Saturday, February 21, 2015

Tulips and Tamales. . . and Beer!

Ron M. and I drove up to Afton this morning to check on things there since I've been closed for the winter.  Betty and Robin met us there, and they came bearing gifts!  My birthday is next week, and despite a person of my advanced age not really wanting to be reminded, I truly appreciated their gifts.  Betty brought a lovely boquet of spring tulips -- pink, of course.
Robin came up with something I've never seen before -- a 6-pack of Route 66 beer!  I've seen Route 66 ROOT beer, but this is the alcoholic variety!  I decided to keep the 6-pack intact and on display at the Station for a while before inviting friends to indulge.  (The beer is a product of a brewery in Wisconsin and you can read about it here:
We stayed for a couple of hours and then started home.   Do you remember the Top Hat Dairy Bar in Foyil?   It had been closed for some time, but we noticed today that it  has reopened as Annie's Diner and there have been some upgrades to the exterior.  I look forward to giving it a try one of these days.
I'm glad we didn't decide to stop today however, because we didn't realize we had a real treat ahead of us. What began as a quick drive-thru of the Blue Whale (I never go past without at least pulling into the parking lot and checking things out), we spotted Linda, the proprietor of their gift shop. While she and I gabbed, Ron braved the sea of mud to navigate to "Molly's Tamales", a food truck on the premises owned and run by the fabulous nearby Molly's Landing Restaurant, and he bought us a handful of the most wonderful tamales!  I've never had a tamale before, but these won't be my last!  
All three food trucks on the Blue Whale property are run by Molly's, and Linda tells us that there will soon be several more featuring other kinds of food.   I highly recommend!
On the way home, I had a surprise phone call from Phil Shinn, our former volunteer at the Station who now resides in California while he tends to his ailing mother.  He will be coming home for the month of March and plans to put in some time at the Station while he's here.  I'm so pleased!   We will probably start opening more regularly the first of March, weather permitting.  At that time, we'll be open at least 6 days a week, then will expand to 7 as the tourist season slowly gears up.  I can't wait to get back and start spending time with all the cool travelers again.  I hope YOU are one of them!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Since I Saw You Last. . .

It's been a week.   Valentine's Day has come and gone.   Warm weather here in Oklahoma is slowly turning a bit more winter-like.  And I've been busy.  Therefore, consider this a "slide show" of what's been happening here.  Not many words, just photos. . .

Yesterday Ron M., Joe M., Jim M. and I took a road trip to Elk Falls, Kansas, known as the Outhouse Capital of the USA.   What we saw there was a near ghost town, the falls for which the town was named, and a bunch of.... you guessed it.... outhouses.    Voila!

The outhouse in this last photo is next to an old one-room schoolhouse.
Here's the pretty falls for which Elk Falls was  named.  And here is the old bridge spanning the river.  It was built in 1893 and is called the Pratt Truss Bridge.   It is on the National Register of Historic Places, despite it being hidden away and rather hard to find.

Since the town of Afton can't seem to get it together enough to erect the new "Welcome  To Afton" signs which were approved and ordered a full year ago, we thought perhaps I could donate a couple of old Packard doors and make some signs for the town.  What's good enough for Elk Falls, KS is good enough for Afton!
We stopped at Riverside Park in Independence, KS.  Most of the features there were closed for the winter -- the zoo, the amusements, the stadium -- but it's still a lovely 100-acre park with the Verdigris River  flowing through it, and this statue of a football player who is a native son.  The Shulthis Stadium held the first nighttime baseball game!
Meanwhile, back home in Tulsa, I did some exploring during the week.  Ever since I've lived here I've looked for flocks of sheep.  Sheep have always been scarce here in "cattle country", but I miss them after having raise a flock ourselves back in the '70s.  Well, lo and behold, on Thursday I found a pasture of grazing sheep less than a block from Route 66 in the city of Tulsa!!!  How had I missed them before?   You can see them for yourselves just south of 11th St. (Route 66) on 129th E. Avenue.
I also found this cut, just north of town.   You'd never know you were in Tulsa!  I was taken by surprise.  It's no Hooker Cut, but it's pretty impressive!
This is a more typical scene in Tulsa.  Brown roof after brown roof, as Tulsa builds and expands.   There's no doubt that Tulsa and it's environs are up-and-coming, but in all the seas of brown shingle pointed roofs, I'm not sure how people find their way back to their own houses at night!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Just Like Old Times

Ahhhh!    That's an expression of delight and content.   It felt SO good to get back to Afton Station today, and although we're still not totally open on a regular schedule, this was a perfectly perfect day to test the winter waters.  We were expecting a large car club's visit, which was my reason for opening this early in February.  Add to that, a gorgeous day -- low 70s and sunny.

The car club arrived in two groups -- 28 people in their Chargers, members of the Mopar 360 group with folks from  Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, and Arkansas.  They lined up their pretty Chargers for photos, then lined themselves up for some group shots.

I don't know much about Chargers or other Mopar vehicles, but I do know that the folks who drive them are a friendly bunch.  We enjoyed their visit.  Here are a few of the visitors from the club, photographed by Justin, our teen volunteer.

