Route 66: Deep in the Texas Panhandle

Day 16: May 15, 2013
Start: Elk City, OK
End: Amarillo, TX
Miles Driven Today: 196 (including in-town miles)
Total Miles: 2,736

We left Oklahoma behind, but not before reminders of its history. Right before the border, we saw this memorial commemorating the rededication of Route 66 in 1952 as the Will Rogers Highway. Nice.

Will Rogers Memorial Highway

Will Rogers Memorial Highway

Texas. We finally made it to Texas.

Texas State Line

Texas State Line

Suddenly, the road and the land got flat. The green rolling prairie turned into sagebrush and wide, flat plains. The Texas Panhandle has been called the place “where the wind pumps the water and the cows chop the wood.” The former refers to the abundance of windmills, and latter refers to cow patties…and how they used to be used for fuel. Charming!

But perhaps cow patties would be preferable to what is considered snack food here. This tasty morsel was found at the Dollar General (el cheapo stuff) store. We had seen the Dollar Generals all over the area, so we decided to stop to get some spray paint (explanation later). This was on the snack shelf at the check-out.

Texas Snackin'

Texas snackin! Mmmmm…mmmmm…good? Marty Watts, this one’s for you!

We reached McLean, Texas, and stopped at the Devil’s Rope/Old Route 66 Museum. Tom wasn’t thrilled about stopping, but I wanted to peruse the gift shop. Inside was a fascinating account of the Dust Bowl and a Barbed Wire museum. While I wasn’t quite interested in the history of barbed wire, I was fascinated by the barbed wire art! Whowouldvethunk?

Jackrabbit Barbed Wire Art

Jackrabbit Barbed Wire Art

Tree and Swing

Tree and Tire Swing barbed wire art. I love the wind-blown tree.

Barbed wire cowboy hat

Barbed wire cowboy hat. Wouldn’t wear it, but…

Giant Cobra

Giant cobra. I have no idea what significance this has, but it’s kind of cool.

I’m glad we stopped. I saw something original and beautiful made out of something as mundane as barbed wire. That’s what I love about this trip. While the big things are (and will be) great, the little things fill us with wonder and joy. This is what we wanted to see and experience.

The next stop after McLean was at the Bug Ranch in Conway. Created as a parody of the Cadillac Ranch (an outdoor piece of artwork featuring 10 Cadillacs planted nose-down in the ground), the Bug Ranch features the hulls of half a dozen Volkswagen Beetles. We took our Dollar General spray paint and left our mark.

Tom Inspects Bug Ranch

Tom inspects the art at Bug Ranch

We left our mark at Bug Ranch

We left our mark at Bug Ranch

We motored on, mainly driving on frontage roads next to I-40. The old Portland cement roads peeked in at various stretches, giving us that satisfying whomp-whomp as we watched the plains roll by.

Today's Open Road

Today’s open road.

We reached Amarillo and took the Historic Route 66 path through town. The long path wound around the industrial part of the city…not particularly attractive. We did go through downtown as well as the SW 6th Street Antique Row district and finally reached our hotel. We got settled and then headed for our feast–a steak dinner at The Big Texan.

The BIG Texan

The Big Texan! YAY!

Mooo!

Mooo! MMMMM! Steak!

The dining room was filled with kitsch, and the place was terribly touristy. But it was FUN. We had a BIG Texan waiter (he looked gigantic) and we ordered our steaks and some cold, frosty beverages.

Kitschy and fun

Main dining room at The Big Texan! Kitschy and fun!

Of course, I couldn’t wait. I had to go see the steaks cooking!

Cookin' the steak

Cookin’ the steak! Can’t wait!

And then…it came!!!! Yes, that’s fried okra on my plate. *LOVE*

My dinner

My dinner…before…

But it didn’t last long.

My dinner after

…and after!

And yes, we did save room for dessert!

Texans really mean BIG

Dessert anyone? Texans really do mean BIG!

We waddled to the big rocker after dinner. As Tom says, “DAMN, that was good!”

BIG Rocker

BIG Rocker. After a meal like that, we needed one!

We had a great day today, and a great dinner tonight. Yes, the Big Texan is touristy. But the steaks were great, the drinks and dessert were both HUGE, and we had a great time! What could be better!

The dogs, however, did NOT get doggie bags. 🙂

Speaking of the dogs, we’ve been seeing real change in Juliet. She’s getting more vocal and bold (and more impish). She’s really coming out of her shell. We were walking into the hotel today, and she BARKED once at the resident dog. We’ve heard her bark maybe a half a dozen times in the last 18 months…this is yet another change for her. Hm…maybe not for the better!! But we have seen her showing more curiosity and less fear as the days have gone on. It’s wonderful to see!

