In late November, my friend Nic asked if I had been down to Oklahoma City to see the Railway Museum. I told him I hadn’t, and that was as good an excuse as any to get out of town. I had been stuck in a loop of book-related activity and really needed a break. The timing couldn’t have been better.
Once we left Tulsa city limits, I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. 2018 has had far fewer road trips than previous years for a variety of reasons and I think of the open road often. I was so thankful to have a day where it was just me, a friend, and my camera.
We took I-44 down to OKC to make sure we had plenty of time to explore. There are signs as you enter the city welcoming you to ‘America’s Corner‘. I have always found these signs a bit ridiculous. What kind of nickname is that? It doesn’t have much in the way of marketability. I guess I’m not the intended crowd. Anyway…
The Railway Museum is wonderful! They have several beautiful locomotives showcasing various eras of rail history along with a number of other interesting cars. There’s a caboose from the late 1800s, a passenger car that has a giant model railroad inside, and more. Nic is something of a railhound so we spent a good deal of time wandering the exhibits and exploring the tracks. The museum recently took possession of an old railway turntable, which I’d visited a few years ago when it was still in an active rail yard. In the coming years, the museum hopes to install it and provide demonstrations.
Just a few blocks away, the 45th Infantry Museum beckoned for us to explore some more. The grounds of the museum house an impressive collection of vintage military vehicles, from jeeps to tanks to helicopters to airplanes. The museum itself is in an old armory – and I was extremely impressed with the collection. In addition to the artifacts you’d expect to see (firearms, uniforms, and other accouterments from eras of American warfare) they have items taken from Hitler’s personal bunker and original artwork from illustrator Bill Maudlin. Even more vehicles are stored inside, too. Something I didn’t know: the 45th Infantry Division liberated Dachau. There’s a whole room dedicated to it at the museum. It’s a place I really need to re-visit with Samantha.
After our heavier-than-expected visit, it was time to grab a bite to eat. We dined at the nearby Geronimo’s Bakery, a no-frills restaurant known for their burgers. Nic and I sat and ate while the owner discussed the state of football with a long-time customer. It felt very much like the small-town diners I enjoy so much while exploring much smaller towns.
There were a few places I wanted to show Nic that he hadn’t visited before. First was the Milk Bottle Building, a classic Route 66 attraction on Classen Blvd. The little 350-square-foot building was once a grocery store, incredibly, but today appears to be empty. The giant milk bottle on top advertised local Townley Dairy for decades, but has advertised Braum’s since I’ve known it.
We also stopped at Skydance Bridge on the south side of downtown. I didn’t realize how much work was going on with city development right now; currently, the pedestrian crossing that spans I-40 is a bridge to nothing but fences, dirt, and construction equipment. Our visit there was short, as was our stop at the Centennial Land Run Monument. Since we still had plenty of daylight we decided to take old Route 66 home.
It was refreshing to be a Route 66 passenger for a change. I was able to talk about all kinds of local history as we headed east, stopping in a few of the towns for photos. My favorite stop was at the Ozark Trails obelisk outside of Stroud. Although the poor thing is totally covered in graffiti (as it has been for some time) it’s a reminder of a time long past, a time before Route 66 even. There are very few of the old trail markers left…only two in Oklahoma. It’s hard to imagine what long-form travel was like back then.
It was dark by the time we made it back to Tulsa, which is the way I like it. It was a day well-spent exploring places new and old. As I mentioned at the start of this post, this was from November – the last few weeks of my life have been entirely engulfed in Lost Restaurants of Tulsa book stuff. It’s been GOOD stuff, of course…news interviews, presentations, and lots of book signing events. I have a few more events before Christmas if you haven’t made it out to one yet! I have been humbled by the response so far.
December 18th: Mother Road Market (6 to 8 PM)
December 19th: Barnes and Noble on 71st (4 to 7 PM)
December 22nd: Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios (11 AM to 2 PM)
January 19th: Full Circle Books in OKC (3 to 5 PM)