Well, another successful 2,600 mile adventure on legendary Route 66, and occasionally I-40, is now complete. We rolled in late yesterday afternoon and hit the ground running (picking up the Jeep from the garage, returning the rental car, sorting through more than 1,000 emails, and a wide array of details that required immediate attention).
Even though the festival in Joplin, and the announcement that Kingman will be serving as the host city in 2014, has filled me with a great deal of excitement an attempt will be made to exercise constraint. Rather than just jumping into a series of random postings about these subjects it seemed best to pick up the story in Edmond, Oklahoma as there are so many things to share.
After hours of delays that resulted from road construction, detours, and wandering old alignments of Route 66 through heavily congested areas, we arrived at our hotel much later than anticipated. I was a bit tired upon our arrival at the Best Western in Edmond but after a good nights sleep realized the property was a bit wore around the edges. Still, as it was clean, was centrally located for our Route 66 adventure, and the staff was most helpful, I can recommend it as a suitable stop.
The centerpiece of Totem Pole Park.
As it was located on Route 66 at the edge of town we were able to start the next days adventure with relative ease. The first stop of the day was at Pop’s in Arcadia just a few miles down the road.
Day or night this is a very special “must stop” location for any adventurer traveling Route 66 in Oklahoma. However, after dark when the giant pop bottle lights the night sky with a rainbow of colors the place seems to really come alive.
Route 66 in this part of Oklahoma flows with the rolling contours of the land past farms, wooded ridges, and through little villages that are quintessential small town America. At Foyil where the main drag is named for hometown hero Andy Payne (winner of the 1928 “Bunion Derby”) I strongly suggest that you pack a lunch and follow the signs for a short detour to the south where you will discover the whimsical wonderland that is Ed Galloway’s Totem Pole Park.
Ed Galloway was nothing short of an artistic, and somewhat eccentric genius. In addition to the 90′ totem pole he filled the little picnic grounds with a wide array of fanciful creations made from concrete, and built a workshop where he crafted a wide array of wood products and carvings.
The most notable of these is a vast collection of fiddles. What truly makes these instruments unique is the wood.
Galloway was an industrial arts teacher and his students sent him wood from throughout the world when they went off to war during World War I, and when they traveled in the years that followed. As a result each of the instruments is truly unique.
We continued our journey to Joplin along old Route 66 bypassing a few of the places we intended to photograph for the new book (Mickey Mantle’s boyhood home in Commerce) with plans to catch them on the return trip. As it turned out, this was a mistake.
The morning we left Joplin it began to rain. By the time we had made the very short drive to the Kansas state line it was raining in buckets. At Quapaw the road was flooded which forced us to take a series of detours.
As food is an integral component in our adventures, and except in the case of near starvation will avoid fast food or chain restaurants while traveling, we tried Clanton’s Café at 319 E. Illinois (Route 66) in Vinita, Oklahoma. One family owned and operated since opening in 1927, the charming and unassuming little café with the big red Eat sign out front was a delight.
The food and service were excellent even though the place was packed with locals and Route 66 enthusiasts. Even better, the atmosphere captured the essence of the Route 66 experience, and the America remembered from my youth.
The travelers in their shorts and t-shirts provided contrast to the locals; a large, ruddy faced farmer with long sleeved shirt, worn boots, and faded jeans sharing a hearty lunch with his similarly dressed sons, the coffee clutch of elderly ladies discussing a church social, kids who knew that the brim of a hat faces to the front and that a pierced face was not a sign of artistic expression, and cheerful waitresses who were quick with coffee and a smile. The crowded parking lot mirrored the clash with hybrids, over packed sedans, and chrome laden motorcycles mingled amongst muddy, battered farm trucks, weathered cars, and hail scarred vehicles.