Rural Missouri - July 2013 - (Page 28)

Retro Renovations Route 66 landmark retains original charm with modern amenities to help guests feel at home This sign, built in the 1950s, still stands outside the Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba. Much of the sign’s original neon is undamaged, still welcoming travelers after all these years. Y by Kile Brewer than I thought, but someday it’ll pay my grandkids.” Connie took on the role as contractor and began gutting the buildings. Because the buildings had no insulation in the walls, she applied foam spray insulation and replaced the old insulation in the ceilings. The old two-wire electrical system had to be replaced early on. “Every breaker was flipping about every other day,” she says. “I had a path worn to the breaker box.” Although the original building-tobuilding steam system was salvaged, Connie scrapped the underground water system and ran new plumbing. Though she hated to do it, she ou’ve been driving Route 66 all day, it’s late and you’re tired. As you drive through Cuba, Mo., you notice the iconic sign of the Wagon Wheel Motel. The neon letters hum as you approach the stone office building, parking next to a 1950 Chevy that sits out front. This could easily be a scene from the 1950s, during the heyday of Route 66, but it’s not. It’s 2013. Wagon Wheel owner Connie Echols bought the historic property in September 2009 and set out to make it a go-to location for anyone traveling America’s Mother Road. When the Iowa native moved to Cuba, she opened a flower and gift shop. However, when the Wagon Wheel went on the market, her previous real estate experience and vision for a new age of the Wagon Wheel took over. “The guy that owned it then said his wife was going back to Kentucky with Wagon Wheel owner Connie Echols stands outside the or without him and motel’s office building. did I want to make an offer,” Connie says. “So I looked sealed the motel’s original windows in through the place and made him an order to protect the fragile panes. offer. I never told my kids, called the When furnishing the renovated bank or anything, and he accepted it rooms, Connie tried to maintain overnight and that was it.” the original look with retro-inspired After buying the landmark, Connie furniture and decorations. One room began fixing up the motel, which had even features an original Magic fallen on rough times and needed a Fingers bed that Connie found online. lot of work. While the rooms stay true to their “We had to gut all the buildings roots for the most part, some things pretty much to the stone, especially have been updated to accommodate the motel rooms,” she says. “Once guests. High-definition televisions, you started on something, re-doing it, coffee makers and full bathrooms are it was a whole other thing. The more now the standard. Some of the larger you took out, the more you had to do. rooms even have whirlpool tubs. It took so much more to renovate it Connie says the hardest part of 28 Leeming stopped at the motel the renovation was restoring the doors. during their cross-country road “Finding locks that trip recently. “We’d always wanted would match up with the Cuba to travel Route 66,” Jack doors and work with the • says. “Back home I’m a keying system was really musician and I’ve sung hard. We tried to keep it as the song ‘Route 66’ for original as possible,” Connie so many years, getting says. “Every once in a while, we get someone locked in a on 56 years now. So, the trip sounded like a good idea.” room, can’t get out or can’t get in.” After landing in Chicago, the Connie finished up on the last Leemings took off, following of the rooms in 2011 and only has guidebooks and their adventurous one roof to go until the renovations instincts until reaching Henry’s are done and her dream is realized. Rabbit Ranch in Staunton, Ill., a But she isn’t stopping there. She has Route 66 landmark. Connie claims moved on to other projects. that she gets a lot of guests from the “I would like to add some things, a popular roadside attraction, and the few touches of my own that will stay Leemings were among those travelers here forever,” Connie says. sent her way. The first of these projects was a Since buying the property almost new neon sign. The original sign only four years ago, Connie has gone from faced the west, which made it difficult a curious neighbor to the sole owner. for westbound travellers to see the The Wagon Wheel has become a labor sign. After considering a number of of love and she hopes to keep the options, Connie finally decided to use property in the family. a sign made of wagon wheels topped “I’ve always said that if anything with new neon letters to match the happened where I couldn’t take care iconic Wagon Wheel sign from the of it anymore, I would pass it on late 1950s. to my my four grandkids,” Connie “The sign was made by Charlie says. “My granddaughter Kayla is the Yowell, who helps me so much with oldest, she would probably be the one everything,” Connie says. “Together that could run this place; she’s got the that’s our contribution to the next bossy gene, and that’s what you’ve hundred years.” gotta have.” Connie has found her place at Connie is proud of the work she’s the Wagon Wheel. She revels in the done on the property and invites company of travelers, motorcycle travelers to stop by and take a look at groups and car clubs. She’s even made the new Wagon Wheel even if they friends with some of the other Route can’t stay. “It’s one of the original 66 motel owners including the Blue icons, and the fact that it’s restored Swallow, the Wigwam and others. makes it,” Connie says. “Even if you “You meet a lot of nice people,” can’t stay, you should stop and look.” Connie says. “You see a lot of cool cars and motorcycles, and everyone is For more information about the really respectful of the property.” Wagon Wheel Motel visit www. Connie estimates that 60 percent or call 573of her guests are traveling Route 66, 885-3411. There is also a book, “The and probably 40 to 50 percent are History of a Route 66 Icon: The Wagon from other countries, making the trip Wheel Motel on Route 66,” by Connie’s down America’s Main Street while sister, Riva Echols, which is available in vacationing in the states. the Wagon Wheel office. British vacationers Jack and Ann WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - July 2013

Rural Missouri - July 2013
That old-time religion
Natural nest
Long-distance lead
Out of the Way Eats
Hearth and Home
Keep it cool
On the banks of Bull Shoals
Retro renovations
Infamous ancestry
Around Missouri

Rural Missouri - July 2013