On May 31st, my friend Nick came to town. He wasn’t coming through to geek out over neon signs like he did last time he entered Tulsa City Limits; he was part of a group of people experiencing Route 66 from a bicycle seat!
Twenty-six travelers set out from Amarillo, Texas several days prior on their way to Chicago. Over seventeen days, they would cover just over 1,200 miles! My legs feel tired just thinking about it. Although I was working when they rolled through, I timed my lunch hour so that I could take a few pictures and wave as they crossed under the Route 66 Gateway in West Tulsa and cruise the edge of downtown. On that day, the group rode all the way from Bristow to Claremore.
Later in the day, I joined them in the town that Will Rogers claimed as his hometown (Oologah was too tough to spell, according to Oklahoma’s famous son). I drove, of course, to meet up with Nick and his wife for dinner. We dined at the historic Hammett House restaurant next door to the Will Rogers Memorial. Although I only became aware of it recently, this classic establishment has been around since 1969. Although it doesn’t sit on Route 66 proper, it fits the mold: good home cooking and friendly service. They are arguably most famous for their pie selection, and after enjoying a slice of chocolate creme pie I can agree their notoriety is entirely valid.
I wasn’t just visiting to catch up with my friend and enjoy a delicious meal, however; I had also been asked to present my Allure of Route 66 Presentation to the cyclists! We gathered in a banquet room near their motel and I spent more than an hour showing my photography and talking about the history of the places I’d seen along the Mother Road. They asked a ton of great questions and their interest was invigorating. The tour director was a man named Lon Haldeman, who I learned was a world-class ultramarathon cyclist. He won the inaugural Race Across America which stretches from LA to NYC! He, likewise, was very engaged and kind. I really enjoyed getting to share my love of the Route with so many like-minded people.
And now for an announcement!
Next week, I am over-the-moon excited to be taking a road trip through parts of Missouri and Illinois. It’s not just the mileage, though…it’s the camaraderie. I’ll be joining author and historian Michael Wallis for several events celebrating the release of his new book, The Best Land Under Heaven: The Donner Party in the Age of Manifest Destiny. Michael is a master storyteller and I am honored to tag along. Here’s where we’ll be:
- Tues, June 6 @ 2pm: Schweitzer Brentwood Branch Library in Springfield, MO
- Wed, June 7 @ 6:30pm: Plaza Branch Public Library in Kansas City, MO
- Mon, June 12 @ 7pm: Left Bank Books in St Louis, MO
- Tue, June 13: several events in Springfield, IL including a news conference at the Donner Party departure plaque and a 6pm event at the Wyndham Springfield City Centre
We may have some more events pop-up as time gets closer. In any event, I am taking my camera and will be documenting our journey through the Ozarks and into the Land of Lincoln. I am stoked!