6 Iconic American Roadside Attractions with Some Fabulous Frozen Custard on Route 66.
It’s been a great year of travel for my little family. Some stops on our road-tripping adventures have been just up the road from our homes, others were discovered much further afield. But all renewed our love for small town America and exploring as many of her twists and turns as we can fit into a lifetime.
Gettin’ our kicks on Route 66…
We spent hours in Rolla, Missouri before I realized that one of my road tripping dreams had come true and we had been on Route 66 since the night before. I blame it on lack of sleep, since we had driven all night to get there, but we had even failed to realize that the hotel we had chosen on “that frontage road”, as I’d been calling the strip of road that ran parallel to Interstate 44, was located on Route 66 and right next to an old iconic gas station that was a famous stop on the old highway. Before we left town, we made sure to stop at the filling station to have a look.
What we found inside was such a delightful surprise, a nice little man by the name of Tim Jones who is the third generation owner of The Totem Pole and has personally run his inherited trading post for over 40 years.
We asked a few questions about the history of the place and ended up talking to him for over an hour. Mr. Jones had the store up for sale, in part, because fuel companies charge so much for service these days, and because his wife, who suffered a back injury in an auto accident, is in need of his round-the-clock care. He simply broke our hearts when he told us how much pain she is on a daily basis and that they tragically lost a son years earlier. Another disappointing thing we learned from Tim is that his surviving children have no interest in taking over the family business and carrying on The Totem Pole tradition, so if he is to retire, it must be sold.
Though it has moved to various places along Route 66 over the years, and only the building and inventory are for sale, not the famous name of the landmark, The Totem Pole is a fabulous little shop full of history, with signs and plaques and photos of famous people who have stopped by over the decades displayed on all of its interior walls. We went inside for a soda but ended up getting a history lesson. My kind of pit stop!
The week we visited the store, people from Canada, the UK, Australia, and Japan had stopped by.
I love retro kitchenware and Americana. The Totem Pole Trading Post is full of it!
Need fireworks? The Totem Pole has them, but…NO SMOKING!
While we were in Rolla, we met up with friends of ours from the first year we were married. We had all gone our separate ways when that year ended, but we have remained friends so were so happy to get to spend a little time together. They told us of Ted Drewes Frozen Custard located right on old Route 66 in St.Louis.
We stopped at the old Chipewa location on Route 66.
The shop had just opened for the season so had a full parking lot, multiple lines to the street, and a bustling kitchen full of workers in sunny yellow t-shirts filling customer orders.
Ted Drewes’ “concrete” frozen custard is supposedly so thick you can actually hold a carton of it upside down and it stays put. This is Southern Delight Concrete with praline pecans and butterscotch, seriously one of the best frozen desserts I’ve ever had, and not just because I’m a sucker for candied pecans. I was too afraid to test mine by holding it upside down, but it didn’t budge when I held it on its side.
My husband’s Fox Treat was laced with hot fudge and loaded with raspberries and macadamia nuts.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be in St. Louis again, but if I am, another dose of Ted Drewes will be on the to do list.
As we were driving through “nowhere” Illinois, my son saw a sign for Metropolis, a town just up the way. He got all excited and said we had to stop because the town had adopted the Superman Marvel hero as their town mascot and had even erected a gargantuan statue of him. Sure enough! There he was.
And a Superman museum to boot!
Even the public trashcans in Metropolis are amusing.
Back in the good ol’ South…
Back home in the South, my husband and I spent our wedding anniversary, which also happens to be my birthday, adventuring in the North Georgia mountains. Lunch at Fortify in Clayton, Georgia, wine tasting at Tiger Mountain Vineyards in Tiger, Georgia, and a stop at iconic Tallulah Gorge Overlook rounded out our day.
This building has been perched on the edge of the deepest crack in the earth east of the Mississippi since the ’20s. .
I’ve been visiting the overlook since I was seven years old and took my first trip from my family’s home in Florida to the Appalachian Mountains, and I’ve been in love with it and the area ever since. Of all the places I’ve lived, or will ever live, this corner of the country that includes the mountainous regions of Tennessee and North Carolina will always feel most like home. And I just love the fact that the overlook shop has never changed in my lifetime, from the assortment of local crafts and cold beverages to the bulletin boards dedicated to The Great Wallenda who walked a tightrope stretched across the gorge in 1970.
Inside the shop, almost a century of travelers have been able to find snacks and drinks and memorabilia. Today they will find retro candy, locally made items, specialty foods, and vintage kitchen goods and decor.
Closer to our new home is Point Pleasant, WV, home of the famous Mothman sightings that some say predicted the collapse of the Silver Bridge in 1967. Frightening, if you buy into the creepy legend.
A museum dedicated to the Mothman sightings sits beside a life-sized statue of the creature. It includes lots of interesting memorabilia related to the book The Mothman Prophesies, and the movie of the same name, which are said to relate the real life experiences of the author, Charles Fort.
This motel room telephone is a prop from the Richard Gere movie in which he receives calls from the alleged Man In Black, Indrid Cold.
Downtown Point Pleasant is “iconic America” in itself. With its turn of the century architecture, mid-century businesses, and old power lines stretching down Main Street, it’s easy to stand in the center of town and feel like you’ve gone back in time.
And…we did see the Mothman while we were strolling through town… Well, maybe not Mothman, but a moth. Belly up in a store window.
Even more sobering than reading page after page of police statements taken by witnesses of the Mothman in the Mothman Museum is crossing the reconstructed bridge that rises over the Ohio River in the exact location where the Silver Bridge fell decades ago, on Christmas Eve.
A the edge of the river, beyond the town’s levees that protect it from flooding, is a park that features a mural depicting the history of Point Pleasant.
The bridge stands proudly, if a little dismally, in the distance so that the entire space feels like a memorial to those who lost their lives in the bridge collapse.
At the end of Main Street is Point Pleasant River Museum, which gives visitors a glimpse of what life was like through history on the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers, when riverboats served the area.
Another iconic American point in West Virginia is the old Cool Springs Park roadside stop. This retro wayside store is located on Route 50, at the base of Cheat Mountain, just below the serpentine twists of the highway that are famous among motorcyclists across America.
Since 1929, road trippers have been able to find just about anything in the old store, from souvenir nick-nacks to survival equipment and gardening supplies.
A park-like area stretches across the property to the left of the shop where antiquated farm and industrial equipment, along with old railroad cars, are on display.
Mixed in with these salvaged inanimate objects are farm animals who wander among the visitors.
And now…on to the next adventure! I’ve got my sights set on a little ice cream shop in Massachusetts. Stay tuned, and thanks again for following this journal of my family’s life at Edible Tapestry.