It Just Doesn’t End

Somewhere between Elk City (Birthplace of Jimmy Webb — you Wichita Lineman, etc.) and Sayre , OK, we saw this wonderfully restored former gas station — now tourist center:

Adjacent to the main building is a diner which was once visited by Elvis Presley:

The diner today:

The diner yesterday:

Commemorate the Elvis visit:

Then we saw another gas station:

Soon we passed through Erick to Texas. It was on to Amarillo as we followed the route of George and Marty:

As we entered Groom we saw the Leaning Water Tower (yup, just like Pisa):

Outside Groom we found the Cadillac Ranch– 10 classic Cadillacs are buried fins up — in 1974. People spray paint graffiti on the cars:

This is really the middle of nowhere. Then we saw the world’s most crooked water tower in Britten:

So many novelty items. I’m getting dizzy from everything we’ve seen.

Don’t have much time in Texas.

So Amarillo here we come!

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Sadness in Oklahoma City

So many things have occurred since April 19, 1995. One full generation has come to be. The term “domestic terrorism” was freshly minted.

I recall feelings of fear, sadness and later anger. Remember Timothy McVeigh? Remember fertilizer bomb? Who knew? And who could hate so much that 168 died and 680 were injured. There are 168 stone chairs placed along the water. The time just before — 9:02 am and just after — 9:03 am the bombing are engraved into two towers of the memorial.

The buildings are gone. The street has been replaced by the memorial:

So remember, hug your loved ones — this was only the beginning.

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The Best Museum

Pulling into Clinton, OK we looked for the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum. We weren’t disappointed!

The building outside looks like all the other souvenir stands — but inside — whoa!

The museum is divided into decades — each showing the current culture, costs for staples like eggs, bread or milk, as well as the cost of housing and what folks were paid annually.

Diners are key the success of this route and this is how they propagated:

Similar to Sears houses one could purchase a new ready made diner and ship it anywhere.

And many did just that:

Getting from place could mean hitching a ride or taking a bus:

The demise of Route 66 came in the advent of the Inter-State Highway system. The last vestiges of this road we’re followed by youth from the 60’s:

But as we all seek to take road trips certain things have remained the same:

See you soon!

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Food + Crazy = Fun

Lunch at the homey Hammett House in Claremore was grand:

The locals love the place and now so do we — too much food. We couldn’t eat dessert:

Because the meal proved too filling. We started with salads and then diner on fried chicken and chicken pot pie. Aside from my housemate’s divine crust the pot pie had the best crust I’d ever eaten! The apple on the side was a nice touch — I didn’t finish the meal.

From Hammett’s we drove to Catoosa to see the infamous blue whale and its surroundings:

Swimmers slid down the flippers (slides). No longer in use it now serves as a local landmark.

From here it was a hop, skip and a jump to Tulsa. There we found the “Rancho Grande” a longtime Mexican restaurant:

Just a few blocks from there were two other landmarks — both still in use today:

The Atlas is a hotel and grill:

This sign is self-explanatory:

While driving to another part of Tulsa we found this restored Art Deco building:

On the outside was a poster of Woody Guthrie — Oklahoma’s other favorite son:

Later we saw this large mural as we drove out of downtown Tulsa:

Leaving Tulsa we arrived in Arcadia to visit the world’s largest pop bottle (65 ft. high):

Then we trooped into the adjacent soda pop store — the flavors ranked from my childhood favorites — like Orange Crush to — notable flavors from today like IBC Root Beer:

The other notable attraction in Arcadia is the Round Barn:

Along the way to Oklahoma City we passed through Edmond, a town with some unfortunate history — Wily Post — who died with Will Rodgers is buried there. Adding s truly gruesome touch Edmond is also where a postal worker killed 14 co-workers in 1986; inspiring the term “going postal”. We scurried out of town before anything happen to us!

Oklahoma City has decimated most of its Route 66 past. However, we did find this:

The bottle sits atop a brick edifice that once housed a grocery store built in 1930 — the bottle was added in 1948.

Later in the town of El Reno we saw this on the side of a building — it brought back some warm memories:

El Reno deserves a mention because it was a POW camp during WW II – it was originally intended for Japanese prisoners. The combat in North Africa led to it housing German and Italian POWS.

Also a segment of “Rain Man” was filmed there.

After El Reno came the hamlet called Hydro. There one can see a former “road house” called Lucille’s:

it’s now a tourist oriented gift shop — as are many if the sites we’ve visited so far. This stretch of roadway is named after Will Rodgers:

From here we were off to Clinton, OK, where we spent time viewing exhibits in the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum.

