Travel & Tourism
New Life on Historic Route 66 in Missouri PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Travel & Tourism
Written by Tom Uhlenbrock   
Thursday, 06 December 2012 16:05

Jefferson City, Mo. — New owners of two vintage motels on Route 66 in Missouri are doing their best to see traffic keeps on trucking on the legendary highway.

The Wagon Wheel Motel, in Cuba, is in tip-top shape after a complete renovation under Connie Echols, who bought the rundown motel in 2009 and has lovingly restored each of the stone cottages.

“It was horrible,” Echols said of the motel, which was built in 1935 and is the oldest continuously operating tourist court on the historic highway. “It had the original wiring and plumbing.”

On the far western side of the state, the Boots Motel, in Carthage, opened (last spring) the completed wing of a restoration project that will return the motel to what the first Route 66 motorists found.

“We want to make it as authentic a motoring experience from 1949 as we can make it,” said Deborah Harvey, one of two sisters who bought the Boots, which once was scheduled to be torn down for a Walgreens. “We want to make the rooms as though you’re stepping back in time.”

A four-night tour of the Mother Road included stays at the Wagon Wheel and Boots, as well as the Rail Haven, in Springfield, the city where Route 66 got its name, and the Munger Moss Motel, in Lebanon, where the iconic neon sign has been repaired and relit.

Route 66 ran from Chicago to Los Angeles, a total of 2,448 miles, including 317 miles in Missouri, from downtown St. Louis to the Kansas state line west of Joplin.

The highway was named officially in April 30, 1926, at a meeting in Springfield. It served as one of the nation’s chief east-west arteries until it was removed from the U.S. highway system in 1985, replaced by Interstates. Interstate 44 through Missouri now follows much of the route from St. Louis to Springfield.

But by then, its romantic status as a roadway to the west, and a pathway to adventure, had been recognized in song and on TV. “Get your kicks on Route 66” was the mantra of the faithful who refused to let the highway fade away.

Today, states such as Missouri have erected “Historic Route 66” signs along bypassed sections of the highway, and tourists come from the world over to drive its twisting two lanes and visit the Mom ‘n Pop motels and roadside attractions that still line its route.

“It’s the best way to see America, end to end,” said Echols, owner of the Wagon Wheel. “Overseas, it’s a prestige thing to ride 66, especially on a motorcycle. In summer, a third, maybe closer to a half, of my business is from overseas. One night last summer, we had 11 rooms rented from 10 different countries. Half of them didn’t speak English.”

Followers of the Mother Road know the important stops, and the people they’ll find there.

“I rented 36 rooms to travelers from Australia two weeks ago,” said Ramona Lehman, who owns the Munger Moss. “Last year, I had a group from the Union of South Africa.”

They come to stay in the motel, and to visit with Ramona and her husband, Bob, and hear their stories of life on the Road.

“I make sure I’m here when we have big groups,” Ramona said. “I had a guy from Brazil come in and he said, ‘Are you Ramona?’ He reached over to touch me and said, ‘You are real!’

“There’s something about the people who travel on Route 66. They fall in love with our country, and our road. It puts goose bumps on me.”

A labor of love
Connie Echols owned a florist shop on Route 66 in Cuba, but long had admired the Wagon Wheel, which included a gas station, café and motel.

“I always thought it was a cool place,” she said of the fieldstone buildings.

When the owners died, she bought it from their son and began the arduous restoration, which had to conform to the motel’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today, the old café houses the motel office and Connie’s Shoppe, which sells women’s accessories and souvenirs; the 19 rental rooms are stylishly decorated, with modern amenities.

“I know what I like when I travel - white linens, good beds and clean, up-to-date bathrooms,” Echols said. “We did keep the original doors and windows, and saved the hardwood floors that we could.”

Room 22 is a suite with a queen bed, table and chairs, and flat-screen TV in the front room. A jetted tub, shower, small refrigerator, microwave and granite-topped vanity are in the back room.

The motel has become a popular base for exploring Cuba, which is making an impressive bid as a tourist destination. The town has decorated its buildings with 12 murals, and is home to wineries and restaurants including Missouri Hick Barbeque, Frisco’s Grill and Pub, and Cuba Bakery and Deli.

“There were a few times I could have quit in the middle of it,” Echols said of her labor of love, “but I’ve never been a quitter.”

Rooms at the Wagon Wheel range from $55 for a single to $110 for the suites. Visit, or call 573-885-3411.

