Sunday, December 16, 2012

Another single-family day... this time, Aussies!

Just when you think you're going to sit around Afton Station all Sunday without a single visitor, an absolutely delightful family from Brisbane, Australia comes through the door and brightens an otherwise boring day.  Like all Aussies, this father, mother, and two young sons were full of enthusiasm for their full Route 66 trip.  They started in California, spent 5 days at Disneyland (one of them free, "on the house", from John Lassiter himself!), and  have made their way as far as Oklahoma.  Upon finishing the Route 66 portion of their adventure, they will spend two weeks in New York City, a great way to have the kids spend their summer vacation.  We really enjoyed meeting the family.  Unfortunately, after they left we had no further visitors, so Ron M. and I left about a half hour early.  We did have a short visit from Betty, our only other break from the tedium of the day.   

Progress is being made on the newest building going up around the corner from Afton Station.  We still don't know what it will be used for, but we're very curious!
Newtown, CT is just a few miles from our former lake house.   The horrible events there have hit close to home.  It's a beautiful small peaceful Connecticut town, full of colonial-era buildings and lovely homes.  It isn't a place where one would expect such violence.  Then again, none of us are immune to such an event, are we?   I add my condolences to those of millions of others in this country and others.  Just plain sad.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

We sure know how to have fun.....

Today was our staff Christmas party at Afton Station.  It's hard to tell from this photo that we're having a rollicking good time.  Well, "rollicking" might be an exaggeration.  LOL!   We're not very good at throwing a party, I'm afraid.  By the time I got around to taking this photo, Betty and Tattoo had already left.  We were going to order pizza, but the closest pizza place let us know that they don't start making it until 2 p.m., and by that time most of us had to be thinking about closing up and going home.  Betty brought a delicious rhubarb pie and Robin brought a fantastic pineapple upside down cake and some cookies, so we had sweets for lunch.  Then, since three folks have recently bought new smart phones, the rest of the afternoon consisted of  trying to figure out how to program them.  Fun, fun, fun!  No party hats, or caroling, or even doing much of anything at all, but that never stopped us from having some fun. 

We had five visitors today, all members of the same family from Cleora, OK, a mother, father, and three kids.   The whole family was fascinated by the pressed penny machine, and they also had a nice tour of the old cars.    
For those who read an earlier blog post where I showed a photo of the old Afton Jail, you might be interested to know that my friend Perry Knight, a true historian of the town of Afton, called me today to tell me the location of the jail.  It was behind Bassett's Grocery, right across the street from Afton Station.  Unfortunately, there is nothing left of the building, but Perry said it was basically used as a holding place until the prisoner could be transported to Miami, which had (has) a real jail.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Happy 2nd Birthday, Brown Car

My beloved Brown Car is growing up.  He's a toddler now, celebrating his 2nd birthday this week, and he's proved to me what others had only told me - Subarus are the bomb!   I drive the heck out of my cars, and Brown Car has faithfully carried me over 80,000 miles with no problems and only oil changes and regular checkups to keep him on the road.    That's over 40,000 miles per year!   
I bought the Subaru because others had told me how reliable it would be in ice and snow.  Since it came into my life, we've had NO ice and snow!  I'm not complaining about that!  He is my home away from home, and I feel more comfortable behind the wheel of this wonderful vehicle than anywhere else.   Happy Birthday, Brown Car!

On a related note, Tulsa, Oklahoma has the lowest gas prices in the country.  They just made the announcement on the news.   I paid $2.83 this morning.  Brown Car gets about 28 miles to the gallon.  Not bad, I think.

I recently obtained this photo of the Afton City Jail.  I have no idea where it was, or whether the building still exists.  I don't know the identity of the people in the picture.   I also don't know if Afton has a jail now, but I doubt it.   I believe criminals are taken to the Ottawa Co. jail in Miami.  If anyone has any information about this, please let me know.  

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christian from Germany

It is cold and gloomy today, with predictions of temperatures in the 20s and teens tomorrow.  Winter is finally here.  Afton Station was very quiet today, with a total of only five visitors.  This couple came all the way from London, England.  When asked why they decided to travel Route 66 in December, they explained that they travel in the U.S. a lot, and always choose December, feeling that it's the best time to avoid crowds.  They're not wrong about that!  They're an interesting couple indeed.
Two local boys came in to have a look at the cars.  One of them has visited before and this time he brought a friend who hadn't had the pleasure.