More on that tomorrow!

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Hero of the People

One can’t come to Claremore, OK without a visit to museum and gravesite of Oklahoma’s favorite son — Will Rodgers:

I was surprised to learn that my companion had never heard of him. But after I thought about it I realized that he’d been dead for 80+ years. This meant several generations of folks may have forgotten him or never heard of him.

Lets rectify this right now with aid from an extremely knowledgeable docent named Kerry:

Between her colloquialisms like “fleas on a hot griddle” and the museum’s engaging exhibits well have a thorough understanding of the real Will Rodgers.

Rodgers was each these — often at the same time:

He was part Cherokee and grew up in a log cabin. He hated school and loved being a cowboy. He rode horses his whole life and felt it was strange that anyone could dislike horses. He learned to lasso virtually anything which enabled him to travel throughout the world many times over.

He made friends everywhere he went — many were famous like Charles Lindbergh, Shirley Temple, Henry Ford, Charles Russell and FDR. He once said “he’d never met a man he didn’t like”. And I believe he meant it:

He was a humorist not so much a comedian. He spun a homegrown philosophy that carefully smacked institutions — like Congress, without aiming at individuals, for example he said:

“As our government deteriorates our humor increases”.

And “Never blame a legislative body for not doing something. When they do nothing, they don’t hurt anybody. It’s when they do something is when they become dangerous “.

Or, “Politics ain’t worrying this country one-tenth as much as parking space”.

Rodgers died very young while traveling in a souped up plane Alaska with The adventurer Wily Post. He was 56 and at the apex of his popularity.

Having moved to California some years earlier the funeral was held at the Hollywood Bowl. For many days prior to the funeral upwards of 15,000 people a day patiently strode by his casket.

When his wife died in the 1940’s his remains were taken to the present museum grounds to be interred with her and eventually all but one of his offspring:

Sadly, it pains me to think that we truly need his kind to ride again as we live through these crazy times.

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The Tri-State Area

This was the last day we’d be in Missouri.

Joplin calls itself the ” Heart of America”:

But it may be better known for the gigantic twister that rumbled through the town in 2011. Rated a EF5 it struck on a Sunday afternoon. At times it was a mile wide with winds upwards of 200 mph. It caused over $2.8 billion, that’s with a “b”, in damage to this town of 53,000.

The former city hall survived:

Inside is a museum of Joplin’s history that includes photos of the destruction:

The locals told me that they lost current and prior homes, schools they’d attended and businesses they’d frequented. The town also lost 158 residents with 1,100+ injured. After seven years of replacing and building one could see easily see the areas that had been hit.

But Joplin is more than a twister –we saw paintings by Thomas Hart Benton in the museum:


In addition to this beautiful stain glass window:

We stumbled upon a quiet spot in downtown Joplin located adjacent to the Joplin Globe newspaper:

This pocket park was a combination of flora, water and sculptures including the one above of George Spiva. It had this natural sculpture too:

Joplin is only a couple of miles down the road from Kansas:

We reached Galena, KS in minutes:

Traveling on Route 66 in Kansas is quicker than the lifespan of a May-Fly. The entire Route 66 Kansas span is just over 13-miles. There is but one town to visit–Galena once a noted mining center — lead and zinc. Both were mined from 1877 to the 1970’s. Then having exhausted it’s mining the EPA stepped in and declared a Superfund Site covering most of area. It took years to clean-up. The population declined significantly fro 32,000+ to 3,300 today.

The Galena History Museum’s eclectic collection, though small, packs a lot of information about the mining, as well as other important things within its small footprint.

Originally this building was the train depot. It was moved several miles to its current home:

Our guide was Carla who could have been my aunt what with her reddish hair, peaches and cream complexion and large numbers of freckles:

She was a font of information. She pointed out her Daddy in this old mining photo — he’s tethered to the mule. Mules worked in the mines alongside the men:

Carla shared even more about the history of the area. Here is a mining display:

This case shows medical devices and related information:

A Model A was given to the museum by an avid collector–it was in such good condition it didn’t require restoration:

A prized possession is this hand-carved oak hearse:

I have to admit that Carla showed us one of my favorite devices just before we left the museum.

This rudimentary machine sorts coin:

Some 50-years ago I used a coin sorter, albeit updated a bit, to sort coin in a bank vault when I was a college freshman. I loved this machine!

Carla and this museum together provided a clearer picture of thin town and the tri-state area.

At this point my stomach was aching for a good meal. Just west of Galena we went to the “Old Riverton Store which opened in the 1920’s:

Inside is a general store and deli:

We ordered two Pastrami on rye with chips and sodas:

This feast cost less than $12.00 — and was more satisfying.

