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Liz Hartley

1 In Liz Travels: Route 66

Burma Shave–Wisdom on Route 66

Shave and a Haircut

The one thing I remember about driving Route 66 the first time–a long time ago–was the delight of finding Burma Shave signs in an otherwise empty landscape. Burma Shave, for those who don’t remember, was a shaving cream. One way they advertised was by posting along the roadsides a series of five signs, each with part of a clever rhyming poem that had to do with driving or with shaving. The last sign always said “Burma Shave.”

We’ve been thrilled to find a few of them along the road. They aren’t the originals. The last originals, according to the wisdom of Google, are in the Smithsonian. But these new ones have been posted by Route 66 enthusiasts to renew the feeling of the road. We came across several series of signs today on the road into Seligman, AZ. Here are some we’ve found:

Guys whose eyes/ Are in their backs/ Get halos crossing/ Railroad tracks/ Burma Shave

If hugging on highways/ Is your sport/ Trade in your car/ For a davenport/ Burma Shave

Don’t pass cars/ On curves or hills/ If cops don’t get you/ Morticians will/ Burma Shave

Don’t stick your elbow/ Out too far/ It might go home/ In another car/ Burma Shave

The wolf is shaved/ So neat and trim/ Red Riding Hood/ Is chasing him/ Burma Shave

He tried to cross/ As fast train neared/ Death didn’t draft him/ He volunteered/ Burma Shave

The one who drives when/ He’s been drinking/ Depends on you/ To do his thinking/ Burma Shave

T’would be more fun/ To go by air/ If we could put/ These signs up there/ Burma Shave

And our personal favorite (though I’m not sure it’s one of the originals):

Going east/ Or going west/ Route 66/ Does it best/ Burma Shave


PS: A reminder. The images above usually don’t show up on phones. You have to either enable the images for your device, or click on the link to my website. On a phone, swipe the image to bring up the next one. On a tablet or computer, use the arrows on the left and right margins to see additional images.

1 In Liz Travels: Route 66

Route 66 at Night

Neon was a big deal at the height of Route 66, and the Route was once ablaze with fanciful signs after dark. Colorful, flashing, cascading–neon drew night-time drives like moths to flame.

But neon is a thing of the past and, according to a friend who does a lot of sign work, something of a lost art. I expect that means they are expensive to fix or replace. So many of the neon signs of Route 66 don’t shine at night any more, or are so broken that they’re impossible to read.

But we’ve found a few–when we’ve found the energy to venture out after dark.


P.S. A reminder. The images above usually don’t show up on phones. You have to either enable the images for your device, or click on the link to my website. On a phone, swipe the image to bring up the next one. On a tablet or computer, use the arrows on the left and right margins to see additional images.

1 In Liz Travels: Route 66

Mural Madness on Route 66

There is plenty of kitsch on 66 as we’ve mentioned. And if you were a collector of old hotel signs you’d have a field day out here. But what we’ve been collecting along the Route are murals.

It seems that almost all the towns we’ve passed through have decided to arrest a traveler’s attention with wall murals on the sides of buildings. Some are copies of old advertisements, others are displays of work by local artists, and yet others are community projects. We have dozens of images, and I’m not going to give them all to you now–Tucumcari mayor Ruth Ann Litchfield told us her town has 100 all on it’s own! Once I’m home, I’ll try to set up a page for those of you who want to dive into the mural scene but for now, only a few to whet your appetite.



6 In Liz Travels: Route 66

Quirky Quonset Quest

Now for a quirky quonset quest.

In Chicago, Dash, seeking directions from a much younger person, mentioned that we were standing by a building on the Navy Pier that looked like a quonset hut. Then she quickly realized that the person she was speaking to probably had absolutely no idea what she was talking about.

Raise your hand if you know what a quonset hut is… I’ll wait.

Quonset huts are corrugated steel buildings, in the shape of half cylinders, that were developed during WWII as a way to easily ship and assemble buildings without skilled labor. After the war, they were sold off as surplus.

Once Dash mentioned them, we began seeing them everywhere, starting in Illinois. We hypothesized that there were a lot of them there because, during the war, there was an enormous–40,000 acres enormous–arsenal near Elmwood. Which would have mean a whole bunch of quonsets.

But then we saw them everywhere. And we’re still seeing them six states later.

I thought I’d share my collection with you. Because… well, just because.


1 In Liz Travels: Route 66

Healing Tragedy in Joplin, Missouri

Flying gets you places fast, and sometimes that is the only way to move from place to place.