Streamline Moderne architecture
Deborah Harvey, of Decatur, Ga., and her sister, Priscilla Bledsaw, of Decatur, Ill., are devoted Roadies who were making the trek from Chicago to Los Angeles in 2006, when they came upon the closed Boots Motel at the intersection of Route 66 and Highway 71, in Carthage.

“We were driving along and kept saying how fun it would be to own a hotel on Route 66 and wave at all the people going by,” said Harvey, who is 62 and a historic preservation consultant.

Five years later, the two were the proud owners of the motel built by Arthur Boots in 1939. The original had a gas station and eight rooms with carports. A back annex of five rooms with an underground garage was added in 1946.

The back building was the first to be restored, opening last May. The sisters combed the flea markets and used furniture shops in Carthage for antique chenille bedspreads and period furniture to decorate each room, many of which maintain their original wood floors and tiled bathrooms.

There are no TVs, but each room has a radio to fulfill Arthur Boots’ promise of “a radio in every room.”

Future plans include removing a gabled roof that was added later, spoiling the Streamline Moderne architecture of the main building, and replacing the green neon that decorated the exterior.

The sisters figure it will take up to five years to have the Boots back to original condition, but it’s already drawing international visitors.

“We got a couple of motorcyclists from Tahiti, and we’ve had people from nearly every European country,” Harvey said. “This is our first year, but we’re making enough money to pay the bills.”

And they’ve already achieved one of their important goals. “In the evening, we sit out front and wave to passersby,” Harvey said. “People will stop by and tell us stories about staying at the Boots.”

Rates for a single are $66 and for a double $71, as in Highway 71. Visit, or call 417-310-2989.

State’s first Steak ‘N Shake
Springfield bills itself as the “Birthplace of Route 66,” and the Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven is a good place to stay while exploring the city’s attractions.

The original Rail Haven, built by brothers Elwyn and Lawrence Lippman in 1938, had eight sandstone cottages with adjoining garages and a rail fence. By the time the motel became a founding member of the new Best Western chain in 1951, it had 28 rooms.

Today, that total is up to 98 and the original eight cottages have become part of a modern strip motel with all the expected amenities. Antique gas pumps, vintage signs and a pair of 1955 and 1956 Fords decorate the grounds, paying homage to its link to the historic highway.

“Nothing’s been torn down here,” said Tonya Pike, a Route 66 historian who helps in marketing the motel. “We’re considered a classic example of how a cottage court becomes a strip motel. There are other hotels out there as old as we are, but we’re the only one that’s a founding member of a national chain and still part of that chain.”

A brochure in the motel office describes other Route 66 highlights in Springfield, including the Rest Haven Court, Shrine Mosque, Gillioz Theatre and the first Steak ‘N Shake in Missouri, which has its original black-and-white sign and offers curb service.

Rates start at $79.99. Visit, or call 800-304-0021.

Keeping it alive
Change may be coming to yet another landmark motel on Historic Route 66.

Ramona and Bob Lehman, who have owned the Munger Moss Motel in Lebanon for 41 years, have listed it for sale.

The hotel has 44 rooms, and 17 two-room efficiencies. Some of the rooms are decorated with themes, including Room 18, which is dedicated to the dearly departed Coral Court Motel, the infamous no-tell-motel that was torn down and replaced by a subdivision in St. Louis.

“It’s decorated in pink and black,” Ramona said of Room 18. “I also call it my bordello room.”

Although Ramona and Bob, like their motel, are in good shape, they both are in their mid-70s and looking for a new lifestyle.

“I won’t sell it just to anybody,” Ramona said. “I want somebody who loves Route 66 to take it over. It’s part of our heritage. We’ve got to keep it alive for our kids.”

Rates are $48 for a single, and $55 for a double. Visit, or call 417-532-3111.

Tom Uhlenbrock writes travel stories for the State of Missouri.

About the Missouri Division of Tourism
The Missouri Division of Tourism (MDT) is the official tourism office for the state of Missouri dedicated to marketing Missouri as a premier travel destination. Established in 1967, the Missouri Division of Tourism has worked hard to develop the tourism industry in Missouri to what it is today, an $11.2 billion industry supporting more than 279,000 jobs and generating $627 million in state taxes in Fiscal Year 2011. For every dollar spent on marketing Missouri as a travel destination in FY11, $57.76 was returned in visitor expenditures. For more information on Missouri tourism, go to


Links referenced in this article:

Wagon Wheel Motel

Boots Motel

Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven

Munger Moss Motel

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For more information contact: Ryan Bickel, Blank Park Zoo, 515-988-9485 Two Rhinoceros Arrive at Blank Park Zoo PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Travel & Tourism
Written by Ryan Bickel   
Thursday, 06 December 2012 15:51

Des Moines (December 6, 2012) – Two eastern black rhinoceros have arrived at Blank Park Zoo in preparation for the new $4 million Africa exhibit opening next spring.

