The Mother Road: Oklahoma

Day 2 of our Route 66 road trip brought us through three states: Illinois, Missouri, and Oklahoma. Route 66 also clips the southeastern corner of Kansas but due to time, we chose to stay on US 44 and skip Kansas. Sorry, Kansas.

We were chasing the sunset by the time we crossed into Oklahoma, the state shaped like a saucepan…

We had two remaining stops in Oklahoma before resting our heads at our hotel in Tulsa.

Our first stop in Oklahoma was at the Chandler Phillips 66 Station. From my research, I knew that this landmark was dilapidated but we agreed to stop anyway. It was more dilapidated than I anticipated and was nothing like the pristine condition of the Ambler’s Texaco Station we saw the day before in Illinois.

The Chandler Phillips 66 Station is a “must do NOT” on any Route 66 trip. Not only will it be a disappointment but you will lose a large chunk of time getting to and fro the station off of the toll road. The best part of the Chandler Phillips 66 Station was the sign.

Three minutes after arriving at the Chandler Phillips 66 Station, we turned the car around and sped toward our final stop of the day, The Ribbon Road. The Ribbon Road, also know as the Sidewalk Highway, is a section of original Route 66 pavement. We arrived at the Ribbon Road at 7:30pm when the sun was setting. If we had arrived 10 minutes later, we would not have been able to appreciate this historic landmark.

The Ribbon Road is only nine feet wide and puts into perspective how tiny cars were back in the day. This section of Route 66 was completed in 1922 and was 15.62 miles in length running from Miami, OK to Afton, OK. It was taken out of service in 1937.

For perspective, the Corvette is 71 inches from side to side, nearly the same width as an Audi A3 which is considered a compact car.

We were tired and hungry by the time we arrived in Tulsa but squeezed in our first-hand car wash of the trip in a seedy area of Tulsa but, hey, it got the job done. We arrived at the hotel at 10:10pm, Taco Bell in hand.

Beginning mileage day 211,103
Ending mileage day 211,857
Total miles driven day 2754

Day 3 kicked off bright and early with a 6:56am departure from our hotel in Tulsa. We had a busy day ahead, possibly even busier than the prior day. Day 3 brought us through 3 states: Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico.

We had several stops before leaving Tulsa, the first was the Praying Hands.

The Praying Hands statue is the tallest bronze statue in the world standing at 60 ft / 18.3 m tall. It is located at the entrance of the Oral Roberts University campus which, if I’m being honest, resembled a cemetery more than a university.

From the Praying Hands, we embarked on a drive-by past the Golden Driller. Believe it or not, standing at 76 ft / 23 m, the Golden Driller is the fifth tallest statue in the United States. It is to honor the workers of the petroleum industry.

The United States is full of crazy shit.

Not too far from the Golden Driller on Route 66 is the restored 1930s Meadow Gold milk sign. The location of the sign today is in an area I would describe as being revitalized. There are mom-and-pop shops in the surrounding old buildings and it is a cute area with the exception of the very busy Route 66 running through it. The Meadow Gold sign and the very awkward structure it rests on seemed out-of-place to me. Nonetheless, the sign has been beautifully restored.

Our fourth and final stop in Tulsa was to the Center of the Universe. In short, the Center of the Universe is an acoustic phenomenon. If you stand in the center of the stone circle and speak, the sound of your voice will bounce off the surrounding low concrete walls and it will sound like you are speaking in a cave. Only those standing near or in the center circle can hear the echo. I tried to record the sound but it did not record well.

My dad and I felt awkward because we were there when people were arriving at work and walking from their cars to their offices. Of course, they knew why we were there but it was still embarrassing to try to figure out how the sound worked with people everywhere. I eventually worked up the courage and started speaking very softly while standing in the circle and I could hear the echo. Is the Center of the Universe worth the stop? Probably not but it was interesting.

We departed Tulsa for Oklahoma City where we met my sister who had driven to OKC from Dallas. On our way from Tulsa to Oklahoma City, we passed the Arcadia Round Barn. This was the quickest stop we made during our Route 66 trip. I thought more of our stops would be as quick as this one was but that was not the case.

On our way to Oklahoma City, my sister decided that she wanted to meet us at Pop’s 66 Soda Ranch instead of at the Oklahoma City Memorial because Pop’s sounded cool and it was cool. Pop’s 66 Soda Ranch is a modern shop that sells over 700 different kinds of soda.

Do not worry about missing Pop’s 66 Soda Ranch from Route 66 because it is impossible to miss with its tall metal soda pop bottle sculpture out front.

The building is super modern with floor to ceiling glass walls, glass shelves and a sleek diner inside. Most surprisingly, it is also a gas station.

As we sipped our sodas and munched on our salty snacks, my dad did a little auto body repair work on my sister’s car to get it in tip-top condition before she turned it into the dealership when her lease ended. Tessa and I exchanged goods – I handed over the wine she left at my house after our weekend in Walla Walla and she handed over a winter coat for me to borrow because I forgot that my dad and I would be visiting Mount Hood later in the trip and had not packed accordingly.

If there is one thing that is more American than driving Route 66 in a Corvette, it is doing roadside auto repair work on Route 66.

Energized by caffeine, we were on our way to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. I had previously visited the memorial and museum several years earlier but my dad and sister had never visited.

The memorial honors the 168 people killed in the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995. The blast destroyed or damaged 324 buildings within a 16-block radius. Peter grew up in Oklahoma City and I remember his mother telling me that she felt the rumble of the blast on that morning.

The memorial is beautifully done and though many lives were lost on the site, the site is extremely peaceful and serene.

In the middle of the memorial is the reflecting pool; a very shallow layer of water that seems to float over the underlying stone.

The reflecting pool is flanked by two gates with time stamps. The east gate is marked with the time of 9:01 and the west gate is marked with the time of 9:03. The gates (and times) frame the moment of the destruction that occurred at 9:02am. The east gate represents the innocence of the city before the attack and the west gate represents the moment the city changed forever.

Near the reflecting pool is the Field of Empty Chairs. There is one bronze/glass chair for every person who lost their lives in the terrorist attack. The chairs arranged in nine rows, each representing a floor and each chair is inscribed with the name of someone killed on that floor. There are large chairs for adults and 19 small chairs for the children and babies who perished. The small chairs were difficult to look at.

The park ranger granted us permission to walk amongst the chairs and take photos during our visit and I accepted her offer even though it felt wrong. I tiptoed through the grass as to not to be disruptive.

After the memorial, we grabbed a quick bite to eat, said goodbye to Tessa, and hit the road. We had many, many, many miles to chew through and it was already early afternoon.

Our final landmark in Oklahoma was to drive across the Pony Truss Bridge (also known as the Camelback Bridge and the Bridgeport Bridge). The bridge is located west of Oklahoma City on Route 66 and spans the Canadian River. The bridge was completed in 1934 and is .74 mi / 1.18 km in length. It has 38 “pony” or “camelback” trusses. It took us one minute and 15 seconds to cross the bridge driving the speed limit. It’s incredibly long and was worth the visit.

Next up, my previous home state, Texas.

1 comment on “The Mother Road: Oklahoma

  1. Awesome pic’s! Thank you for sharing. :-)

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