From here went to Baxter Springs to see the “Cars on the Route” a souvenir stop with cars inspired by the Pixar film Cars”:

And we saw the last surviving rainbow bridge on Route 66:

As fast as we passed through Kansas we soon found Oklahoma to be more expansive:

The Commerce was undergoing some significant renovation — fortunately we found this:

Commerce is also noteworthy for being the childhood home of Mickey Mantle — a Street is named after him:

Mantle was a New York Yankee and he’s in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Seeing this made my baseball geekiness ooze out of every pore.

Next up was traveling to Miami, OK. Here resides the Spanish-Revival style “Coleman Theater”:

And nearby was the quaintest stop sign I’d ever seen:

Love the curlicues — don’t you?

Next we drove up the “Sidewalk Highway” — a single lane stretch of roadway created by a fiscally strapped Oklahoma in 1926. Believe me it wasn’t worth it — talk about dusty!!

As the day was ending we went through one final town — Vinita. Here we drove along a stretch of highway near the infamous “Trail of Tears”. This was the pathway for Native Americans — primarily Cherokees, but also Creek and Choctaws — forced by President Andrew Jackson under the Indian Removal Act of 1830 to travel from the southeast (mainly Florida) by foot for resettlement in Oklahoma.

The objective was to give Native land to whites and give western land beyond the Mississippi River to Native Americans.

Over 9,000 people — men, are women and children perished because of cold, hunger and disease during the trip west.

One surely recognizes that today’s treatment of immigrants and diverse people’s varies little from actions our country took in our past.

Finally, the day ended with a visit to “Clanton’s Cafe”:

It has been operating at the same spot since 1927.

Actually, of more interest to me was this plaque marking a presidential visit in 1940 to mark the completion of a dam:

FDR made the visit by train.

As the day drew to a close we entered the hometown of Will Rodgers — town called Claremore.

More on Claremore and Rodgers this tomorrow!

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The Ozarks and More

For 40-years I’ve heard about my companion’s Ozark based family. So today was a special day — a combo platter– family and Route 66 memorabilia. Wow!

This is John, Gail and Cherie:

We had a wonderful visit that included seeing their farm. (About 30 miles from Branson) Hopefully someday we can return the favor.

Later back in Springfield we found the “Arabesque” style “Shrine Mosque Theater”– built in 1923. When built it was named the “Abou Ben Adhem (May his tribe increase!) Shrine Mosque. At the time it was said to have the largest auditorium west of the Mississippi River — capable of holding 4,750 patrons. The building was constructed at s cost of $600,000 with red brick, terracotta polychrome turrets and two stain glass windows:

Located downtown this beautiful building still hosts occasional concerts. It’s staged everything from telethons; concerts by Elvis Presley and John Phillip Sousa; and speech’s by Presidents Roosevelt, Truman and Reagan.

It’s the houses the local Shriner chapter too.

A short distance away we found the wonderfully restored “Route 66 Rail Haven” motel (still active as a Best Western franchise) — reasonably priced at $80 to $120.00 per night:

However, the most interesting thing about Springfield (for me) is that Wild Bill Hickok shot and killed Dave Tutt there simply because Tutt wore a watch he’d won from Hickok.

It seems the watch held sentimental value for Hickok. This caused him to challenge Tutt to a gunfight or duel. Tutt fired first and missed. Hickok shot him in the heart and he died soon after.

Hickok was arrested, tried and acquitted. The jury felt it had been a fair fight. It was the first recorded gunfight or so folks believe. No matter, it surely added fuel to the lore of the Wild West!

Soon thereafter we left on I-44 for Carthage. Traveling in Missouri on Sunday plays havoc with touring. Upon reaching Carthage everything, and I mean everything, but a few antique stores were closed for the day.

Still we were able to take photos. This building was particular favorite of mine. The Jasper County Courthouse built in 1895 was constructed of ornate limestone:

I understand that on Thursday ccand Friday a open-caged elevator is operated by a local lady.

Walking around the town square showed off the Carthage Deli — a 1950’s style soda fountain:

Later, I took this photo of the Star Lanes–a bowling alley:

And last, but not least I stumbled upon the “Boots Court Motel” while heading to Joplin:

Partially restored in 2012 only a handful of rooms are currently being used for lodging–it’s also a Route 66 visitor center. In the future the entire place may once again host tired travelers.

Maybe next time?

Tomorrow we visit Joplin, MO and then head Kansas — at 13.2 miles it will be our shortest time in any of the eight states that touch Route 66.


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