Finally, a free day to travel! I’ve been antsy to turn some Oklahoma miles and yesterday I was able to get out of Tulsa for a few hours. I was able to visit a few more places I’d been wanting to see for some time, including a restaurant I’d tried to visit on several occasions but had always timed it so that they weren’t open. The weather couldn’t have been better, either! Sunny, mid-sixties…perfect for a little road trip.
Sam kissed me goodbye as she left for work and I was awake early. I ended up leaving the house at about 7:50 AM, which was good; I like leaving that early so that I have plenty of time to explore. I got rounded up & headed west on Highway 412. Once I was out of the city, the traffic thinned out and I had the highway to myself for the most part. It’s my favorite time to drive: early in the morning on a weekday. It’s very peaceful, especially in the small towns and back-country roads I tend to gravitate towards. My first destination was the town of Kingfisher, on the other side of Stillwater, so my initial drive was about two hours.
On the way, I stopped at a historical marker near Hennessee. It was placed to honor the town of Sheridan, which dated back to the Land Run in 1889. The town is completely gone now, the only evidence that it ever existed being this marker on a lonely rural road and a cemetery beyond it. Granted, the only reason it caught my attention in the first place is because my main World of Warcraft character was named Sheridan as an homage to one of my favorite television shows, Babylon 5…but whatever it takes, right? The cows on the opposite side of the road didn’t seem to mind my company for a few minutes.
I didn’t know much about Kingfisher, other than it was the site of the first TG&Y Store. Growing up, TG&Y was the alternative to Wal-Mart. As a kid, I always thought the acronym stood for Toys, Games, and Yo-Yos but it actually stands for the names of the partners that expanded the store chain from simple Oklahoma roots to over 900 locations nationwide. Kingfisher also sits on the Chisolm Trail, known as a primary avenue for Texas cattle ranchers to get their herds to Kansas for sale back in the frontier days. Today, the town serves as a community for commuters to Oklahoma City and Enid, but they obviously take a lot of pride in their heritage as the Buckle of the Wheat Belt. There are numerous local historical markers on their Main Street and a healthy amount of local businesses operating. There are numerous murals throughout downtown, a statue on the south end depicting Jesse Chisolm on horseback, and numerous signs calling for a rejection of wind-power turbines, which are plentiful to the south. I also didn’t know that Kingfisher was a town that vied for the title of Capital City back in the day, either; there’s a REALLY COOL mansion built by Oklahoma’s second territorial governor that I drove by on my way out. I look forward to returning to Kingfisher so I can tour their museum.
Heading south on Highway 81, I came to El Reno. I’ve been to El Reno several times, as it sits on Route 66, but every time I’ve been Sid’s Diner has been closed. I seem to find myself nearby when it’s Sunday or the owner is out of town on vacation or something; thankfully, I finally timed it right. I pulled up in front of the little restaurant at about 11:30 AM, joining an already sizable lunch crowd. As soon as I walked in, I knew I would love it.
They have a little lunch counter in front of their grill; the walls are FULL of old photographs and Route 66 memorabilia. I sat right up front and my waitress asked me if I needed a menu; another good sign, as a lot of folks obviously don’t. It was my first time, however, so I took one. Their specialty is a burger topped with grilled onions, and although I’m not overly fond of onion that’s what I ordered. When I ordered fries with it, the lady looked at me for a second, thought, and said, “How about a quarter fry?” I considered this. “Are your orders of fries abnormally large?” I asked. She smiled. “I think a quarter will do you just fine.” I agreed. As I sat and observed, the owner himself manned the grill in front of me and chat with customers. Everyone around me was on a first-name basis. I’m very happy to report the food was DELICIOUS! The onions were grilled perfectly. I can see why they are so popular and will definitely return.
At this point, it was about time to start heading back to Tulsa (as Sam and I were going Christmas tree shopping later.) I started driving that direction, but took an opportunity to stop at a few places in Oklahoma City to take some more photos. One of my stops was at the closed Owl Court building in what used to be Britton, OK. It sits on an old alignment of Route 66, now a part of the city of Edmond and the greater Oklahoma City metropolitan area. Back in the day, though, this was also a motel and later a diner. It’s been through a lot of changes over the years, but today sits quietly on a street with no Route 66 markings at all. All that’s left is the main giraffe-stone office and a side building that was once used to sell seed & feed. An old, rusted gas pump sits out front and a great rusted Coca-Cola sign adorns the side of the building. It’s one of those places that I’m sure hundreds of people pass every day and don’t give it a second thought…but for a traveler and Route 66 enthusiast like me it was a treasure. I’m glad that it hasn’t completely fallen apart, though who knows much longer it’ll last.
On the way home, I drove past a stone building near Harrah that caught my attention. I can’t tell what it once was, but I could make out multiple doorways and the roof had an interesting stone pattern. Perhaps it was a series of shops? It could’ve only ever been used for local farm storage. It was clearly made with a lot of attention. I couldn’t get very close to it due to it sitting on fenced property, but I got close enough that I could appreciate the details with my zoom lens.
As promised, once I returned home it was time to buy a Christmas tree. I have only had a real tree once before, about a decade ago, and it wasn’t a great experience. Samantha grew up in Upstate NY and always had a real tree; she was beside herself with excitement. On our way to the tree farm, we stopped to see the Blue Whale in Catoosa. He’s looking fine all lit up for the holiday; stop and see him if you’re in the area at dusk!