If you travel the old Route 66 alignment across Kansas, you’ll also pass through Joplin (pop. 45,504), a Missouri border town that’s the industrial center of the tri-state region. Formerly a lead- and zinc-mining town, Joplin is not an especially pretty place, better known for its high-quality limestone than for its cultural offerings. Though many of its businesses have fled to the fringes, Joplin’s downtown area does hold one unlikely attraction, a vibrant mural by artist Thomas Hart Benton depicting life in Joplin at the turn of the 20th century. The mural, which turned out to be the artist’s final complete work, is in the lobby of the banal 1960s-era Municipal Building, east of Main Street at 303 E. 3rd Street.
If you’re feeling the need for a break, stay the night at the homespun Ko Ko Motel (417/624-6493), 3102 E. 7th Street.