But road trips keep you close to the ground–literally. We’ve seen the red, red earth of Oklahoma, the lush green roadsides of Missouri, the wide flat plains of the Texas panhandle (and until you’ve seen the panhandle, you’ve never really seen flat.) You drive through an ever-changing landscape–and that change can sometimes happen within a mile or so, as it does when you cross the Missouri-Kansas border.

You meet and talk to people learning their history–and the history of their place.

So we learned–or were reminded–of the painful recent history of Joplin.

We were supposed to stay in Carthage, Missouri, at the classic Boots Motor Court, but we received a call a few days before our scheduled arrival telling us that the motel, undergoing renovation, would not be ready in time. Dash scrambled, and found an Air BnB a short distance away in Joplin, Missouri.

Our rental was obviously newly renovated or rebuilt. There was a large cement pad in the back where a garage once stood. It was in a part of Joplin that seemed, to us, to be undergoing almost explosive growth: new apartments, new houses, a huge new park.

What we discovered, when we stopped at the visitor center, was that it wasn’t new building, but rebuilding. In 2011, Joplin was hit with a massive tornado that leveled a third of the town–the part of town where we were staying–and had killed more than 160 people. They lost a major hospital and eight schools. It was a Sunday, we were told, and the tornado dropped out of a clear and cloudless sky.

Eleven years later, the town was still rebuilding, and healing.

There were a number of murals around town that appeared as after the disaster as a way for the community to cope. This one, with a quote by Langston Hughes, was designed by artist Dave Lowenstein, and completed with the help of more than 300 members of the community.

A local disaster that quickly disappeared from national news, but that is still healing more than a decade later. This is the kind of history, the kind of connection you can’t see from the air.


3 In Liz Travels: Route 66

Southern Hospitality–PEO Style

The road can feel lonely at times, even if you’re traveling with a friend. So it was with delight that we have been able to connect with some of the women of PEO as we travel Route 66. We have been honored and humbled by the gracious and warm welcome we’ve received.

Sally and Nan in St. Louis fed us gooey cake and Ted Drewe’s Frozen Custard and shared lunch with us at 9-Mile Garden, even thought temps were soaring in the 90s and humidity was about the same.

Vicki in Claremore, Oklahoma, organized six members of her chapter in Will Rogers’s country, and treated us to lunch at the Pink House, the Belvidere Mansion. Thanks to all of you–Vicki, Carol, Sheryl, Sherry, Bobbie, and past-state president Susan. It was a lot of fun.

Sabrina and Deanah in Amarillo gathered eight of their chapter–Lauren, Sammie Jo, Sarah, Judy, Ann, Karla–and met us for lunch at Smokey Joe’s. (Sarah, thank you again for the thoughtful gift of Cadilite earrings–you can never have too many earrings!) We had a great time!

Ruth Ann Litchfield, who, it turned out, is mayor of Tucumcari, New Mexico, graciously took time out of an overwhelmingly busy schedule welcoming 40 motorcycle-riding Chix on 66 to have dessert with us that same evening. (We’ve always been just behind the Chix, so we’ve never met them, but we salute you!)

And, in the Grand Finale, a gaggle of women met us on a corner of the plaza in Santa Fe waving PEO signs–Kathy, Ann, Margaret, Lynn, Laura, and Lynda. Then the next evening, they, and member Bernadette, brought spouses Ed, Bob, Craig, and John to our Air BnB for a PEO-style party, with shared food, silverware. As a special treat, friends of mine from Tucson, Laurent and Nina, joined us as well.

You have all made this trip so much richer and warmer, and we thank you.

Love, Liz

5 In Liz Travels: Route 66

Livin’ on Tulsa Time

We rolled into Tulsa to stay at a very nice AirBnB called the Artist’s Loft. (Translated, that means a lot of stairs to haul our luggage up after a long hot day on the road.) But the two bedrooms, two living rooms, all decorated with a found-artist’s eye for detail and color made it worth it.

The continued heat wave, coupled with midwestern humidity has us still curtailing our activities. Which is too bad, because Tulsa has a lot of Art Deco buildings, and we’d planned to walk around oogling them.

There are also dozens of colorful murals, but again, we were limited to those we passed in our air-conditioned car and were able to leap out and take pictures of.

This Land is Our Land…

But we did spend a couple of delightful hours at the Woody Guthrie Center. Guthrie was a singer-songwriter, and you all know his music, because you’ve all sung “This Land is Your Land.” He wrote more than 3000 songs, only about 300 of them that he recorded. Most were performed live with other singers, like Pete Seeger, who focused on songs of social justice and socialism. This later got some of them, especially Seeger, into hot water with the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

Guthrie had his own column and a radio show. He performed in the fields for migrant workers. The rode the rails, and worked day work jobs, so he spoke the language of the migrants and other working people. He was a tremendous influence on singer-songwriters right down to Springsteen.

