Route 66 in the News

Lebanon, Mo., a Route 66 Jewel

2010-07-04 12:06:10

Detour off Interstate 44 to Old Route 66 and drive west from St. Louis. Within a few hours you’ll reach Lebanon, Mo., one of Missouri’s unique jewels.

“We were by-passed decades ago when I-44 was built,” said Ramona Lehman who with her husband Bob own the vintage 1946 Munger Moss Motel. “We’ve bought the place in 1971 and have hung on through all the changes. And today, people are happy we have.”

Mugger Moss is a blast from the past and takes one back in time when cars had fins and chrome and electric signs were neon. Today, the Munger Moss Rooms has retained its original retro charm, complete with powder pink and blue bathroom fixtures with its outdoor pool, one of the first in Lebanon that’s still open for guests to indulge in a late night swims.

With the renewed interest in Route 66 the Munger Moss is once again busy, with many guests coming from Europe.

“Europeans love Route 66,” said Lehman. “They fly into Chicago, rent a car and drive the old Route 66 all the way to the end (Santa Monica). It’s just amazing. We have had people from all over the world come to stay here because they’re looking to experience the real Route 66.”

Across the street and down a block from the Munger Moss is another surviving Route 66 outpost, Britt’s Rt. 66 Grill. Once known as Wrink’s Market, the property’s current owners saved the building when Wrink’s closed. Britt’s now follows in the Route 66 roadhouse tradition of feeding hungry road warriors. Stop in for a bite and don’t forget to leave your mark on history and sign the wall on your way out.

To get a better understanding of where the old Route was visit The Route 66 Museum and Research Center housed in the Lebanon-Laclede County Library. The museum houses a collection of memorabilia including a recreation of a gas station, motel room and a diner, complete with menus listing quarter burgers. The museum is open daily for self-guided tours.

Just 12 miles west of downtown Lebanon is Bennett Springs State Park. Renowned for trout fishing, Bennett Springs encompasses over 3,200 acres of prime Ozark hills. Most visitors come to engage in the area’s number one sport, fly-fishing. Each day during trout season the 6:30 a.m. whistle blows signaling anglers to cast off and catch their limit of rainbow trout.

Just in case you forgot your fishing equipment one can buy or rent what you need at the park store. The park store also can provide Missouri fishing licenses and trout tags, which are required.

Adjacent to the Park store is the Jim Rogers Fly School. Considered one of the country’s leading experts on fly-fishing, Jim and his staff not only teach show to fish but how to tie a fly. For all you non-fisherman that’s the art of disguising a fishhook to look like a buggy trout treat.

If you’re unlucky catching trout, fear not, you won’t go hungry. Trout dinners are a specialty at the Bennett Springs Dining Lodge, which is housed in a historic rustic stone building that was designed and built in the 1030s by the Civilian Conservation Corp (C.C.C.). The Lodge offers a full menu and serves three meals a day during the season. In addition to the dining lodge Bennett Springs Park provides visitors with a variety of lodging options ranging from primitive camping to cabins to fully-equipped two-bedroom condos.

Floating down the Niangua River is the area’s second most popular outdoor activity. You don’t have to be an experience floater to enjoy the Niangua River calm current, where it’s easy to sit back and relax while passing through some of Missouri’s most scenic waterways.

Before heading back to hook up with the interstate stop and chow down on the local cuisine. Ollie’s Restaurant, on the road between Bennett Springs and Lebanon, offers hickory-smoked meats and homemade pies featuring local seasonal fruit. This month’s seasonal pick is blackberry pie. Speaking of pie, Circle J’s has dozens of pie varieties from Hawaiian Cream and Mincemeat to Lemon and Coconut Cream.

Finally, for down home good eats check out T’s Redneck Steakhouse where the featured beef is Missouri-raised Stock Yard Angus. The signature steak is the Redneck 14-ounce Ribeye Cowboy, which shares menu space with sirloin strips, flat irons and filets. Not hungry for steak? Try the smoked brisket, pork or chicken or simply opt for a plate of hand-breaded pork chops or fish.

“We have what you’re hungry for,” said our server.

Lebanon has what the traveler is hungry for. Outdoor activities, roadside nostalgia, and downtown area that offers enough diversions to keep the family entertained To discover it all you have to do is exit from I-44 and follow the Mother Road.

~Suzanne Corbett, Globe-Democrat.com

 

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