Back seat driver

Juliet, the back seat driver

Tomorrow, we plan on visiting the Cadillac Ranch and heading out for another short drive day to Tucumcari (or, as I keep calling it, Tutankhaman. LOL!

Advertisements

Route 66: Oklahoma City to Elk City, OK

Day 15: Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Start: Oklahoma City
End: Elk City, OK
Miles Driven Today: 116
Total Miles: 2,540

The travel today was special. Much of old Route 66–with its concrete roadway–is now covered with asphalt or gone altogether. But certain parts of 66 have the old concrete pavers, with the whomp whomp of the tires across the expansion joints, singing as you drive along. The route between OKC and Elk City was mostly this type of road…a favorite for Route 66 fans.

We drove this road today, mainly as frontage that zig-zagged under, over and next to I-40. But our road was empty, and the pretty green plain flew by just a little slower than going the Interstate.

Right outside of OKC, we encountered our first bridge. It marked the entrance to Lake Overholder and a spectacular neighborhood of tony homes. There was a walking path along the lake…this would be a great place to live in the OKC area!

Lake Overholser bridge

Iron bridge to Lake Overholser

We got out of town and reached the town of El Reno and stopped at Fort Reno. Fort Reno was a remount depot where troops came and exchanged their horses for fresh stock. Troops from the Fort also supervised the first Land Run for settlers and helped the “orderly transition” of Indian Territory to individual farms. The most interesting artifacts were from the last remaining Buffalo Soldier from Oklahoma…he passed away earlier this year and left his memorabilia to the museum.

Fort Reno

Fort Reno

Bridge #2 was a 3/4-mile long Pony Bridge that spanned the South Canadian River near Bridgeport, OK.

Pony Bridge

Cool Pony Bridge

Motoring on, we drove our whomp-whomp road and stopped at the Cherokee Trading Post. While the shop was a bit cheesy, we did get to see a Longhorn steer and a Buffalo in the pen outside. Jasmine and Juliet were not impressed.

Longhorn

Howdy Longhorn!

Buffalo

Baby Buffalo

The rest of the road was peaceful and lovely. We’re getting spoiled with the lack of traffic and the wide expanses of prairie!

Open Road

Today’s open road on the concrete pavers. Whomp Whomp!

We reached Elk City in early afternoon, checked into the hotel and headed for the Route 66 National Museum in downtown Elk City. The museum is a complex of staged vignettes (buildings and scenes) plus museum exhibits. There were four main exhibits–Transportation, Route 66, Old Town and Farm & Ranch. Each of these buildings held artifacts. The Old Town building was fascinating with its collection of Rodeo memorabilia from the Buetler family–Rodeo riders and promoters famous in the area. The statue outside was created to depict one of the more famous riders in a Buetler rodeo.

Rode rider

Rodeo rider statue at the Route 66 National Museum

There were a couple of kachinas outside by artist Wanda Queenan. Kind of cool!

Wanda Queenan Kachina

Wanda Queenan Kachina

Wanda Queenan kachina

Another kachina

Tom particularly liked the Farm exhibit. I wonder why…

Tractor Envy

Tom has tractor envy

The Transportation building had some great vintage cars and motorcycles, including this Indian.

1948 Indian Chief

1948 Indian Chief

We’ve been having some great meals on the road. Yesterday, we had lunch at the Rock Cafe in Stroud, OK. Great fried dill pickles and a really flavorful chicken salad as well as great burgers. Tom’s description of the burger was mmmmmmfrlmmmmmm. 🙂 We met a young bus-boy, Wyatt, who kept us company as we ate and was happy to sign my Route 66 book. This 9-year-old kid was curious, funny and the epitome of the friendly nature of people we’ve met on the road.

Tonight, we had dinner at Prairiefire in Elk City. While it’s seen as a burger joint, they also serve a great assortment of steaks and a really really delicious salmon salad. YUM!

We’re in for the night, enjoying the company of our two travel companions. Of course, they’ve already commandeered the bed.

Bed hogs!

Bed hogs!

We’ve planned a bit out to ensure that we’d have reservations and some of our stops. Tomorrow, we’ll stay in Amarillo, TX. Thursday, we’ll stop in Tucumcari, NM. Friday night through Sunday night, we’ll stay in Santa Fe at a swanky spa hotel. Then we’ll most likely do a side trip to Taos before resuming the Route 66 trek. Stay tuned for more fun Lost in America posts!

