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Monday, September 1, 2014

Route 66 in Kansas

Mater, from Cars



Although only 13 miles of the original Route 66 winds through Kansas, it offers plenty of history and is home to a fascinating man named Dean "Crazy Legs" Walker.

Labor Day Weekend proved to be a popular time for the short stretch of highway. If you travel west a few miles you reach Miami, Oklahoma; to the east it's only a hop, skip and a jump to Joplin, Missouri.


Kan-O-Tex Station





The sun was shining down from the bright blue sky and the summer heat was turned up high. My brother and sister-in-law had found an interesting Mexican restaurant in Galena and we decided to drive there from their home in Pittsburg, Kansas.



Bordello


On Main Street, Mi Torito is in a brightly colored building that makes you want to stop and visit. The restaurant is charming, the food is good and the staff is friendly - a hard-to-believe combination is a tiny little Kansas town.

After lunch, I headed out with camera in hand. When I stopped at the Kan-O-Tex Station, I met a guy who, with several of his buddies, was on a motorcycle tour of part of the Route 66 route. As we looked at the old trucks, he told me that the station and the one old truck was the inspiration for Mater in the movie, Cars. I later discovered that Galena played a major role in the movie.

I took photos of an old bordello across the street from the station. Although Galena, in its mining days, was home to about 30,000, today's population is only
Galena mural
10% of that. After finding more photo ops, 
we drove on to Baxter Springs where a tornado ripped through the downtown area last spring. 


The town is still rebuilding and the Route 66 history is still alive. When I stopped at another station to take pictures, a man drove up and asked if I'd like to see the inside. The building houses a museum filled to the brim with Route 66 information and memorabilia.
Museum in Baxter Springs

The man, Dean "Crazy Legs" Walker, was the inspiration for the Mater character. You may have seen him on the Jay Leno Show a few years ago. Dean is the official Route 66 ambassador in Kansas. If you want information, he's the man to see.


Besides being the inspiration for Mater, Dean has another claim to fame. He can turn his feet around backwards. An Internet article said he can walk backwards but I didn't get to witness that feat - no pun intended.


When I returned home, I checked him out on the Internet and found I was lucky to run into him. His stories are still rolling around in my head. If you want information on Kansas and the route west, he knows it.


Kansas takes pride in its stretch of the famous highway. Don't dismiss it as just a few short miles because it offers a lot of history, interesting buildings and fun facts.




Why he's called Crazy Legs
Dean Crazy Legs Walker


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