Friday, October 31, 2008


Ok, this is going to be difficult to explain without sounding like a total degenerate. It's my favorite Halloween story, but it's not for the faint-hearted. It happened shortly after I moved to Oklahoma, early in the morning on the day after Halloween. I was living in Grove, Oklahoma at the time and was headed down Rt. 59 to reach Rt. 66 and Afton Station. The sun had not quite risen, and as I recall it was a chilly morning.

I've always been fond of what are commonly called "Muffler Men". Those are the large, 20-foot tall fiberglass images that have their origin in the '60s when a lot of them were made from the same mold by a company in Venice, California for muffler shops all over the country. The original statues were men with arms in front of them holding giant mufflers. Over the years, most of the statues have either disappeared or have been "modified" to be something else. For example, Atlanta Illinois has a Muffler Man that now holds a giant hot dog where the muffler used to be. In Wilmington, Illinois, the Muffler Man is now the Gemini Giant holding a rocket. You get the idea.

So anyway, on Rt. 59 between Grove and Afton is a former Muffler Man in front of a flea market/junk shop. He's dressed as a cowboy, with jeans, big belt buckle, and a cowboy hat. He holds nothing (except at Christmas time, when occasionally someone puts large candles in his hands). On this dark morning-after-Halloween I was tooling along as usual when, as is my custom, I glanced over at the Muffler Man. Wellllll....... my foot hit the brake and squealed to a stop that probably took a quarter inch off my tire treads. Fortunately, I was the only person on the road at that early hour. I did a complete u-turn and drove back, not believing my eyes! In front of me was one of the craziest and most elaborate Halloween pranks I've ever seen. I congratulated myself for always keeping my camera in the car, although I wasn't sure if I had enough light to take a decent picture. I tried it anyway, and was able to lighten it up later when I put it online.

Now, here's the thing. I've spent a bit of time just now trying to figure out how to post the photo without getting kicked off Blogger and/or really offending a bunch of people. Since I'm not entirely sure who reads my blog, I've decided to just offer my email address, and you can write to me if you want me to email the photo to you. A most impressive cantilevering job, I must say!

A few hours later, when I returned from Afton, the Muffler Man adaptation had been removed. I dare say I own probably the only photo that was taken of him that morning.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Time Wasting

When I'm alone at Afton Station and I have no visitors, there are two things I tend to do in order to divert my attention from things that ought to be done, such as cleaning, restocking shelves, etc. One is just about the most ridiculous waste of time I've ever devised and, believe me, I've devised a lot of them! I count trucks. This started when the grocer across the street was quoted in a TV interview as saying that 60 trucks roar through Afton every day. I knew that his estimate was unbelievably low, so one day I counted every truck (just over-the-road semis, not little pickups or panel trucks) that went past in ONE HOUR'S time. My count was 65. I've counted countless times since then, including on weekends and various weekdays and at different times of the day, and my totals have always ranged between 45 and 100 per hour, with the average being around 70. Multiply that by 24 hours and you get approximately 840. I've never counted trucks in the middle of the night, but I'm assuming that the truck traffic decreases then, so I'll settle for about 700 trucks per day. That's a whole lot more than 60! I think the grocer misspoke.

The other activity in which I dabble when I'm at Afton and feeling bored is writing poetry. I've always written poetry, but when I'm at Afton Station I tend to write about what I see around me. I don't claim to be much of a poet, and I'm sure that the moment I post one of my poems here I'm going to regret it with great embarrassment. But here goes....

Behind the Station is a former small, one-story hospital that is now used as a day center for adult patients with mental difficulties from around the county. They are brought in and out by bus each day, and they frequently shuffle around the town, expressionless, or wander across the street to buy soda and cigarettes from the grocery store. Since the county is notorious for being a hotbed of crystal meth use, I am quite certain that many of the patients' disabilities stem from long-time drug use. Watching them inspired this poem:


Zombie village
Step on a crack.
Five steps forward
Ten steps back.

Round the block
Smile, frown
Toward the bridge
Back to town.

Life has made
A mess of him.
Mind in tatters
Outlook grim.

One step, two steps
Crystal meth.
One step closer
To his death.

Now that I've got you all depressed, here's another (mercifully, the last!). There used to be a funeral parlor in one of the abandoned storefronts across the street from the Station. You should know that before you read the poem, which is inspired by what I saw one day.


