A Buzzing in the Air

Last weekend was the first (hopefully annual) NeonFest in Arcadia, Oklahoma.  Several of my roadie friends decided to put on a small festival dedicated to the iconic roadside signage that has lined the Mother Road for decades.  People were coming from all over the US to check it out!

Arcadia is a town of ~250 and is one of Oklahoma most well-known Route 66 communities.  The iconic Round Barn has been around since the late 1800s and is one of only two such circular structures in the state.  From the barn, you can look southwest and see a giant 66-ft tall soda bottle standing beside the highway.  That’s Pops, a gas station + tourist attraction that boasts an exceptional variety of bottled soda pop + obscure beverages.  It’s only been around since 2007 but attracts curious visitors from all over the world, even those that have no interest in Route 66 otherwise.  However, the centerpiece of NeonFest sits in the shadow of the barn.



In 2016, the Richardson Building was restored and opened as a neon shop called Glassboy Studios.  It’s a labor of love for proprietor Joel Rayburn and I was super proud to see his hard work pay off in the form of a nationwide pilgrimage.  Not only that, but renowned neon artist David Rivers would be on-site bending glass and helping Joel show folks the neon process.  Although the festivities started on Friday, I wasn’t able to join until the next day.  I missed quite the event — that first night, Michael Wallis performed a surprise wedding!  The day of torrential rain couldn’t dampen anyone spirits in the buzzing glow of that Neon Garden.

I woke early on Saturday and headed southwest.  As I stood on the shoulder of 66 with my camera (there’s always something to capture, no matter how many times I drive that old road) a familiar car approached.  Ron Jones and his stunning 1956 Chevrolet sped by; I hopped in my car and sped to catch up.  I entered Arcadia city limits with the Tattoo Man leading me; when we pulled up to Glassboy Studios together, we joined the dozen or so roadies that had started their day even earlier.

NeonFest 2017-97

Roadie gatherings are always strong in camaraderie.  As I mentioned in my previous post, everyone has at LEAST one thing in common:  love of the open road.  From that genesis, there are a great many passions…many of which compliment one another.  I love learning from passionate sources, and NeonFest was no different.  I greeted old friends & met new folks, some of which already knew my work.  “I know you from the Internet!” is a phrase I don’t think I’ll ever get used to.  Though it had been many months since we’d all been together, it was like no time had passed.

NeonFest 2017-22

One of the ‘new’ people I met was Alison Lamons.  I’d become aware of Alison’s amazing artwork over the last year or so and was stunned she’d made the trip up from Florida to take part in the festivities.  Her work is really special and if you check that link out you’ll see why this festival was a perfect fit.  In fact, she brought a piece with her to showcase…which I’ll get to in a little bit.

As lunchtime approached, the gathering switched gears.  We hopped in our cars and drove two miles east to John Hargrove’s ‘OK County 66’.  I guess you could call the place a roadside attraction, but it’s more than that.

NeonFest 2017-84

Over the years, John has transformed his property into a micro-chasm of the Mother Road experience.  The land is dotted with multiple replicas of well-known Route 66 imagery, such as the Blue Whale, the Twin Arrows, and even a half-buried Volkswagen Bug.  His workshop continues the theme; half of it is dedicated to his work on vintage automobiles and the other half contains a smattering of familiar sights.  He even has a movie theater room mocked up like an old drive-in.  That theater was the focus of our next few hours.

NeonFest 2017-65

Several films were shown throughout the afternoon, including the debut of KC Keefer’s newest entry in his Unoccupied Route 66 docu-series:  The California Promise.  KC’s stuff is always high quality and, as you might expect, his presentation was well received.  I wandered the grounds and visited with my many friends during the films I’d seen before, ducking in occasionally to catch a short documentary on neon or some of Roamin Rich’s aerial photography.  It was a wonderful afternoon; if you’re ever down near Arcadia and John Hargrove’s gate is open, wander on in.  You’ll be glad you did.

(In fact, throughout the day multiple travelers stop by Glassboy Studios or OK County 66, wondering what the heck was going on.  I even met two ladies from Borger, TX that had just been in Pawhuska to visit Ree Drummond’s Mercantile…small world!)

