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!
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.
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.
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.