Is this a secret tryst?
Pulled up to the curb
Next to the mortuary
Summer Sunday morning
Compatible vehicles
She with the rustiest truck ever
He with the rolled-over van.
She of the bottle blonde and tattoos
He of the wife-beater and gut.
They smoke together
And split a Big Mac which she provides.
Their eyes never leave one another
For fifteen minutes at least.
But wait.
He unlocks the door
Of the abandoned funeral parlor
And suddenly I cannot tell
From business
From death.
As she wheels out an embalming gurney
And I feel like a most hopeless romantic.

Okey dokey, enough bad poetry for one day.....

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Uh oh... where are the tourists?

There was frost on the pumpkin this morning (literally!) when I left for Afton. I had no idea how ominous this was -- until it was 2 p.m. and I had not had a single visitor to the Station! Yikes, is winter here already? Is tourist season over? I'm beginning to feel some anxiety about the coming season as it applies to tourists. This winter, do I spend two hours driving up to Afton (under possibly questionable weather conditions) just to have no visitors at all? Or do I decide to stay home, only to find out later that this was the day a busload of tourists from Tokyo decided to stop for a visit? Do I post regular hours on my door, post a "Call for Appointment" sign, or do I just sit here and freeze each morning while the place warms up, hoping to see a human soul? Add to all of this the fact that gas prices here in Oklahoma have fallen to $2.00 or even less, so will that bring out more local tourists who had been holding back on road trips before? Sometimes I wish: 1.) I lived closer, but that's not going to happen, or 2.) that I had a larger pool of weekday volunteers rather than just Marly, who lives nearby but whom I hate to bother too much since he has a business of his own to run. That's undoubtedly the host of dilemmas that will keep me tossing and turning tonight.

I finally left at about 2:30 and drove around town a bit. When they tore down the historic old Cities Service station (a National Trust property, I might add), they turned the concrete pad on which it stood into a town "park" (quotation marks denote irony) by adding a couple of chairs, some fake flowers, and even an umbrella for those who seek shade while watching the speeding semis roll past on Route 66. The "park" is right down the street from my Station, and when the Cities station was still standing it was one that we considered buying, until we realized it would be too small to meet our needs. For this reason, I tend to feel a touch of guilt about it. Could we have saved it? I hate to see historic properties demolished.

Here's the old Cities Service station before demolition. (Photo from "Along Route 66" by Quinta Scott). Looks a lot like Afton Station, doesn't it?
The town "park" today.

As I mentioned before, the old Buffalo Ranch tourist stop was also torn down and a truck stop built in it's place. At least the new owners continue to pay their respects to the venerable old tourist trap. There are still bison grazing out back just like in the past, and there's a bronze buffalo guarding the gate to the pasture. Today, I noticed that there's now a covered wagon out back, too. You can't get much more tourist trappy than that! Now, if they'd just add a rattlesnake pit and some Indian dancers.....

ADDENDUM: Just had a call from a couple from Norway that were absolutely crushed to find I wasn't open. They called from in front of the Station. It's 6 p.m. now, I'm almost two hours away, and obviously I'm not able to drive there to let them in. This frequently happens. I'm so sad.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Photo Op

The morning started out slowly at Afton Station, so it was a great time for cleaning, rearranging, and snapping a few photos. Ron M. and I spent some time doing a little of each. Herewith are some of the photos we took.

Isn't this a wonderful vintage gas station?
Surprise! Pull back and you'll see it's a model. My ex (back when he was my husband) had a lovely habit of giving me artist-created one-of-a-kind models each year. A Texas artist made this one and named it Laurel's Station. The detail is incredible. Unfortunately, the interior lights aren't working now. I have some better pictures of it somewhere, but I don't have time to look for them now.
Ron took this artistic shot of the mishmash of goodies that assault the senses when you enter Afton Station.

Lucky you! Now travel with me into the Afton Station restroom.. Here's a mural (a.k.a. world's largest toilet paper dispenser) I painted several years ago.

