Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Things Are Looking Up in Oklahoma

Day 4: 336 Miles
Total: 1,857 Miles

I had a difficult decision today. My goal is to spend a night at the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico. I did a check online and found out that I was about 550 or so miles from there when I spent last night in Claremore. That meant I could either take two short days and put me a little behind schedule, or one brutally long day and arrive there tonight. I initially opted for the brutal one-day trip, but after spending an hour and a half in hades - I mean Oklahoma City - my decision was made for me. I'll have about a 200 mile trip tomorrow, so there will be lots of time for the second Route 66 museum in two days.

I left around 8:15 this morning, hoping that the drive would improve from yesterday's Oklahoma travels. With the exception of Oklahoma City, it improved dramatically and was a wonderful trip. The four lane highway disappeared, the road started to become interesting, and for the most part I was removed from the Interstate. I went through a number of small towns and Tulsa, which was actually pretty cool. One of the nicest sections of the drive led ultimately to Oklahoma City.

Now to be fair, Oklahoma City is no different than any other big city, but therein lies the problem. I could have been anywhere. All the same fast food franchises, the same traffic congestion, and little if anything to suggest that the Mother Road once traversed the city. I couldn't wait to get out, and it seemed to take forever. Finally I managed to get through Bethany, War Acres and some other forgettable suburb and began moving into the country again.

Almost no four lane highways today. Just lots of still-in-use, narrow two lane roadways. I also managed to find several stretches of Route 66 that are no longer usable roadways. Little sections here and there that have been bypassed and forgotten.

Here are some pictures of things that interested me in Oklahoma. The first two are examples of motel signs that I really liked in Tulsa. There was a lot of interesting architecture in that city; perhaps because it hasn't been "renovated" like Oklahoma City has.

About 70-80 miles southwest of Tulsa is the town of Chandler. It has a beautiful 1930s era motel called the Lincoln Motel, but the thing I especially liked was the partially renovated 1930 Phillips 66 gas station below.

Before getting to Oklahoma City I made a turnoff to find a half mile stretch of pavement that was once part of Route 66. It begins near the town of Luther off of Oklahoma 66, and dead-ends at someone's fenced off private property. In between, though, you can step quietly back in time, away from the hustle and bustle of the nearby 65mph highway. This is the original road, curbs and all.

Somewhere in the same general area is the remnant of an old gas station. The stonework is quite beautiful. The rest of the building may be gone, but this part will be there for a long time to come.

After getting through Oklahoma City I was starving, so I went to a recommended place called Robert's Grill in El Reno. This is one of those "onions and hamburgers grilled together" kinds of places. You either love it or you hate it. No tables, just stools along a counter. Needless to say, I thought this place was way cool.

Jerry McClanahan, who has written maps and guidebooks I'm using for this trip, calls the stretch of road between El Reno and Hydro one of the best drives on all of Route 66. It's hard to disagree, even if I haven't seen the last half of the highway yet. Many miles of narrow, curbed, original pavement; Route 66 as it used to be. The road travels up and down and can be seen for miles. I tried to capture the sense of the never ending ribbon of concrete, but it is much more impactful in person.

I don't know exactly where I took the picture of this old filling station, but it was beautiful. I stopped right in the middle of the road (speed limit 55) to take this. No traffic - everyone is on I-44!

My final stop was the Route 66 Museum in Clinton. I spent an hour or two walking through, and looking at the displays. It was well worth the time. As it turns out, I'm staying just down the road in Elk City, which has what appears to be an even bigger Route 66 museum. I'll visit that one in the morning.

You may have noticed a lot of comments being left by friends and family members. I have received many emails and phone calls from others as well. I just want to let you all know that I truly appreciate your interest. I'm sometimes tired at night and feel like going to bed, but I'm motivated by knowing that there are so many people following this. Thanks!



elderaunt said...

I'm hoping I started this message far enough down so it doesn't get lost in the headline! I'm really enjoying some nostalgic look-backs at old 66. I'm so sorry so much of it is gone. Jim and I traveled mostly along side 66, and we made the trip from NY state to San Diego in 72 hours, so obviously we didn't get to see much of the quaint little towns along the way. I would have loved taking a leisurely trip all through that area again. I remember Oklahoma City too. I thought it was dirty, crowded and unfriendly.
Agin, I'm so pleased that you have been able to do this. Enjoy every second! Aunt Mona

Anonymous said...

Great adventure! The pics and story is great. Ray and I went to the desert this weekend and noticed a sign going up Hwy 15 that said Historic Route 66. I thought of you and your trip when I saw it. You'll have to let me know what the road is like. I believe there is a nudist camp down there.....hide your eyes..... Happy trails... Lori Conway

Anonymous said...

The Tulsa hotels look just like Drew Deane's paintings! Do you think they copied off her work?

Was the food at Robert's Grill as slider-ific as a Bates Burger or a White Castle? Also, Anna notes that the proper pronunciation of that restaurant would be "Ro-three-ert's"

Love, Sue

PAUL G (with you in spirit!) said...

Hey Mike - I finally got a moment to catch up on your first few days. I am so jealous, but you deserve this opportunity! Make the best of it, and keep the pictures coming - they're great! Do one thing for me, if you don't mind. Take a picture of both you and the car in front of a Route 66 sign somewhere, so we have permanent proof of your epic journey. Stay safe and have a great time!

Paul G

PS to Sue and Anna - hope you're enjoying the blog...let us know how you're holding up without the "man-of-the-house!"