kansas was the first section of route 66 that was completely paved by 1929. Wow. the first state to pave a total of 13 miles. Good job, team.
The number 13 is considered the unlucky number. Many people even have a fear of the number, which is called triskaidekaphobia. Lots of buildings don't even have a floor numbered 13. Then we have the scary movie named after the unlucky date of Friday the 13th. Since I lucked out by not getting eaten by a toothy reptile in Missouri, I was feeling pretty lucky, until I noticed that in Kansas, there are only 13 miles of the Mother Road.
Even though Kansas is the shortest section on the Mother Road, it packs in plenty, from famous villains to a celebrity tow truck. If you drive slow enough, you can peep all three towns while air guitaring to "Carry On Wayward Son" by the band of the same name. Kansas has it all. OK, not "all," but it does have a bit more than "Dust in the Wind" and tornadoes.
I suggest that you make a few stops just to prove that you were there and to make sure you get more than 13 miles on your odometer. It's kind of like an airport. If you flew into O'Hare but never left the airport, you were never in Chicago. The same goes here. If you fly by Kansas and don't stop to eat some fried pickles, you can't put a Kansas Route 66 patch on your jacket.
Southeast Kansas is mining country. Galena is the first of the three towns you drive through. Back in the old days, it was a rocking mining town full of scoundrels and hoodlums. My kind of place.
Even miners have to relax once in a while after chopping and digging for lead all day. These guys worked hard and made lots of cash for their efforts. Cash that was spent on booze and the infamous Steffleback house. Ms. Steffleback didn't have to work hard to make her fortune. She had a group of ladies working for her who would do the horizontal mambo for a few bucks. Pimping hookers in Galena was easy money, but the proprietor got greedy and wanted more.
She was an entrepreneur. After she would get some dude wasted on hooch, she would use her womanly curves to escort the heavy drinker to a back room and split his skull wide open with an ax. She would then clean up the gray matter, take his money and dump the whole mess down an abandoned mine shaft.
She did this for years and buried all of her hard-earned money somewhere in Galena. Like all ax murderers, it's not if you get caught, it's when you get caught. She went to prison and no one ever found her buried booty. That should be reason enough for you to make a stop in Kansas.
Sadly, Galena is no longer the rough-and-tumble town it used to be. Instead of having the sheriff staring you down as you enter the town, Galena has Mater. As in Tow Mater, the original tow truck that inspired the animators (Annie Maters?) at Pixar to create the sassy truck in the movie Cars.
Sadly, I left the short section of 66 and moved on to Oklahoma. I checked the odometer, and it read 13.2.
Bridges, cartoons and killers. Oh my!
This is where you can find Mater. He sits next to a converted service station in the Route 66 style.
Eisler Brothers Store is the official Kansas Route 66 Association. They've also got neat stuff to buy.
Cafe on the Route has a sign on the side of the building that says it was once robbed by Jesse James. Bonnie and Clyde also robbed a store nearby, twice in one week. Lucky!
Eat and get gas. I saw a sign on at Chilly Willy's diner before leaving Kansas: "Still the cheapest gas in town." Needing to fill up, I went in. They meant another kind of gas, with beans, cornbread and taters. I opted for some tasty deep-fried pickles instead.
Tech Tools For The Road
Modern Technology Makes Life Easier.Kansas invented the number 511. OK, they didn't invent it, but they created the 511 system. By dialing 511 on your cell, you can get access to information about road conditions, construction, closures, detours and weather conditions for the state highway system. Thanks to Kansas, many other states adopted this system. Get more info at www.its.dot.gov/511/511.htm. Some systems are better than others and give you tips on alternate routes around current conditions and stuff.
In case there is a huge twister and 511 isn't working in SE Kansas, you will need to have the most updated traffic conditions. Many new GPS systems have uplinks with radio signals or satellites that will post live conditions right on your GPS screen.
Do what you can to get your odometer clocking more than 13 miles. Trust me.
Big Brutus in West Mineral, Kansas, is worth the effort-11 million pounds of fun! Big Brutus is the world's second-largest electric mining shovel. They let me sit in the operator's chair but made sure to hide the keys first.