Road Trip on Route 66
Take the time to explore Route 66 in the Sooner State
Photo by Adam Calaway
Road trips appeal to the gypsy in our soul—that unspoken desire to break away from routine and explore the unfamiliar. Oklahomans seeking the road less traveled need only to return to one of America’s most iconic byways—Route 66.
On a sun-kissed Saturday morning, my wife—“Mrs. Sunshine”—and I loaded up Hound Dog and headed to America’s Main Street.
We merged onto Route 66 near Warwick, Oklahoma, and headed west. Here gentle rolling hills and s-shaped curves carry travelers from one historic nugget to the next. First there’s the marker highlighting the east boundary of the 1889 Land Run, then the last original filling station from the 1920s (complete counterfeiting lore) followed by Arcadia, home to one of Route 66’s most recognizable landmarks—the Round Barn.
Mrs. Sunshine and I popped in for look-see. Stepping through the wood-latched door, we were met by the thumping rhythm of an upright base. We had stumbled into a shindig. A folk quartet held court, plucking out a song that sounded as old as the 1898 barn. After admiring the wooden structure, we headed west to Pops. With its sharp white steel structure and glass front, Pops is the modern equivalent of the burger stands of yesteryear. A two-story metal sculpture of a classic glass bottle greets customers. Pops is home to 700 soda varieties, and we were in a root beer kind of mood. Add in a couple of burgers, let Hound Dog stretch her legs and we were back on the road.
Route 66 quickly fades upon entering Edmond. Here history has been replaced by strip malls and billboards. The original road through Oklahoma City has changed many a time, but we headed south on North Kelley Avenue, turned here and there, and eventually ended up in the Asian District, where fireworks crackle as tourists celebrate the Chinese New Year.
The city has absorbed most of Route 66 era, but look closely and there are still fingerprints. The craftsman style bungalows. The vintage brick buildings. And the iconic Milk Bottle Grocery, a tiny building wedged onto the median with a giant milk bottle perched on its roof.
Soon we passed through Bethany, Yukon and El Reno—each with their own sites marking the famous highway. Outside of El Reno, we picked up one the few remaining original stretches of the Route 66. (You can tell by the iconic molded curb.) This is the mental picture most of us have of Route 66—straight, flat and flanked by landscape that stretches to the horizon.
We stopped for a quick photo when off in the distant we spotted a Ford Model A cruising toward us. Here was one of American’s most iconic cars traveling down one of its most historic roads, two friends from another era reunited for one more run.
And that’s the beauty of road trips—the serendipitous discovery that gives us a chance to remember where we came from so we never forget where we are going.