The famous Afton Station toilet paper, prized by travelers, each of whom is given one as a souvenir when they come to visit. I do this because my retro motto is "Cleanest Restrooms In Town". Since we're the ONLY public restrooms in town, the title is easy to retain. :-)

Ron went outside and snapped these shots when I was busy with guests. No self-respecting service station would be complete without a back yard full of rusty vehicles. We are no exception. Here are David's "parts cars", although I've never seen him take any parts from them.
Ok, enough of that. After a slow start, people started coming in the door of the Station around noon. By the end of the day, we had visited with 12 people. Two ladies (0ne from Oregon and one from Tulsa), in the area for their 30th college reunion, came to visit and stayed quite a while, playing with the pressed penny machine and looking at the cars and books. One of them won my heart because she's a postcard collector like me. She spent quite a bit of time going through my postcards for sale, and ended up buying 15 of them. Some bikers, pedaling their way from Arkansas to Ponca City OK, stopped very briefly because they had to get moving to meet their arrival goal. The older of the gentlemen was having painful knee problems so I invited them to come in and rest for a spell, but they were in a very big hurry. A local father and his two sons stopped by on their way home from a Boy Scout campout. Some folks from Michigan also visited. Toward the end of the day, we had a visit from my friend Emily, the photographer who took the shot of Michael I used in my last post. She drove up to say hi and chat a while. Her vest was covered with Obama buttons (yeah!), some of them very funny. Beekeepers for Obama (she's a beekeeper), Redheads for Obama (yeah, she is), Recyclers for Obama (she's that, too), Photographers for Obama (yep!), and quite a few more. My favorite was Hippies for Obama. I wish I'd bought one of those when I first saw them. It's too late now, I think.

And that was our Sunday!

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Yesterday I described Michael Wallis's speeches as "inspirational", and last night's was no exception. The terms speech, lecture, or talk don't quite fit when it comes to Michael's offerings from the podium. Last night, in his prologue, he mentioned that his ancestors had been clergy and that perhaps he inherited his propensity for preaching sermons from them. Sermons! Yes, that's it! Sermons, about not only the charms but also the importance of taking the slow road, both in travel and in life. Last night, his sermon was particularly impressive, as it was presented before several hundred folks with a fondness for things historic, in a magnificent church sanctuary reminiscent of a fine ancient European cathedral.

While chatting briefly with a couple of us a few minutes before going in to deliver his sermon, Michael indicated that since we'd been to so many of his talks in the past some of what he planned to say would be familiar to us. Not so. Very little of what he said last night was a repeat of anything I'd heard before. He spoke at length about his journey down the Mother Road (in a convoy of Cadillacs!) with John Lassiter and other creative types from Pixar when he was hired as the Route 66 consultant for "Cars". None of the Pixar folks had had such an adventure before. He talked about leading a bus tour a few years ago on which one passenger was a Brooklyn guy taking his first trip out of the big city and how it changed his life. He told about other people he's met along the road on his numerous sojourns. As the sermon progressed, it became clear that the theme centered around not only the people who live or make their living on the Road, but also the folks who journey down the Road and the lifelong effects such a journey has on them.

Being where I am now, both in life in general and in Afton, Michael's phrase which stuck in my mind with the strongest glue was "death by interstate". As I look around Afton, I know exactly what he means. Actually, I always have. I just never heard such a perfect and succinct way of expressing what the interstate has done to so many small towns such as Afton, for which "past it's prime" is an understatement. If I wasn't able to hear a Michael Wallis sermon every once in a while it could get downright depressing in Afton. But he always gives me hope, reminds me to appreciate what is left and to always remember that the Road isn't the buildings, it's the PEOPLE.

(Michael, if you're reading this, I owe you a big piece of your favorite home made pie for the inspiration you gave me last night.)

Nobody was taking pictures last night so I followed suit. Therefore, I borrowed this awesome pic of M. Wallis from my friend Emily Priddy, taken one day when we were all hanging out at the Blue Dome Diner in Tulsa.

Meanwhile, it was another slow day at Afton Station today. The fellow who sold us the gas pumps dropped in with his son to see how they looked after restoration. He was extremely pleased. He confirmed that the pumps are originally from Afton and probably from our very station.

Great enthusiasm was exhibited by a visitor from Kansas City and his father-in-law from Colorado. The KC guy and his wife had driven almost all of Route 66 in August but on that trip had arrived at Afton Station after it had closed. Today, he drove down with his visiting father-in-law just to see it from the inside, take pictures, and give his father-in-law, who grew up here, some moments of nostalgia. They stayed for over two hours and took some awesome photos. I've asked him to email them to me so I can post them here. I also had visitors from Pasadena CA, among a few others. Betty was with me for a while, too.

Leave it to Afton to have a "Welcome" sign that lacks the name of the town!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Preservationist Parade, Part 2

I just called David at Afton Station to see how the 2nd day of Preservation Conference bus tours went. He said there were approximately the same number of people as yesterday, but they'd fallen behind schedule and were in a bit of a rush, so he didn't have time to talk to them as much as I did yesterday. He said he felt he got the preservation message across, however.

