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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

March 2015



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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

The Sunset Motor Hotel on Route 66

(This is one of the rare posts this month that I’m cross-posting in full on LiveJournal/Facebook. I hope you are joining me daily on “The Rubricant” as I make my around-the-country author tour.)

After a harrowing drive in the fog for 95 miles southwest of St. Louis, I found myself traveling along and parallel to Old Route 66 with Branson and the gateway to the Ozarks just a few miles south of me. It brought back some memories from long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

I was probably five or six years old. If my little sister was with me, she was a baby. Grandpa had recently retired as executive director for the Christian Rural Overseas Program (CROP) and he and Grandma moved to Springfield MO to become hostelers. They bought a little motel of about a dozen units called The Sunset Motor Hotel, right on US Route 66. (Get your kicks on Route 66.) We went down to vacation and drive down to the Ozarks.

I remember very little about the motel other than an impressive stretch of lawn out front and the smell of the little bars of soap that were gathered together in a plastic bag after the guests left them in the showers. Not to be wasteful, of course, we “recycled” them into our own bathrooms.

Road trips were a part of family life back in the mid-50s. I remember distinctly Mom and Dad coming home from a trip with Grandma and Grandpa and saying that Grandpa simply couldn’t pass up a Dairy Queen. I was so disappointed when I got to join the family that he never stopped at more than one a day, even though we passed one in every small town along the highway.

The clearest memory I have is of the smell of cedar when we stopped at various Ozark gift shops. It seemed that was the favorite wood to carve and the shops were full of figurines, salt & pepper shakers, jumping wooden toys, and plaques with letters burned into the wood. I was anxious to get home and get started with the wood-burning set Dad said we had. Later, I learned to burn the letters in slabs of wood with a magnifying glass held under the sun.

Near the end of the 50s, Grandma and Grandpa got a slightly bigger motel in Springfield, then eventually bought a hotel in Sedalia MO which they ran until they really retired and moved to Sedona AZ.

As I drove along Interstate 44, with more billboards bearing religious and spiritual messages than those advertising souvenir shops, gas stations, and adult superstores combined, I thought of all the road trips the family took. We lived in Indiana and there were several trips to the Ozarks, one to a family reunion in the Wisconsin Dells, a trip around Lake Michigan, including crossing the recently completed bridge across the straits of Mackinac and watching the ships go through the Sault St. Marie Locks, and then trips to visit older sisters as they moved away to Kansas, West Virginia, Missouri. My brother-in-law Jim, whom I’ll see tomorrow in Texas, took me in the cab of his truck from St. Louis to Chickasha OK to pick up a load and return to St. Louis.

I was thinking about this when I stopped northeast of Oklahoma City and glanced at the map to determine where I would stay last night. I spotted Chickasha and decided I could make an extra 40 miles for the day (550 total) and called for a motel reservation. I drove straight through Oklahoma City not realizing until too late that I was supposed to follow Interstate 40 to Amarillo instead of continuing southwest on I-44. Well, that means that I’ll be driving most of the 350 remaining miles to my sister’s house today on 2-lane highways instead of freeways.

Yesterday’s 550 miles was the furthest I’ve driven in a day since 1976 when I drove from Minneapolis to Ft. Wayne for my father’s funeral. My daughter’s memories will not include weeklong road trips, but rather days spent on Amtrak traveling across the U.S. I hope she’s not mad at me for that. Maybe someday, she’ll take her own road trip.

Stats for Day 20

Leave St. Louis @ 7:00 a.m.
Arrive Chickasha OK @5:00 p.m.
Miles today: 549
Total Miles Driven: 5083