NeonFest 2017-125

At dinner time, our group took over a restaurant in nearby Edmond.  We returned to Arcadia afterwards for campfire entertainment at Jim Ross’ house.  It was the site of the previous night’s surprise union; tonight it would host an Elvis impersonator (complete with pink Cadillac) and a good deal of libations.  Alison brought an amazing piece of art inspired by Native American culture and the Greek mythology that Arcadia gets its name from.  I stood amazed as she explained the nuance and detail of her work.  I truly had no idea it was so layered.

NeonFest 2017-106

I wasn’t staying the night in a nearby hotel, so my night ended earlier than most.  As the sun dipped below the horizon, I bid farewell to my friends and headed back to Tulsa.  Though I know not when I will cross paths with them again, I know we’ll pick up where we left off, as is tradition.  Full photos of the event are here!

NeonFest 2017-123

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Okie Blue

When people think of Oklahoma, it’s not often their first mental image conjures up a lot of blue.  Perhaps the golden tones of the waving wheat, the orange or crimson of our primary college sports teams…or perhaps the emerald tones of the farmland in our northeast corner (locally known as ‘Green Country’).  However, we do have a bit of blue around here:  our flag, the summer skies, the OKC Thunder.  The famous Blue Whale wades next to Route 66 in Catoosa.  Tulsa itself has a little bit of blue, too…and thanks to Route 66 it had a little boost in early April.


When my friend Blue Miller cruised into town as a newlywed on an epic Mother Road journey, she reached out to see if I could meet up.  Samantha and I definitely could, and on the morning of April 9th we sat down together at 918 Coffee, a little shop right on the route.  I’ve been a fan of Blue’s photography (and spirit!) via Facebook for a long time, but this was the first time we’d met in person.  We also had the pleasure of meeting her husband Simon, who goes by ‘Ratty’.  We hit it off immediately.

Blue & Ratty got married out west just days earlier.  For their honeymoon, they hit the road in Mabel, their newly-restored 1946 Chevrolet pickup (under the hood that is – the exterior was still delightfully patina’d.) Their plan was to take Route 66 all the way from California to Chicago.  After that, a bend east to New York; once their beloved truck had seen both oceans from the American shore, they would ship it across the pond to their home country of England.  It was quite the epic journey!

Blue Dome Blue-2

The four of us sat inside the coffee shop, itself born out of an old garage, and talked about the road.  I love the way conversation flows with fellow roadies; although there is a baseline understanding and love of the Great American Roadtrip, the variations of that love go in a hundred different directions.  Blue loved photography, Ratty loved his truck, and I was able to share my love of local history.   They were both having the times of their lives seeing the country from that Truman-era cab.  Once we were sufficiently caffeinated, they asked what I’d picked out for our Tulsa landmark visit.  The Blue Dome was a no-brainer.

Blue Dome Blue

The little Turkish-inspired dome sits at 2nd and Elgin downtown, right on the original alignment of Route 66.  It was built in 1925, but hasn’t served gasoline in decades. Instead, it acts as the hub for a hopping entertainment district as well as a huge arts festival every May.  The unique architecture of the dome also provides a lovely foreground to my favorite view of our city skyline; add in a vintage automobile and you’ve got a party.  The happy couple eagerly followed us downtown.  Once the truck was parked, I buzzed around and took photos while Blue & Samantha chirped happily about a variety of topics.  Ratty was quickly drawn into conversation with gawking pedestrians, all of whom were enraptured by the truck.

Blue Dome Blue-3

After a bit, Ratty came up to me.  “We’ve gotta get goin’ up the road, mate,” he said apologetically.  “But, uh, perhaps you’d like a little spin ’round the block first?”  I’m not sure exactly what expression came over my face, but everyone’s reaction told me that it was rather expressive.  Moments later, I was sitting in the passenger seat with my arm out the window, cruising through downtown Tulsa.  We only went a few blocks, but it felt like we were turning miles on some old two-lane in the country.  My big dumb grin was immovable.  At the last stoplight, Ratty gunned the engine; Mabel’s tires barked and she lurched forward with surprising power. I was literally taken aback as Ratty chuckled from behind the wheel.  He was a proud papa.


