Day 12 - Gary Turner knows Route 66.

What an amazing day we had today and it was all about the road, slowing down and meeting amazing people.

We got up in Springfield Missouri and packed up. We had failed to adequately express our pleasure with the place we had been staying. It is a classic courtyard motor lodge. That's my term, I don't know if anyone else calls it that but I think its a good description.

The Best Western Coach House Inn is a single story motel, where you get to actually park in front of your room and basically toss your bags through your front door. It has two swimming pools and a play ground with a metal slide (I can't even imagine how hot THAT gets in the heat of summer). There is a restaurant on the grounds but we were way to enamored with the local Steak and Shake to try anything else. They also have the typical 'business man's continental breakfast" every morning till 10AM. But the place just had a great roadside motel feel to it. The only downside, 4:3 standard def TV… oh well.

Leaving Springfield we stayed on the older stretches of Route 66 until we got to a little speck on the map called Paris Springs and met Gary Turner at his Gay Parita Sinclair Station. Gary is mentioned by name in one of the guide books we have and we didn't even notice that until we drove away from his place TWO HOURS later.

We had almost missed his stop but Beth was driving and she yanked the car onto a side street and said, "We're going back, this is the type of guy you wanted to meet". Boy was she ever right.

Gary was fascinating. He knew politics. He knew religion. He knew economics. Within 10 minutes of meeting him I knew I had met a kindred spirit and 2 hours later, it was hard to say good bye. I won't go into too many details on what we spoke about but anyone who knows me, knows what floats my boat, knows what boils my blood, will know what type of conversation we had. 

Gary kept apologizing to me and saying, "oh I'm sorry to go off into all this…" But I keep telling him, "Gary, just so you know, you have not said ONE THING that I disagree with."

After maybe 45 minutes or an hour of sitting in his garage drinking free root beer and listening to this guy tell stories, he then began 'his pitch'. Gary is a master ambassador for Route 66. He makes you fall in love with this old road within minutes.

One of the most amazing things he did, and I mean like Patrick Jane from The Mentalist amazing, was that he opened up a picture book, Gary would call it a Photograph-y book (not photography), with all the sites of Route 66 and flipped thru the first two states we had been thru and pointed out EVERY SITE WE HAD STOPPED AT. And NO extra ones. 

Lou Mitchell's - Day 4

Odell Fillin' Station - Video

The Launching Pad

Funks Grove (a place we've barely mentioned)

Cozy Dog Drive In - Day 6

The St. Louis Arch - Day 7

and Ted Drewes Frozen Custard

It was UNCANNY, 7 for 7, he NAILED IT. I was soo impressed by it and it almost freaked me out.

All the while he is flipping thru this "photograph-y book" like 10 pages at a time, furiously! When he nailed all those sights I KNEW I was gonna buy the book, no matter what it cost. I was gonna reward him for being an excellent salesman, REGARDLESS of what he was selling. The book, by the way, is excellent.

I then was telling Gary that he was the reason I wanted to go on this trip in the first place and that THIS was the day I was hoping to have on Route 66. Beth chimed in and said, "yea, this is your second favorite day". 


"Tell him about Fithian", she said.

So I started to tell him about what an amazing time we had in Fithian but I decided I'd rather show him. So I walked across the street, grabbed my laptop and walked back and we plopped down on his porch and I played him the video from Day 5. It was so fun to share this story with him and he REALLY enjoyed the video. 

Eventually we had to go but seriously, neither of us wanted to say good bye. It was great and frankly a trip down Route 66 without pulling into Gary's old replica fillin' station would be just plain stupid.

But we weren't done. 

We finally made it to the state line, got into Galena Kansas and met Melba at the fillin' station where the original inspiration for Mater from Cars was found. John Lassiter and his team from Pixar had spent 2 months driving back and forth on Route 66 researching for the movie. She was able to show us a half a dozen bits of history that she could see from the front windows of her location on the corner that inspired various things from the movie.

But we still weren't done.

Eventually we made it to Baxter Springs where we got a room in the Café on the Route, the historical location of a bank that was once robbed by Jesse James (or so they say). We back tracked a bit to meet Don Karnes at his very own personal "Field of Dreams". Turns out about 10 years ago Don decided that the local high school needed a proper baseball field so he donated 12 acres of his own land and built a regulation size ball park. There's no fixed seating, as it saves a lot of money for the locals to just bring their own chairs, and he's $250,000 short of putting in lights for night games.

Perhaps the thing that impressed me the most about Don's Field of Dreams, is that he paid cash for every thing. He never borrows money, he never goes into debt, and he never rushes anything. I could only hope that people would look at this ball park and realize you don't HAVE to burn up your credit card by swiping it into hyper-drive in order to live a happy and fulfilled life.

I'm impressed by Don and as much as I like baseball (and I don't like it at all) I would love to see a game here one day in probably the only ball park in the US that was totally and 100% paid for with cash.

Good work Don. (if you want to contact him about contributing to the field you can contact him at

Next we went to shoot an old bridge and then we headed back to the Café on the Route to write, process and post.

Its been a long day on Route 66, but a REALLY good one.


« Day 11 - Bass Pro Shop is big. | Main | Day 13 - Baxter Springs is lazy. »

Reader Comments (11)

WOW! What an amazing day. Gary was Golden. Sounds like trip is turning out to be Everything you had hoped for.
Enjoying the posts. Safe travels.

Thursday, June 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohn King

I loved meeting your new friends and following you around again. You are making Route 66 look (almost) fun - it is good to see you experience the midwest and not knock it. So easy to do when you have lived a life with all the so-called conveniences of life - and you both have. A real education.

I take it Gary was NOT a far right Republican Catholic?

Thursday, June 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTerry Fenwick

I also loved the Field of Dreams! Great story!

Thursday, June 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTerry Fenwick

so sorry to have to add one more thing but I NEVER go Home without going to Steak and Shake. My favorite place in Illinois is the one on the river but they are so wonderfully standard, I am sure. Best hamburger ever. So glad you like it there.

Thursday, June 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTerry Fenwick

The picture of you on the phone at Gary's is awesome! Also really like the pic of the grill of the yellow truck... sweet! The grass in that Field of Dreams looks perfect... nice!

Thursday, June 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Stennet

What an AWESOME FREAKING GREAT DAY!! To me, and not that you would, the journey could end here and this day, alone, would have been worth all of it! I'm guessing this trip may already be close to reaching "beyond your wildest imaginations"? And to think there's still so much more to come! :-)

Thursday, June 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRod Alemania

Glad everyone is enjoying the journey. It's fun to share our experiences.

Beth & Chris

Friday, June 11, 2010 | Registered CommenterBeth Fenwick

Wow...your mom is sharing these posts with us (since Gib is a midwesterner--New Albany, Indiana). I say slap a cover on this and market it! You are a very adept writer, Beth and both of you take great photographs. :)) We are enjoying the trip right along with you and everyone else.

Friday, June 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Brown

I am soooo loving your trip and experiences
Becky :-)

Friday, June 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBecky Harrold Kuchefski

We have had so much fun telling people the story of visiting your home in Fithian. Glad you are enjoying the journey with us.

Saturday, June 12, 2010 | Registered CommenterBeth Fenwick

Note: Gary Turner just won the "Person of the Year" Award for 2010 at the annual Will Rogers Awards Ceremony on June 19th. An amazing guy and a better friend...

Saturday, July 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDan Rice

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