Road-trippers normally dread close encounters with tow trucks, but not at Cars on the Route in Galena. Stop by to see Tow Tater, the 1951 International boom truck that provided vehicular inspiration for Tow Mater in Disney·Pixar’s animated classic Cars. Just down the street, Gearhead Curios, located in a 1939 gas station, displays a replica of the film’s Doc Hudson race car character, originally voiced by Paul Newman. (Doc also has the actor’s famously blue eyes.) Look for new neon lighting on the store’s vintage Texaco signage.
Locals know Galena is named for a mineral found in the area. (Galena is the main ore of lead.) For more ore lore, facts and artifacts, visit the town’s Mining and Historical Museum. Its collections include oil paintings of abandoned mines—works originally displayed in the Smithsonian Institution. Groceries, gifts, handicrafts and fresh deli sandwiches fill the aisles and shelves at Nelson’s Old Riverton Store in Riverton, less than 5 miles due west. In business continuously for nearly a century, it predates the Mother Road, as does nearby Rainbow Bridge, a rare remaining example of a fixed Marsh Rainbow Arch bridge.
About 5 miles south, the Kansas Route 66 Visitors Center in Baxter Springs occupies a Tudor-style gas station built in 1930. It’s now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Check out the old-school gas pumps (regular and ethyl) outside and sign your name on the wall inside. More history awaits at the Baxter Springs Heritage Center and Museum. Learn about the Osage tribe of Native Americans who called this region home for centuries, and dig into the region’s lead and zinc mining days. Fuel up for continued adventures with plate-size pancakes and giant slabs of ham at Weston’s Cafe.
Cruise through the 2022 Official Kansas Travel Guide for more road trip inspiration and memorable stops along the way.