First, My Apologies
Our Route 66 road trip was truly the trip of a lifetime. We experienced about a year's worth of fun and excitement, all crammed into a couple of weeks. Most of the days were about ten to twelve hours long, even when we only traveled about 100 miles. We still didn't have the time to see and do everything. Happily, that gives us an excuse to visit The Mother Road again. And we will.
Our nights were busy too. Once our group of Route 66 adventurers arrived at our stop for the night, more often than not we'd find ourselves sitting together on the "stoop" enjoying a beer or other beverage and reminiscing about the day. Before we knew it, it was time to get some sleep for the next day's adventures.
Unfortunately, our busy days and nights also meant that I simply didn't have the time to post blog updates and photos as I had planned. It didn't help that we didn't have decent WiFi in some of the motels. Before I knew it, I was hopelessly behind. Rather than stress over trying to catch up, I decided to wait until we got home.
Please accept my apologies for the delay. I am hoping that I'll be able to make up for the wait by having the time to do a better job of sharing the stories and experiences from the trip. As a way of thanking everyone for their patience, I'm going to start with one of the coolest things we experienced during the trip.
Bob's Gasoline Alley
On our third day on Route 66 we stopped in Cuba, Missouri for the night. Cuba is famous for their many murals to be found around the city.
While out photographing the murals, a man and woman in an SUV approached our group of Miatas and struck up a conversation with me and Cathy. They had noticed our custom San Diego Miata Club Route 66 magnetics and asked if we were enjoying our trip on Route 66 and our stay in Cuba. We answered affirmatively to both questions. They introduced themselves (Bob and Darlene Mullen) and made a recommendation for a mural a few streets over. We thanked them for their friendly suggestion and our group headed to the mural they had recommended.
While at the mural a few streets over, Bob and Darlene approached our group of Miatas again. Now, I will admit that I was starting to feel (just a bit) like we were being stalked. But that didn't prevent me from walking over to their SUV to continue the conversation. That's when Bob mentioned that they had a collection of automotive and roadside memorabilia. They asked if we'd be interested in driving out to take a look. I told them I'd have to check with the group. Bob said he understood. If the group wanted to do it, we were more than welcome. He explained they lived about three miles south on Route 66 and told me he'd put out his sign for 'Bob's Gasoline Alley'. He instructed me to turn right at the sign and drive until we came upon their place. He said we wouldn't have any trouble finding the place.
When Bob and Darlene drove off, I used the CB radio to explain what had just transpired. Everyone was game for a visit so, after a few more pictures, we were heading south on Route 66. Along the way, the jokes were flying over the CB about hightailing it out of there if we spotted a barber pole or heard certain banjo music. :) (I mean no offense to Bob and Darlene. They were nothing but gracious and friendly and did nothing to give us an uneasy feeling. The situation was, well, just a little "weird". In fact, even Bob later mentioned that we were probably wondering what we were getting ourselves into as we drove toward their home.)
A Collection Far Beyond All Expectations
Just as Bob promised, we came upon a portable folding sign with 'Bob's Gasoline Alley' on it. We turned right and followed the road for a bit. I kept wondering how we'd know when we found the place. We passed several homes and I was busy looking for Bob and Darlene's SUV parked in a driveway. It never occurred to me to look for the memorabilia collection outside of their house. I think it is fair to say that nobody in our group was expecting to see what we saw when we cleared the rise and got our first glimpse of their collection. Multiple full-size gas station signs—mounted to their original poles—all in pristine condition.
To put it mildly, those gas station signs were just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Bob and Darlene aren't just casual automotive memorabilia collectors, they are very serious about it.
Bob and Darlene welcomed us to their home and treated us like we were family. They proceeded to show us multiple barns that were filled to the brim with every sort of motoring or roadside memorabilia. All of it nicely displayed and in pristine condition. There was so much to see it was overwhelming. You could spend a couple of hours in each room and still not see every individual piece. I walked around in stunned disbelief muttering 'This is absolutely incredible!" to myself.
Thank You Bob and Darlene!
This is one of those times where being in the right place at the right time really paid off. Although Bob and Darlene host car clubs and Route 66 association meetings at Bob's Gasoline Alley, their collection is not open to the public. Visits are by invitation only. How amazingly lucky we were to have Bob and Darlene approach us in downtown Cuba! I'm convinced it was our custom San Diego Miata Club Route 66 magnetics that caught Bob and Darlene's eye and caused them to take the time to strike up a conversation. As a token of our appreciation, we presented Bob and Darlene with one of the logo magnetics.
Night had fallen so Bob and Darlene invited us to come back the next morning so we could take additional photos. When we got there we found our custom logo magnetic in a prominent spot on the refrigerator in Darlene's Diner.
My heartfelt thanks to Bob and Darlene for thoughtfully inviting us to visit their wonderful collection! It was a real pleasure to get to know them, even if for just a little bit. They were the epitome of the warmhearted friendliness we experienced throughout our adventure along The Mother Road.
More Photos at The Photo Booth
The story isn't complete until you view the rest of the photos! Be prepared to be blown away! I've created a separate gallery just for photos of Bob and Darlene's amazing collection. Here's the link:
In addition to being superlative memorabilia collectors, Bob and Darlene are quite active in their community. In fact, the day before our visit to Bob's Gasoline Alley the Cuba Area Chamber of Commerce named Darlene Mullen as Cuba's 2011 Citizen of the Year.
Darlene Mullen was chosen by the Chamber for the 2011 Citizen of the Year Award, in recognition for her dedication to the Cuba community and the Chamber. She is a valuable contributor to the Cuba Lions Club and a primary organizer of its annual car show in the historic business district. Mullen has helped manage the club’s catering of several events, including the Chamber dinner, and along with her husband Bob, has hosted events such as the Route 66 Association meetings at her home, Bob’s Gasoline Alley. She was a key organizer in the 2007 sesquicentennial celebration and the 2006 and 2007 New Year’s Eve parties in Cuba.