Rainbow Bridge

The Rainbow Bridge on Route 66 in Kansas
Canon PowerShot S95
2013

Route 66 passes through exactly one county of Kansas on its way from Missouri to Oklahoma. Kansas makes the most out of its 13 miles of this famed road. I’d tell you more, but I’d rather you go see for yourself!

I will show you one thing: this 1923 March Rainbow Arch bridge, designed by James Marsh. Marsh held the patent on this design. Hundreds of Marsh Arch bridges were built from the 1910s through the 1930s primarily in Iowa and Kansas, but also in a few nearby states. 17 are known to still stand. All of them are in Kansas and only one is not still open to traffic.

This one is still open to traffic, although one way westbound. A new bridge was completed 50 feet away in 1992 to handle modern traffic volumes.

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Photography, Preservation, Road Trips

single frame: The Rainbow Bridge on Route 66 in Kansas

A Marsh Rainbow Arch bridge on Route 66 in Kansas.

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History, Road Trips

How to not plan a road trip

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Route 66 ceased officially to exist in 1985. The decommissioning of a highway means that all the route signs come down and local governments take over maintenance. So there was no way this brand new US 66 sign should have been posted along the road in Galena, Kansas. So it was very cool to come upon it.

I normally plan my road trips very carefully. I scan Google Maps and my small historic map and guidebook collection looking for all the old alignments. I know the exact path I will travel before I ever get into the car.

I didn’t want to do that this time. I didn’t have time anyway; it would have taken hours upon hours to plot a course across three states. But I wanted this trip simply to unfold as we drove. I love it when I can just let life unfold as it will; it makes serendipity so much more possible.

You can’t just head out on a 900-mile road trip without knowing the route, though. Fortunately, Route 66 is probably the most studied, discussed, and documented old highway in the nation. Others have already done all of the old-alignment and sights-to-see research that I normally have to do myself!

That’s why I bought EZ66 Guide for Travelers, by Jerry McClanahan. I used the second edition, but the updated third edition is just out. I also bought Route 66 Adventure Handbook, Fourth Editionby Drew Knowles. The EZ66 Guide provides directions along the entire Mother Road, and the Adventure Handbook points out all of the things to see and do along the route. I kept the former on my lap while I drove, and asked whichever son happened to be in the front seat to skim the latter and call out everything worth a visit.

Even my most carefully planned road trips bring delightful surprises. But with these guides in hand, everything was a surprise. That was just how I wanted it.

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