Big BAM is known for treating its cyclists to the best of Missouri’s cities, villages, and landscapes. This year’s ride, along Route 66, is especially inspiring. To many Mother Road enthusiasts around the globe this fabled road represents freedom and authentic Americana. That symbolism is spot on. Pedal slowly through these points along the byway and Route 66’s genuine narrative will become a chapter in your personal story.
Gascozark: An Old Settlers Gazette article regarding Gascozark’s founding father, Frank A. Jones begins “This is a brief sketch of energy, creativity, and entrepreneurial zeal.” Jones possessed three vital ingredients of a prosperous Route 66 enterprise. After retiring from an executive position with Shell Oil Company Jones purchased a few hundred acres of land along the Gasconade River in western Pulaski County. Missouri Highway 14 had been designated Route 66 just a year before his purchase. He began his ambitious plan to change his portion of the rugged Ozarks into a working farm. Jones combined the words Gasconade and Ozark and christened his outfit Gascozark Hereford Ranch. The farm operation led him to another bustling startup, Pulaski Dairy. Next Jones built and launched Gascozark Café and Station, a roadside endeavor. This string of robust ventures led Jones to his most ambitious vision, Gascozark Hills Resort. GHR’s roaring success can be directly attributed to Jones’ drive and ambition, its ease of accessibility via Route 66 to the touring public, and unique amenities not found at other Ozark Mountain resorts, namely a 30×60 feet concrete swimming pool and sumptuous meals crafted from ingredients produced on the ranch. Gascozark Hills Resort outlasted its competitors and is still in operation today as Gasconade Hills Resort. A two-and-a-half-mile round-trip gravel-travel detour will lead you to Jones’ dream, or, you can admire his ambition (and take a selfie) in front of the still-standing Gascozark Café and Station at Gascozark, Missouri.
Buckhorn: Pulaski County old-timers repeat a tale passed on by their grandfathers, who heard it at the knee of their grandfathers that Buckhorn acquired its name from a former tavern located there. The tavern was distinguished by the set of deer antlers that graced the doorway. Throughout the Route 66 years several storekeepers and tourist court operators made a name for themselves in Buckhorn. Although the exact location of their cabin court remains a mystery to Mother Road historians and explorers, Buffalo Lick Camp was established in the early 1930’s by Mr. & Mrs. D.F. Potts. BLC operated until at least 1946.
The Normandy, owned and operated by Mrs. C.J. Funke, consisted of a service station, restaurant, and hotel. The impressive towered giraffe rock structure was destroyed by fire in 1978. All that remains are two concrete gateposts.
Ely and Minnie Toops scratched their living by peddling handcrafted souvenirs to traveling tourists. Their store remains, transformed into a private residence. Pleasant Grove Resort began in the 1930’s and was later renamed Bell Haven Court by Edgar Bell. The cottages were still advertised for rent in the 1960’s. Today the cottages are gone, and the store’s gasoline pumps are only a hand-me-down memory. The combination store and office structure survive, also transformed into a private residence.
Across the Interstate 44 overpass was the iconic Witmor Farms restaurant operated by Waynesville physician Dr. R.O. DeWitt and husband and wife team Roy and Norma Moorman. Their roadside business flourished and expanded with a gift shop/snack bar/gasoline addition across the county road from the eatery. The main restaurant structure was razed in 2015 leaving only the addition (and Norma’s famous Macaroni Salad recipe) as reminders of the partnership’s mini-empire.
Each year, over Memorial Day weekend, Buckhorn takes center stage for thousands of motorcyclists who converge on the community during Mid America Freedom Rally.
Saint Robert: is Pulaski County’s newest (and one of the fastest growing) city. When Route 66 was designated as a federal highway in 1926 the town did not exist. The construction of Fort Leonard Wood in 1940, and several plucky civic-minded businessmen breathed life into this area once known as Eastville.
The (then) village, named for St. Robert of Bellarmine Catholic Church, was chartered in 1951. A diverse cast of colorful characters and savvy capitalists hung their shingles along the road hoping to make their fortunes, or at least, a living. They certainly did succeed in creating a robust city, albeit one that suffered growing pains in its adolescence. Today, older and wiser, Saint Robert is known around the world as being both a home to heroes and a gateway to Missouri’s premiere military training facility.
The city has not lost sight of its Route 66 heritage and several businesses operate from vintage Mother Road structures. Highlights include Mike’s Gym and Martial Arts which evolved from Pops’ Place. “Pops” Sindler also owned and operated Sindlers Cabin City and Café. Neon tubes on the roofs of Sindler’s cabins could be seen at night, miles away, from the ridge that ran through Hazelgreen.
Another highlight is Skyline Welding which began as Louis Ferkol and Willard “Chad” Chadwell’s ultra-modern Skyline Garage Auto Service in 1953. A closer look at the business’ signage reveals that the eastbound side has been modified to reflect the new primary line of work, while the westbound is unaltered and still bears the original name.
In 1955 a women’s civic organization raised funds to establish a roadside park near the Fort Leonard Wood junction. Their efforts resulted in George M. Reed Roadside Park which is one of only two remaining roadside parks on Route 66 in Missouri. A new fundraiser has been established to bring Route 66 Neon Park to the location. We think “Pops” Sindler would approve.
Big BAM Tip- Pulaski County Tourism Bureau’s Route 66 guide provides an in-depth look at Saint Robert’s Route 66 landmarks and sites of significance. Order your free copy today by calling 573-336-6355 or messaging your mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Devils Elbow: The mere mention of this former logging hamlet will cause any Route 66 fan’s eyes to sparkle like Rockefeller Center’s Christmas Tree. Devils Elbow (population 374) is famous. World famous. Legendary famous. Devils Elbow is the Paul Bunyan of Route 66 villages.
Hugged by the Big Piney River, decorated by dramatic limestone bluffs that were once declared to be one of “Missouri’s beauty spots”, complete with a centerpiece vintage steel bridge, this community has inspired artists, musicians, and poets to memorialize it in paintings, song, and verse. Duck into the Post Office or the Elbow Inn & BBQ (a Big BAM featured bar) to find the Ozarkian art of storytelling in action.
In 2017 eight properties comprising the Devils Elbow Historic District were added to the National Register of Historic of Places. Each year, shortly after Thanksgiving, Devils Elbow residents and admirers gather to adorn the beloved bridge in twinkly lights and holiday cheer. The bridge is lit each evening to delight both children and adults through the New Year.
*A majority of the information in this article was provided by historian Terry Primas through his invaluable book “Route 66 in Pulaski County, Missouri a local history.” Copies may be purchased at various locations in Waynesville, including the Old Stagecoach Stop. Additionally, it may be purchased online. Our many thanks to Mr. Primas.