Cars! Lots of Them…
Breakfast is provided at the Route 66 Rail Haven Motel, in the Reception building. Amazingly there is some fresh fruit, which is nice. After breakfast, I bid farewell to the Elvis Suite and am on the road just gone 10 am, destination Tulsa, OK.
I discover the route takes me past the Route 66 Car Museum, which is in town and I knew of but hadn’t planned to visit. But on a whim I decide to stop, given the trip is partly about cars. Wow! What a collection of vehicles! And all lovingly restored. There are some real classics like a Jaguar XK150, cars from the 1930s, a 1970 Chevy Camaro and quirky stuff like a Batmobile and a DeLorean.
It was very interesting and I’m glad I stopped but I wonder walking back to the car what the stop might do to the day’s timings. But adapting to what Rt 66 offers you round the next corner is all part of the road trip. Out of the city, I’m into the countryside on a 2 lane highway that is constantly up and down over some rolling hills. I enter Everton and stop at the Gay Parita Sinclair Station, another well-known Rt 66 attraction.
It’s not been restored like Soulsby or Amblers, it’s more a preserved relic of the past, part of Rt 66’s history. It’s not falling down but when the guy who looks after it appears to say hello, I realise why the place is a bit dishevelled. Just like him.
Back motoring and after Everton the app soon takes me onto a really, really old section of Rt 66. I learn later this section is part of the original 1926 roadbed of US 66. I cross the Spencer Bridge, still taking cars after all these years. Roadside just a bit further on there is the Spencer Service Station, which has been restored. More changing roads and scenery follow. Whilst warm at 82º F, it’s overcast and rain showers fall intermittently.
Main Street USA
The whole point of Rt 66 was to join towns across America and encourage commerce. Hence the route goes through the centres of towns, and it’s where the nickname of Main Street USA came from. So usually after driving through some countryside for a while I end up back in a town or city.
The routes taken vary, which adds to the interest. Neighbourhoods I drive through now were obviously once centres of commerce. Today though many areas are a shadow of their former selves. With imagination though you can conjure up what they might have been like 80 or so years ago.
In some places though, the road is 21st Century USA, lined with car dealerships, mini-malls, McDonalds and Walmarts. In others it’s been turned over into suburbia or industry. Elsewhere, much has been left to decay. That’s what so fascinating – you never know what’s next.
So in Joplin MO I end up driving along a 4 lane commerce-drenched road to then turn off and enter some downtrodden area where I’m not sure I’d want to get out of the car. Soon after I cross the state line into Galena in Kansas.
To Kansas and Beyond
The state of Kansas, in its short 13 miles of hosting Rt 66, throws up a wide variety of road types and roadside attractions. I’m soon back in Oklahoma though and faced with a closed road in Commerce. For a custom car rally of all things. Organised by The Hitch ‘N Post Antique and Flea Market, it’s the 3rd Annual Car Truck & Motorcycle Show. I pull off the road into a parking lot and have a look around for about 10 minutes or so. There aren’t that many cars there however. Back in my car, I then follow my nose around the small town to get back onto Rt 66.
More road variety follows over the next hour when just south of Chelsea the app pulls another piss-take. It sends me left off the highway I was on and down a road for 4 miles to drive past an attraction I had no interest in seeing. The routing then goes around in a ‘square circle’ for another few miles. I arrive back at a junction just north of the attraction, followed by re-tracing the road all the way back to where it told me to turn off. Whereupon I carry on as before!
As with the Gasconade River Bridge episode earlier, I have to slavishly follow the app because Rt 66 ‘could’ have turned left here many years ago. I don’t know that. That’s what the app is supposed to do. Route me on a path where it seamlessly joins the different sections and alignments of old 66 where they are known, into a single Rt 66 journey. The highway I was on was quite modern and might not have been part of 66, but the turn left ‘might’ have got me back on to it. Just not in this case. This definitely was a stupid and pointless wild goose chase and clearly a bug in the app.
Subsequent to these two ‘errors’, writing this a day later, I have sussed out the thing to do. Namely to review tomorrow’s journey the night before in detail and look for side-trips and/or anomalies. For instance today’s little excursion to the left was visible if you drill down to a sufficient scale on the map. I looked at today’s route two days later and the glitch was still there. So I could have seen that the routing was in a ‘square’, coming back to where I started and that the route carried straight on afterwards. Knowing it’s a ‘bug’ in the route, I could ignore it.