Our final visitor was a repeater, a wonderful man named Christian from Germany.   He has been living in the Boston area (Quincy, MA) for several years and enjoys exploring Route 66 in his free time.  He last visited Afton Station on Mar. 25 of this year, at which time he was photographing his Mercedes in front of various Route 66 sites.  We were so happy that he came back for a second visit, and he spent about an hour sitting and chatting with Ron M. and me.  His excellent photos can be seen at  [This is now the correct URL for the site.]

Ron M., Tattoo, and Betty were all at the Station today, too.  

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Visitors! And Signs!

Back to Afton after a full week off!   It felt good, and I felt a whole lot more energized once I got there than I do when I'm home during the week.   I really need the activity to keep me sharp.  The day began when Ron M. and I were driving through Chelsea on the way to Afton on Route 66 and saw two brand new painted billboards there!   These are beautifully rendered and the "Welcome to Chelsea" one is such a great way for little Chelsea to jump feet first into taking advantage of its placement directly on the Mother Road. Illustrations on the sign are of various Chelsea landmarks, as well as the totem poles in Foyil.  The other  sign is on the fence next to the wonderful Chelsea Motor Inn, and will surely draw more folks into the immaculate little 6-room lodging.  Both signs are very professionally designed and can't be missed when traveling west-to-east through town.   I only wish they were as visible to those traveling east-to-west, because that's the direction most travelers take.  Nevertheless, they're great!

 Upon arriving in Afton, we noticed this sign on the old livery stable/world's largest matchbook collection building across the street from Afton Station.  We understand that a flea market is about to move in there, and we're very pleased to have another establishment in town that will interest tourists.  I don't know when it will be open for business.
Frankly, I didn't expect this to be a busy day at Afton Station.  In fact, I was so pessimistic that I brought along my Christmas cards to address while there.  Well, I was wrong, and barely had time to do any addressing.   The morning started out the moment we pulled in, with the arrival of David bringing back a car he'd taken out yesterday.  Later, Robin, Phil, and Marly all dropped in.  But we also had 8 travelers come for a visit, and they were from Rogers AR, South Padre Island TX, and Grove, Edmond, and Allen, OK.  None of them were embarking on a full Route 66 trip, but all were exploring the general area and some were gearing up for longer trips in better weather.  Not bad for a gloomy winterlike day in December!   Furthermore, we'll be in Afton again tomorrow to greet even more intrepid wanderers!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Boots Photo

Last weekend, friend Jim Buck visited Afton Station and told me he had a wonderful photo of the old Boots Drive-In on Route 66 in Carthage, MO.   I have had this postcard for some time, but had never seen the amazing real black-and-white photo he came up with.  I'm thrilled that he shared it with me!  Thank you, Jim.  Hope you don't mind if I share it with my readers.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Motels of Missouri

Since I played hooky today and didn't go to Afton, I thought I'd bring your attention to a great article from the St. Louis Post Dispatch.  It talks about several old motels which have been restored of late in the state of Missouri.   Its a wonderful article and testimonial to those folks who have jumped in and invested large amounts of time and money to bring back the gems of the Mother Road.  I'm privileged to have stayed in three of the motels mentioned, and I am honored to know several of their owners.  I know I sounded down and discouraged in yesterday's post, but this article brought me hope and brightened my day.

