Remembering Joplin, Missouri

Note: This is Part 7 of the Passage Across America series. While it is out of chronological order (this was posted a year after the rest of the series), it is in the right geographical order. Read Part 6 here and Part 8 here.

Last year, we took a road trip across America in our diesel VW Jetta. The twist to our trip was that we drove from San Diego to Maine on one load of fuel (on the way back we stopped at gas stations). The theme was Americana; our goal was to never stay at or eat in chains, to only visit mom and pop places to see the “real America.” We posted pictures of most of our trip along the way; however, when we got home, we realized we’d lost the SD card with the pictures and we couldn’t post the last few days worth of photos.

Last month we went to France. When we got home, we found the missing SD card while we were unpacking our suitcase, tucked in a small interior pocket! We have been meaning to post the last of the photos from the road trip ever since, but life has gotten busy. The tragedy in Joplin has inspired us to make the time.

Joplin was one of the cities we visited along the way. We drove all around the town. Our impression of Joplin was that it was dying. It looked like it was once a vibrant city, but there clearly had been an exodus. Too many buildings were empty. Too many of those empty buildings were run down to the point that it was clear they’d been vacant for much longer than the current recession.

We stayed at a B&B run by the kindest people, Bill and Marge Meeker, both retired school teachers. They confirmed our suspicions. Joplin was originally a mining town established in 1873. It grew beyond mining, though, with many businesses, probably aided by the fact it was on the infamous Route 66.

The Meekers said when they opened their first B&B many years ago, they were booked solid every night, mostly with business travelers. But as jobs were exported, less visitors came to town, and the more local businesses died. We left there thinking that Joplin was living proof of why America should have more protectionist trade policies. Our heart goes out to those who live there and the horrible tragedy they faced.

On the evening of April 28, 2010, we had dinner at The Red Onion Cafe in downtown. Here are some photos of the downtown area. Notice how empty the streets are.

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