**Note** Click on photos to embiggenate.
We headed out this morning to take a drive around Tulsa to get photos of some of the cool signs we’d seen on our previous trips around town, as well as to check out the downtown area and see some of the Art Deco architecture that Tulsa is famous for. We saw some great examples of each, but we sure could have used Laurel and Ron to show us all the great architecture in the city! Next time, for sure!
And I will definitely be doing several entries of googie sign pictures eventually. I’ve seen some amazing ones, including this picture of the Oasis Motel. Note the triangle, boomerang, and rectangle shapes, all in the same sign. What a beauty!
Today, we were able to find quite a few older alignments to drive, and almost always chose those rather than the current state 66 road. Many of these were narrow and twisty, often very rough, and sometimes dead ends. The guidebook I’m using, Jerry McClanahan’s EZ66, has many of these listed, but points out that this area contains many forgotten spurs and previous incarnations of early road (dating back to the ‘20s), and basically says just to watch out for them. You can drive some of them, but others are on private property, and you’ll find those blocked off. I told Ken that I don’t blame those property owners...if you didn’t block it off in some way, you’d get all kinds of people (like us) cruising through your property.
A couple of these old alignments shared the roadway with the Ozark Trail, and I’m going to have to read more about that, because I know very little about it. One of these alignments, just outside of Sapulpa, went by a defunct drive-in theater. The entrance was closed off by an iron gate, but...oh, what’s that over there? Looks like a gap between the fences! Oh, I hope I don’t walk by there and fall through that narrow gap...OH! I fell! Look, I’m inside the grounds of the drive-in theater! Guess I’d better take some pictures.
This was a rather eerie place for me. I don’t think such places are haunted or anything (Or ARE they?! Bahaha!), but I remember going to drive-ins as a kid, and there is just something so ineffably sad about seeing a deserted drive-in. The pictures I’ve seen of deserted amusement parks strike me the same way, but I haven’t walked around a deserted amusement park. It was once a place of social activity and in a small town, such places are sometimes one of the rare sources of entertainment and interaction. It was very hot as we walked around and took pictures, and there were no sounds other than the chirping of grasshoppers and the buzzing of dragonflies. In a couple of these pictures, you’ll see large, rolled bales of hay. That’s because they are growing hay in the spaces where the cars used to park. If that doesn’t give your heart a little twinge, I don’t know what will.
Part of the fun for me today was finding all these old alignments; it wasn’t always easy, and we had to backtrack a few times. Ken is getting good at spotting them, too, so he’s turning into a Roadie! haha I get turned around very easily, but with watching closely, I was able to find a couple that would be easy to miss. Even with the guidebook, they can be easily missed. It helps to know a few things about how the Road usually followed the railroad, and telephone and electric lines. But with these odd little loops and spurs, you can’t count on that. These loops are often the original Portland concrete pavement, and there is just something about that that fascinates me. Some of this pavement is almost 100 years old, but it has often held up incredibly well. The foliage encroaches, and the weeds will eventually break up the concrete (just like the Pretenders!), but it hasn’t happened yet.
This is an interesting shot, because this is one of those old side loops (I don’t recall if this was mentioned in the guidebook or not), but there was an additional dead-end portion that went straight ahead rather than curving. We drove down the dead-end dogleg and looking back, you can clearly see the curve and how the other portion just went straight on. I wonder if there has ever been a road that had so many changes, both big and small, over the years? Heck, poor Kansas’s portion of the Road got completely cut out in 1961!
Speaking of original concrete and bypasses, we encountered one of the best examples of that today in itty bitty Depew, Oklahoma (population not quite 600). The 1926-1928 route made a loop through downtown Depew (all five or six blocks of it). As far as I can tell, the road that is today’s OK 66 bypassed the town in 1928, but there is also a short straight strip of original 66 that is cut off in front of the town. It’s not drivable, because it is cut off at either end by a deep enough depression to discourage anything but four wheel drive vehicles. The downtown loop of Depew consists of original concrete, and I don’t know of any other “main street” portion of Route 66 that is original (although I could be wrong). This was another sad town, though. It’s so tiny, and the “frontier” looking storefronts were mostly empty and deserted. There were just a few things open, and a handful of cars there. Also an eerie place to me.
Oh, and we got pulled over just west of Arcadia. Whoops! Ken thought that the speed limit had gone up on a certain stretch, but it hadn’t. So he was going a “few” miles over the speed limit. The deputy was a decent sort, and he realized pretty quickly that we were okay people who were just doing Route 66. Our rental car has out-of-state plates (New Jersey, and it’s entirely possible that they automatically distrust anything New Jersey!), and he cautioned us that they are quick to stop anyone from out of state on that stretch of highway. It’s not the main highway, so they get people who are running drugs and guns trying to avoid the main drag. Good grief! At least I didn’t break down and confess: “Okay! It’s true! I’ve got a Route 66 brick in the back seat!” We got a warning (although he said his computer wasn’t working, so we didn’t get a written warning...I’m guessing he just said, “Screw it” and didn’t pursue it) and he sent us on our way, with our promises to be more careful. Whew! What’s stupid about this is that for plenty of this trip, we’ve been going UNDER the speed limit, so we can pull over quickly for a cool photo op!
A more pleasant experience was finding that John Hargrove’s Oklahoma County 66 Auto Trim and Mini Museum’s gate was open. He had just gotten back from the store in his flame-painted hot rod (not sure what it was...Model T?) and invited us in to see his collection. He makes miniatures (not tiny, but medium-sized) of various Route 66 attractions, including the Catoosa Blue Whale, but there is so much more. He took us into his garage, and just kept leading us into more and more rooms. There was his workroom, with tons of memorabilia and a Model A up on the risers and being worked on. Then there was a small room with a glass counter display case full of stuff. Then there was a counter styled like that of a soda fountain or diner, and when you turned around in that room, there were booths and tables and theater seats and a big movie screen and a projector. Upstairs was a pool table and a balcony, and a Herbie VW bug half-in (the driver and passenger seats) and half-out (the windshield and grill) of the building!
It was bizarre and eclectic and charming all at once. Mr. Hargrove seemed happy to talk with us, and his dog seemed to like us, too. I have no idea how someone is able to do such things and collect so many things, or what motivates them. His work seems to be a combination of art and a fascination with engineering and just plain building things. One thing that I’m learning about Route 66 is that there is a definite creative element to it. It seems to attract a fair number of artists, and the large scale of the road invites large-scale art projects (see: Cadillac Ranch for the most famous example). Travelers are often invited to leave their own mark, whether it’s writing your name on a wall in a visitor’s center or painting something on one of those Cadillacs, or tying one of your shoes to the Shoe Tree outside of Stroud, Oklahoma. Some of it strikes me as installation art, with the participation of travelers welcomed and part of the art. I find this fascinating.
Just another aspect of Route 66 to add to its mystique!