just outside Carthage for another group photo.

The next leg of the trip took us to Kansas, the second of the three states through which our route would pass. Everyone parked on the historic Rainbow Arch Bridge east of Baxter Springs for a quick break and another group photo. At our gas stop in Baxter Springs, we were approached by a local gentleman who told us of plans to renovate the bridge. He informed the group that arrangements could be even be made to be married on the bridge at no cost to the couple. I told him that if I found myself about to be married on a bridge, I would probably just go ahead and jump off. While in Baxter Springs we saw the Café on the Route, a building that was once a bank that had been robbed by the infamous Jesse James.

Only a short segment of the route is in Kansas, and we were soon cruising through the Oklahoma countryside. We rode through the small town of Commerce where baseball great Mickey Mantle spent his childhood. In Miami (pronounced My-am-uh), we rode past the Coleman Theatre, a local landmark.

In Afton, we stopped at the old DX Service Station that is currently undergoing restoration. Since the facility is currently open by appointment only, Tom had made arrangements with David and Laurel Kane for us to view Laurel’s memorabilia collection and David’s collection of antique Packard automobiles. The Kanes were kind enough to provide cold bottled water, much appreciated by the group on this hot day. David got his Harley out and joined us for our lunch break at Foyil. Some of the group ate at the Top Hat Dairy Bar and others at a restaurant nearby. Even with our numbers divided, it was quite some time before we were ready to mount up and continue the ride.

The temperature had been building and was really getting hot by the time we reached Tulsa. We rode some distance through the city in a rain shower, and it felt so good we turned around and rode through it again. Actually, what happened was that our leader had somehow missed a turn while concentrating on keeping the group together through the traffic and the rain, so we needed to backtrack a bit to make our stop at Route 66 Harley-Davidson. Many of our group bought Harley T-shirts or other apparel bearing the store’s slogan, “Ride Two American Legends.”

Our original schedule called for us to have dinner at a bar/restaurant in Arcadia in the afternoon prior to the arrival of the evening crowd. However, by the time we arrived a band was playing, and the place was packed with local residents. We decided to make our stop at the Arcadia Round Barn and press on to our destination for the night, the Cherokee Strip Motel on Interstate 35 near Perry.

Despite our departure from schedule, the ride a lot of fun. It seems that every little town along the way has some outstanding feature that is woven into the fabric of Route 66 lore. We could have taken twice the time and still missed a number of interesting attractions. Tom did a marvelous job of planning the trip and leading the group. Since Route 66 frequently merges with and diverges from modern highways, it’s a challenge just to stay with the route. On short segments of the trip, we were able to get the feel of the old highway—winding, as narrow as nine feet, and quite rough.

For the ride home on Sunday, some of the travelers chose to take the express route back to K.C. on I-35. Others opted to follow Tom on a scenic ride that took us through Pawhuska, Oklahoma, and Coffeeville, Chanute, and Paola, Kansas where we made our final stop as a group. The whole 850-mile trip was a good experience for me. Meeting new people and visiting historic places on a motorcycle is a great way to spend a weekend! I look forward to seeing more of Route 66 on future journeys. Thanks, Tom!

“If you ever plan to motor west
Travel my way, take the highway that’s the best.
Get your kicks on Route 66!

It winds from Chicago to L.A.
More than two thousand miles all the way.
Get your kicks on Route 66!

Now you go through St. Looey, Joplin, Missouri
And Oklahoma City looks mighty pretty.
You’ll see Amarillo, Galup, New Mexico
Flagstaff, Arizona; don’t forget Winona
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino.

Won’t you get hip to the timely tip
When you make that California trip.
Get your kicks on Route 66.”

Words & Music by Bobby Troup
Performed by Nat King Cole

Story and Photos by Stripe