There were others who dropped in too, six in all.  They came from Nickerson KS, Summers AR, and Miami, OK.  This couple from Kansas was the first through our doors this morning.  They came for directions and stayed to check out the old cars.  They indicated that they were extremely happy that they found us.
Betty, Robin, and Sue all stopped by for a while.  Here are Robin and Sue.... but please don't ask about the origin of the expressions on their faces.  Let's just say that they had just seen something shocking.  I would tell you if I didn't value my own life so much. Sorry.  Ha ha...
And then there were Justin and Nate, our amazing teen volunteers.  They never fail to keep us entertained, and today they swept the floors of the showrooms then helped guide our visitors.   We sure enjoy their presence, although I think their future may include careers as circus clowns.  .
Tomorrow, Robin will be opening for the day, and Sue will work on Tuesday.  So if you have a notion to take a little Route 66 venture, please consider a visit to our beautiful Afton Station.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Ms Motel: My Story

I was born in the late '40s.  My newborn name was Miss Motor Court.   I was a bright baby, units covered in fresh white paint, with bright red doors, beautifully sculpted shrubbery, and a sparkling pool in my front yard.  I wasn't a large baby, just average size for motor courts in my day, about 15 units.

 Early in life, I set out on my own, to sit on the side of the road and fulfill my mission life, dispensing hospitality for all the traveling humans who took to the road right after World War II.  What a wonderful life it was!  Not only did I have the pleasure of providing warm beds and hot showers to multitudes of nice families, but my neighbors were other motor courts and we had so much in common.  Why, in the town where I finally settled, there were dozens of others very much like me right on Route 66 as it snaked its way through town.

Oh, did I forget to mention that I was privileged to live on the famous Route 66, the Main Street of America, the historic highway that stretched from Chicago all the way to California?    My home was near the middle, in the small but growing town of Tulsa, Oklahoma which, at the time I came along, was fueled by oil wells which had earlier made it one of the wealthiest cities in America.  I didn't get to see that wealth, however, from my post along 11th Street.  Those oil barons were more likely to stay at the Mayo Hotel or some other luxury accommodation downtown.  My road consisted mostly of  the lodgings, diners, and filling stations necessary for those ordinary people passing through on vacations or whatever else compelled them to jump on Route 66 and motor across this beautiful country of ours.

Back then, I consisted of 15 detached cabins, but before I was even ten years old, all of my cabins were roofed as one, and the spaces between each cabin became garages where travelers could stash their cars for the night.   Later, even these "garages" were filled in, thus my rooms became larger, and as a teen ager I had expanded into 19 rooms.  At about that time, in the late '50s, most of us tourist courts became "motels", a shortening of the name "motor hotels".  The name didn't hold the air of romance that motor courts did, but it sounded slick and modern and most of us liked the change.  

For years, I enjoyed the comfort of having new families stop to entertain me just about every evening. But as some of my neighbors found themselves no longer filled every single night, they were finding alternate ways to keep providing the funds needed to keep themselves in good shape.  We were a tough bunch, and we didn't go down easily.   I remember when my neighbor to the north, after years of dwindling visitors, finally gave up in the mid '70s and turned himself into an antiques mall.   Each of his cozy rooms became a separate shop, and the uniqueness of the plan made it a popular stopping place for many years.   And yet, he was born to be a motor court, and I'm sorry he couldn't end life that way.

Although I was noticing a difference in the sort of clientele I was attracting too, I soldiered on for quite a few years.  I was getting older and tired.  My paint was peeling a bit, and I'm so sorry to report that my keepers had filled in my pool a few years earlier, a very sad time for me.  Oh, how I missed those squealing children coming down that slide into the invitingly cool water.  There were still visitors, but they were mostly singles, business people and salesmen needing a night's rest from long days of drudgery.

As the neon letters on my sign began to go out, one by one, I finally accepted that I would meet one of two or three fates in my old age.   I could just perish and be torn down.  I could gradually disintegrate and become one of a number of rotting motel hulks along this stretch of Route 66.  Or, I could attempt to stay open, despite what kind of clientele I attracted.

I chose the third option, which is where I am now.  My roof leaks in many places and there are weeds as high as trees growing everywhere.  There are cracks in the pavement as big as canyons. The hand lettered sign out front now says "Weekly and Monthly Rates", and I'm suspicious of a number of the humans I see roving around my grounds at night.  I've personally identified some prostitutes and drug dealers in my parking area, and it makes me scared.

That's why I'm writing this now.... to YOU.   I need your help.  If you are looking for a worthy cause or even just a potential business investment, keep me in mind.   If you fixed me up, I promise I would love you even more than you will love me.  Together we could start bringing back the mystique of  the past.  There are lots of travelers out there who now stay in Mariotts or Super 8s who would probably love to show their grandkids "how it used to be".  Together, we could give them such a kick that they'd never forget, and when we hung the new, neon NO VACANCY sign, life would begin again!


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Rock Creek Bridge Is Back!