I forgot to mention yesterday that when I got to Afton there were several flooded areas, once again due to a leaky roof and a pretty strong rainstorm the day before. Much roof work needs to be done to stem the tides. With these old flat-roofed buildings, it's a matter of patch, patch, patch. Since we had the roof done, there are some new technologies we probably need to try. Looks like that will be our winter project.

Tonight Ron M. and I are going to a talk by Michael Wallis, "Mr. Route 66", author of Route 66: The Mother Road, the book credited with the resurgence of interest in Route 66 in the '90s. Michael Wallis He's a personal friend and I've listened to him speak a dozen times, but his talks are always different, always interesting and, mostly, inspirational. There's nothing like hearing a Wallis speech to fire up one's desire to get out and experience the Mother Road.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Busload o' Preservationists

The bus tour was a great success, at least from the viewpoint of myself and the others who were helping out at Afton Station today. I hope the bus riders felt the same. There were about 32 folks on the tour, and since they were primarily professional preservationists, they showed as much interest in the building and the cars as they could in the half hour they were there. I met people from New York, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Arkansas and Vermont. I met others, but their nametags were turned around so I couldn't read their hometowns. :-) I got to visit very briefly with my friend Jerry McClanahan, who was leading the tour. He's the author of the absolute BEST guidebook, the EZ66 Guide to Route 66.
Kaisa Barthuli, from the National Parks Service Route 66 Corridor program was also on board. I've met her a number of times before and she's an amazing lady.

Prior to the arrival of the bus, we had a group of four folks from Florida come in. They're in town looking to replace their current motorhomes with Newell Coaches, which are made just down the road. While the bus was here, we also greeted four folks from Maine who are doing a full Chicago-to-LA Route 66 trip. One of the men got my attention by showing some interest in the buildings across the street which are for sale. I wish I'd had more time to give him my full sales pitch. I'm really getting quite desperate to find buyers for those buildings before the little grocery store closes and turns Afton into a ghost town. We also had visitors from Tulsa who, I'm sorry to say, got a little lost in the shuffle of all the other people there.

The four of us who were there to host the bus tour left shortly after all the visitors left (Betty, Ron J., David, and me) and we drove to Vinita for lunch at historic Clanton's Cafe, the oldest family-owned restaurant on Route 66 (since 1922).

Remember Phil the runner who stayed with me a few weeks ago? He made it to Chicago, having run all of Route 66. Congratulations, Phil! Now he's going on to the East Coast. Amazing! Here he is in front of the Giant in Atlanta, Illinois, not far from Chicago.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Jolly time at Ollie's

Wow, the weather has taken a turn for the WET! After weeks of virtually no precipitation, it's coming down in buckets as I write this. It's a great day to be indoors, which is where I'm staying. As is usual on Wednesday, I didn't go to Afton today, and I'm glad. I'd rather stay home and watch my parched pansies and mums come back to life as they drink up the rain.

The dinner gathering last night was a lot of fun (and a wee bit of business, too). We had a private room at Ollie's Station Restaurant, on Southwest Blvd. (Route 66) in west Tulsa. It was such a nice way to see the out-of-town Route 66 folks who are here for the Preservation Conference. Jim Conkle and Glen Duncan flew in from California, Jim for a meeting and Glen to make a presentation at the Conference. Jim is the Chair of the Route 66 Alliance and Glen was president of the California Route 66 Association and is a prominent preservationist.
Here are some of the others who attended the very informal dinner. There's Ron "Tattoo Man" Jones from Bartlesville OK, Joy Avery from Tulsa, and three preservation-minded women from the Kansas Route 66 Association, Carolyn Pendleton, Carla Jordan, and Catie Myers. If the name "Avery" sounds familiar, she's the granddaughter of Cyrus Avery, the "Father of Route 66". Cyrus Avery - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Joy is the lady in the white jacket. Here are Glen Duncan, Marilyn Emde (Admin. of the Oklahoma Route 66 Association) from Chandler OK, and Brad Nickson (Tulsa Rep., OK Route 66 Assn.) from Tulsa.
And of course, here's Ron McCoy, who is spending every day this week as an official volunteer greeter and registrar at the Conference. With about 3,000 people to register, it's a very big job.
Mostly, we ate and chatted, but Jim did give us an update on the newly-formed Route 66 Alliance, a group with the intention of uniting all the state associations under one umbrella. The organization is in it's formative stages, but progress is being made toward establishing by-laws and other administrative details.