Alas, their short visit came to an end.  They had a long way to go on their journey to Carthage, MO for the night.  We hugged goodbye, no longer internet buddies; we were Friends for Life.  It felt wonderful to share a part of my city with these two travelers; makes me wish I could do that kind of thing full-time.

Blue Meadow

Bonus Footage:

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Sooner State Show-Off

I love getting to experience my city for new visitors.  I also really enjoy showing people what’s so special about Route 66.  Today, I was able to do both AND showcase some of Oklahoma’s unique landscape for my friend Rose.

Rhys and Rose

DragonCon 2014

I met Rose in 2010 when I attended my first DragonCon.  If you’ve never heard of that, it’s one of the largest fan conventions in the country; 75000+ geeks and nerds descend on downtown Atlanta over Labor Day weekend and have a blast.  I’ve met up with Rose every year since and she has become a great friend.  A few weeks ago, she discovered she would have a long layover in Tulsa, thus visiting ME for a change. I jumped at the chance to show her around.

Early this morning, I picked her up & we went to breakfast at the Atlas Grill downtown to talk about our options.  I floated a few ideas and I saw her eyes light up when I mentioned the possibility of seeing bison; it became an easy decision.  Before we headed out of town, though, we had a few stops to make.


I gave a brief driving tour of downtown Tulsa, talking about our Oil Capital history and the architecture she was ogling from the car window.  We drove by the Cain’s Ballroom and the Woody Guthrie Center, which allowed me to talk a little about our musical heritage.  We stopped at a seemingly insignificant sidewalk and I lead her up a bridge…to the Center of the Universe.  She marveled at the secret echo chamber hidden in the middle of the city.  We left downtown and visited the Golden Driller, too.  He’s the most famous landmark in the state, after all!

Satisfied with a few T-Town landmarks, we headed north.  I shared family stories and my personal history with our journey as we weaved through Osage County, through the home towns of both of my parents.  After we passed through Pawhuska, the road turned from asphalt to gravel.  The trees slowly disappeared and the sky opened up.  We crossed a double-sized cattle guard and found ourselves on the largest tract of remaining tallgrass prairie in the world.


The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve spans 45,000 acres.  It feels massive, but it’s roughly 4% of what once stretched from Canada to Texas.  It’s the most endangered ecosystem in the world.  Today, the preserve is home to over 2,000 bison.  Though I was worried we might not see many animals, my fears were unfounded.  A small group of bison greeted us near the entrance and when we reached the middle of the preserve we encountered a herd of 100+ grazing near the gravel lane.  It was stunning to be in that landscape and witness one of North America’s mightiest creatures.  Rose was so excited! The Nature Conservancy was also performing a controlled burn in the distance, which made for an interesting backdrop.


After stopping at the visitor’s center (many thanks to docent Shelby for the great information on the Preserve and the wildlife!) we looped around the southern half of the preserve and returned to Pawhuska.  We stopped for coffee at the Pioneer Woman Mercantile, Ree Drummond’s shop/restaurant that has become a sensation.  I wrote about the first time I visited the Merc here.  Even on a mid-week afternoon, the line to eat stretched down the block.  Thankfully, the line for coffee was much shorter and the second floor had plenty of seating so we could enjoy our brief visit.


When we headed back to Tulsa, I realized we had time to make a significant detour and still arrive in time to pick Samantha up from work.  We diverted through Claremore and drove Old Route 66 for a few miles; I talked to Rose about Will Rogers and the Okie contribution to Mother Road history before arriving at one of the road’s most famous attractions, the Blue Whale.  I didn’t know how she’d react considering we had just come from a bonafide nature conservation area, but she adored Blue and his charming brand of kitsch.  She even climbed up into his top section!