Since I was unable to attend yesterday's reopening ceremony for the Rock Creek Bridge, on an old alignment of Route 66 in Sapulpa, OK, Ron M. and I took a ride out there today to check it out and take some photos.  The bridge had been closed for some time for repairs, but I remember driving over it many times when I first moved to Oklahoma.  It's all spiffed up now, and some changes have been made which will, one hopes, make it last for many years to come.
A steel structure has been erected at either end of the bridge to prevent tall (read large) vehicles from using it.  The 7'2" height will definitely prevent semis and buses from crossing.  As Ron Warnick commented in his "Route 66 News" blog, it's a shame that tour buses won't be allowed to cross, but it will certainly be better for the life of the bridge in the long run.
As this plaque indicates. the bridge was originally built to serve the Ozark Trail, but became part of Route 66 in 1926.  It remained the main alignment of Highway 66 until 1952, which is a good, long life for an alignment.
The roadbed across the bridge was brick, and most of it still remains.
The remains of the long-abandoned Tee Pee Drive-In are visible from the end of the bridge.  Several  years ago there was a project afoot to restore the drive-in, but it fell through when the owner of the property dropped out of sight.
The familiar sight of one of Roamin' Rich Dinkela's shields painted on the roadbed was nice to see at the bridge.  It's great to know, in this era of "tear 'em down, don't save 'em", that at least one bridge was lovingly restored for the use of generations of Route 66 travelers to come.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Gary Turner

Rarely did a day go by at Afton Station when visitors wouldn't tell us about their experiences with Gary Turner.  Gary's little Sinclair service station sat at the side of the road in Paris Springs, MO, very much off the beaten path and yet on an old alignment of Route 66.  Since in many cases Gary's place was the last stop people made prior to getting to Afton Station, their visit to Gary's place was fresh in their minds.  And rarely -- no, never, in fact -- did anyone have anything to say about Gary except that he was a wonderful, hospitable, knowledgeable, caring, fun-loving ambassador for Route 66.

And Gary sure loved people!

A visit with Gary consisted of a sit-down while he "explained" the Route, showed photos from some of the books he'd accumulated about Route 66, showed off his memorabilia, offered a free root beer (and sometimes a free t-shirt, too), signed his autograph, and carefully told people the best places to stop as they continued down the Mother Road.   A visit with Gary frequently lasted a couple of hours, and rarely less than an hour.  (For this reason, sometimes people were late getting to Afton Station, but Gary, you're forgiven!)

Fortunately, Afton Station was one of the places that Gary recommended highly, and I'm quite sure that a good percentage of our visitors were led to Afton by Gary's words.  Since we both had our own businesses to run, we didn't see that much of each other.  I only came face to face with him three times, I think, and talked to him on the phone fewer than a dozen times.  Even so, I considered him a friend.
  In October of 2011, he visited Afton Station along with Bob Swengrosh on their trip across the eastern portion of Route 66.  Bob (right) says the trip was the best Route 66 experience of his life, and I'm pretty sure the adventure was one of Gary's best, too.
Gary particularly enjoyed talking to foreign visitors, and often they would arrive in Afton decked out in Gary's t-shirts, like this foursome from France.  Gary didn't know a stranger.  People became "friends for life" immediately, and that's how he signed his autograph in each and every one of their guidebooks.

Gary passed away on Thursday, and his passing is a major loss to Route 66 and to the people who travel it.  Facebook is full of condolence messages from all over the world.  Although it's hard to be sad about the passing of someone who has had such a full life, the death of this Route 66 ambassador will create a void that will be very difficult to fill.  Read more about Gary and his Gay Parita Station at

Rest In Peace, Gary.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Maybe Not The Best Idea

    "Its a beautiful sunny day.   Temperatures in the low to mid 60s.   Gentle breeze.  Perfect day for a road trip!  C'mon family, pile into the car.  We're going to visit this place I've heard about on Route 66 in Afton, OK that has a nice collection of vintage automobiles and lots of  Route 66 memorabilia!!"

That conversation was what I imagined would take place in many homes this morning, which is why I decided to open the Station even though we're officially closed in January.  I publicized in several places that we were going to have a "bonus day" today.   Sounded like a good idea at the time.  Well, apparently it wasn't.  And although we had a great day at the Station with Betty, Robin, Joe Meeks, Ron M., Michael Scruggs, and Justin, we had no actual visitors!   That's right... none!  Ok, I gestured for one guy on a motorcycle to turn off his bike and come in, which he did, for about 60 seconds, after which he said he'd come back when he had more time another day.   My plan to have a day full of travelers in mid January was clearly a bust, but those things happen.

Justin, our 7th grade helper, came in and, among other hijinks, kept us entertained by modeling hats from our hat collection.   I took a great group photo too, but it turned out all fuzzy. It just wasn't my day.
So we closed a little early and Ron M., Joe, and I took a ride.  We ended up at Lake Yonkipin in Catoosa.  A lovely compound surrounds the small lake mere yards off Route 66, and it's necessary to drive through this "tin tunnel" to get there, which was very cool.
The gate was closed so we couldn't go in (I told you it wasn't my day), but we did manage to take these two photos of it.   Quite lovely.  I'd like to see it in the summer.
 And that was my day at Afton Station, lots of fun and yet a bit disappointing.  It takes all kinds, I guess.