Baxter Springs, Kansas

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By the time I reached Baxter Springs, I began to realize that mile per mile, I was spending more time in Kansas than any other Route 66 state.  That says a lot about the treasures Kansas offers, considering there’s only 13 miles of the old road in the state.  Almost half the day had passed, and I had only driven about 30 miles–not a good rate when you’re trying to cover 200-300 miles a day.

Even after deciding that I needed to pick up the pace, I still devoted some time to walking around downtown Baxter Springs, Kansas.

Murphey’s Restaurant immediately drew my attention.  It’s at the center of town and has a great old neon sign hanging over the Route…

… and a 66 shield on the window.  It may have been in business since 1941, but its days of satisfying hungry travelers of the Mother Road appear to be over.

Back before Murphey’s Restaurant took up space in this building, the old storefront served as a bank.  So did another building across the street…

… which is also home to a restaurant.  The only difference is, the Cafe on the Route is still in business.

Both of these banks played a key role in Baxter Springs’ unwanted claim to fame, as the “Most Robbed Town In America”.  Among the purported robbers of Baxter Springs’ banks and businesses: Jesse James (although some accounts dispute this) and Bonnie and Clyde (who are said to have held up the same store twice in one week).

One bank that’s still in business is the American Bank of Baxter Springs.  Yes, it too has a history of robberies, but they occurred in the bank’s old building, which once stood where today’s modern structure is now located.  You’ll want to dodge cars coming out of the drive-thru, in order to get a close look at the brick sculpture in the side of the building.  The bas-relief sculpture depicts Baxter Springs’ history, which of course includes a Route 66 shield.

I did have a dog gone good time, as a matter of fact.  But unfortunately, the owners of this hot dog restaurant didn’t.  The business is closed.

Drive south from Baxter Springs, and before you know it, you’re in Oklahoma.  You could detour onto the original Route 66 alignment, which runs behind the Wal-Mart, but unless you’re committed to seeking out every square inch of the road, it’s not necessary.

Note: This trip was first published in 2008.

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