Tomorrow is the first big Conference bus tour coming to Afton Station. For the sake of the participants, I hope the rain stops by then.

UPDATE: I just got a call from David and Marly, who report that Ethyl and Regular Fred's heads now light up!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Very Quiet Day

Except for their wiring for illumination, Ethyl and Regular Fred are finally done, and just in time for the National Preservation Conference tours coming to Afton Station on Thursday and Friday. Now, nothing is particularly unsightly here except the roof, which is still sorely in need of repair and restoration.

It was past noon before my first guests arrived today, a couple from Germany. I wonder if the tourist season is finally beginning to wind down. One nice thing about being at Afton Station on a slow day like this is the silence. I'm isloated from what's happening in the world. When I'm at home, the TV is usually tuned to MSNBC or CNN with news droning in the background no matter what I'm doing. In the car, it's NPR or (I'm ashamed to admit it) Howard Stern. I don't really like to listen to most music, so it's always talk, talk, talk for me. But here at Afton Station I'm alone and it's quiet. Sometimes I'll put on a CD of Route 66 music if I have a group coming, but otherwise I relish the silence. The acoustics here are good too, so before a month of tubes down my throat permanently knocked out the singing part of my voice, I could be found unabashedly crooning "Get Your Kicks on Route 66", full volume. Now, it's just the silence, the hum of the air conditioner in the summer, the hourly piercing wail of a passing train whistle, and the tinkle of the bell on the door when I'm about to receive visitors. I appreciate it very much.

After they left, I caught the young Germans taking photos of each other in front of the newly completed gas pumps. I went out and told them they were the first.

I came home early because tonight is the night of the dinner for Route 66 folks here for the Preservation Conference. It should be fun, and I should have some good stories for tomorrow.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Tulsa Rose Bowl

Old postcard of Rose Bowl. How '60s is that!!! It's now painted it's original pink.

I just got back from an interesting meeting. I wasn't in Afton today, but this afternoon a representative from Tulsa Urban Development and I met with the new owner of Tulsa's Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl is a very unique piece of architecture, a former bowling alley built in 1962 on Route 66 in East Tulsa. It burned several years ago, then remained vacant for a long time. The new owner bought it with the idea of turning the huge expanse into an events center. It can't be a bowling alley any more because of a non-compete agreement. Knowing how much time and money it has taken just to restore our little gas station, I can only imagine the money that has been (and is still being) poured into this project. But the owner is very enthusiastic and we encouraged him to keep moving toward his goal. He's already done quite a bit, and Julie (from Urban Development) assured him that there are grants and loans available for a project such as his. I was basically there just to give support from the Route 66 community.
It's encouraging to know that the Rose Bowl has already been booked for a number of events in the coming year. They are set up beautifully for concerts, car shows (yes, the interior is large enough for a good sized car show), and large private parties. When all the fire prevention is installed, they'll be approved to hold up to 3,000 people.

Love this sign. The new owners plan to keep it and add a HUGE Route 66 shield (about 10 feet tall) that he bought on Ebay.

This is the bar area. The glass brick is original.

This picture doesn't even begin to show the size of the place. The floor under the table is made from the old alleys.

The last time I visited the Rose Bowl it was before the fire. Ron McCoy took some photos from that visit. You can view them here: They give a very good overview of what the Rose Bowl looked like when it was still a bowling alley.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Wonder Bread

Although Wonder Bread is bland and nutritionally vacant, the aroma of it baking is incredible beyond words. The Wonder Bread bakery in Tulsa is right on 11th St. (Route 66 in East Tulsa) so I always try to pass it early on Sunday morning when they're pumping out that heavenly odor. If the wind is just right, I can take take in big breaths for about a block before it fades away. It was especially mouth-watering when I passed by today on my way to Afton.

It was very early, and the sun was just coloring the sky when I passed the beautiful Desert Hills Motel sign. This shot would have been nicer without all the poles and overhead wires, but I did the best I could with what I had to work with. :-)

While listening to NPR on my way to Afton, I heard them discussing the absurdity of the recent American obsession with gas prices. I realized that I'm as guilty of this as the next guy. Whereas I can do an entire week's grocery shopping without ever glancing at the price of anything I put in my cart, recently I find myself reading every gas price sign I pass as I drive. Who'da thunk it? This morning, for example, I filled up here, in Catoosa:
But then, I passed this cheaper place:

And then even cheaper:

Oh, well.....

