As a short continuation of last week's Travel Issue, this week we are spotlighting the highly recommended summer road trip down historic Route 66. Nostalgia has done this road right, rejuvenating the interest in the highway and revitalizing sites along its path as it cuts through the state. It's a travel adventure waiting to be discovered.
How about getting your kicks on Route 66? This 2,440-mile path cutting through the U.S. from Chicago, IL, to Santa Monica, CA, is one of the most popular vacation destinations of tourists from around the country and abroad. American writer John Steinbeck dubbed this highway, the "Mother Road" in his 1940 novel, The Grapes of Wrath, and the name remains.
This Oklahoma-Americana journey is the nation's longest stretch--400 miles of highway run through Oklahoma. Michael Wallis, in his book Route 66: The Mother Road, captures the journey: "Nowhere is Route 66 more at home than in Oklahoma, where the pavement follows the contours of the land as though it has always been there...The West and East collide on Route 66, and the state becomes the crossroads for America's Main Street."
Many sources exist for traveling the entire 400-mile stretch with historic sites along the way. Oklahoma Route 66 Association (oklahomaroute66.com) is one such group providing information on the grand old road that picks up in Oklahoma on the northeast border with Kansas and journeys southwest to the Texas border.
Another good accompaniment is "The Route 66 Map Series" by Mother Road authorities Jim Ross and Jerry McClanahan. This map series consists of a separate foldout map for each Route 66 state from Chicago to Los Angeles with easy to follow directions. The Oklahoma map is cleverly designed with drawings along the Route with appropriate commentary. They caution: "Be watchful as you motor along and you will occasionally see the remains of earlier alignments nearby. Some are too rough to drive, lead to dead-ends or have no access...where the railroad goes, so goes Route 66, is a good rule of thumb."
The Travel and Tourism Department recommends a three-day itinerary on Route 66 that makes for a fun three-day weekend. Let's hit the road.
Day 1 begins by the Kansas border in northeastern Oklahoma at Quapaw, the first town on the Mother Road, and journeys to Tulsa. Nothing much to see or do at Quapaw, except to check out the colorful murals on the sides of the buildings as you're cruising through and investigate some sort of mysterious light on Devil's Promenade Road on the old Quapaw Indian reservation. Locals say mid-summer is the best time to view this spooky light. Sidenote: they also say it's best to stay away!
Drive down Mickey Mantle Boulevard in Commerce, the next main stop, hometown of the baseball great. (Notice that here Route 66 is named in his honor.) See The Rock Shop, an outdoor display of all kinds of rocks and minerals. Visit Mantle's home and then keep on driving to Miami.
(Be sure to check your pronunciation of it: mie-am-ahh.)
Miami is home to some famous Oklahomans, Steve Owens, the 1969 Heisman Trophy winner and the great Indian athlete, Jim Thorpe. Stop by the beautifully restored Coleman Theatre (colemantheatre.org), a 1929 structure built with fortunes made in the lead and zinc mines. This is a place of "Exceptional entertainment for all tastes and ages." It offers country and western acts, mystery tours, silent movies, Miami Little Theater Shows, Children's Special events and more. Also the Dobson Museum, the Quapaw Casino, and the mural on the Osborn Drugs Building are worth a stop. Have a bite to eat at Waylan's Ku-Ku Burger and move on out of town to Afton.
Afton boasts of a wealth of classic Route 66 architecture, says the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department (OTRD), including K & M Rocket drive-in, vintage gas stations and motor courts, the Palmer Hotel, the World's Largest Matchbook Collection, Horse Creek Bridge, Linda's Route 66 Café and Rest Haven Motel, and an old D-X station in the center of Afton that has been restored to museum status. Afton is also known as the way to the Grand Lake O' the Cherokees and Shangri-La Resort.
Vinita is the next stop of interest. The second oldest town in Oklahoma, Vinita has many surviving Route 66 buildings. A must stop is a visit to what was formerly the world's largest McDonald's (29,135 square feet). An Orlando, Fl. franchise now holds the claim. Though at the Vinita stop, you can still get the world's most famous unhealthy meal. Other recommended sites include Cabin Creek Civil War Battle Site, Eastern Trails Museum and Little Cabin Pecan Company, with an old bridge that was once part of Route 66.
Chelsea's claim to fame is that it was the site of Oklahoma's first oil well as well as a few other photo ops, such as the Chelsea Motel and a Sears Catalog Mail Order House. Also, seek out the Historical Marker in honor of Andy Payne, the winner of the 84-day, 2400-mile 1928 First International Transcontinental Footrace--some may know it as the "Bunion Derby."
It's on to the big town of Claremore, home of Oklahoma's favorite son, Will Rogers. Got to see the Will Rogers Memorial, full of items from his cowboy trick roping days and Vaudeville. It's worth visits to the Will Rogers Hotel, once famous for its radium baths, to the J.M. Davis Arms and Historical Museum with over 20,000 firearms, to the Lynn Riggs Museum dedicated to the playwright who wrote "Green Grow the Lilacs," the basis of the musical Oklahoma! Antique store prowlers beware: you have lots of ground to cover.
Traveling west to Catoosa, people still flock to see The Blue Whale. This newly restored cement statuary was in a swimming hole and there are plans to work on sprucing up the park area. Also in the area are the Tulsa Port of Catoosa and the Arkansas River Historical Society Museum.
Tulsa is the next stop. The OTRD says this about our fair city: "Tulsa, known as the 'Oil Capital of the World,' was home to Cyrus Avery, 'The Father of Route 66.' A number of motels, tourist courts and shops are along the route. Downtown is a mix of different architecture styles--including art deco. A section of 11th Street has installed Route 66 shield signs and some unusual art deco street lamps. Stop in the Route 66 Diner...or Ollie's Station with running trains and model railroad displays...." Spend the night and get ready to move from Sapulpa to Oklahoma City.