“Rhinoceros are the perfect addition to the Blank Park Zoo. They are a very large animal that will be popular with our guests. They are also an animal in great danger in the wild as poachers are killing them at devastating rates because of the value of their horns,” said Mark Vukovich, CEO of Blank Park Zoo. “We want to raise awareness about this because it’s possible that within our lifetime these animals will be extinct in the wild.”

According to the International Rhino Foundation, there are less than 5,000 black rhinos left in the wild and less than 30,000 of all species of rhinos.

Blank Park Zoo acquired two black rhinoceros, a male named Kiano and a female named Ayana. The rhinos are part of a breeding program called a species survival plan (SSP), and zoo officials hope they will breed when they become mature. This program’s goal is to maintain a sustainable population of black rhinos in zoos. The male came from the Great Plains Zoo in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and the female came from Zoo Miami in Florida. Ayana was born in August 2010 and weighs 1,900 pounds and Kiano was born in October 2010 and weighs just over 1,000 pounds.

Ayana and Kiano are now going through a required thirty day ‘quarantine’ process which helps the animals become accustomed to their new home and keepers monitor their health and stress. Once this process is completed, keepers will begin to introduce the animals to each other.

About Black Rhinoceros (source: International Rhino Foundation,

The black rhinoceros has two horns, with the front one being the larger of the two. They can weigh up to 3,000 pounds and be 5.5 feet tall at shoulder height and up to 12.5 feet long if you include the head and body. The black rhino has a prehensile lip that is well-suited for grasping branches, leaves and shrubs. This is the species’ most distinguishing characteristic. The black rhino lives in Africa, primarily in grasslands, savannahs and tropical bush lands. Female rhinos reach maturity at four to seven years of age while males reach maturity at seven to ten years. Between 1970 and 1992, the wild population of this species has decreased by 96 percent. The term ‘black rhino’ is believed to come about because of the color of the soil the rhino covers itself with while wallowing in the mud. Unlike the white rhino, black rhinos are only semi-social and do not live in herds.


About Blank Park Zoo

Blank Park Zoo, Iowa’s WILDEST Adventure, is open 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. seven days a week this winter. The Zoo will be closed Dec. 24 & 25, & Jan. 1. Winter Admission rates are $7 for adults, $3 for children under 12, and $6 for seniors and active military. Children two years and under and Blank Park Zoo members are free. The Zoo is located at 7401 SW 9th St., Des Moines, IA 50315. Visit the Zoo online at The Zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) The AZA is America’s leading accrediting organization that sets rigorous, professional standards for zoos and aquariums. The AZA is building North America's largest wildlife conservation movement by engaging and inspiring the 143 million annual visitors to its member institutions and their communities to care about and take action to help protect wildlife.



2013 Official Missouri Travel Guide Now Available PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Travel & Tourism
Written by Stephen Foutes   
Tuesday, 04 December 2012 14:25

Jefferson City, Mo. — If the approach of winter doesn’t already have you thinking about your summer vacation, the 2013 Official Missouri Travel Guide certainly will.

The Missouri Division of Tourism (MDT) has published its 2013 Official Missouri Travel Guide, a carry-along travel-planning tool for visitors seeking information about the Show-Me State’s incredible lineup of attractions and destinations. The cover is an inviting scene showing a couple enjoying a beautiful sunset over the Lake of the Ozarks.

This annual publication offers information on thousands of Missouri tourism assets – from public tours and museums to live-show venues and ziplines – plus lodging options, golf courses, wineries, breweries, campgrounds, canoe outfitters and Missouri State Parks and Historic Sites.

“The Missouri Travel Guide continues to be a popular and useful tool for travelers to enjoy,” says Katie Steele Danner, MDT’s director. “Missouri has a diverse tourism industry, and we’re pleased to share the Show-Me State with future visitors.”

You can pick up a 2013 Official Missouri Travel Guide at a variety of locations across Missouri, including MDT’s seven Official Welcome Centers, MDT’s Affiliate Welcome Centers, local chambers of commerce, and convention and visitors bureaus. Call 800-519-4800 to order a copy of the guide, and you can order online at

In addition to listings of tourism-related businesses around Missouri, the Travel Guide includes color photos and feature stories on Missouri’s vacation regions. Other content focuses on made-in-Missouri products, regional dining options (with many favorites selected by MDT’s Facebook fans), and genealogy-research facilities.

