Sunday, June 3, 2012

Oklahoma City

Saturday June 2, 2012

Last night and this morning we ate at the little motel restaurant. Lorna’s steak salad was so good last night that I went for the steal and eggs this morning. I’m not a big steak eater but this stuff was good! They claim to have Oklahoma’s best steak and while it may be hyperbole I can’t argue. The place was well worn but the room was clean and everything worked. There are places on this trip where there isn’t lodging on every corner.

For the last few days we have been rolling through the hills of Oklahoma though in some areas it’s flat for as far as you can see. A lot of the soil around here is red clay and it really strikes you when you see a brick red field with crops sprouting. 

We’re in tornado country. Inhabited areas have pole top warning sirens I have seen one place selling steel tornado shelters. As I write this a thunderstorm has fired up with an intense downpour and grape size hail.

We got rolling around 9:00 AM in Chandler and stopped to see a 1930 Phillips 66 station that is undergoing a complete restoration. The guy has some big plans to preserve the station and add to the exhibit.

There is a route 66 museum in town that is in the state armory, a massive stone building from 1936, a WPA project. 

With office and gymnasium space I was sorry to not get inside but we won’t miss seeing one museum, we gotta keep moving.

Next we were off to the 1924 Sebea station named after the original owners.

They started out selling the NeverNox brand of gasoline. Much of the back building housed a connecting rod repair business which grew to be significant in since. That enterprise was sold in 1951. Eventually the station was closed in 1996. It has since been restored, opened as an antique shop and is now a motorcycle museum. Jerry was nice to talk to and like most suggested a handful of “must see” attractions down the road. Before we left he made sure we saw the remains of his outbuilding, a 2 holer restroom with flush plumbing. It’s a handsome stone building.

 Nearly all of these museums are free, just sign the guest book and maybe get a souvenir. Most of the people are eager to talk and sometimes it’s a chore to break away to travel on.

In Wellston we found a nice Stone building that was originally some sort of filling station. It last operated as Pioneer Barbecue. There is evidence of a former motor court out back including stone pillars marking the entrance.

The town also had a nice single span pony truss bridge.

Luther had a the shell of a stone Conoco filling station believed to be built in the second decade of the twentieth century. The owner has posted a history describing a counterfeit money operation that went on in an attached shed until discovered. Also, in later years a body was discovered inside. It was never known if the killing happened there or if the body was just dumped.

Arcadia has a wealth of folk art, history and over the top commercialism. We were told at Sebea Station to watch for a small replica of the Blue Whale. If the gate is open then John Hargrove who owns Oklahoma County 66 Auto Trim and Mini Museum is accepting guests. Luck was on our side as we entered the open gate.  John was a swell guy to chat with. He has amassed an incredible collection of eclectic icons, memorabilia and has it tastefully arranged indoors and out.

If he is not finding what he wants he’s a craftsman that can create it. He’s retired and just goes where inspiration takes him.

Part of his space includes a soda fountain, indoor drive-in movie theater and booth seating.

He hosts birthday and holiday parties in his museum. There’s way more than I can begin to write about now. Before we left he had us pose for pictures with his Roswell Aliens.

When we dropped by John was taking it easy, he had a 6 mile foot race tonight. That’s part of how he says in shape for 100 mile marathons!

John made sure we went across the street to enjoy a stretch of genuine 1928 concrete US 66. It was a nice drive down the lightly traveled, tree lined narrow concrete roadway. One photo with a leaning telephone pole that Lorna suggested is a real keeper.

Our next stop, still in Arcadia was the Round Barn.

Pictures I remember seeing suggested a big barn out in the field. In reality it is nearly roadside up on a hill with just enough room for logistics.

The local people that salvaged this structure were heroic and deserve applause. One man took charge and the major team of retires was nicknamed “The Over the Hill Gang”. The upstairs is available for functions and the downstairs is a gift shop and route 66 museum.

The building is stunning, inside and out. They were setting up for a private function so I could only shoot the roof rafters from the doorway. We left with a new T shirt and history book of the barn.
Just down the road was POPS, a modern filling station, lunch stand and drink shop built to a grand scale. The sweeping pump canopy is like nothing I have ever seen.

 Inside a lunch counter was cranking out lunches. The centerpiece is some 400 flavors of POP (AKA soft drinks, soda or tonic) organized mainly by flavor.

I had a Mexican made Mango and Lorna got grape JIC-JAC. She said it was like drinking candy.  Out front is a giant 66 foot pop bottle with straw. It’s is said to be quite a sight as a neon showpiece.

 Our time in Arcadia ended with a herd of longhorn cattle grazing in a field.

Okalahoma City like most cities on this trip was a pain. With many alignments and sketchy signage we got turned around a few times. In the end we saw nearly everything when had planned for and our marriage survived.

On the outskirts we found lunch at Freddy’s Frozen Custard (and burgers) etc.

 The patties are very thin with the edges so thin they  crisp up like the edges of well done shredded potato hash brown. I had the California burger featuring Freddy sauce, different and good! Fries were very thin shoestrings, nicely cooked and seasoned. The place was fun with the counter calling out winners of free food like a side of onion rings.