Back en route I stop at the Blue Whale in Catoosa and when in Tulsa heading towards the hotel I find a new ‘Muffler Man’, Buck Atom Space Cowboy, at the side of the road. In between there was the usual – for now – mix of different roads, speeds and scenery. A great drive today, diversion notwithstanding.
“I saw a welcoming light and stopped to rest for the night” *
My arrival time at the Residence Inn by Marriot Tulsa Downtown – now there’s a mouthful – is 5.15 pm. This is good considering how much I’ve seen and done today. It was the longest drive to date, of 190 miles. At 7 hours on the road you might think it’s a long time but it doesn’t seem that way. The sheer variety and unpredictability of driving Rt 66 is alleviating any tiredness. You certainly won’t get bored driving old Rt 66!
Unpacking in my room I realise I’ve left my US power point adapter in a wall socket at the Elvis Suite. Bugger! Luckily this modern hotel has USB sockets so I can re-charge my phone but some of the upcoming older and classic hotels won’t. I need to fix the problem somehow.
This happened because I just pulled the phone charger out of the electric socket and expected the adapter to come with it. And I didn’t realise when it didn’t. It was quite a tight connection and I’m surprised, especially as the two flat prongs that went into the socket were a loose fit. Whatever…
I ask at reception if there’s anywhere local that might sell phone or power accessories and they suggest a QuikTrip gas station up the road. I’m sceptical but decide to visit tomorrow morning before setting off. My Plan B is to find a Best Buy electrical store on the way towards Oklahoma City. The app says it’s only a 3 hour drive tomorrow and 150 miles so I decide to leave at 12 noon, which gives time to get to QuikTrip first and still arrive in good time.
I set out walking to McNellie’s Public House at 7.30 pm. But on arrival, it’s closed for renovations. 🙁
Elgin Park Brewery
A guy working inside opens the door and apologises for being closed. He then gives me a card for a 20% discount at three other bars. He describes what they’re like and I opt for Elgin Park Brewery, a sports bar and brewery. Another 5 minute walk and I arrive there, to find it heaving with people and lots of loud noise from the clientele. The guy at McNellie’s said it might be busy because the local college football team are playing tonight and the game would be on TV.
I find the only available seat at the bar. Asking for a beer and then the menu, whilst I’m checking that out the guy on my right says, “Who are you rooting for?” referring of course to the game on TV. I explain neither for the obvious reasons, and from that point on we spend all night chatting. He buys me my first beer, recommends a pizza, “Because they’re great”, quizzes me about Trump, Brexit, the UK in general and all sorts of other stuff. All whilst half-watching the football.
Steven, for it is he, then starts disappearing at regular intervals because, he explains, he “has a weak bladder.” It does not take a genius to work out that this is probably not the case. He’s clearly indulging in some illegal substance on his frequent trips away from the bar. Especially as he walks in the opposite direction from the rest rooms for his ‘excursions’.
He does however remain coherent throughout the evening so maybe he’s lowering his normal dosage whilst I’m around. The game ends with a loss for the local team and the bar empties gradually. It remains busy however and still quite raucous.
Whatever his personal habits I have a very enjoyable time talking with Steven and I think he did too with me. He says that when I decide to leave that he’s going to meet up with some friends. I figure that if he didn’t want to talk to me, he could have made his excuses and just left.
To cap it all, when I say I’ll call a Lyft to go back to the hotel, he insists on calling me an Uber and paying for the ride on his account! Which to my amazement he actually does. First though I pay my check – but completely forget about the 20% voucher! Damn. Steven and I walk outside together and he greets the Uber driver, then explains the ride is for me. We shake hands, I thank him for the ride, say goodbye and a few minutes later I disembark back at the hotel. Great night. And day.
I think I’m realising there’s almost too much going on to process every day. Minute by minute there’s something new, or different. Sometimes weird, sometimes “why?”, many times “wow!” I just hope it’s seeping in somehow and that someday I’ll remember and appreciate it all.
* 24 Hours From Tulsa by Gene Pitney (ditto the page title)