We returned to Tulsa right as Samantha was off work.  We ate dinner together at McNellie’s & had dessert at Braum’s, each providing a bit of literal local flavor to the day.  The whole trip was tremendously enjoyable; although we only had a day together, I felt that I had given an excellent crash course in local sightseeing AND spent a ton of quality time with my friend.  I hope she can return soon so we can explore a bit more…I love getting to show off my home state!

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A Much-Needed Escape

The last few weeks have been hectic in the Martin household.  In fact, the Martin household no longer includes a house!  We listed our home for sale in early March…and it sold in five hours.  We found a house we want to move into, but, the schedule just didn’t work out.  We’ve been spending nearly every waking moment getting things ready to go.  On Friday, we moved our stuff into storage and took up temporary residence at my Mom’s place in Broken Arrow.  During the move, my buddy Nic asked if I wanted to take a little road trip the next day.  As sore & tired as I knew I’d be from moving, I accepted without hesitation.


Our first stop of the day was in the community of Maramec, Oklahoma.  The town was founded shortly after the Land Run in the late 1890s.  It peaked at nearly 375 residents in 1930 and has been in slow decline ever since.  There are still a few buildings left in their downtown district, though they are all closed up and in various stages of decay.  As we wandered the street, a woman walked by and lamented the fact that the old bank had been torn down in recent years.  The remaining brick and stone structures were indifferent to our presence; it’s hard to imagine the place being the center of any activity.


From there, we drove northeast to Hominy.  Their downtown district has a number of great Native American-themed murals; additionally, some of the walls have been augmented by local graffiti artists.  Nic is quite the railway enthusiast and I really enjoyed walking around the old depot with him.  We were taking photos of the old Indianola Oil Company station when an old pickup pulled up.  The driver said howdy, identified himself as Bill Walls, and asked us how we liked his building.  He bought the place back in 1965 and at one time had a service station, garage, and car lot all on the property at the same time.  “That sure was a long time ago,” he said with a small smile, no doubt remembering it like yesterday.  We waved goodbye and hit the road…but we didn’t go far before stopping again.


On the east side of town, we pulled up to an unusually Modern-style building.  It had clearly been abandoned for a long time; although we could easily see through the broken windows, there was nothing to indicate what purpose this structure originally served.  It was certainly a unique sight in small-town Oklahoma.


On our way to an old truss bridge across the Arkansas River, we drove through Ralston.  Nic noticed that the front door of the old Opera House was open, so we stopped on the off-chance that we could score access to the interior.  As luck would have it, people were inside doing cleanup work…including the owner!  He was more than happy to give us the dime tour.  The site had been shuttered for many years; the lower level had been used as an antique store most recently but the top level was where our interest was.  The second floor held a partially-restored community theater.  It was built in the early 1900s and must’ve been quite the attraction back in the day.  In fact, the walls of the street-facing staircase are etched with dozens of names from decades of theater goers.  The gallery held over 200 seats and the stage still boasted an old advertising screen that had been protected from the elements.  A lot of work has to be done to get it in working order & there is an ongoing GoFundMe to help with restoration efforts; you can find that here.


Just west of town, one of the longest truss bridges in the state spans the Arkansas River.  I’d been to the site before, but it was Nic’s first visit…and he loved it.  He pointed out an area under the first truss where someone had carved their name in concrete back in 1965!  It’s an inspiration to share in the excitement of others and to see what they glean from these historic sites.  The Belford Bridge, as it’s known locally, left quite an impression on Nic.  He said it was perhaps the most amazing old bridge he’d ever seen.


By the time we wrapped up at the bridge, it was past lunch time.  We took the short drive to Pawnee and dined at Click’s, a steakhouse that has been in operation since 1962.  Their longevity is not a mistake. I enjoyed one of the best ribeye steaks I’ve ever eaten in a delightfully rustic setting before returning to the sunshine to wander the town square.  Pawnee has had some earthquake damage recently, but happily most of the historic structures looked the same as I remembered them from my last visit.


Nic took us down to the old freight depot on the outskirts of downtown where we walked the overgrown tracks, looking for date nails in the old ties and admiring a few of the old rail cars that had clearly been parked for a long time.  Nic actively seeks out monikers scratched on rail cars from fellow enthusiasts across the country; the oldest one we found in our search was from 1995…which I didn’t think was that old, but, that’s over 20 years now.  Eesh.


