The Main Street of America: Route 66 through Missouri Road Trip with Gary Crossley Ford

Ford Mustang On Route 66
Drop the top and take a nostalgic road trip along across Missouri’s Route 66 in the iconic Ford Mustang convertible with Gary Crossley Ford.

The Mustang hasn’t been out of the garage all winter, you haven’t had the top down since summer, and you haven’t felt the wind in your hair (or what’s left of it) since I don’t know when.

But Spring is almost here, and the road is calling…the Mother Road…Route 66.

There was a time in America before commercial airfare was affordable to the masses, before interstate highways connected the coasts, before the world start turning so fast we had to hurry up just to keep from running ourselves over. When you set out to see America then, Route 66 was the road you traveled. Roadside diners, motor courts, and Sinclair gas stations kept the pace nice and slow. Easy like Sunday morning.

Route 66 across Missouri was made for savoring from behind the wheel of a Ford Mustang convertible.

Ford Mustang

You can get from here to there a lot faster now. St Louis is only a few hours’ drive away or you can hop a plane for a hundred bucks if your timing is right and you shop around. But if you want to slow it down, stop and smell the frozen custard, take a spring weekend, set your Ford Msutang on cruise, and follow the Mother Road from Joplin east to the Gateway Arch.”>Ford Mustang on cruise, and follow the Mother Road from Joplin east to the Gateway Arch.

What you want to do is take off early on Friday so you can be in Carthage, Missouri before dusk and catch the first flick at the 66 Drive-In Theatre. If you’re a little late, no worries. It’s a double feature, and another movie is coming after the intermission. Two for one sounds like fun, and if it gets a little chilly later on, I guess you can put the top up for a little while if you have to.

“Now You go through Saint Looey. Joplin, Missouri. Get your kicks on Route 66.”

To make Friday night complete, you’ll have to spend the night at either of the original Route 66 motor courts still standing in Joplin – The Westport Lodge or the Plaza Motel, but keep the top down on the drive to Joplin so you can keep an eye out for the “Spook Lights” a bouncing, orange, fire-like ball that has been seen bouncing in the sky near the Kansas border for over a century.

Come morning, before you start the drive east, take the Mustang over to the Pearl Brothers Hardware store and park it in front of the Route 66 murals to lively up your Instagram feed. Just be sure to park in front of that 3D red wannabe pony car that shall remain nameless. 

Pics or it didn’t happen!

Springfield, Missouri – The Birthplace of Route 66

Route 66 Burma Shave signs

I’m not sure how Springfield can be the birthplace of a road that goes from Chicago to Los Angeles, but good on ‘em; it looks good on the postcards they sell inside the Route 66 Visitors Center downtown. Watch for the old school Burma Shave signs as you ease the Mustang through all the historic sites in town

​​The signs originally spaced hundreds of feet apart on Route 66 reveal a hidden poetic advertising message as drivers passed.

From west to east:

Listen, birds – 

These signs cost – 

Money – 

So roost awhile! – 

But don’t get funny – 

Burma Shave

And from east to west: 

This Will Never – 

Come to pass – 

A Back-Seat – 

Driver – 

Out of Gas – 

Burma Shave.

The Main Street of America through Lebanon, Missouri

Wrinks Market

Try to make it to Lebanon by lunchtime. The historic Wrink’s Market in downtown Lebanon has been serving brown bag lunches to Route 66 visitors since Glenn “Wrink” Wrinkle opened it in 1950. Today, his granddaughter Katie keeps the tradition alive.

Lebanon has its fair share of murals for you to park the Mustang in front of for your mid-day Instagram update, but before you head east for the afternoon make sure you stop by the free self-guided tour of the Route 66 Museum and Research Center at the Lebanon-Laclede County Library. Inside, you’ll find life-size recreation of classic 1950’s Route 66 scenes including a roadside diner and gas station with a real 1957 Chevy parked in front. It’s no Mustang convertible, but it’s pretty nifty.

Welcome to Mural City – Cuba, Missouri

Originally, most of Route 66 followed an ancient native American trail blazed by the Kickapoo and Osage tribes through Missouri. Cuba, Missouri pays honor to this heritage with a 35-foot tall statue of an Osage warrior, his family, and their domesticated fox pulling a sled filled with their possessions along the trail. The installation is at the Cuba Visitors Center.

Scattered around town, you’ll find a heaping helping of original Route 66 filling stations, cafes, hotels, cabins, and another still-operational drive-in theater, but the real attractions in Cuba are the 14 giant murals honoring diverse luminaries from Bette Davis and Amelia Earhart to Missouri’s own Harry S. Truman. 

It may be getting chilly by this point so go ahead and put the top up on your Ford Mustang for the last leg of your adventure.

The Gateway to the West – St. Louis, Missouri

Many of the original Route 66 sites in St. Louis have been swallowed up by progress and aren’t in the kind of places where you want to leave your Mustang parked overnight. Find you a safe place to lay your head for the night, and come morning head across the river to Madison, Illinois where you can safely park and take a walk across the Mississippi River on the original Chain of Rocks Pedestrian Bridge. A mile long and 60 feet above the water, the bridge was finished in 1929 opening up the west to auto traffic from Chicago and all points east. Halfway across the river, the bridge take a distinct 30-degree turn because riverboat captains complained that the original design would make river navigation too difficult, and the bridge had to be redesigned mid-construction.  Once you get back into Missouri, turn around, go back to Illinois, and fire up Mustang.

Around the time Ford was introducing the original 1964 ½ Mustang, St. Louis was wrapping up construction of the world’s tallest arch and the tallest man-made monument in the Western Hemisphere. The 630-foot-tall Gateway Arch was built for 43,000 tons of concrete and steel. The view from the top of the arch spans 30 miles in any direction and will make the perfect finale for your weekend Instagram story.

Experience the Crossley Difference

That’s the itinerary. Before you pack up and charge your phone, bring your Ford Mustang into the Crossley QuickLane Tire and Auto Center for an oil change, tire rotation, and inspection. Nothing can ruin your weekend faster than unexpected car trouble. We’ll look it over and make sure your Mustang is good to go then you’ll be all set to get your kicks on Route 66.


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