I had visitors at Afton Station today from Sweden, Santa Barbara CA, Topeka KS, and a family group of six from various towns in western Oklahoma. Most cars passed right by, since there was a huge car show about 10 miles away. I did get to watch a lot of classics and customs whiz past. Marly came by on his way to the car show with the '55 Packard 400, which is looking gorgeous these days. I'm betting that it will get a trophy. Marly also had some good news about a new home dialysis procedure which I will be looking into. It appears to be the stuff my dreams are made of, but we'll see.

Just as I was leaving, a woman from Boston arrived. We had spoken via email about a potential visit from her while she's in town doing a research paper on old motels and also attending the Preservation Conference next week. What a lovely young woman! We talked for about 15 minutes and...... I now have a visitor from my 49th state... Massachusetts! Now all I need is someone from Hawaii to walk in the door (or hula in, as the case may be) and I'll have met folks from all fifty!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A squashed penny friendship

I love it when stuff like this happens. Our first guests at Afton Station today were a father and his 7-year-old son from the state of Washington. While the little boy flirted with Tripper, my giant penguin, the father revealed himself as an avid squashed penny collector with "two shoeboxes full of them at home". He has been all over the country collecting squashed pennies, and couldn't wait to get to my machine. He'd brought several rolls of quarters and a bunch of old, pre-1982 copper pennies in absolutely great condition. While he was working the machine, a couple from Australia walked in. The Australian gentleman occupied himself by looking at the cars while his wife stood and watched Visitor #1 squashing pennies. She seemed so befuddled that I asked her if she'd never seen such a thing before. She hadn't, and was clueless about what he was doing. With that, the penny squasher turned to her and not only showed her what he was doing, but also gave her two quarters and a penny to squash. When the penny emerged from the machine after her five turns of the crank, she let out a very loud squeal and was absolutely excited beyond words at this newfound phenomenon. She said it was like magic, and she wanted more! The visitors then exchanged email addresses and promised to get in touch with each other about exchanging pennies from their own countries. (Yes, they do have American penny squashers in Australia, but not many). It was a joy to watch!

There were twelve visitors today. Other than the Washingtonians and the Australians, we also greeted folks from Norway, Kansas, and Bixby, Oklahoma. Ron M. was with me, Betty stopped in for a while (and brought me the most lucious pumpkin bread -- with coconut! -- that I've ever tasted), and David and his family came by for a bit, too. T'was a nice, cool, crisp, and friendly day.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Rumble Seat

I just got my 3000th blog hit! Well, isn't that special! :-)

I wasn't in Afton today, but I did get a very nice note from a visitor from last week. Bill Geibe was particularly interested in the vintage cars, and after he'd looked for a while he asked me, somewhat sheepishly, if it would be ok if he sat in the rumble seat of the 1934 12-cylinder. It's something he'd always wanted to do. I said he could, and that I'd take his picture with his camera. I did. He sent it to me, and here it is.

I've been wanting to put this on my blog. It's our Afton Station postcard.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Signs, Spooks, and Stories

On the way to Afton today, I saw this sign. I just thought it was funny. Anybody need a free cocker spaniel? (I found out later that they were referring to a Webkinz cocker spaniel. I didn't even know what Webkinz were until I looked it up.)
In Afton, I saw this. I'm not sure what it is, but it sort of looks like a haunted shanty. :-)

I was jotting "to-do" notes to myself this morning. One of them said "Embed YouTube video onto blog". I had to pause for a moment. Fifteen years ago... no, maybe as recently as ten years ago... a person seeing that would have thought they were reading Martian.... or the writing of a crazy person.....or maybe just gibberish. It made me giggle. Now, if I could just figure out how to embed that video....

Although it was raining in Tulsa when I got home, it was a beautiful day in Afton all day. I had 9 visitors, not including "regulars" Betty and Mike Pendleton. A mother and daughter, traveling from San Diego to St. Louis, got off the interstate just to see Buffalo Ranch. They had spent many happy hours there on trips when the daughter was a kid and they just wanted to do a little reminiscing. They found their way to Afton Station after experiencing the terrible disappointment of seeing that the old Buffalo Ranch no longer exists. I was glad I could give them a little pleasure when they saw that I had so many signs and other momentos of the place, saved when it was torn town.

A trucker from Texas, heading for St. Louis, was lured in by the Packard sign outside. He had a '55 Packard when he was young, but because it wasn't considered cool by his friends, he "stupidly" (his words) traded it for a Chevy. He has never forgiven himself for that. He enjoyed reliving some old times by being around all of our '50s era Packards.