The road back to Tulsa took us through two more ghost towns; Skedee & Blackburn.  Skedee’s defining feature is a statue in the old town square dedicated to a ‘Bond of Friendship’ pact with Osage Chief Bacon Rind.  Yep, you read that right.  It’s a fun sculpture.  I noticed a group of folks gathered nearby and walked over to say hello; turns out they were doing the same thing we were!  They were from the Tulsa area and seeking out abandoned & rural sites to photograph.  I happily recommended a few places, including the murals in Hominy, before we parted ways.  They were all super nice and eager to learn about the area; we formed our own bond of friendship in those few minutes in an empty town.

On the way to Blackburn, we stopped at a bypassed bridge and very nearly stepped on a big black snake; he was almost six feet long!  I’m super glad Nic saw the reptile when he did; a snakebite would’ve been a terrible way to end the day.  We didn’t dally in Blackburn long, and soon we were on the road home.  It was a great day full of sights both new and familiar.  It was a real recharge of the batteries for me; soon, we should be in our new home and I can plan my next trip!

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Lost Tulsa Restaurants – Help Needed

I need your help!

I am currently researching information for a book about Tulsa’s Lost Restaurants.  Although I can’t capture them all, my goal is to put something together that shows the history of the city through the diners & favorite hangouts that have come and gone.

I need YOU!  These places come alive with your stories, memories, and photographs.  Please e-mail me at losttulsarestaurants@cloudlesslens.com with any stories or photos that will help others step back in time. The photos can be interior or exterior, just as long as it’s yours.

Here is a list of the specific restaurants I already know I’d like to feature:

  • Pennington’s Drive-In (4235 S. Peoria Ave.)
  • Metro Diner (3001 E 11th St)
  • Blue Dome Diner (313 E 2nd St)
  • Bishops (15 e 3rd st) (10th and Boston)
  • McCollums (5717 E 11th St)
  • Boots Drive-In (17th and Sheridan, east side of street)
  • Golden Drumstick (4903 E. 11th St.)
  • The Middle Path Café (formerly Golden Drumstick)
  • East Side Cafe (3021 E Admiral Place)
  • Ma Bell’s (Admiral, also on Yale across from LaFortune)
  • Borden’s Good Food (Multiple Locations)
  • The Chuck Wagon (11th Street)
  • Avalon Steakhouse (6205 New Sapulpa Road)
  • Eddy’s Steakhouse (31st and Harvard)
  • Razor Clam (Memorial, maybe around 31st?)
  • Argentina Steak House
  • St. Michael’s Alley (31st and Harvard)
  • My Pi Pizza (5936 S Lewis)
  • Shotgun Sam’s
  • Casa Bonita (21st and Sheridan)
  • Shakey’s Pizza (3647 S Peoria)
  • Italian Inn 1604 S. Main (also London Square)
  • Pagoda (across from Camelot)
  • Ming Palace (Across from Big Splash, Mayo Meadow)
  • Impressions (15th and Lewis)
  • Molly Murphy’s
  • Crystal’s Pizza

If there are sites within city limits that I missed & they hold a special place in your heart, send that information along too!  I’ll include as many as I can.

You can also fill out a survey HERE that helps me collect information.

Thank you SO MUCH!  This is Tulsa’s story and it will only be richer with your stories.  I can’t wait to get this together and share it with the world.

Send information to: losttulsarestaurants@cloudlesslens.com 

Posted in Oklahoma, Tulsa, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

A Look Back in Southeast Kansas

Back in October of 2014, I took a little roadtrip into southeast Kansas.  I had never visited the town where my father was born and it sounded like as good a destination as any.  I was reminiscing a bit tonight and noticed I never shared the experience here.  My writing was a lot different back in 2014.  So, please join me on this trip down Memory Lane…

It was a Monday; Samantha and I had the day off.  The skies were cloudy, but the forecast gave the false promise of latter-day sunshine.  Although Winfield KS was the reason for the road trip it wasn’t the final destination of the day; by the time we hit the road, it was but one of a series of the stops on my map.  Our first stop was just outside of the community of Cedar Vale.


