Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Little Missouri 66 in October

Friday - Buying a New RV

Our New KZ Sportsman 200
If you're a reader of our Newsletter or this blog, you know that we borrowed a camper last month and took it to Tennessee to see if it was a feasible lifestyle for us.  After really enjoying the experience, we asked our Newsletter readers to chime in on their experiences and recommendations and received some great feedback.  Like making sure to think through the traffic flow inside the RV based on your typical occupancy. How's it work with 2 dogs?  Getting one with a larger fridge that runs on both propane and electric. Checking for any water damage, are the tires good, etc.  Lots of great advice that we took into consideration on our search.

With our towing capacity at 3500 pounds, we were limited in our choices for the size of camper we required. We both knew that one of us would wind up hurt in less than a 19 foot trailer (probably me).  Having separate offices at home, in separate buildings, has made us a bit spoiled in that aspect. In short, what we found out is that until about 2010, most travel trailers 20 feet were over 3500 pounds, but gas prices seemed to have forced the industry to develop more light weight, larger trailers for fuel economy. That meant that everything we found 'used' that we liked was over our limit, while everything used within our limit was too small.

That ultimately led us to the KZ Sportsmen.  After looking at several floor plans, what was perfect for our needs was the Sportsmen Classic 200.  We never intended to buy a new camper as we are big believers in buying any vehicle used.  However, the price on these made it very appealing, especially when many of the used we had looked at were only a couple thousand cheaper.  So after many searches and phone calls, we found our's waiting for us in Cape Girardeau at Youngblood's Capetown RV. That's six hours away from Warsaw, but we thought why not make it another adventure and spend some quality time coming home along Missouri Route 66.   (This is obviously our first experience at buying a camper, so won't give Youngblood's nor the Sportsmen a complete review other than to say the staff was friendly, they worked with us a little on price, went over everything in the camper, and even let our dogs come in for the paper work signing.  No complaints).

Saturday - Towing Our New Mobile Motel Home in Missouri Color
Missouri in October is very colorful (just outside of Cape Girardeau)

We stayed in Cape Girardeau at Cape Camping RV Park.  Very clean park, nice pull through's to make it easy on me that first night, and level.  But this is what Kathy refers to as RV Parking lots.  Row after row, close together and NO trees. Close together not really that big of a deal, but the lack of shade and the feeling of being in a parking lot would exclude this place as a long term stay for us.  Also, I thought it was odd to have a speed bump coming in the park, which led us to our first indication that we need to secure the cabinets in the camper better.

Meramac Barn east of  Stanton, Missouri
We wasted no time getting on the road Saturday morning, with our ultimate destination being Cuba Missouri, which just happened to be having their annual Cuba Fest.  So we head up I-55 to Festus, then cut across to St. Clair to catch the Mother Road. Beautiful colors this time of year with Fall in full swing, we felt it was the perfect time for Route 66, which meandors along the frontage road of I-44. St. Clair was established in 1849 as "Travelers Repose" but changed to its current name in 1855.  With small town charm and attractions, make time to stop here if you can. (Read more about this stretch of 66 HERE)

Continuing west we go through a favorite for 66'ers, Stanton.  Close to Meramac Caverns, there are some interesting attractions beyond the cave here, including the Jesse James Museum.  If your into 66 history like us, you also want to get a pic of the now closed Antique Toy Museum which attracted many over the years before being closed down in 2009.  (More about Stanton HERE)

Sullivan is also nearby, founded in the mid 1850's.  With a revitalized historic downtown and it's close proximity to Meramac State Park, it's another great place to relax along your Route 66 journey before continuing west to Bourbon, thought to be the only the only town in the U.S. named after Bourbon Whiskey, an apparent result of Irish immigrants who helped build the railroad.  (More on Sullivan and Bourbon HERE)

Heading west, we're getting into Missouri Vineyard country, with several Wine Vineyards along our path to Cuba.  I never really thought of Missouri as a place for Wine making, but there are a lot of quality ones in this part of the country.  Established in 1857, Cuba got it's name from the island country and was known for its apple orchards and barrel making. Though the apple production declined in the 1930's, barrel making continues to this day.  It was also in the 1930's that the town picked up and moved the original town site next to the railroad tracks to be closer to the new Route 66. With that move, several services and tourist stops sprang up, including the now historic Wagon Wheel Motel. Starting as the Wagon Wheel Cabins in 1935, this motel is now on the National Register of Historic Places and continues to serve travelers today. Purchased in 2009 by Connie Echols, the motel has been completely restored and feature some of the most unique original buildings left on the Route today.