Route 66: Tulsa to Oklahoma City

Day 14: Monday, May 13, 2013
Start: Tulsa, OK
End: Oklahoma City, OK
Miles Driven Today: 140
Total Miles: 2,424

Today was another day of slow travel and good chats. We decided to only go as far as Oklahoma City, so we had a short trip planned. Given that short day, Tom graciously took me to two Quilt shops so I could find some Route 66 fabric.

We first stopped at Quilt Sampler. This is a very large quilt shop and sewing machine dealer. They had lots of Route 66 fabric choices, plus Oklahoma-specific printed panels. I got a set of vintage post card panels and some Route 66 fabrics. They were really sweet people, and they pointed me to another local quilt shop just a mile or two away.

We went on to the second quilt shop, Cotton Patch. While this is a much smaller shop, the ladies there had a nice selection of Route 66 fabric–entirely different than the fabrics at the Quilt Sampler. I got some yardage, and they were nice enough to give me a discount!

Cotton Patch - Tulsa

The nice ladies at the Cotton Patch in Tulsa!

A few dollars lighter (Bob, that’s the PRECISE amount), we headed back to Route 66. Tulsa is one GIANT road construction project. We encountered closed roads, tons of closed lanes and terminal gridlock all over the city. It was really frustrating to drive around Tulsa, and once were were out of the city and back on the open road, we were happy campers. I don’t think I’ll tire of driving these lonesome highways and back roads.

Oklahoma Open Road

More open road. Nope. Not getting tired of this at all!

EZ66 Guide

EZ66 Guide

We have been using Jerry McClanahan’s Route 66 EZ66 Guide for Travelers to navigate our way across Route 66. For those of you that haven’t traveled 66 before, it isn’t a straight shot down a clearly marked highway. Historic Route 66 traverses, crosses, meanders to and fro…it’s a mishmash of roads, highways and bygone ways. To really ride the historic path, you really need a guide. This book provides both East-to-West or West-to-East turn-by-turn directions across the entire route, as well as recommended sights, side trips, places to eat and stay. It’s the ultimate guidebook. However, its value really isn’t understood (it’s not a book that you sit and read) until you’re on the road, hunting for the next turn or the next cool stop. Then, it’s a fountain of information that you can’t get with any other book. We love it.

When we were going through the book, we found Jerry’s invitation to visit his McJerry’s Route 66 Gallery in Chandler, OK. We decided to make a stop. His phone number and address are in the book, and there’s a sign on the door asking people to call him if they stop by. We did, and he came out of his house (next door) and invited us in. He asked us to sign his visitor poster and then he showed us his artwork. Jerry paints in oil, acrylic and watercolor (and does pencil sketches) of Route 66 places and people. They images are nostalgic, but contemporary. Very nice!

McJerry's Route 66 Gallery

Jerry McClanahan’s McJerry’s Route 66 Gallery

Jerry McClanahan

Jerry McClanahan – Author, road-tripper and talented artist

While I was signing his poster, I noticed a family from Taipei, Taiwan had been by. We have run into these people three times since we started on this trip–at the Mule Trading Post, at Gay Parita, and now (a near miss) here at Jerry’s gallery. We’re wondering when we’ll see them next!

We chatted with Jerry for a few minutes and were back on our travels. As we made it to Arcadia, we encountered the Round Barn. Mr. Sam, the “storyteller” of the Round Barn, was there to greet and chat with us. This old barn was built in 1898. It was in ruins for quite some time until a group of volunteers began to restore it in 1988. The upstairs loft (pictured below) is a huge open space often rented for parties and weddings. It’s enormous!!!

Arcadia Round Barn

Mr. Sam postcard from the Arcadia Round Barn

Inside the dome

Inside the dome at the Arcadia Round Barn. Round barns were built to accommodate animals working/walking around items like milling stones.

Arcadia Round Barn Panorama

Panorama of the Arcadia Round Barn

Of course, a visit to the Round Barn wouldn’t be complete without a picture with Mr. Sam!

Mahgrit and Mr. Sam

Mahgrit and Mr. Sam. Mr. Sam is upwards of 86 years young! Apparently, he’s quite a land baron!

We motored on after Arcadia and made it to Oklahoma City. We didn’t venture downtown; we instead opted to stay on the outskirts. Tomorrow, we’re aiming to reach Elk City (leisurely travel) or Amarillo, TX (ambitious motoring). We’ll see how far we get! There are some interesting sights along the way! I have a feeling that Elk City is more realistic; we might save Amarillo for our end point on Wednesday.

The dogs have been adjusting well to the trip. The travel is now our routine. Each day, we get up, get dressed, take them out, feed them, pack up and motor on. In the late afternoon, we reach our destination and get settled into our hotel room. We make a few stops to give them breaks, but they’re primarily snuggled in back, sleeping in the sunshine peeking through the car windows.

