A New Chapter on 66

Last October, the President of the Oklahoma Route 66 Association announced he would not be seeking re-election in 2019 due to an imminent move to Texas. As the meeting adjourned that day, one of the members of the association came up to me and proudly said they’d already nominated me for the position.

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Chandler, Oklahoma

I thought long and hard about it. Brad Nickson had served the association well for six years and I already had a lot on my plate. I didn’t want to potentially serve in the role and not give it the attention it deserves. When the association met on Sunday, January 27th, I decided to go for it…and after a vote, I was elected President of the Oklahoma Route 66 Association. I am excited to see what the future holds, and this has also given me the opportunity to look back and examine the journey that has brought me to this moment.

Compared to most everyone else I know in the greater Route 66 community, I am a newcomer to the fold. I’d been on and around Route 66 most of my life (having lived in Claremore and Tulsa) but I’d never really paid attention to it. I took my first “66 specific” road trip on July 5th, 2013. I drove from Tulsa to Miami, OK to see the beautifully restored Coleman Theatre.

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The moment I had finally traveled Route 66 end-to-end; Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis

Soon after, I explored 66 from Tulsa to Oklahoma City. In 2014, I ventured into southwest Missouri and as far west as Albuquerque, New Mexico. In 2015 I finally drove the rest of the route through California, Arizona, and Illinois.

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I knew none of these people when I took this photo in 2015; many are now friends

Along the way I met so many wonderful people that I now consider friends. The first “roadie” I met was Dean Kennedy, who gave me a lift from the Munger Moss Motel in Lebanon, MO to the 2015 Gasconade Bridge Rally. I met authors like Jim Hinckley and Michael Wallis. I met passionate collectors like Steve Rider, Mike Ward, and Joe Sonderman. I met fellow photographers like Judy Walker and Jax Wellborn. I visited with business owners like Laurel Kane, who would later officiate my wedding, and Croc Lile. I became connected to a great family.

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Lebanon, Missouri at sunrise

In January of 2017, Brad Nickson asked if I would like to be the Tulsa County Rep for the Oklahoma Route 66 Association. By then I was serving on the Tulsa Route 66 Commission and helping occasionally with the Tulsa-based Route 66 Alliance. I said yes and time sped up beyond my comprehension. How is it 2019 already?

With these roles and the launch of my book last year, I have had much less time to spend on the road. There have been times when my camera has stayed in its bag for weeks at a time, only coming out for a specific local purpose. I don’t expect that to change drastically this year, but I do already have a few trips lined up that I am really looking forward to.

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Lunch at the Tumbleweed Grill in Texola, OK

Looking back, I can see how I got here even if I can’t quite reconcile how quick it was. I am honored to be a part of the Route 66 revival happening across the country and proud of the work we’ve done in Tulsa. All of the friends I’ve made on 66 helped get me to where I am today and I am so grateful for them.

Most of all, I am eager to find ways to help others join this community, whether they’re on a one-time bucket-list trip down the Main Street of America or if they’re like I was: someone that jumps in the deep end and falls in love with what Route 66 symbolizes.

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New roadway shields, a project by the Tulsa Route 66 Commission

Here’s to a great 2019 and beyond. See you on the road!

About rhysfunk

Rhys Martin was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1981. In 2009, he sold everything he owned and left the country, living out of a backpack for ten months. He discovered a passion for photography while traveling throughout Southeast Asia and Europe. After returning home, he looked at his home town and Oklahoma heritage with fresh eyes. When he began to explore his home state, Rhys turned his attention to historic Route 66. As he became familiar with the iconic highway, he began to truly appreciate Oklahoma’s place along the Mother Road. He has traveled all 2,400 miles of Route 66, from Chicago to Los Angeles. He has also driven many miles on rural Oklahoma highways to explore the fading Main Streets of our small towns. Rhys has a desire to find and share the unique qualities of the Sooner State with the rest of the world. Cloudless Lens Photography has been featured in several publications including This Land, Route 66 Magazine, Nimrod Journal, Inbound Asia Magazine, The Oklahoman, and the Tulsa World. In 2018 he published his first book, Lost Restaurants of Tulsa. Rhys loves to connect with people and share his experiences; ask him about enjoyable day trips from Tulsa, locations along Route 66, and good diners or burger joints along the way.
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1 Response to A New Chapter on 66

  1. petesidewalk says:

    Congratulations on your election and on your excellent book. I have always been inspired by your insight and information shared at the Oklahoma Route 66 Association meetings. What a great development for the Oklahoma Route 66 community!

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