Our Travel Kansas Route 66 Instameet began in Galena, and would end in Baxter Springs. Of course, the space in between was not filled with empty miles. Even though the Mother Road only passes for 13 miles in the state of Kansas, it is filled with some unique sights. With Galena under our belt, it was time to head west to see what else we could find. (You can read about the Galena visit here>)
A Quick Stop
Our group was running behind schedule, so we decided to grab a bite on the way to our next stop. Just down the road from Galena, we came across Nelson’s Old Riverton Store. This place is one of those old school style stores. Made up of part grocery, part deli, and part souvenir shop, this is the kind of place that serves the locals on a regular basis. We passed the grocery section, and found the sandwich counter in the back. The menu is simple, and the meat for sandwiches is sliced fresh when ordered. While we waited for our sandwiches, we looked around the second room, which was filled with Route 66 items. Once our order was ready, we paid and headed off toward our next destination.
Route 66 passed over three Marsh Arch bridges during its heyday. These days there is only one left standing, and it sits between Galena and Baxter Springs. The unique shape of the structure has caused many to refer to it as the “Rainbow Bridge”. The reinforced concrete bridge was built in 1923 to span Brush Creek. An alternate bridge was erected nearby, and this original structure now only sees the periodic traveler looking to retrace the path of days gone by.
Here, as in Galena, we had the pleasure of meeting someone who had a vast knowledge of the surrounding sites. Dean Walker is an interesting character to say the least. Crystal and I had actually journeyed to the bridge earlier in the morning for an opportunity to get some pictures, before the rest of the group arrived. While we were parking, we saw a man crossing the bridge toward us. Dean introduced himself as the caretaker of the structure, and proceeded to tell us some of the history. Although the bridge is closed to traffic, he invited us to drive our car onto it for some photo opportunities.
Dean is not just the caretaker of the bridge, he has another interesting link to history. He has earned the nickname of “Crazy Legs” Walker for his ability to turn his feet backwards. Of course with age, he now needs a little assistance. This unique ability also made an impact on some notable people in the past. When staff for Pixar Films were doing research for the animated project “Cars”, they came to the area to meet some of the residents. After their meeting with Dean, they were impressed with his ability. They even incorporated it into the character Tow Mater, who often runs backwards. Dean was more than willing to show off this ability for our group.
In 2000, the Rainbow Bridge was featured in a TLC special titled “Route 66: Main Street America”. Country singer Brad Paisley performed the song “Route 66” on the bridge, which was included in the TV special. While this may be the last of its kind on the Mother Road, there are other Marsh Arch bridges still standing. During the first part of the 1900’s there were hundreds constructed throughout the Central United States. Over twenty are still around, and many are on the list of historic places. Now that our group had met a historic character, and crossed a historic structure, we were all excited to move along to our final destination of Baxter Springs. (Check out the Baxter Springs History Museum here>) Time to pile into our cars and follow Dean down Route 66.