Start: Oklahoma City, OK
Finish: Bristow, OK
Weather: 105 degrees, sunny
Bike Time: 8 hours
Distance to date: 990
A completely different period of history filled todays’ travel – the 1930’s through the 1950’s.
I left Kenyon and Kay’s at 6:30 am when the morning sky turned light but before the sun had risen. The eastern sky was blanketed in clouds and for the first few hours I enjoyed cloud cover and only double digit temperatures. I wound my way along section roads (Oklahoma has a north/south road and an east/ west road every mile. These are referred to as section roads, and they define a square mile, 640 acres. Homesteaders received a quarter section, or 160 acres. Although the section roads are sometimes interrupted for features like lakes, in general one can zigzag through Oklahoma
easily on section roads). After a few miles I hit OK66, the former US Route 66.
Oklahoma has made a tourist attraction out of Route 66.
They have built three museums about its lore across the state, developed many roadside markers, and printed a picture book about traveling the road, all of which added up to a day of many, many stops for this intrepid cyclist. Today I saw the awesome Pops gas station and soda fountain in Arcadia, a recent tribute to roadside architecture very well done, the famous round barn in Arcadia, the phenomenal motorcycle museum in Warwick, the Interpretive Center in Chandler, and numerous vintage gas stations, some intact, others in ruins, each with descriptions of events both legal and illicit that went on along the road.
I had a tremendous breakfast in Luther, at which I added my last carbo-charged Oklahoma food – biscuits and gravy. It stuck to my ribs so tight I rode 50 more miles before I felt even a tincture of hunger.
Since Route 66 is shadowed by I-44 the whole way, there is very little traffic on the road, and the traffic is polite to slow moving vehicles. This is good because much of the road has
zero shoulder, and cars have to go into the opposing lane to pass me. However, since the whole point of this road is not to go 65 mph, no one minded a bit.
I got a blow out about 60 miles into my day. It is only my second flat of the trip, but I gained new appreciation for my bike, since this was a sudden puncture and could have sent me spinning, but the heavy, stable Surly took it in stride.
One interesting aspect of travelling on Route 66 is that many of the people traversing the full route from Chicago to LA, are European. I met a couple from Denmark at the Chandler
Museum who were taking two weeks to drive the entire route. They had Route 66 shirts and caps and were consumed by the mythology of the road. Later I met a motorcycle troupe of at least eight people, all from Germany, who were also tracing the entire road. I suppose the road fulfills a foreign notion of something distinctly American.
A second observation, which is less engaging, is that most everything about the road that was so rich, the motels, the swimming pools, the roadside cafes, the neon signs, the drive-thrus, are gone. I anticipated that Route 66 would have a roadside motel every few miles, and indeed the remains of them are there, but I passed only one functioning cabin
court; everything else had either been turned into low rent apartments or was simply abandoned. I had to ride much further than I hoped to find a place to stay, and where I am is at a newer motel at an I-44 interchange rather than a vintage Route 66 venue.
Route 66 may be a legend, but it is not a living legend.
Pops Station and Soda Fountain, Arcadia, OK
Motorcycle Museum in vintage Gas Station, Warwick, OK
I’d have had the same thoughts about Route 66 that you did; I so remember the TV show! Now I’ll have to check out some of the references… ride on, Shorty!