This is a long article, but worth reading.
  New owners of two of the vintage motels on Route 66 in Missouri are doing their best to see that traffic keeps on trucking on the legendary highway.The Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba is in tip-top shape after a complete renovation under Connie Echols, who bought the rundown motel in 2009 and has lovingly restored each of the stone cottages.
“It was horrible,” Echols said of the motel, which was built in 1935 and is the oldest continuously operating tourist court on the historic highway. “It had the original wiring and plumbing.”On the far western side of the state, the Boots Motel in Carthage last spring opened the completed wing of a restoration project that will return the motel to what the first motorists found.“We want to make it as authentic a motoring experience from 1949 as we can make it,” said Deborah Harvey, one of two sisters who bought the Boots, which once was scheduled to be torn down for a Walgreens. “We want to make the rooms as though you’re stepping back in time.
A four-night tour of the Mother Road included stays at the Wagon Wheel and Boots, as well as the Rail Haven in Springfield, where Route 66 got its name, and the Munger Moss Motel in Lebanon, where the iconic neon sign has been repaired and relighted.Route 66 ran from Chicago to Los Angeles, a total of 2,448 miles, including 317 miles in Missouri from downtown St. Louis to the Kansas state line west of Joplin.The highway was named officially in April 30, 1926, at a meeting in Springfield and served as one of the nation’s chief east-west arteries until it was removed from the U.S. highway system in 1985, replaced by interstates. Interstate 44 through Missouri now follows much of the route from St. Louis to Springfield.But by then, its romantic status as a roadway to the West, and a pathway to adventure, had been recognized in song and on TV. “Get your kicks on Route 66” was the mantra of the faithful who refused to let the highway fade away.Today, states such as Missouri and Illinois have erected “Historic Route 66” signs along bypassed sections of the highway, and tourists come from the world over to drive its twisting two lanes and visit the Mom ’n Pop motels and roadside attractions that still line its route.
“It’s the best way to see America, end to end,” said Echols, owner of the Wagon Wheel. “Overseas, it’s a prestige thing to ride 66, especially on a motorcycle.“In summer, a third, maybe closer to a half, of my business is from overseas. One night last summer, we had 11 rooms rented from 10 different countries. Half of them didn’t speak English.”Followers of the Mother Road know the important stops, and the people they’ll find there.“I rented 36 rooms to travelers from Australia two weeks ago,” said Ramona Lehman, who owns the Munger Moss. “Last year, I had a group from the Union of South Africa.”They come to stay in the motel, and to visit with Ramona and her husband, Bob, and hear their stories of life on the road.“I make sure I’m here when we have big groups,” Ramona said. “I had a guy from Brazil come in and he said, ‘Are you Ramona?’ He reached over to touch me and said, ‘You are real!’
“There’s something about the people who travel on Route 66. They fall in love with our country, and our road. It puts goose bumps on me.”
Connie Echols owned a florist shop on Route 66 in Cuba, but long had admired the Wagon Wheel, which included a gas station, café and motel. “I always thought it was a cool place,” she said of the fieldstone buildings.When the owners died, she bought it from their son and began the arduous restoration, which had to conform to the motel’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places.Today, the old café houses the motel office and Connie’s Shoppe, which sells women’s accessories and souvenirs, and the 19 rental rooms are stylishly decorated, with modern amenities.“I know what I like when I travel — white linens, good beds and clean, up-to-date bathrooms,” Echols said. “We did keep the original doors and windows and saved the hardwood floors that we could.”Room 22 is a suite with a queen bed, table and chairs and flat-screen TV in the front room. A jetted tub, shower, small refrigerator, microwave and granite-topped vanity are in the back room.The motel has become a popular base for exploring Cuba, which is making an impressive bid as a tourist destination. The town has decorated its buildings with 12 murals and is home to wineries and restaurants including Missouri Hick Barbeque, Frisco’s Grill and Pub and Cuba Bakery and Deli.“There were a few times I could have quit in the middle of it,” Echols said of her labor of love, “but I’ve never been a quitter.”Rooms at the Wagon Wheel range from $55 for a single to $110 for the suites. Visit or call 1-573-885-3411.
Deborah Harvey of Decatur, Ga., and her sister, Priscilla Bledsaw of Decatur, Ill., are devoted roadies who were making the trek from Chicago to Los Angeles in 2006 when they came upon the closed Boots Motel at the intersection of Route 66 and Highway 71 in Carthage.“We were driving along and kept saying how fun it would be to own a hotel on Route 66 and wave at all the people going by,” said Harvey, who is 62 and a historic preservation consultant.Five years later, the two were the proud owners of the motel built by Arthur Boots in 1939. The original had a gas station and eight rooms with carports. A back annex of five rooms with an underground garage was added in 1946.The back building was the first to be restored, opening last May. The sisters combed the flea markets and used furniture shops in Carthage for antique chenille bedspreads and period furniture to decorate each room, many of which maintain their original wood floors and tiled bathrooms.There are no TVs, but each room has a radio to fulfill Arthur Boots’ promise of “a radio in every room.”Future plans include removing a gabled roof that was added later, spoiling the Streamline Moderne architecture of the main building, and replacing the green neon that decorated the exterior.The sisters figure it will take up to five years to have the Boots back to original condition, but it’s already drawing international visitors.“We got a couple of motorcyclists from Tahiti, and we’ve had people from nearly every European country,” Harvey said. “This is our first year, but we’re making enough money to pay the bills.”And they’ve already achieved one of their important goals.“In the evening, we sit out front and wave to passers-by,” Harvey said. “People will stop by and tell us stories about staying at the Boots.”Rates for a single are $66 and for a double $71, as in Highway 71. Visit or call 1-417-310-2989. 
Springfield bills itself as the “Birthplace of Route 66,” and the Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven is a good place to stay while exploring the city’s attractions.The original Rail Haven built by brothers Elwyn and Lawrence Lippman in 1938 had eight sandstone cottages with adjoining garages and a rail fence. By the time the motel became a founding member of the new Best Western chain in 1951, it had 28 rooms.Today, that total is up to 98 and the original eight cottages have become part of a modern strip motel with all the expected amenities. Antique gas pumps, vintage signs and a pair of 1955 and 1956 Fords decorate the grounds, paying homage to its link to the historic highway.“Nothing’s been torn down here,” said Tonya Pike, a Route 66 historian who helps in marketing the motel. “We’re considered a classic example of how a cottage court becomes a strip motel.“There are other hotels out there as old as we are, but we’re the only one that’s a founding member of a national chain and still part of that chain.”A brochure in the motel office describes other Route 66 highlights in Springfield, including the Rest Haven Court, Shrine Mosque, Gillioz Theatre and the first Steak ’n Shake in Missouri, which has its original black-and-white sign and offers curb service.Rates start at $79.99. Visit or call 1-800-304-0021.
Change may be coming to yet another landmark motel on Historic Route 66.
Ramona and Bob Lehman, who have owned the Munger Moss Motel in Lebanon for 41 years, have listed it for sale.The hotel has 44 rooms and 17 two-room efficiencies. Some of the rooms are decorated with themes, including Room 18, which is dedicated to the dearly departed Coral Court Motel, the infamous no-tell-motel that was torn down and replaced by a subdivision in south St. Louis County.Room 18 is decorated in pink and black, Ramona said. “I also call it my bordello room.”Although Ramona and Bob, like their motel, are in good shape, they both are in their mid-70s and looking for a new lifestyle.“I won’t sell it just to anybody,” Ramona said. “I want somebody who loves Route 66 to take it over. It’s part of our heritage. We’ve got to keep it alive for our kids.”Rates are $48 for a single, and $55 for a double. Visit, or call 1-417-532-3111.
Tom Uhlenbrock writes travel stories for the state of Missouri.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Not much new here. . . well, almost