For more information about the 2013 Official Missouri Travel Guide, or to schedule an interview with Tourism Director Katie Steele Danner, please contact Stephen Foutes at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 573-751-3208.

About the Missouri Division of Tourism
The Missouri Division of Tourism (MDT) is the official tourism office for the state of Missouri dedicated to marketing Missouri as a premier travel destination. Established in 1967, the Missouri Division of Tourism has worked hard to develop the tourism industry in Missouri to what it is today, an $11.2 billion industry supporting more than 279,000 jobs and generating $627 million in state taxes in Fiscal Year 2011. For every dollar spent on marketing Missouri as a travel destination in FY11, $57.76 was returned in visitor expenditures. For more information on Missouri tourism, go to

Galena/Jo Daviess County CVB - Night of Luminaria is set to glow in downtown Galena PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Travel & Tourism
Written by Celestino Ruffini   
Monday, 26 November 2012 14:33

December 15 event transforms the city into a winter wonderland

GALENA, Ill. – Watch Galena come alive with the glow of thousands of luminaries on this special winter night, Saturday, December 15. Take part in this Galena tradition by helping to set out luminary bags during the day or assist in lighting the candles before the spectacle begins. Later in the evening, relax and enjoy the magical winter wonderland scene as night falls. It is a must see event!

Night of Luminaria is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and romantic visions of the year. From Galena's Main Street to the hills overlooking the park, all of town will be glowing. Enter a land of enchantment on this night when you see more than 5,000 candle-lit luminaries on streets, steps and sidewalks.

Whether you drive the streets of Galena, walk the sidewalks, take a trolley or enjoy a carriage ride, you’ll be amazed at the sights. Walk through Grant Park on Galena’s eastside or take in a gorgeous view from Prospect Street as you look across downtown Galena.

Local businesses offer extended hours of operation on this night, so take advantage of it and wrap up your holiday shopping. Afterwards, warm up as you enjoy a candlelit dinner at one of many local restaurants.

For further event information, visit, e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 815.777.9050. Additional area offerings and visitor information may be found at the Galena/Jo Daviess County Convention and Visitors Bureau at or by calling 877.464.2536. While in town, visit the CVB’s Old Train Depot Visitor Information Center at 101 Bouthillier St. (corner of Park Avenue) for on-site assistance and countywide information.

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Governor Quinn Reminds Travelers to Think of Safety First PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Travel & Tourism
Written by Ryan C. Woods   
Monday, 26 November 2012 14:24

Police will be Out in Force Across Illinois to Keep Roads Safe, Cracking Down on Impaired Drivers and Enforcing Seat Belt Laws

CHICAGO – November 21, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today reminded Thanksgiving holiday travelers to think of safety first while traveling on the state’s busy roadways this weekend. Millions of drivers are expected on state highways over this Thanksgiving holiday and Illinois transportation and law enforcement officials are mounting a statewide crackdown to bust impaired drivers and make sure drivers and passengers are buckling up on every trip.

“Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to be with family and friends and take stock of our blessings,” Governor Quinn said. “But it’s also a time when roadways can be more dangerous. That’s why everyone who is traveling during the holiday week should remember to buckle up each time, and never, ever allow an impaired driver to get behind the wheel.”

The statewide “Drive to Survive” crackdown, sponsored by the Illinois Department of Transportation’s (IDOT) Division of Traffic Safety, involves Illinois State Police (ISP) and nearly 300 local law enforcement agencies across Illinois. The campaign focuses on the deadly nighttime hours when data shows more vehicle occupants die in crashes than during any other time of day. Due to this trend, late night motorists throughout Illinois will see roadside safety checks, seat belt enforcement zones and other police saturation patrols looking for seat belt law violators and drunk drivers.

Traffic safety officials are also concerned about the high number of people who die unbuckled during nighttime hours. Studies show that an average of less than one-third of occupant fatalities are restrained properly using seat belts between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. During daytime hours, seat belt usage increases substantially, with 62 percent of vehicle occupant fatalities properly restrained. This lack of belt use means far too many people are dying on Illinois roadways, particularly during nighttime hours when alcohol often is involved.

IDOT and the Illinois Tollway are also reminding drivers to focus on the road at all times and that it’s illegal to text or check email while driving in Illinois.

During the 2011 Thanksgiving holiday eight people died in traffic crashes on Illinois roadways over the five day period and 839 were injured. Of the eight individuals who were killed, four died in crashes where at least one driver had been drinking.

Statewide, year to date, 854 people have died on Illinois roadways, according to a provisional count maintained by IDOT.

For more information about IDOT’s traffic safety enforcement campaigns and safety data, please visit


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