One day last week I was reading one of my favorite blogs, The Lope, and found an entry about the Wheel Inn Drive-In in Sedalia, MO. The Wheel Inn is a classic style drive-in diner that was founded in 1947 and has been a popular Missouri attraction ever since. It is frequented by historic car clubs, nostalgia buffs, and peanut butter lovers. Why peanut butter lovers? Because the specialty burger served at the Wheel Inn is the GuberBurger - a hamburger on a bun that is topped with lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and (of course) melted peanut butter.
The building has been virtually unchanged since being built in the late 40's, both inside and out. The original u-shaped counter still accomodates diners who choose to eat inside and the round shape of the building means that the cars who are parked outside act as the spokes of the wheel. The menu is simple burger-joint fare and the prices are inexpensive. The interior walls are lined with old photos of the landmark through the years, with the only noticeable changes being the appearances of the cars.
But sadly, the Wheel Inn is no more. Today, Labor Day, was their last day of business. They are being forced to close due to the widening of the intersection where the building is located. While the construction project doesn't exactly interfere with the actual building, it will completely take away the parking and entrance at the front of the building and the back of the lot will now only be accessible by a right turn. It's just not feasible for the place to remain open. So, what does any of this have to do with me? It meant I was taking a roadtrip.
I decided I had to see this piece of Missouri history for myself and I had to at least try a GuberBurger while they were still being cranked out. So my friend Kim, her two kids and I hopped in the car on Saturday morning and drove about 2 hours away to eat a burger. It sure is nice to have good friends who are willing to go on crazy adventures.
When we got there, the wait for food was over an hour. And I don't mean to sit down, there wasn't even a chance to sit down, I mean that we stood against the wall and the waitress took our order and then told us it would be over an hour. But it wasn't a huge surprise. We knew we were going to have a bit of a wait when we couldn't even park anywhere near the building. We parked in the lot of a dentists office nearby and walked up. Once we placed our order, we went back outside and sat down on the sidewalk surrounding the building that the cars pull up to when they park and order.
The kids did pretty good with the wait time, and the place was so active that we had plenty of people-watching opportunities which made the time go by pretty fast.
I was the only one who tried the GuberBurger (it was good) but everyone like their food. Kim's son Ben didn't really think a cheeseburger was worth the drive and the wait, but he wasn't too miserable. After we licked our fingers and took some pictures, we headed for home. We were headed south on Hwy 65 towards Springfield when we decided to take a detour out to the Truman Dam near Warsaw. No point in driving within a few miles of it and never stopping. And it turned out to be a really great little stop. They have an amazing visitor center there with all sorts of cool displays and historic photos. There is an observation area overlooking the lake and damn which made for some pretty pictures.
Also, across the parking lot was the nature trail and the Hooper House, a reconstructed farm house of historic signifigance. We walked the trail and discovered several other historic reconstructions along the way. There was an old log cabin (that was apparently home to a pet black snake) and a one-room schoolhouse. The schoolhouse was my favorite part because when you walked in, it was just like stepping back in time. There were even old, original textbooks and slates on the student's desks.
From there we made a quick side trip to Pomme de Terre State Park where I got to meet Kim's brother and see where they like to spend their weekends at the lake. Then, we headed home. It was a great way to spend the day and I'm thrilled that I made the trip. I apologize for not having more pictures, but I discovered when I got home that my camera was on the wrong settings and most of what I took did not turn out. These are some of the few that I salvaged.