Welcome to December. . .  start of the long, lonely winter in Afton, OK.   Even though Robin only had one visitor yesterday, we were lucky to have greeted six today.  All were reasonably local, and all but one were men.   After a very quiet morning visiting with guys from Miami, Tulsa, and Owasso, OK and Baxter Springs, Kansas we were almost ready to go home when old friends Jim and Becky Buck (also from Tulsa) dropped in to chat for a while.  Jim and Becky used to own a very neat Route 66 store in Sapulpa, OK which I enjoyed visiting, but they closed it a few years ago due to lack of business.  After a day like today, I can sympathize.  December and January are rather dismal at Afton Station, or have been in the past.  I can't imagine this will be any different.  We'll be open only on weekends for the rest of the winter, so plan accordingly.  I will absolutely miss being there four days a week, but it's a waste of gas and utilities to open up on days when nobody comes to visit.

Today I had the company of Ron M., Tattoo Man, and Marly to keep me sane.  There was also the steady pounding from around the corner where a new building is going up.  We don't know what it's going to be, since this is the first time we saw it, but we hear it will be public housing for people placed there by the county.  We shall see.  Of course, we wish that it would be some sort of retail establishment, but it seems that is not to be.  
The state of our Main Street is rather pathetic, as you can see here.  Hard to believe that this street was once lined with booming commerce enjoyed by a vital populace.   Oh, how I wish I'd won the lottery. . .