JOPLIN, MO – It’s a piece of America that stretches back nearly 100 years.
The “Mother Road” which at one time took countless travelers from Chicago to L.A.
“It was the gateway to the West.” Says Brad Belk, MSSU Community Historian. As far back as 1926, one of the biggest routes connecting the Midwest with the West Coast.
“Gasoline prices were relatively cheap. And so, people piled in the car and headed for for adventure.” Says Belk.
In Missouri, that 317 miles of roadside stands and motor hotels.
“You know that’s the way people traveled. They parked our car right to their room.” Says Belk.
Like the Boots Court Motel still in operation today… and other sites that have fallen by the wayside.
And then there’s the food – mom and pop restaurants that benefitted, the iconic frozen custard from Ted Drewes… along with some other well known names.
“It established two hamburger franchises, steak, Steak and Shake and McDonald’s.” Says Belk.
Even some distinctive gas stations that survive today, often revamped for a new life like the Visitors Center in Webb City.
“It’s something that you can stop by and still reminisce about the great road.” Says Belk.
Murals are a common sight along the Mother Road. Cuba is even known as the Route 66 Mural City. One of many reasons travelers still seek out the route.
“Route 66 Is the America’s largest museum. We joke with them at times that you all have castles that are 300, 500 years old and they say yeah but you have the real Americana that’s that there.” Says Patrick Tuttle, Joplin CVB Dir.
Tuttle says the city of Joplin alone sees visitors from more than 110 countries. “Europeans, Australians, New Zealanders, probably the heaviest core.”
Tourists traveling around from the world, hoping to see the Show Me State from days gone by.
“It does not seem to get out of everybody’s system. I think it reminds you of a slower time, then you kind of absorb and see what the country is all about.” Says Belk.