Kansas has several Marsh Arch style bridges, most famously the Brush Creek bridge on Route 66 in the far southeast corner of the state.  I wanted to see more of these beautiful concrete constructions, and old Highway 166 east of Cedar Vale is home to a wonderful double-arch bridge.  It was built in 1930 and is still in use today, probably thanks to being on the old alignment and not subject to heavy truck traffic.


Onward to Winfield.  Although Dad was born in the town, he didn’t grow up there.  Pawhuska, Oklahoma is absolutely his home town.  However, it’s interesting to think about the series of events that lead from him first drawing breath in the Sunflower State and eventually meeting my mother in the Sooner State.  I didn’t know if the historic hospital still stood (I didn’t see it anywhere) but I took some time to walk around downtown.  They had some nice frontier architecture and a few neon signs that captured my attention.  All in all, though, I didn’t stay in Winfield long before hitting the road again.


Heading east, I drove through a series of small towns.  I was amused by the town of Burden (what fun I would have as their head of tourism!) and marveled at the cornstalks lining the two-lane blacktop.  I diverted a few times to slowly coast through faded business districts.  Many buildings were abandoned; those that weren’t were in dire need of structural attention.  I was happy to see that an old garage in Grenola still had lettering stenciled on the brick, though it looked like it’d been empty for a great while.


As we weaved through Moline, a discovery begged closer inspection.  Only 371 souls call Moline home, but this unassuming town is also home to the oldest Swinging Bridge in the state.  The pedestrian crossing seemed to be well-maintained, so I ventured across without fear.  Samantha giggled nervously and held her arms out to each side as she crossed…just in case.  Hard to believe it had been standing for 110 years.  Well, the main supports anyway.  The rest of it looked relatively new.  The construction reminded me a lot of the WPA architecture that started springing up during the Great Depression.

Elk Falls-2

Eight miles east, we stopped in another town.  Elk Falls bills itself inexplicably as the “World’s Largest Living Ghost Town” and also contains a historic bridge.  The iron truss over the Elk River was built in 1893 and is open to pedestrians.  It overlooks the titular falls and is quite a serene place, though a sign on the east end warns visitors not to discharge firearms within 300 feet.  The water below wasn’t very active, but the leaves were a beautiful mix of green and yellow that signaled autumn’s arrival.

Old 160

The afternoon was beginning to stretch late, so we picked up the pace and headed straight to Independence afterwards.  I’d driven through town dozens of times in 2000-2001 on my journeys from Topeka to Tulsa, but I’d never stopped to appreciate it.  In addition to a great collection of buildings downtown, they had another Marsh Arch Bridge – four spans – on an old highway alignment just east of town.  I was pleased as punch!


From Independence, we veered south towards home.  On those many drives I mentioned earlier, I had also never taken heed of the signs pointing the way to the Little House on the Prairie.  This time, however, I took the detour.  Samantha’s best friend Tiffany loves Laura Ingalls Wilder and I figured if there were markers along the highway it had to be somewhat significant.  Indeed, a few miles off the main highway, a small homestead sits.  The Ingalls family lived there for about a year in 1869 before returning to Wisconsin; even though Laura was only three years old at the time, she based Little House on the Kansas memories of her elders.  Among several buildings, there’s a small cabin on-site as a recreation based on the book description.  It’s a fun stop and home to a festival every summer.


It was a lovely day full of interesting sights to see.  In 2017, I look back and want to take the same trip again to see these places with new eyes. It’s amazing how much my photography has changed in such a short time; there’s so much I didn’t appreciate.  But, I suppose you can say that with many things in life.  Looking back is a great way to ignite a spark for forward movement.

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The Poplar Vote

Friday morning, I woke early.  5:00 AM early, in fact. I had a decision to make.  Should I drive straight home, or should I map a full day of driving? I had a few locations saved that I could detour to see, including a theatre in Poplar Bluff that’s been on my list for YEARS.

