Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"Not the best, but good enough"

My first visitors were waiting when I arrived at Afton Station, a half hour early. The penetrating cold wind practically blew us away while I unlocked the door. The couple, even though they were from frigid Wisconsin, were shivering. A half hour after they left, however, the temp had already risen to 50 degrees, although the wind remained relentless all day. After it blew over twice, I gave up on putting out the big sign.

The Wisconsin folks had driven Route 66 from OKC to Afton, and they remarked that there weren't any decent mom 'n pop motels along that segment. I was able to recommend several, but of course by then it was too late. They ended up staying last night at the Holiday Inn in Vinita, just minutes away from the wonderful Chelsea Motor Inn, one of the best mom 'n pops around. If they'd only known. (I noticed when I looked at the guest book that David had hosted people from Wisconsin yesterday, too.) We've had a lot of Wisconsin visitors lately.

A mother and little boy (first grade) from Tacoma, WA were next to come through the door. They were on a "pressed penny scavenger hunt", and were following the list on http://www.pennycollector.com/ to find them across the country. What a great geography lesson for little ones!

A lovely couple from Stittville, NY arrived, interested in finding out more about the grocery store for sale across the street. As we were talking about it (and I was doing my customary sales pitch!), who should walk in but Tommy, the owner. This is great, I thought. I was already imagining that building becoming a gigantic flea market, which is what the NY folks had in mind, and which would surely bring tourists to Afton. However, for some reason Tommy showed no particular interest in pitching it to the couple. I didn't feel it was my place to jump into the conversation at that point, but I sure didn't get why Tommy, who supposedly is eager to sell, wasn't showing any enthusiasm with these people who seemed to be serious buyers. After everyone had left, it occurred to me that perhaps Tommy isn't quite ready to see his 87-year-old family business slip from his hands.

Betty came and brought another Afton School Annual, this one from 1948. Although there were no pictures of businesses to add to my collection, there were text ads, some of them very interesting. For example, there was an ad for the Ritz Theater, "Home of Better Pictures", the first evidence I've run across that Afton really DID have a movie theater once. Some of the other businesses had some amusing slogans:

City Barber Shop: "Not the best, but good enough". Hey, at least they're honest.
Matlock Insurance: "We pay you for ashes and sell dirt cheap". Huh?
Palmer Hotel: "Where all the big bugs hang out". More honesty? Ewww...
Farmer's State Bank: "Assets over $1,000,000". That was probably a lot... then!

One more thing.... On the Activities page, it was noted that, for Senior Activities Day, the class visited a rubber plant. Boy, those kids knew how to party!

I bought a boat -- a 1957 Herter Flying Fish -- several years ago, and like so many of our Afton Station "projects", it still hasn't been fully restored. We painted it it's original colors, pink and black, but never got around to polishing the metal trim pieces, so it sits in a corner in our workroom, usually covered by "stuff". I've been dying to be able to take a picture of it, and today I took some time to do that, but as you can see, it's still peeking out from behind the more recent resto projects. Here are the pics anyway. Note the awesome tailfins, which will look even better when the taillights, resembling '57 Chevy taillights, are installed. One day I hope to show you the whole, unobstructed thing.

On my way home from Afton, I snapped a picture of the iconic Chelsea Motel sign. It was once a very small motel, now a tumbledown building that might be a private residence, but I'm not sure. But the sign has always been a favorite of mine.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Disappointment vs Guilt

I couldn't get out of my completely iced-over driveway this morning, so I made an early decision not to go to Afton Station. Of course, when it was really too late for me to change my mind, the sun came out, it's a beautiful day, and the roads (and my driveway) are clear and in some cases they're absolutely dry. I'm extremely disappointed, and for some reason I feel a strong sense of guilt about not driving up there. One area of my brain says it was a wise decision. Another area keeps telling me I'm a wimp. I'll try to atone for all of this by going up both Tuesday and Thursday this week, as well as the usual Saturday and Sunday.

When my housebound restlessness finally came to a peak, I decided to go for a ride and take some photos of Route 66 in Tulsa. I've already taken photos of just about everything on the Route here, and what's left isn't particularly interesting or photogenic.

Over on the west side, there are a lot of oil refineries that aren't very pretty, but they're visible from Route 66 and therefore are an integral and important part of the Mother Road in this city. Here's the Sunoco Refinery, or as much of it as you can see from the road.

Then I passed the old Warehouse Market Building, and I wasn't sure if I posted a picture of it yet. It's a very wonderful example of Tulsa's art deco heritage. Built in 1929, it was first a farmer's market (pretty fancy farmer's market, eh?), and now is home to Lyons Indian Store, a quite fabulous store featuring Native American art and other local artistry.

