Finding Mater

The Kansas portion of Route 66 is the shortest compared to other states, only 13 miles. I wanted to stop and take a photo of something unique that represented each of the state on the route, so this posed a challenge to find something to check out in Kansas within than short segment.

I couldn’t find any place that was particularly interesting for us to stop, until I read through an article about the inspirations behind Cars that mentioned about a 1951 tow truck in Galena, KS, that became the inspiration for the lovable character Mater in the movie. According to the article, the truck could be found outside a renovated Kan-o-tex gas station that is now becoming a gift store called 4 Women on the Route.

So we set off to find this place. The Kansas portion of Route 66 is completely bypassed by Interstate 44 that unless you intentionally get off the Interstate highway and take the country highway, you wouldn’t even know that it’s there.

The drive through the Kansas Route 66 was like driving through countryside in the midwestern America. Nothing special on the surface, but I’m sure if one takes time to learn about the local communities in the towns we passed, we would find interesting stories about life on Route 66.

When we reached Galena, we had to turn into a side street from the main drag of the town to find the old Kan-o-tex gas station. The store was closed when we got there, but we found what we’re looking for… the old tow truck parked outside the gas station.

I learned that the real truck was named Tater as to avoid copyright infringement from using the Mater name. As how you get Tater, think of the origin of Mater’s name as he mentioned in the movie (‘Hi, my name is mater.. like tuh-mater. but without the tuh.’). So instead of tow-mater (rhymes with tomato), this one is tow-tater (rhymes with potato). Pretty creative.

After taking a couple of photos with Tater, we continued our trip. Several miles from Galena we entered Missouri, and we passed the downtown area of the city of Joplin before we entered Interstate 44 again. The city of Joplin was included in the famous song Route 66. The downtown area had some old buildings that might be considered as historical. We only passed the town and not thought much of it. A couple of years later, a devastating tornado passed Joplin and destroyed a significant portion of that downtown area we passed. It was one of those surreal thinking that we once drove passed the area of devastation we saw on the news.

Tow-Tater

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