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“We were just on a road trip from Atlanta out towards the Midwest, and after spending time in Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, and Missouri, we found ourselves on Route 66 in Kansas. Of the many attractions on Route 66, everyone kept telling us about the Welcome Center in Baxter Springs and the man named “Crazy Legs.”We arrived in Baxter Springs, which is a sleepy little town that holds the title of the “Most Robbed City in America” from back in the heyday of bank robbers. We also learned that it was the inspiration for “Radiator Springs” from the Disney/Pixar movie, “Cars.”
We walked up to the Welcome Center, which is an old Phillips 66 gas station, and were met at the door by an elderly gentleman who introduced himself as Dean. We walked inside and he showed us the Route 66 memorabilia all over the center, and brochures for attractions as far away as Arizona. The neat part was that Dean knew all of these attractions and Route 66 like the back of his hand. He asked us if we liked burgers and told us about a burger restaurant about 25 miles down Route 66, and exactly how to get there, without ever looking at a map.
Then, he looks at me and my wife and asks, “Your kids liked the movie Cars? Would they want to meet one of the characters?”
“Of course,” we replied. So he walks over to the boys and stands in front of them, and then asks “Y’all remember Tow Mater from Cars?”
He stands up straight and turns his legs in a full 90 degree turn facing literally the wrong way, and says “You’re looking at ’em!”
Clearly, that’s where the name “Crazy Legs” came from, and we were talking to him the whole time! It turns out that when Disney started looking into the literature and history that would become “Cars,” one of the prominent guys who worked on the movie was a childhood friend of “Crazy Legs.” When they were younger, this guy saw Dean turn his legs backwards (while trying to impress a girl) and it stuck with him. Fast forward about 40 years and Disney wanted to incorporate parts of “Baxter Springs” into “Radiator Springs,” and Dean’s friend knew just the guy from which to model Tow Mater. In the movie, Mater acts as the tour guide to Lightning McQueen when he first arrives, and if you remember, he can only drive backwards, hence, Dean “Crazy Legs” turning his legs backwards! If you watch the credits of the movie, they actually give a special thanks to him and the city of Baxter Springs.
It was such an unexpected meet and one we’ll never forget. The man was super nice and humble, and he was just in that position because he’s had a very interesting life and happens to be able to turn his legs backwards. He’s ended up on Jay Leno and many other shows simply for being himself. To us, learning about other people and cultures is what traveling is all about, so this was super neat.”
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Keep traveling, keep safe.
Love this, very interesting. I too, have been on Route 66 🙂
This is such a cool read 😊
I have been on Rt 66 in Arizona. It too was a sleepy little town, out of the Old West.
Bless him – I wonder how many times a day Dean tells that story!
I’d like to imagine he has the same accent as Mater as well!
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Great story about everyday people.
Nice work here. Great blogging