The summer of 2015 is the summer my family and I discovered Carthage, MO. Before I give you all the groovy details, I must give you some background. My wife and I have been traveling through Carthage since about the mid 1990’s. Just like many other yahoo’s in central Kansas we pass through Carthage on our way to Table Rock Lake. For years we have stopped for fuel and maybe a quick bite to eat at the McDonald’s or Arby’s, all the while in a huge hurry to get to the lake. I have introduced my family to the fun of the Branson area. I’d almost call myself an expert vacationer to the Springfield/Branson/Shell Knob area. For years we’ve talked about visiting the Precious Moment’s Chapel but would quickly forget as we drove on. We never really knew much about Carthage or really gave it much thought. I thought Carthage was just another boring town along the way.
One spring day, I was looking up sites to see on Route 66, who knows why. There was a gentleman talking about a bridge called “Whee Bridge”. He said it was a very drastic incline and decline bridge on Old Route 66. He further said the bridges name came from when folks going over the bridge would yell “Whee” because it tickled their tummy. Now, I’m a father of three young children. I thought on our next trip to the lake we would try and discover this “Whee Bridge”. We were on our way to the lake, driving the family Suburban with our pop-up camper in tow. We approached from the west driving on the old “Main Street USA”. I had the kids wide-eyed looking out the windows trying to find this small bridge. Then we started to see a tall castle like structure off in the distance but before we could investigate it, there it was “Whee Bridge” with the tower in the background. What a picture that was. Then slowly we started up the bridge and quickly the going up turned into a going down. The squeals and laughter came erupting from the back seats, followed by let’s do it again. We found ourselves pulling that camper over this bridge five times we had so much fun. On our last go, we had to pull over to watch a large group of motorcyclist traveling Route 66 and proceed over the bridge. They all looked as if they were having a great time. Many looked to be filming the event with mobile recorders. We then ate at the Pancake Hut and ice-cream at Braum’s before traveling on to Branson.
My wife and I planned to cut our vacation short this time so that we could stop by Carthage on the way home. We decided to take “The Mother Road” from Springfield back to Kansas. We discovered many new things along with the fact that Carthage was not as small of a town as we once thought. We found out what that tall castle like structure is and the quaint square around it. While there, we looked over the Boots Courts, then on to the 66 Drive-in Theatre. We immediately started to plan a trip back.
I’ve been back four more time since our first discovery of Carthage. I’ve told family and friends about the area and the things to do. I’ve traveled back with the family to stay in the Boot’s Courts and spend an evening over at the Drive-In. We’ve dined at some of the locally owned establishments of which the names escape me right now. I drove the family over to discover the Red Oak llarea, then cooled down at the city pool. We found and looked over some of the century old homes before heading over to the Precious Moments Chapel.
I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Carthage on two other occasions with friends. I have learned with speaking to co-workers that they too pass through the area on their way to the lake. I have encouraged them to slow down and go over the bridge that started it all for me and my family. I’m sure you are aware that there are many people from all over the world that pass right through your town. What an awesome responsibility you have to show them how real America is. I personally have met Swedish people while standing in a steak house parking lot. I sit here at my computer and think about what I might have missed if I didn’t go over that bridge.
Thanks for all the memories and fun,
The Smith’s from Kansas.
P.S. we will come and stay again soon.