I do have to say that they are enjoying the recliners at the La Quinta hotels. It’s almost like home! Until tomorrow…

Jasmine and Juliet

Jasmine and Juliet love the recliners at the La Quinta hotels

Route 66: Joplin, MO to Tulsa, OK

Day 13: Sunday, May 12, 2013
Start: Joplin, MO
End: Tulsa, OK
Miles Driven Today: 166 (including 33 miles in Tulsa)
Total Miles: 2,284

Today was a three-state day. Given that we were only in Missouri for about five minutes after we left the hotel and that Route 66 only traverses 15 miles within Kansas, it wasn’t a great feat. But hey, three states are three states! We started off with our first state-line crossing into Galena, Kansas. We had planned to stop at the “4 Women on The Route” restored O-Tex gas station, but it was closed. Sunday (and Mother’s Day) means empty streets and closed shops and restaurants in these parts!

Welcome to Kansas

Welcome to Kansas

We drove down the road towards Baxter Springs and encountered the Rainbow Curve Bridge. This is the last of three “Marsh Arch” bridges (named for the designer) that were on Route 66 in Kansas.

Rainbow Curve Bridge

Rainbow Curve Bridge near Baxter Springs

Rainbow Curve Bridge Sign

Rainbow Curve Bridge

We really liked the road stamps all across the short stint of Route 66 in Kansas. We saw these everywhere across the 15-ish miles of road across the state.

Route 66 Kansas

Marking the way across Route 66 Kansas

After a few minutes, whoooooosh…we were in Oklahoma!

Into Oklahoma

After a blink of an eye, we were in Oklahoma

We drove through Quawpaw, Commerce, Miami and Narcissa, OK before we made our first stop at the Afton Station and Route 66 Packard Museum in Afton, Oklahoma. Laurel Kane (owner) and Ron (a volunteer) greeted us warmly as we walked into the museum and gift shop. Laurel has acquired and restored quite an impressive collection of Packards (and one odd vehicle). My very favorite was the 1917 Packard Twin Six–what I call the “Original RV.” I also loved the simple but graceful hood ornaments. Laurel had around twenty cars in her collection–all in mint condition! We were encouraged to spend time looking at both garages to view these vintage treasures!

After some time, we went back to chat with Laurel and Ron. She took our picture with the girls, talked about Jay Leno’s interest in her vehicles (she emailed him and invited him to visit when he was touring the area; he received the email too late and called her personally to chat with her about the cars!). It was a worthwhile stop and an incredible collection!

1953 Packard

Afton Station – Route 66 Packards – 1953 Packard

1950 Studebaker

1950 Studebaker – Tom said that his family had one of these when he was growing up!

Hood Ornament

Love the hood ornaments!

Maserati

What’s a Maserati doing here?

1917 Packard Twin Six

1917 Packard Twin Six – The first off the line, according to Laurel! This is the true original RV!

Off we went down the open road, once again enjoying a beautiful day.

Fine day

A fine day

Open Road

Another day across open road. I could get real used to this!

We decided to take a side trip off Route 66 near the town of Foyil to visit the Totm Pole Park, home of the World’s LARGEST Totem Pole. Built by Ed Galloway between 1937 and 1948, Galloway built this and a number of other concrete totems in this little park. The park also houses the 11-sided Fiddle House that once housed over 400 hand-carved violins. A collection of about 100 of them still resides in the museum/gift shop.

Tallest Totem Pole

World’s Largest Totem Pole – Ed Galloway built the totem pole over 11 years (1937-1948). Over 90 feet tall!

Another Ed Galloway Totem

Another Ed Galloway Totem

After we got back on Route 66, we had to stop and visit the Blue Whale. A remnant of an old amusement park, this whale now resides at a pond and is open to the public. When we visited, a couple of families with kids were fishing off the tail of the whale. There were squeals of excitement as one of the little girls caught a fish! Whee! Okay, it was kitschy, but cute.

The Blue Whale Catoosa OK

The Blue Whale in Catoosa, OK

The Blue Whale

Isn’t he cute?

The Catoosa Blue Whale

Tom in the belly of the whale! EEK!

We made it to Tulsa today, We settled into our dog-friendly room at a La Quinta, and then drove around town. We saw Oral Roberts University, more churches than we could count, and had dinner at the traditional Tulsa Vietnamese Pho house. But seriously, we did have dinner at Pho Da Cao (FABULOUS) and then followed that up with frozen custard at Freckles.

Tomorrow, we plan on reaching Oklahoma City and Amarillo, TX the following day. That is, unless we see something/someplace that pushes us in a different direction or makes us want to stay in a different place! That’s how we roll!