The museum is a small gem. Very accessible, not an overwhelming amount of information, and presented in a variety of formats. And the docents are superb. We learned that Guthrie also made hundreds of drawings and cartoons and produced thousands of documents, in the form of articles and letters.

Dash and I also had our first VR (virtual reality) experience. Part of the exhibit is about the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma, particularly Black Sunday. This VR exhibit lets a person live what it was like during the height of a dust storm. Extraordinary.

More Giants

It was so hot, we almost passed on tracking down the Golden Driller, and glad we didn’t. The fiberglass Muffler Men would crawl in a hole from shame if they confronted this gigantic concrete statue, about seven stories tall.

Dining at the Mother Road

We had lunch at the Mother Road Market, a great collection of small food stalls, like a food court, but with much better food and a wider variety. Or perhaps, like an indoor food truck park. We walked around, checked them all out, then made our choices. There were also several small craft booths set up. It was a great place, and we thought maybe to return for breakfast, except we had to leave Tula very early and the Mother Road didn’t open until 11. Alas.


4 In Liz Travels: Route 66

Lonely Roads

One of the great pleasures of driving Route 66 is the empty roads. While the Interstate may be only a dozen yards or a dozen miles away, the Route (except where it lies under more recent highways) is lightly traveled. You can travel at 35 or 40 mph, or even less, enjoy the dappling of shadow from the overarching trees, or look across open fields or rolling hills and imagine what the Mother Road was like in the early part of the 20th century when it was first patched together from existing bits of gravel road.

With a bit more effort, you can imagine what it looked like a couple centuries ago, when those open lands were covered with bison from horizon to horizon, or the plains were covered with tall grass. As you drift through small towns, most built in the 1800s and early 1900s, you can appreciate the pain of those communities, once invaluable centers for the agricultural and mining communities that surrounded them, as they fade from memory, and the struggles of those who are trying to save what they can.

On these lonely roads, there is time to think and even dream, if you don’t mind getting lost. There is time and often space to pull over, stop, walk the road–or even stop in the middle of the road and take pictures, which I’ve done on more than one occasion. You can also come to appreciate the people who built and drove those early roads.

And unlike taking the Interstate, you can enjoy the ride and arrive relaxed.


2 In Liz Travels: Route 66

Turtles, Turnarounds, Tunes and the Trail of Tears

Every day is interesting on Route 66, but last Sunday was one of the more interesting ones.

We started out early from Cuba, MO, where we’d spent the night in the Wagon Wheel Motel, a sweet little classic Route 66 motel that has been lovingly cared for. Had breakfast at a cute diner (mediocre food, though), and headed out. Spotted my first armadillo. It had not survived its previous encounter with a car, however. Poor thing.


Dash and I were gabbing away, when I spotted something moving across the road in the middle of my lane. A live armadillow, I thought.

But no. It was a tortoise, moseying its turtle-y way.

But no. It was a tortoise, moseying its turtle-y way across the highway. (We did not ask it why.).

“Oh, no!” gasped Dash.

There was no traffic coming the other way, so I swerve, and the turtle went under the car and not under the wheels. 

Flat turtle disaster averted.

Then I looked back.

That turtle wasn’t moseying any more. I swear she’d picked up her shell and, like a nun lifting her skirts for a fifty-yard dash, she was running on her hind legs for all she was worth. By time she was out of sight in the rearview mirror, and we had stopped laughing, she was across the road and heading into the tall grass.

We stopped at Fanning, MO, for a shot of the world’s second largest rocking chair, where we met a family from New York driving to Grand Canyon. We met them again when we stopped at Uranus Fudge Company (and yes, they get a lot of mileage out of that joke). (Pleasure talking to you, Kim. Hope your daughter liked her T. Rex pic.)


We spent most of the day, however, meandering along curving, treed lanes in this gloriously beautiful southern Missouri countryside. Gently rolling hills, fields, meadows. Everything was fresh and brilliantly green, even though it was 91 degrees with 98% humidity, so hot and muggy it was like being hit with an anvil when we got out of the car. 

Then it happened, as it had to, sooner or later. We were swooping along a beautiful backroad, the verges filled with wildflowers—echinacea, rudibeckia, chicory, and tiger lilies. Blue jays, cardinals, and redwing blackbirds were dodging the car. And ahead, there was a road closed sign.

Take alternate route? What alternate route? We were surrounded by trees. The only alternate route was a gravel road with a “Trail of Tears” sign on it.

Dash quickly consulted her iPad (which we’ve christened Dot) and found an alternate route to the freeway and to Marshfield–along another gravel road.

Trail of Tears

As we got back on the Route again, we found ourselves behind a traffic jam. On Route 66. This seemed odd. Up ahead, there were police cars and a dozen bike riders. Earlier in the day, we’d stopped at Laughlin Park at Roubidoux Springs in Waynesville, MO, which had been a stop for the Cherokee who had been forcibly removed from Georgia and were being marched along the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma. We’d hoped to be there when the annual Remember the Removal riders came through.

The 2022 Remember the Removal Bike Ride is the 14th bicycle ride commemorating the forced removal of the Cherokee people from their eastern homelands during the fall and winter of 1838-39. The nearly 1,000-mile trek is accomplished over a three-week period as selected riders from the Cherokee Nation and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians retrace the Northern Route of the Trail of Tears through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

We had missed seeing the riders at Waynesville, but realized there here, after our forced detour, we were following them on a tiny part of their epic ride. It made both Dash and I a bit teary.

Lost in Missouri

Then, because we had tickets to an 8 p.m. concert in Springfield, and we wanted time to cool down, shower and change, we got turned around and despite excellent directions in the EZ 66 Guide, we went the wrong way.

Tootling along in the countryside, Dash realized before I did, that perhaps we had gone astray. It wasn’t until we reached the Yeakley Chapel and cemetery in Plano, MO–which we were not due to pass until the next day–that it dawned that we had indeed, missed the city of Springfield…

Reversing course, we put pedal to the metal and whizzed back up the road to Springfield.

We had reservations at the classic and restored Rockwood Motor Court. And were looking forward to unloading and at least eating before the concert. Then we pulled up in front of the address we had been given. The Keep Out signs, the junk cars in the court, the tarp over the hole in the roof, gave us pause. We thought we had been scammed. While Dash frantically searched the internet for a new place and to see if we had the wrong place, I documented the sad state of affairs.

Then we called the number on the Rockwood website. When, in a voice only slightly panicked, I inquired about the motel, and it’s condition, the very nice woman on the phone assured me I was in front of the wrong motel. We were parked in front of the Shamrock, not the Rockwood, which was three doors away.

The Rockwood is a jewel on 66. Beautifully renovated and cared for, and easily the nicest place we’ve stayed. We would gladly have stayed a few days. But we had…


…to go to. At the Gillioz Theater in downtown Springfield, Dash had gotten us tickets to a performance by banjo-player Bela Fleck. Saying Bela Fleck plays the banjo is like saying Itzhak Perlman plays fiddle a little. Not only is he sensationally talented, but the band with him contained musicians every bit as talented: Justin Moses on dobro, fiddle, and banjo; Bryan Sutton on guitar; Mark Schatz on stand-up bass; Michael Cleveland on fiddle; and Sierra Hull on mandolin. Every one of them was a powerhouse on their own. It was an amazing concert.

Dash and I were pretty bushed after our exciting day, and we had talked about possibly leaving at intermission. But we stayed glued to our seats, and were glad we did.

We were almost asleep before we got in the hotel room door…


4 In Liz Travels: Route 66

Silent Riders

Maggie, Prudence, Patience, and Gusto leading the way. Maggie tends to ignore the critter-come-latelys.

Always Ahead of Us

It’s probably time to introduce our silent dashboard companions: Maggie Moose, who has been with me since Yellowstone many years ago. She was my only companion on the drive from Salem to Chicago. We had many long discussions, the kind of deep philosophical rants that you can only have on a solo road trip with a completely non-judgmental (and silent) travel companion.

Prudence, the wacky looking duck (because older travelers should travel with prudence–don’t look at me, this one is Dash’s) flew in with Dash. Patience the Pig, who reminds us that road trips are not all smooth sailing, and Gusto, because one should always travel with Gusto, we can also blame on Dash. We also have on hand Dot, which is what we’ve christened our Google map function. (Frighteningly, we’re beginning to talk to her…)

And Jerry…

Finally, there is Jerry, who at least is real and living in Oklahoma. Jerry McClanahan (in conjunction with the National Historic Route 66 Federation) is the author of the EZ 66 Guide for Travelers, and he has led us through twists and turns, step by step along the Route. He’s an amazing guide, and if you ever decide to drive the Route, I strongly recommend taking Jerry along.

Now if I can just stop Dash from looking for Ethyl…