Of course we had to stop in at the annual Route 66 Cuba Fest. Traditionally the third weekend in October, this event is a big draw for Mother Road fans, and featured trolley tours and plenty of 66 history and fun.  Make plans to attend in 2013 if you can.  You can find out more via the Cuba Mural City website and of course the Chamber of Commerce.  And be sure to read our story on Cuba (soon to be updated) HERE.

Still getting accustomed to hauling an RV, we decided it best to camp here for a night or two and see the sites without camper in tow.  We found a great RV park called the Lady Bug right outside of town.  Plenty of trees and a layout that doesn't make you feel your in a parking lot, this stop gets high marks from us.  Good internet, full hookups and a great price with friendly owners!  Couldn't recommend the Lady Bug RV Park and Campground enough.  The only problem, as of this writing, was the fact that Kathy's smartphone didn't get 3 or 4G service here, but the wireless internet provided was plenty adequate during the times of day we needed it most (early morning).

Sunday - Day Tripping down forgotten parts of the Mother Road
Worlds Largest Rocking

We started Sunday morning by having breakfast with our 66 friends Jim Hinckley and Rich Henry. Mr. Hinckley is a co-author with Kathy on "Greetings from Route 66", and has written several other books, including "Ghost Towns of Route 66", "Ghost Towns of the Southwest" and others. His latest endeavor just debuted and is sure to be a 66 Best Seller. "The Route 66 Encyclopedia" debuted at Cuba Fest and goes on sale November 1. Be watching Legend's General Store as we make it available soon. Hinckley came into Cuba all the way from Arizona, while Rich Henry came in from Staunton Illinois.  Henry runs the fun Route 66 must see attraction "Henry's Rabbit Ranch" and it was great to catch up with both of them along with Jim's wife Judy.

Feeling unencumbered with our RV back at the park, we left breakfast heading west on Old 66 to our first photo stop at the Fanning Route 66 Outpost, home to the Guiness Certified Worlds Largest Rocking Chair, which stands just over 42 feet tall and 20 feet wide.  From there it's down the road to Rosati, Little Italy in Central Missouri. This is most definitely wine country and Rosati has an intriguing history dating back to the 1840's.  Read more about this historic town HERE.

John's Modern Cabins
From Rosati we stayed on the Mother Road, going through St. James, and Rolla, each with plenty of history, but being the Ghost Town type geeks we are, our primary focus of the day was really an area just west of there off exit 176 and down Arlington Outer Road.  This section of Route 66 that was bypassed by I-44 in 1957, was bypassed even more when I-44 was again adjusted further north more recently. It's also the place you'll find the long abandoned John's Modern Cabin's, next to the still active and Route 66 Icon Vernelle's Motel. John's Modern Cabin's is on private property, but the owner allows you to walk around "at your own risk".  Nothing being done to preserve, these cabins that once served weary travelers are not long from being completely gone, so we were glad we made the trek to capture what's left in photos.

1860's Hotel still stands in Arlington
We had an extra treat just a bit further down this outer road when we reached the Ghost Town of Arlington. Founded in 1867, this was a popular resort town in the early days of Route 66, with a hotel that dates back to the original founding.  After Route 66 was widened then later bypassed the town it went into decline and today is privately owned.  We will be writing much more about Arlington soon as there is great history being restored here and new owners are making good use of the existing homes and historic hotel.

Stony Dell Resort
Still more to see in this area, we had to backtrack to the Interstate and venture off exit 172 to Jerome, just past the abandoned Stony Dell Resort.  Much like John's Modern Cabins, this once popular stop stands as a reminder of more leisurely travel days along Route 66.  Just before Stony Dell you will see the Trail of Tears Memorial, built by Larry Bagget.  The memorial was once a major attraction on the Route, but was abandoned after Baggets death in 2003 and is now closed off.

We wrapped up our day continuing on Old Route 66, through Devils Elbow and Hookers Cut before making our way back to the interstate and back to our camp ground outside of Cuba. It was a great day for history that you can see in our Facebook photo album "Fall In Missouri" HERE.

Ps. After spending quality time in our KZ Sportsmen 200, we both feel very much at home in it.  We believe this is going to fit our travel lifestyle well.

Why did the Turkey Cross the Road?  To see where Chicken went. 

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