I awake to a rainy and very cloudy vista out of the bedroom window. The cloud is so low that it’s touching the tops of the tallest buildings in Oklahoma City. Breakfast in this Hampton Inn is not as good as the one in Chicago. There’s very little fresh fruit for a start. The server I asked said they used it all up over the weekend and will be re-stocked later today. No use to me… I cobble something together that is OK and gets me started.
Patrick said last night that the hectic pace I’d experienced to date on the trip, in terms of lots to see and being re-directed all over the place onto old sections of road, will likely change as I go further west. Not sure how he knew this, and I didn’t ask him for some reason. I do recall however reading something similar in pre-trip research; namely that the first third or so is much ‘busier’ than the rest. Apart from anything else there is a desert to cross and I can’t imagine there’s going to be an old motel or bridge every few miles out there. We’ll see.
I’ve subconsciously taken in the landscapes and scenery but have not written as much about that element this year as with previous trips. That’s because, as I have said, there’s just so much to take in on Route 66, with all the differing road environments plus ‘attractions’ by the roadside.
A Milk Bottle On A Building
Leaving the hotel at 10.15 am I fire up the app, enter my destination of Elk City and away I go. I’ve also started to read ahead more on the previous night about the delights of tomorrow, just to make sure I don’t miss anything. For this I’m using the EZ Guide and the Route 66 Road Trip book, the latter by Candacy Taylor. I realised last night I hadn’t seen one of the famous roadside attractions in OKC, but decided I wasn’t bothered. Plenty more to come I thought. After setting off however I change my mind and stop to re-program the app to take me to the Milk Bottle Grocery.
The app does its job and when I get there, the building is a bit weird. Just before I arrive, I also pass the Gold Dome. Two icons for the price of one! The rain has stopped thankfully. Worth the detour, I decide. The Milk Bottle is on Rt 66, but I hadn’t been on that section before, so obviously the app took me off Rt 66 at some point to direct me to the hotel. There’s not a lot I can do about this I don’t think, given a hotel might not be on the actual road, but I’ll look into it later.
A Bridge Too Far
Re-setting the app’s destination again to Elk City, I’m on my way again through OKC’s suburbs. Then I’m on a 4 lane highway with malls and businesses lining the road. The traffic lights seem to be on red at every block intersection. Progress is slow. Eventually the malls disappear and the heavy traffic also lightens. Just outside OKC in Bethany I am directed left to go over the restored Lake Overholser Bridge. This runs parallel to the road I was on, which was the 1938 alignment, so I guess they just replaced the bridge with a new one at some point.
But the Bridge is closed. A large Road Closed sign is blocking the way. The Bridge was restored and re-opened 8 years ago. But obviously a new problem has been found. Where do I go now, I wonder? Using Google Maps I can see where the other side of the Bridge comes out, so I plot a route around the lake to get to the other end, and hopefully the app can take over again.
Mission accomplished and I’m soon whizzing through the countryside again. It’s the usual mix of 2 and 4 lanes, good and bad asphalt, and classic Rt 66 concrete paved roads with curbs. There are lots of arrow-straight sections today as well, and mostly flat. It’s still overcast later as I drive over historic Pony Bridge. Further on, the road starts to undulate quite a lot in parts, rolling slowly up and down. Plus there are a number of old bridges on some of the flat sections. The weather however remains decidedly overcast.
Near Hydro, I stop at another Rt 66 landmark, Lucille’s Place, for a photo opp, having passed another Road Closed sign about half a mile back. After consulting Maps, I can see it indicating a closure on Rt 66 about another mile up the road. Oh well… I turn around and luckily there is an Interstate junction right by the sign, so I hop onto I-40 W. From the Interstate, about 2 miles down I can see a bridge is being re-constructed, accounting for the road being closed. So I come off at the next exit, and re-join Rt 66.
In Clinton I stop to visit the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum. It’s well done inside, with exhibits telling of the road’s history throughout its lifetime. Worth a visit!
Route 66 near Foss OK
Cotton Boll Motel, Canute OK
Continuing on, the sky is clearing and the temperature rising. By the time I get to Elk City and drive past my motel, another Rt 66 legend, the iconic Flamingo Inn, it’s 89º F. Elk City doesn’t seem that big a place but it does have two famous Rt 66 landmarks with the Inn and the National Route 66 and Transportation Museum.
The Museum is down the road, about a mile past the Inn, near the western edge of Elk City. So today it’s museum day! When I get out of the car, I can feel the heat. Damned hot! The Museum titles itself as a Route 66 one but there is more to it than that. The Rt 66 content is actually quite minor is relation to what else is in the Museum. It’s based on a re-creation of life in the past, and other things. So there are buildings all around the site: a schoolhouse, church, shops, railway station and more depicting early-day Western Oklahoma life. There’s even some historical farm machinery. There’s no obvious timeframe for the displays – or maybe I missed it. I’d guess around 1910-1930 maybe.
The single room about Rt 66 is well done but there’s not a lot in it. The rest of the stuff there is OK I suppose, but it doesn’t really rock my boat to be honest. The overall impression of the whole museum is very underwhelming.
The Flamingo Inn
Back up the road, after cooling down in the cool of the air-con of the car for a while, I check-in at the Flamingo Inn. It’s a classic old-time motel. And whilst old, it is clean and well maintained. I had planned to do the Museum before checking in and that worked out fine, and I’m unpacking at 5 pm. The restaurant next door, Pedro’s Mexican Grill, is Mexican cuisine (obviously) and has a good TripAdvisor reputation. The hotel manager recommended it as well. Though there didn’t seem much else on offer in Elk City in pre-trip research.
At 7.45 pm I walk across the parking lot. There are not many people inside Pedro’s but I get seated in a booth where I can watch MNF on TV. I order a beer but the waitress keeps hassling me to order food. In a nice way but I just wish she’d let me read the huge goddamn menu! As I’m unfamiliar with a wider range of Mexican food than we get in the UK, it’s taking me a while to figure out what I want.
Eventually I settle on Mariachi’s, which is chicken and cheese enchiladas on salad, with Fajita steak strips. It arrives in double quick time which means it must have been heated in a microwave. Except the salad. 🙁
Pedro’s – No Bueno*
The steak strips are tasty but the rest is extremely bland, almost tasteless. There’s no seasoning on the salad, enchiladas plain, and there is zero spice or chilli anywhere. Not impressed at all. I order another beer during eating but literally as soon as I finish and put my knife and fork down, another waitress approaches me and says, “Do you want your check?” I reply that I am going to finish my beer but she can clear the plate. Which she does not, nor does she approach me again. Weird.
There are obviously no desserts on offer, not that I want one, but nothing is offered. The original waitress comes back a few minutes later and asks me if I’m finished. “Yes” I reply and she takes my plate. Two minutes later, with nothing else said she brings the check. I finish my beer, pay the check, and leave. After the Museum, I’m not impressed with this Elk City establishment either.
It’s barely gone 8.30 pm by the time I leave, that’s how quick the whole painful experience was. They close at 9 pm but I hoped to hang around with another beer and watch MNF. But they annoyed me so much, I left. I do not recommend Pedro’s. Sadly they suffered a devastating fire in February 2020 but as of October later that year it appears they were on the verge of re-opening, pandemic notwithstanding.
The motel room however has an extremely comfortable armchair in it, so I retire into it after raiding my fridge for a cold beer purchased earlier. I half-watch MNF on mute as I write some diary until bed-time. Apart from Pedro’s, and the Museum to a lesser extent, it’s been another great, fun and varied day on Rt 66.
* Not good