Day 2 begins in Sapulpa, with a tour to Frankoma Pottery. Since 1933, dishes and souvenir items have been made from Oklahoma red clay. Other must-sees are the Sapulpa Historical Museum, Creek County Courthouse, Mr. Indian's Cowboy Store and Route 66 Satellite Exhibit.
Bricks are plentiful in Bristow with more miles of brick streets than any other town in Oklahoma. OTRD suggests visiting the art galleries and the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Wake Island War Memorial at City Park.
Isaac Harper, travel counselor with OTRD, recommends having a meal at the Rock Café at the next Route 66 stop in Stroud. It is a famous Route 66 landmark which first opened in 1939 and still has the ghost sign of a vintage Coca-Cola advertisement. Stroud is the wine capital of Route 66, with four wineries: Territory Cellars, The Grape Junction, StableRidge Vineyards and The Wine Village.
Chandler, another worthwhile stop just down the road, offers travelers "authentic ghost signs" for viewing on the sides of buildings, a huge WPA-era native stone Armory and an old brick Phillips 66 cottage-style gas station. The Museum of Pioneer History is worth seeing and the Read Ranch is perfect for trail rides, hayrides and cookouts. Many downtown buildings are on the National Historic Register. Wellston has the Pioneer Camp BBQ, a stone tavern, the last remaining wooden tourist cabin and a concrete totem with marbles for eyes.
Arcadia is an important stop. According to Rebecca Guthrie, auto travel team leader of AAA Oklahoma, POPS is the newest attraction, and it's even making national news. POPS is an ultra modern gas station, restaurant, shake shop, gift shop and convenience store. View a collection of more than 3,000 pop bottles and other collectibles. Look for the 66-foot tall pop bottle with LED lights as you travel. Arcadia is best known for its recently restored Round Barn, built in 1898. The ground floor is a gift shop with a Route 66 satellite exhibit.
Edmond is the next stop where tourists can visit the first public school in Oklahoma Territory, the first church in Oklahoma Territory (St. John Catholic Church), and pay respects to Wiley Post, who was laid to rest at Memorial Park Cemetery.
A short trip and Oklahoma City is the night's resting spot. There's much to see here: OTRD says more than 50 attractions exist, including the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, and Bricktown, OKC's renovated warehouse district, home to the Bricktown Canal--a mile-long pedestrian waterway with canal-side restaurants, clubs and water taxis. Or, venture out to Queen of Sheba restaurant, 2308 North MacArthur Blvd., which claims to be Oklahoma's only Ethiopian eatery.
Day 3 begins along the Mother Road in Yukon, hometown of Garth Brooks. The old Chisholm Trail used by cattle drovers during the 1870s and 1880s goes through the city. Other sites include the Chisholm Trail Watering Hole and Historic Marker, Yukon's Best Railroad Museum/Route 66 Satellite exhibit and the Yukon Museum and Art Center. El Reno is the next stop and home of Ft. Reno, a cavalry outpost established to protect the Darlington Indian agency during the 1874 Cheyenne Uprising. Take the trolley tour of the historic downtown area and then head for the Canadian County Historical Museum and Heritage Park. Stop in at Sid's Grill or Johnnie's Diner for a bite.
Hydro is the site of Lucille's gas station, one of Oklahoma's few remaining upper-story out-thrust porch and live-over style stations along the Oklahoma Route. Visit Lucille's Roadhouse, inspired from the old Lucille's for dinner. Johnson Peanut Co. offers tours by appointment.
Weatherford, named after William Weatherford, an early day frontier marshal, is the hometown of astronaut General Thomas Stafford, and one of the most famous buildings along Route 66, the "Greek Temple," (now a dress shop). General Thomas Stafford Airport Museum is worth a visit, too.
Clinton, the National Highway 66 Association headquarters for 24 years, is an important stop along the way--especially a stop in the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum. Other attractions include the oldest active trading post in the state, the Mohawk Lodge Indian Store, the Cheyenne Cultural Center, the Pioneer Man statue and the National Guard Armory.
Canute is home of the Catholic Cemetery with its 1928 Grotto, the Holy Family church, the TipTop nightclub, Thelma's Sundries and a 1930s WPA Park (that's an interesting lineup). Elvis fans will be interested to know that at the intersection of Main and 66 stands a building, Kupka's Station, at which the King stopped no less than 4 times for travel breaks and fuel.
Elk City is next on the Route, home to the Old Town Museum featuring an authentic turn-of-the century gingerbread-style home, a pioneer church, a one-room school, railroad depot, Native American teepee and the National Route 66 Museum.
The little town of Sayre is just down the Road; its courthouse had a brief part in the movie, The Grapes of Wrath. Watch for Ward's 66 Lounge building mural, WPA constructed rock swimming pool, Art Deco Post Office, the pedestrian tunnel under the highway and belly up at a 50s style soda fountain in Owl Drug Store.
Farther west is Erick, singer/songwriter Roger Miller's hometown. Visit the Roger Miller Museum, which houses the artist's artifacts and memorabilia and other western Oklahoma items. Just across the street is the 100th Meridian Museum, open by appointment to view exhibits of life along the 100th meridian from prehistoric time to early-day Erick. The Sand Hills Curiosity Shop is just that--curious with a lot of "redneck" hospitality. It's worth a stop into this unusual shop located in a historic meat-market and offers free coffee and cold drinks as well as live music. Just don't expect to buy anything. It's more of an attraction than an actual shop.
Just the name Texoma means you're close to the Texas line and leaving Oklahoma's Mother Road, but not before a stop at an authentic Oklahoma ghost town featuring a territorial jail built in 1910 in Texoma.
Happy trails and travels.
Share this article: