As I eluded to in my previous post, this year I was hoping to cross off at least one state from my Bucket list that I had not yet been to. So with a work trip scheduled for St. Louis, Missouri my one new state was pretty much in the bag. Then I looked at a map. Heck, with a wee bit of driving I could knock off three more un-visited states: Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. And thus the road trip planning began!
My work commitments ended mid-day on Wednesday, so I decided to take Thursday and Friday off as well. My plan: Drive to Joplin, Missouri which is in the south-west corner of Missouri on Wednesday afternoon/evening and stay overnight. From there, Galena, Kansas is only 8 miles from Joplin. Heading south from Galena would bring me into Oklahoma. With a plan to drive to Grove, Oklahoma and then cut east to Bentonville, Arkansas (yup, Wal-Mart territory). From there, I would head back up in the direction of Joplin, and then hike back on the I44 to St. Louis. It was a quick trip, but I needed to be back home for the weekend.
Joplin has a beautiful and historic downtown core, but suffers from what a lot of small towns suffer from when industries close and demographics change. The core was practically deserted on this Thursday morning, but I could feel a sense of pride and a growing commitment to revitalization and an effort to bring travelers and residents back to the downtown. Building on its history associated with the now defunct Route 66, it seems the town is looking to its past to build on its future.
Having ‘road-tripped’ various parts of Route 66 over the years, I must say there is something nostalgic about this Mother Road of America. A small plaza near the downtown pays homage to this vital route in building the United States.
From Joplin I headed east only a couple of miles to border of Kansas. Yeah, another state off the list!
Heading into the small town of Galena, Kansas made Joplin look like a metropolis. Evidenced by the paw-prints painted on the road, the town is very proud of their Bulldogs high school football team. I stopped into the Streetcar Station for some coffee and was met with a warm welcome and a great cup of joe. I signed the coffee shop guest book and had a nice chat with the owner (I think) who pointed out that there is a spot not too far from Galena where you can stand in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma all at the same time. Unfortunately I did find that spot. But I did take some nice pictures of the small town.
Next stop: Oklahoma. I had to get back on the interstate, and naturally with all of the traffic, missed the Welcome to Oklahoma sign, so I stopped into the Welcome Centre for my requisite picture.
I headed south off the interstate towards Grove, OK – and travelled along some of the beautiful back roads of Oklahoma. It was sunny and approaching 80F, a fine day for a road trip. I stopped in Grove for a quick bite to eat at Bon Appetit Bakery Shoppe – delicious potato soup – and then headed to Arkansas.
I was enjoying the country-side and back roads of Oklahoma so much I almost missed the Welcome to Arkansas sign – and actually had to double-back to get a pic!
As I approached the town of Bentonville, Arkansas, you could tell things were changing. The houses started looking a bit (a lot) nicer and bigger, the roads were new and pot-hole free, and there was actual landscaping. Yup, Wal-Mart runs this town. It was quite the picturesque little town – almost felt Disney-like in how everything was so well cared for. Naturally I took a picture of the ‘original’ Wal-Mart, or Walton’s as it was known, which is now the entrance to the Wal-Mart museum, which is free. I’m not, what you would call an avid Wal-Mart shopper, but since it was free, I did wander (rather quickly) through the museum.
Love or hate Wal-Mart, you have to give the company some cred for starting off in this little town and building to numbers like this:
It was late in the afternoon at this point, so I started my drive back to St. Louis. I had a great and memorable little road-trip, if it was for only two days.
So now I officially have visited 45 US states and have only five more to go. The ones that remain: Washington, Oregon, Montana, Nebraska and North Dakota. Now that would be an interesting road-trip!