I hadn’t taken a Route 66 specific road trip in quite a while. Sure, I followed a Military Vehicle Convoy in September…but that wasn’t really about the road itself. I did spend some time on Mother Road with Michael Wallis in June; but, that wasn’t directly specific to 66 either. I was having withdrawals!
I was happy to get up early on Saturday, get out of town, and spend some time on that familiar two-lane highway. The day’s journey would take me towards the center of the state, to Arcadia Oklahoma. Samantha was content to stay home and continue preparations for her booth at November’s Affair of the Heart show.
I left the house early enough that there was still a good selection of donuts left at Livi Lee’s at 31st and Harvard. They’ve been putting a LOT of work into the shop since they took it over a few months ago; I have been *SO PLEASED* with their progress. Decades ago, the site was known as Shaw’s Drive-In (Home of the Dixieburger!) but I’ve only ever known it as a donut shop. Some years back, a prior tenant tried to restore the sign but did a poor job. Today it’s bright, cheerful, and gorgeous! Neon is going on it soon, too — I can’t wait!
I enjoyed my coffee as I rolled on to Route 66, cruising west out of Tulsa. It’s amazing what it does to your mind when you cruise with intent. Even on stretches of road I could drive with my eyes closed, I’m alert & open to exploration. I could see a new mural, or an old building with a fresh purpose, or I could discover something that was there all along. The Wake Island Memorial in Bristow fits in that latter category. It’s the only national memorial in the United States dedicated to the island’s defenders in World War II and sits just a few blocks off of 66 at a VFW Post.
I was surprised at how large the display was: multiple decommissioned military vehicles, memorial plaques, granite monuments…even a bit of coral embedded in the sidewalk. Why Bristow? Well, according to the Tulsa World, the mayor attended a veterans reunion in Oklahoma City in the early 1970s. He met a group of veterans that wanted a memorial, and he just made it happen. It was dedicated in 1978, though it hasn’t been recognized as an official memorial. That means they have no federal funding for upkeep. It’s absolutely worth a visit, though, with lots of information and a beautiful setting next to a city park. I hope they are able to get nationally registered soon.
After passing through Stroud and Chandler, my stomach informed me that the single donut I had enjoyed for breakfast was no longer sufficient. Much to my excitement, the Butcher BBQ Stand stand near Wellston was open; I’d been wanting to try their food for a while. The setup was simple: you walked up to a window on a converted outbuilding, ordered, and ate at one of several picnic tables out front. As I stood in line (which was longer than I’d expected) I read an impressive list of awards and accomplishments for the food. When I took my first bite of pulled pork a few minutes later, I could see why. It was FANTASTIC! I’d also ordered burnt ends, smoked mac ‘n cheese, and a rib. It’s no hyperbole to say it’s the best barbecue I’ve had on Route 66; it’s in the Top 3 all-time best BBQ for me period. Maybe Top 2. I ate so much that I didn’t eat another morsel for the rest of the day.
I arrived at in Arcadia a few minutes after noon & pulled into Pops. Jim and Shellee had just released a new book, Secret Route 66: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure, and were holding a book signing. They’ve each written multiple books on various road-related topics over the years and I have enjoyed them all; it’s an honor to also call them my friends. I was pleased to see quite a crowd at the soda stop; Jim and Shelle were engaged with interested folks the whole time I was there. They sold quite a few books, too! Once the event wrapped up, a group of us grabbed a bite to eat (just a drink for me; I was still too full to even THINK about eating) and we visited awhile.
By the time I waved farewell and headed back towards Tulsa, the sky threatened rain. Thankfully, it held off long enough that I was able to take the Mustang down a dirt/gravel road in Lincoln County that I’d marked on my map.
On a dead-end road, a rare iron Kingpost truss bridge spans Eagle Creek. I only know of one other Kingpost in Oklahoma; their simple construction doesn’t allow them to be very long. I had the scenery to myself, save for a herd of curious cattle on the north side of the bridge. They seemed to wonder what in the world I was doing out there in the country, taking photos of a rusty old bridge. I’m sure if any locals had driven by, they’d wonder the same.
When I rejoined the paved highway, I planned to hop onto I-44 as soon as I could. However, I ended up staying on Route 66. It wasn’t a conscious decision, really…just out of habit I suppose. For my loyalty, I was treated to a beautiful rainbow in Stroud. In Biblical terms, the rainbow is a promise from God that He would never flood the Earth again. In social symbology, the rainbow represents freedom of self in the LGBTQ community. As I weaved through the Oklahoma countryside that beautiful Saturday afternoon, that celestial prism was the promise of the open road and the freedom that comes with slowing down.
It’s not driving to MAKE time, but to HAVE a good time. I sure did.