A couple from Leoti, Kansas told me a great (but scary) story today about a bison overturning and totaling a friend's SUV, just a few miles from their home. The driver was trapped in the car the whole time, and although he was unhurt by the bison attack, he couldn't get out, had no cell phone with him, and wasn't rescued for several hours while the bison were continually kicking, butting, and rolling the car. Yikes!

I just love all the stories I hear from my visitors. It makes the long drive SO worthwhile! But I must go to a meeting tonight, so no more stories today.

Monday, October 13, 2008

National Preservation Conference

No Afton Station for me today, but this afternoon I spent a little time arranging a dinner for a group of Route 66 folks who will be attending the National Preservation Conference which will be held in Tulsa on October 21 - 25. Tulsa is considered one of the art deco capitals of the U.S. because of the large number of art deco buildings here, most designed and erected during the oil boom in the early 20th century. It's quite a feather in the cap of Tulsa to get this prestigious conference. A number of Route 66 people will be here, either as attendees or giving presentations. The greatest thing, as far as I'm concerned, is that the Conference is sponsoring four Route 66 bus tours that week, two west on Route 66 and two east on Route 66. And AFTON STATION IS A SCHEDULED STOP FOR BOTH EASTBOUND TOURS!!! (Can you tell I'm excited??) I'll have to get the place all spruced up for the occasion.

A short (under 2 minute) video of some of the deco architecture in Tulsa is here:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Slow but steady

It wasn't a busy day at Afton Station today, but the visitors were well-spaced, so we had the chance to chat with everyone who wanted to chat. Both the Rons (Ron M. and Ron "Tattoo Man" J.) were there with me all day. Tattoo Man was sporting a brand new tattoo, the sign from Soulsby Station in Mt. Olive, IL and the Shell Oil Co. sign. Here it is on his swollen wrist.

Our first visitors were Steve and Denise Wyatt from North Carolina. Steve has been a self-described Route 66 "fanatic" for many years, and has an extensive collection of Route 66 memorabilia, books, guides, etc., at his home. In fact, he became engaged to Denise on the Chain of Rocks Bridge in 2000. That's pretty romantic, and it must have worked because she's now his wife and a Route 66 fan, too. They're on their way to California (via the Mother Road, of course) to attend a wedding.

Other visitors today hailed from southern California, Chicago, Joplin MO. and Catoosa OK.

I wouldn't even have had any interesting photos for today's entry (other than the one of Ron J's arm) if Ron M. hadn't stolen my camera and slipped out to take some pictures while I was busy with guests. I didn't know the photos existed until just moments ago when I was downloading from the camera. Here are two of them, a shot of my Route 66 flag (we had been trying to photograph that last week, but the wind never cooperated), and a very creative shot of my neon Route 66 sign taken through the window. Very nice, Ron, and thanks!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The only photo I have for today is this one of the beautiful roses Betty brought to me this morning from her garden. She stopped in and spent a couple of hours with me, and as a special treat her sister Marlene visited for a short time, too.

Every trip to Afton, no matter how routine they become, yields something new. Today, just west of Vinita, I spotted a tiny "Cabin Creek Battle Site" sign with an arrow pointing to the right down a country road. I had a little extra time, so I followed the road for about 5 miles and never found the battle site. Because my free time was running out, I turned around and drove back to Route 66. When I got home I did a little research and found out a bit about the Civil War battle. I will go back, and this time I'll follow the directions on the website.

I am somewhat heartsick about missing a classic car cruise that apparently cruised past Afton Station on Thursday. I learned about the cruise online this morning, and then when I got to Afton there was a phone message from the group (from Wednesday) saying they hoped I still expected them the next day. I absolutely have no memory of scheduling a cruise at Afton Station on this past Thursday! I don't know if I'm losing my mind or if there was some misunderstanding. I hate that they may think I just blew them off. I'll try to call them when the weekend is over.

Meanwhile, it was a great day at the Station. A family from New Zealand were my first guests. They're on a 4-month trip to all corners of the United States. Their daughter (about 11 or 12 years old) took a liking to the penny pressing machine, as so many kids do. The family has already driven over 12,000 miles and have another month to go. They bought a pickup truck and travel trailer when they got here, and they'll sell the trailer at the end of the trip and send the pickup back to NZ. Lucky them!

A gentleman who is in the U.S. on business in Tulsa took the weekend off to do some exploring of Route 66. He works in Liechtenstein but lives a couple of miles across the border in Switzerland. Too bad he doesn't live where he works. I would have liked to add Liechtenstein to my list of visiting countries.

