By Roger McKinney
GALENA, Kan. — The women from 4 Women on the Route returned from the Route 66 Festival 2008 with bumps, bruises and an award.
They received the New Business of the Year award at the festival, held June 18-22 in Litchfield, Ill., for restoring a gas station at First and Main streets, right along the famous highway. The building, an old Kanotex station, has been restored to its 1940s appearance. It includes a restaurant and sells Route 66 souvenirs.
Melba Rigg, Betty and Judy Courtney, and Renee Charles, along with Rigg’s daughter Shelby Rigg and driver John Simon, made the trip to Illinois in a truck pulling an old tow truck they refer to as “Tow Tater.” The truck is thought to have been the inspiration for the “Tow Mater” character in the 2006 movie “Cars,” voiced by Larry the Cable Guy.
Judy Courtney called the trip to the festival “an adventure.”
She and Melba Rigg said their truck blew a head gasket, and the engine locked up. Courtney’s husband, Larry, provided another truck, which on the outskirts of St. Louis was caught up in a police chase. They said they were unable to get out of the way in their truck, which was towing the trailer. As they approached Litchfield, they blew a tire. The trip, which they expected to take six hours, took 12 hours.
On their return trip on Interstate 44 near Strafford, Mo., their truck crested a hill, and traffic had stopped. They said drivers were trying to pull over to avoid other vehicles, and their truck ended up striking the back of another truck. They said they had some bruises and aches, but no serious injuries.
Judy Courtney said that throughout the trip, the tow truck attracted a lot of attention.
“We really felt like celebrities,” she said.
The women said they broke down in tears when they received the New Business of the Year award because they weren’t expecting it. They cried again when a group of Route 66 enthusiasts at the conference presented them with a neon sign in the shape of a tow truck.
They said the festival was a success.
“We had a blast,” Judy Courtney said. “A lot of people came to our booth.”
‘Tons of travelers’
Back in Galena, they said there is a constant stream of visitors from Europe and locations throughout the United States to sites like theirs along Route 66. Constructed on the former site of the Banks Hotel, the gas station is original except for the service bay, which was added when it became an auto shop.
“Business has been really great,” Judy Courtney said. “We’ve had tons of travelers.”
The restaurant’s specialties include Reuben sandwiches and hamburgers, they said.
Recent visitors signing the guest book were from Germany, Spain, Britain, New Zealand and New York.
“We’re just getting groups from everywhere,” Courtney said.
4 Women on the Route has a cruise night from 5 to 9 p.m. on the first Saturday of every month through October at the restored gas station at First and Main streets in Galena. Around 75 to 125 cars and motorcycles show up for the event, which includes games for children and a watermelon feed. The next cruise night is this Saturday.
By Roger McKinney
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