A destination race like the Mother Road Marathon isn’t complete without getting a feel for the locality. Joplin, Missouri is cemented in our memory for the horrendous EF 5 tornado that swept through in 2011. On my post-race shuttle to the hotel, the driver pointed out blocks and blocks that were totally decimated, saying the television coverage couldn’t convey the loss Joplin suffered in lives and neighborhoods. New housing now stands and a hospital is still being rebuilt better and stronger, as temporary buildings are used in the meantime.
Joplin has rebuilt. This is an attractive city that has maintained its distinct personality through the loss. While I was busy with packet pickup at Joplin City Hall, my big sister (BS) admired the facade of the 100+ year old structure. Joplin has saved and repurposed the stately Newman Building, a department store built in the Chicago style by architect Austin Allen.
Joplin is clearly a city that loves sports and the outdoors. Along with multiple parks, the Joplin Athletic Center near the MRM finish line has rows of well cared for tennis courts, and fields for baseball and soccer invite activity.
As I ran the half through Galena, Kansas, I knew I had to return for a closer look. Post-race shower, we retraced the race route and parked on the downtown street. Music, 1940-s style jazz, was piped in from somewhere on the square. This was the quintissential lower Midwest small town, quiet on a Sunday with a few folks out for a stroll.A stop in Galena is not complete without hitting the former gas station. At the building across the street, young women were giving tours of the “Haunted Bordello.” If you want Route 66 souvenirs and a great cheeseburger, this is the stop.
Feeling there was more to learn about this town but knowing it was time to go, we veered off to the Arkansas Ozarks where BS has ensconced herself, renovating a turn-of-the-century home located in one of the many tiny towns with funny sounding names. This was my first return to Arkansas since my brother lured me to the area to run the Mountain Home Marathon for Kenya several years ago. (Side Note: This is now renamed the White River Marathon, with a flat, fast course. The year I ran it was quite hilly and beautiful. )
BS took me on a tour of the local sites and towns. The area is known for trout fishing and beautiful scenery. It’s also good cycling territory with wide berms on the roadsides.
There is the appearance of many local businesses closing, but a number are being reimagined and reopened by a younger generation with hearts in rural and small town America.
No destination race review is complete without talking about regional food. For this trip, it was all casual dining and home cooking.
Our first food stop was in Joplin at Pitchers Bar & Grill where I enjoyed a pre race day bowl of tomato basil soup. BS spotted a lamb wrap on the menu and gave it a rave review.
We enjoyed a fantastic home-style meal at the All-A-Bout Eatery, ice cream stand and mini-golf near Mountain Home AR. Bonnie served her home cooking on paper plates, followed by brownies accompanied with ice cream from the adjacent bar.
My final food stop was a zesty pre-flight breakfast at Laura’s Mexican Chicken in Yellville, located in the old bank building where food is now served through the teller’s window.
- Route 66 – Mother Road Half Marathon Review (stillarunner.com)