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Route 66

'We're Not in Kansas Anymore'

Cars on the Route in Galena, Kansas
Cars on the Route in Galena, Kansas

The state of Kansas has the shortest stretch of Route 66 of the eight states the Mother Road crosses. Only 20 kilometers run through the southeastern corner of Kansas, the Sunflower State. But the small part has historic towns, scenic landscape, and some very colorful characters.

Like Melba the Mouth, co-owner of the Cars on the Route shop in Galena. Melba and her siblings bought the old Route 66 gas station in 2006 and turned it into a café and small shop. Anyone who has seen the movie Cars will recognize the “Tow-Mater” tow truck parked outside the café. Melba calls the truck, which was inspiration for the ‘Tow-Mater” character, “Tow-Tater.”

Melba is a character in her own right. She calls herself Melba the Mouth because of her fast-talking nature. Watch the video and you will understand just how quickly she can speak!

Melba knows people all up and down Route 66, both locals and fellow business owners. She even knew Jeannie Tait, whom we met at the Starlite bowling alley in Lebanon, some 80 kilometers away.

And people along Route 66 know all about Melba. That is one thing we have noticed during our travels -- people living and working along Route 66 are close-knit. They support each other’s businesses. They want Route 66 to thrive from one end to the other. As Melba told us, “friends don’t let friends take the interstate.”

Miami, Oklahoma
Miami, Oklahoma

Sadly, we could not stay very long chatting with Melba. We had to make it to Elk City, Oklahoma, for a rodeo by early evening!

We go from the shortest stretch of 66 to the longest. The Mother Road runs for more than 600 kilometers through Oklahoma.

The state of Oklahoma may be responsible for making Route 66 happen, as well. The highway might not have come to be without Oklahoma's involvement.

A businessman named Cyrus Avery from Tulsa, Oklahoma, first proposed the plan for a highway to run from Chicago to Los Angeles. Congress approved the idea in 1926. Mr. Avery is also responsible for the Route 66 nickname “The Main Street of America.”

The only official name ever given to Route 66 is "Will Rogers Highway," in honor of the beloved entertainer, humorist and social-political commentator from Oklahoma.

It took us a long time to cross Oklahoma. We pulled into Elk City just a couple of hours before the rodeo began.

The three-day Elk City Rodeo has been taking place for 77 years. The excitement attracts people from neighboring states and beyond. The crowd Friday night included cowboys and cowgirls of all ages.

Cowboy Will Lowe at the Elk City Rodeo
Cowboy Will Lowe at the Elk City Rodeo

The competitive events include bull- and bronc-riding cowboys, roping and barrel races. But there are also clowns and other entertainment. It was a wonderful night to be outside – clear with light breezes. The colorful, though often dangerous, rodeo show was a perfect way to end the day.


Words in This Story

close-knit - adj. used to describe a group of people who care about each other and who are very friendly with each other

thrive - v. to grow or develop successfully : to flourish or succeed

interstate - n. : a major highway that connects two or more states