In Tulsa, restaurants have signs that say,'Sorry, we're open.'
Baggers' Guide to Route 66, Part 4: Oklahoma
I learned a good lesson as a child from my bearded elementary school lunch lady. Her breath always smelled like rubbery, green hotdogs and stale cigars. While spitting food fragments from her whiskered face, she told me, "Boredom is for boring people." She also told me, "Drain cleaner is also good for cleaning little boys' pipes," as I picked a gray, tight and curly hair out of my chili. It took me many years and her being incarcerated until I truly understood (I am still trying to figure out the Drano part).
If this were a story about touring across Oklahoma I-44 and I-40, the story would stop right about ... here! For those who are forced to stay on the interstate, Oklahoma is a vast and barren road with only miles and miles of nothingness sprinkled with just enough fast-food restaurants to annoy your corneas. Staying on Route 66 is not much better. Long stretches of barren road have been asphalted as a test to see how much boredom one can take. Before any of you Oakies post my face on a wanted poster, please, read on.
For the true adventurer and Route 66 fan, Oklahoma has a cornucopia of glorious and bizarre attractions. You just need to open your eyes.
The 396-mile stretch of Oklahoma is considered the birthplace of Route 66. The state has more in-use original sections than any other and has lots of signs to keep you on path. Stash your map and enjoy the freedom of the road. Getting lost in Oklahoma is part of the fun. The farther you head west, the harder it is to stay on track. With some effort, you will be awarded long stretches of the original, pinkish-hued concrete that was poured during her birth.
Throughout my world travels, I have heard from many kings and wise men about a resort in Arcadia, Oklahoma, where weary travelers can stop for a hillbilly buffet, stay in a hillbilly hotel and even have a hillbilly wedding. Upon my arrival, everything at Hillbillee's Bed & Breakfast was closed. My dream of watching toothless women eating corn on the cob was pulverized. I stammered across the street and got the 411 from Rhonda, owner of the Route 66 Biker Shak. Rhonda gently told me the news that the hillbilly mecca had closed its doors for good and was sold to the owner of the huge roadside attraction down the road (more on that in a few paragraphs). Before I left Arcadia, Rhonda insisted that I talk to her neighbor, Butch, the caretaker of the famous Route 66 Round Barn.
The Round Barn is a world-famous Route 66 landmark. Butch, the weathered caretaker of the barn, explained that it is round to prevent it from being blown down by tornadoes. He also informed me that I could rent out the upstairs of the barn for special events. This sparked my imagination, and I begged for more details. Butch rents the upstairs for all weddings, graduations, bar mitzvahs and just about anything else. He looked straight into my eyes and sternly said that he will "never rent the upstairs of the Round Barn to square dancers. Never!" Square dancing is pretty stupid, but I couldn't figure out why Butch hated it so much. After a few minutes of thinking, I realized he didn't hate the stupid dancers. It's just hard to hold a square dance in a round room.
Down the road from the barn is a 66-foot soda pop bottle bursting out of the earth like a fresh sapling illuminated by colorful LEDs. Pops (Pops66.com) is the newest landmark on historic Route 66 and proof that the economically struggling Mother Road is coming back. Pops is a gas station, ultra-modern building, place to eat and a place to get your sugar fix with over 400 kinds of soda to drink. I am excited to see what the owner does with the ol' Hillbillee's resort. Hot Bike Baggers Land, I hope.
The Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton is a must-stop and also my favorite. I scammed a free tour by telling the museum chick that I was with a magazine. She didn't even ask me for credentials and gave me the deluxe custom tour. The museum's layout was very nice, and I almost felt guilty for not paying. I learned a lot about the history of Route 66 throughout the decades. Did you know that the government used to advocate the picking up of hitchhikers during the war? They have nicely decorated rooms for each decade. The '70s room has a fluorescent, spray-painted VW hippy van. It is so real that I could almost smell the sweet scent of illicit substances.
After the tour, I had a case of the munchies and headed across the street to an Italian restaurant posing as a Route 66 diner. While eating a surprisingly good calzone, I started to map out the must-see sites in Texas.
With a little effort and advice from the cook of Franklin Elementary, Oklahoma will be a place you will never forget, unless you hang with the hippies for too long. I will admit that some parts of Oklahoma are a bit unstimulating. Those sections are times when you need to be a bit creative. Force yourself to talk with locals, enjoy the solitude of the road and ponder about life. If you get bored while in Oklahoma, it's your own damn fault.
I hate bad musicals. I saw a high school rendition of Oklahoma! last year, and it sucked. Follow these tips, and your trip through Oklahoma will take you directly to Broadway.
The only time I ever run is when it's from the cops. A statue commemorates the Transcontinental Footrace of 1928. The race went across the country and followed the majority of Route 66.
For a whale of a good time ... my wife suggested that last sentence. I sign the divorce papers next week. The Blue Whale Amusement Park is a classic roadside attraction that weary travelers would stop at for a swim and practice their swan dives off the big blue whale. The azure monster is now closed but still a good photo op.
The locals call it the Center of the Universe; I call it a worthwhile tourist trap. The "center of the universe" is located downtown. If you stand in the correct spot and yell various obscenities (or any other sounds), an eerie, reverberating echo will be heard.
April 19, 1995. Oklahoma City National Memorial. Never forget.
The National Route 66 Museum and the Old Town Museum Complex is the Disneyland of Route 66. An old-time replica of a town is built here. The tour is worth it, if only for the air conditioning.
A few miles outside of Foyil is the World's Largest Concrete Totem Pole. Some dude named Galloway got bored and decided to build a monument to honor Native Americans and "give Boy Scouts something to look at." The 66-foot monument was placed on the Register of Historic Places in 1999.