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Small Town USA

Photographs and Words by David J. Schwartz - Pics On Route 66

Cuba, Missouri, is one of those Route 66 towns that no matter how many times I’ve been, it makes me want to spend even more time there. Recently, I spent two and a half weeks in the town on assignment, exploring Cuba and getting to know the friendly local folks, and of course creating photographs. Cuba has quite a bit to offer the roadtripper. From one of the top stays on the road, to an extensive collection of murals, a winery on top of a hill, with a fantastic view, tasty treats from a sweet retired lady, living her dream of owning a pie shop, to the delightful culinary experience that is set in an old Phillips Cottage style gas station right on old 66, and much more. My recommendation, slow down and “Kick back in Cuba”!

The road west in the fall, late in the day, when the sun is low, the shadows are long and the light warm. Portions of Missouri’s 66 are also known as the rollercoaster highway due to their wave-like motion. Can you imagine cruising down it, with the wind blowing in your hair? Just take the trip!

This past spring, I was sipping my morning coffee at the Wagon Wheel, while sitting on my favorite green vintage metal chair, when I noticed the two gentleman bikers I had shared some stories with the previous night, getting ready to ride. I knew they were heading west. So, I left my coffee and quickly jumped in Elle, my Honda Element, and headed briefly west to a scene that I had previously scouted and just needed to find some magic to add. I was quite pleased with the dynamic asymmetrical balance I was able to create between the motel and the motorcycles, plus the big old diagonal line, which is the road that connects them.

It was a beautiful fall evening in Cuba, partly cloudy and a bit breezy. The moon was full and provided the light necessary to illuminate the water tower. I searched for an additional visual element that would provide excellent depth and composition for the image. In searching, I noticed how the tall grasses were swaying in the wind. I selected my telephoto lens to compress the scene and make the tower appear more substantial within the frame. As the clouds momentarily blocked the moon, I waited for them to part, and within a second and a half of exposing the sensor to the light, I had captured the feeling of that fall night in Cuba.

After working the morning on assignment, the kind fellows that lent their cars and time to our project and I cruised on down to Bob’s Gasoline Alley, to hang out and create a few more images. On the way there I fell behind, and I arrived after they had already parked. As I grabbed my camera and exited Elle, my Honda Element, they asked if I would like them to move the cars to a different arrangement. My reply? I can work with this, it’s pretty perfect!

Cuba has many well-done murals in and around the city. Some depict historical events while others represent popular businesses from a day gone by. This particular mural represents the Roberts - Judson Lumber Co. Sheet Metal and Millwork Department. RobertsJudson still functions as a “Do It Best” hardware store toda

Looking for humor in Cuba? Look no further than the signage at Missouri Hick! Looking for delicious smoked, tender meat, bathed in BBQ sauce with a scallion? You’re already here! This venue is one of the most popular in town and represents the region’s heritage.

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