Two of our cars were at a car show today, so the place was a little more empty than usual. I wonder if they won any trophies. I'll report when I find out.

Other visitors today included people from the south coast of Great Britain, Newtown PA, New York City, Social Circle GA (love that town name!), Cleora OK, and good 'ol Afton OK. There were 17 visitors altogether.

UPDATE (from about a month ago): The Nut House in Catoosa is now accessible from the East. The road construction is almost completed, and a cut has been made so that cars can cross to the south side of the road. I'm so glad for those folks, since pecan season is starting now.

Friday, October 10, 2008


Ok, maybe this is the last time I'll have to make changes to this journal. In the process of adding my old AOL blog archives to this new Blogspot blog, I have had to set up an entirely new site with a new URL. If you're reading this, you already know this. I still have some tweaking to do, but I think I'm finally here for now, and I've managed to import all my old postings over here, too. My site isn't very pretty yet, but I'll work on it when I have more time.

I didn't go to Afton today, so I have no on-topic report. I'll be there all weekend however, so expect to hear more from me soon.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Off the Road (Route 66, that is)

This was my "day off" and I decided I wanted to take a bit of a busman's holiday... i.e. drive somewhere! I must be the world's largest consumer of petroleum, and for that I apologize. However, to maintain my sanity it's important for me to be behind the wheel as much as possible, exploring new places as often as possible, getting out there feeling the freedom of the road. So, today I decided to head north toward Bartlesville and just go where the wind would take me. I invited Ron M. to go along, and he accepted.

Just so I could relate this post to Afton Station, we first stopped in Barnsdall OK, home of The World's Only Main Street Oil Well (not particularly exciting, but it's definitely in the middle of Main Street!) Also in Barnsdall is a restored gas station of note. I always like to compare Afton Station to other stations. This one is plastered with signs and kitsch, and I like it! I don't believe it's used for anything except lookin'.

Instead of driving to Bartlesville, we then cruised through the small town of Pawhuska and to my favorite place on earth, the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve (The Nature Conservancy in Oklahoma - Oklahoma Preserve - Tallgrass Prairie). It's on the Oklahoma/Kansas border and is kept completely natural, with about 2500 bison roaming freely on over 37,000 acres, so when you drive the gravel road through the preserve, you're always sure to see bison herds and you feel like there's nobody else left on earth. It's a beautiful, very inspirational place.
With luck, bison will wander into the road and right up to the car, making for great photo ops (as long as you stay in the car!) We also encountered a gigantic grasshopper that decided to take a ride on the hood of the car, but then changed its mind when he realized he didn't have much to hold on to. He did his best as we drove over that rough gravel road, then gave up and slid off. Last seen, he was trying to thumb a ride back to his family about a half mile back.
Having been refreshed by the clean air and wide open spaces of the Tallgrass, we crossed over to Kansas and found ourselves in the little town of Cedar Vale, where we partook of a darn goodhamburger and "real" fresh cut french fries at a tiny place called the Prairie Kitchen. It was packed with locals, and I got the feeling we were the first strangers in town for quite a while.

On the way home we finally made it to Bartlesville, where we wanted to check on the Nellie Johnston #1 Oil Well (first oil well in Oklahoma) which is reproduced in their city park. It's being restored right now and looks good from a distance, but we couldn't get too close due to the restoration in progress. From there, we made a quick drive back to Tulsa, renewed and refreshed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Ethyl gets her hose!

When I arrived at Afton Station this morning, the first thing I noticed was that Ethyl had finally been fitted with her hose and nozzle and a few other parts. Now we can pump our 13c/gallon gasoline -- NOT! Fred is yet to be fitted out, but maybe by next week.

I opened early in order to receive a scheduled group of 9 elderly gentlemen from the Spring River Christian Village in Joplin, MO. They all must have had a double shot of sugar in their morning coffee, because they were the sweetest bunch I've ever hosted. I think they may have spent more time hugging me than looking at the old cars. One guy asked me if I watched Lawrence Welk. I told him I did.... and didn't add "but not since the '60s". LOL! I really loved this group.
When I told some visitors from Milwaukee that I had been there recently, they attempted to get me to move there. Not really a bad idea, since it's a sensational city and I'd be closer to my daughter, but there's no Route 66 there, so I guess not.
My other guests weree from Stroudsburg, PA and Rensselaer, NY. Also, my ex stopped in and we chatted for a while. I left early to attend a meeting tonight, and I drove home in spitting rain.