Lorna’s desert concrete (frozen custard with the toppings blended in) was made with the wrong custard flavor. I latter saw one of the counter persons scan the crowd looking for just the right person to offer the free desert too. Anyplace else it would have been in the trash!

No first trip to the city would be proper without visiting the site of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building which was bombed in 1995. The devastation in the neighborhood was wide spread with many buildings destroyed and lives lost or changed forever that day. The site is run by the National Parks Service and the ranger we met gave a nice descriptive talk on the symbols that make up the park.  

This memorial is on the site of a church that was destroyed in the blast. the inscription on the base reads, " and Jesus wept".

One of 2 memorial walls where people leave symbols of remembrance. Items were originally left on the makeshift fencing at the disaster site. When the permanent memorial was built the continued symbolism was not anticipated. The chain link fencing in front of the wall was added to receive tokens of remembrance.

The shallow field of water is a symbol of calming. The dark wall with the opening is repeated behind the camera. It symbolizes the transition everyone experienced in this event. One one wall the time 1 minute prior is engraved, on the other a moment after.

In the field of seats each life lost is represented. They are arranged by floors as well as neighboring buildings.

A long shot across the pool to the field of seats.
The loss of young lives in the onsite daycare center was felt throughout the school systems. Youngsters from away are represented on walls of tile bearing their hand prints.
 Looping back though the city we did pretty good at capturing the many route 66 landmarks. The 1958 Gold Done is a stunning building. Originally a bank it is now an event/cultural center.

 The Will Rogers Theater and the Tower Theater had impressive facades. The Western Trading Post and Giant Milk Bottle.


We found an old brick service station that has been elegantly re-purposed including nice murals

The Overholser Lake Bridge was impressive with 4 drive though trusses and a pony span at each end. .

Down the road the Western Motel and Yukon Flour factory had that classic look with plenty of neon. 
El Reno had lots of eye candy staring with a nice Standard Oil sign and repurposed station. 

The Ranger Motel seemed to be keeping up with the times.


Roberts Grill “Famous Onion Fried Hamburgers Since 1926” was one I wish the timing had been right to try. Jobes Drive-in and the Budget in looked to be fresh from 1960.

As we drove though town the side streets were being blocked off and people were camping out along the street like there was a presidential motorcade or parade coming. We learned that in a few minutes the road through town would be closed and the many vintage cars that we had noticed here and there would have the street to themselves to cruise back and forth through town with the road to themselves, it’s an annual event here. Once again we needed to move along while we could.

Fort Reno gave us miles and miles of pristine vintage route 66 concrete rolling through the countryside. We could go 4 or more minutes without seeing another vehicle.

Calumet had the Indian Trading Post. It featured lots of Indian stuff like Tee Pees and big buffalo statues on the grounds and a giant Indian that towered over the store.We didn't have the time or interest to go in, just a photo stop.

In Geary Lorna got to pose with the welcome to town sign. Her maiden name is Gary only due to a town clerk error. The family name had been Geary.

We also found the South Canadian River bridge with a whopping 38 pony spans spanning 3944 feet. It photographed nice in the low evening sunlight.

In Hydro we found the 1929 wood frame station with carport fueling that had operated as Lucille’s.

 The 5 unit motel at the back is barely standing but the station still stands proud with fuel pumps in place.

It’s in the National Register of Historic places and features a granite Will Rogers Highway monument.

It was near the end of several hours of driving over the sparsely traveled rolling cement roadway well away from any major highway.

Weatherford is where we found tonight’s room at the Holiday Inn Express. After registering we tried the restaurant next door. Lucille’s. It’s a big version of the Lucille’s we had just visited featuring a dinner side and a steakhouse side.

We opted for the dinner space and had a nice meal.

When we got out the neon was ready for the camera.

We got to our rooms just past 9:00 PM. Then for me it was downloading, backing up and blogging into the night.

We’re back to warm weather with 99F predicted for tomorrow, Sunday. Every day there is a risk of thunderstorms either as pop-ups of from passing storm fronts. We ended the day about 8 towns from the Texas border. We should be in the Lone Star State by early tomorrow afternoon. We are running behind but may close the gap a little tomorrow. We don’t see any big city stuff for a long while and those can really eat up some time. Tonight marks the end of the first half of our time on the road. Based on mileage were about 200 miles short of the midpoint. That’s less than 20 miles a day we need to make-up in the remainder of the time. That seems doable as we head due west.

Oklahoma has the least effective RT 66 signage so far causing us to second guess or back track more than a few times.

We’re in oil country and it’s not uncommon to see oil wells and holding tanks scattered about in the fields. We also come cross drilling equipment suppliers. A well would make a nice lawn ornament / souvenir. 

Home is seeming very far away and we start each day wondering what what we will find out there. So far we have not been disappointed. Sometimes it's like an Easter egg hunt looking for that nugget of history. The locals continue to be wonderful about sharing their part of the country. They call this road America's Main Street and on this Saturday in June it was especially palpable.

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