It would double my drive-time, but I told myself if I got up early enough it should be fine.  Since I awoke with no problems before the sun came up, I opted to divert through Poplar Bluff. I checked out of my hotel in Columbia with a quickness and headed east.

It was peaceful watching the sun rise as I cruised along I-70; the clouds were thin and the light was beautiful.  It was less peaceful as I approached the St. Louis metro area as rush ramped up. I skirted the edge of the Gateway City, though I did hop on classic Route 66 for a short time to see a neon sign. Spencer’s Grill in Kirkwood opened in 1947 and claims to have the oldest working clock in a neon sign west of the Mississippi.  My aggressive timetable didn’t allow for me to stop and enjoy breakfast, sadly, but I was happy to see the sign lit up for myself.  I’ll have to come back when I’m hungry!


From the St. Louis area, I headed south.  I passed through a few small communities, avoiding detours until near the town of Bonne Terre.  In the rural farmland of eastern Missouri I came across a beautiful sight:  a stone arch bridge.  Not just one arch, either:  this was the Seven Stone Archway Bridge over the Terre Bleue Creek.  It was built in 1932, pre-dating the large amount of stonework built by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression.  It’s in great shape and I had the area to myself as I admired the craftsmanship of this unique bridge.


I made another quick stop when I saw a neon sign out of the corner of my eye in the small community of Cherokee Pass.  Although it was closed for the season, the Dog N Suds Drive-In looked beautifully well cared for.  Turns out it was restored a few years ago; it’s the last Missouri location of an old chain from the 1950s.  It’s a shame it was closed; I’d love to have sampled their food.


Finally, around 10:30, I arrived in Poplar Bluff.  I stopped near the Black River to capture a few shots of an abandoned Frisco railway bridge.  It’s a skewed truss, which I love.  Evidently it’s been abandoned since the late 1960s.


The Rodgers Theater, though, was the whole reason I took such a drastic diversion through the state.  The theater dates back to 1949 and hailed as the best between St. Louis and Memphis.  A friend of mine that grew up in Poplar Bluff mentioned that he’d seen all three Star Wars movies at that theater when they were first released.  Today, it’s still open and hosts live performances along with community events.  The exterior is a little worn, but, it’s still a gorgeous cinema front.


I left Poplar Bluff rather quickly, as I had a long way to go.  I stopped for gas in the town of Doniphan, which was an adventure in old-school manual gas pump operation.  The road west, Highway 142, turned into quite a ride.  It’s just north of the Arkansas border and I don’t know if it qualifies are part of the Ozarks but it was exhilarating.  At one point, a new silver Mustang came up behind me and we zipped down the curvy hill roads together, like two wild horses.  I was a little sad when they veered off down another rural road.


The reason I’d taken that particular highway west was to see yet another truss bridge, this one in Thayer.  It’s a single-truss span w/ a pedestrian walkway on the side.  I actually didn’t even get out of the car, which sounds crazy in retrospect after that drive…but I was starting to get tired.  I had been driving for seven hours, almost straight, and I still had four to go before I could rest.  And that’s not counting the hours of driving I’d already undertaken earlier in the week!  So I diverted north to take the quickest route home.


I resisted the urge to divert through small towns and explore for most of the rest of the way home.  I wanted to get home by dinner time; I missed Samantha something fierce.  The only exception occurred as I got close to Springfield.  I was driving past the town of Fordland, which I thought sounded like a one-note automobile theme park, when I saw a row of rusted relics along the side of the highway.  I pulled a u-turn and took a few minutes to capture them.  The little junk store they sat in front of was closed, thankfully, or I’d have been tempted to scour the inside.



I arrived home a bit after 5:00 PM, just a few minutes before Sam got home from work.  Over the course of the last few days, I’d driven 1401 miles.  The Mustang did very well, not a single problem out of it for the entire drive.  It’s getting close to 160k miles and I worry in the back of my head that one day it’s just gonna give up.  But that was not this day.  It drives on, taking those winding roads with gusto.


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