In closing, here are a couple of yearbook photos from Afton which I scanned last week. A slide show is forthcoming, but for now, just see a couple of the filling stations that competed with the Eagle Service Station (now Afton Station) back in the early '60s.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Good news for a snowy day

This article appeared in The Chicago Tribune today. Although it's an unfortunate commentary on the state of the American economy, it happens to be good news for Route 66 and, in my opinion, great incentive for bringing families closer together . Let's bring back the family driving vacation!

The snow has stopped, but if the deep slush on the roads freezes overnight, I'm betting on another day of no Afton Station. I probably won't even be able to get out of my driveway. However, I'm still hopeful.

We got about a third of the way to Afton when.....

... we turned back! It started out as rain, but not a heavy downpour. Within minutes, it turned to "slush balls" which made great huge "splats" on the windshield. And then, the snow! All of this in the course of about 20 minutes. Hey, you Weather Gurus..... you told us it wouldn't start until about noon, and that it would be moderate. Wrong! I'm not blaming you, WGs, I'm just saying... I know it's unprecidented for this area, because that's what you're telling us now. No matter. I hate snow, so I'm choosing this day to be grumpy. Afton Station is closed, and if this doesn't stop soon, it might be closed tomorrow as well. Driving home from Claremore, when we decided to turn around, was not fun. My car isn't great in the slippery stuff. The ABS brakes are just fine, but forward momentum after a stop is always dicey. Creeping along works the best in this case. We (and when I say "we", I'm referring to myself and Ron M., who was with me) saw one car spin completely out and another SUV in a ditch. Visibility was basically zero, too.

I guess the snow was worse in Western Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle, and of course my heart goes out to the folks in the Upper Midwest who are experiencing devastating flooding that makes this little snowstorm seem like a walk in the park, but this is Tulsa OK, and snow is a rarity. Coming from New England, I'm a pretty good driver in this stuff, but that's not true of everyone around here. Not by a long shot.

We got to Catoosa before the precipitation started and managed to snap this picture of the mural on the side of the Correll Museum. If you will recall, I blogged about the charming little auto/rock/bottle museum I visited a couple of weeks ago. Here's the recently-painted mural. I really love it because it converted an easily-overlooked tourist stop into a place that really stands out.
It's now about 11:30 a.m., and it's still coming down very hard. Here are some pictures I took when I first got home about 45 minutes ago. Note that they're taken from my covered front porch. No way I'm going out again in this stuff!

Note my neighbor's weeping cherry, in bloom, with the snow

Friday, March 27, 2009

Just a quick one

Just a quick entry today. Mainly I want to apologize for all the typos in yesterday's blog. Could you tell I was in a huge hurry? I've tried to clean it up. I'm not really as dumb as I sometimes sound.

At this writing, I'm not sure if I'll be going to Afton Station tomorrow. The weather predictions are pretty dire -- snow, ice, a plague of locusts..... well, snow and ice anyway. I'll wait 'til morning to decide.

Here's a little poem that might appeal to some of my older roadie readers. It certainly brings back memories for me.

No Matter How Far You Drive
by Louis Jenkins

I sat between Mamma and Daddy.

My sister sat on Mamma's lap.

Daddy drove. Fields, telephone poles....

I watched the sun go down.

"Never look straight at the sun,

it could ruin your eyes."

No matter how far you drive

you can't get to the sun.

I touched the pearly knob

of the gearshift lever

and felt the vibration in my fingers.

It made Daddy nervous.

"Never mess around with that.

You could ruin the car,

cause an accident."

It was dark, the sun gone to China.

Out there in the dark,

fourteen lights. I counted. Fourteen.

Rabbits ran in front of the car

from one black ditch to the other.

I didn't know where we were.

I could see the red light on the dashboard

and the light of Daddy's Lucky Strike

that broke into a million sparks behind us

when he threw it out the window.

"No Matter How Far You Drive" by Louis Jenkins, from All Tangled Up with the Living. © Nineties Press, 1991.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Grapes of Wrath 2009

John Steinbeck's classic novel "The Grapes of Wrath" is never far from the minds of those who live and work on Route 66. Today, we didn't play host to a huge number of tourists, but one couple who came in this morning put us, sadly, in mind of those Dust Bowl days when Highway 66 was the main artery for people from the midwest who had run out of luck and funds and used the road to move west to the Promise Land. Chad and Brooke are a young couple from Michigan who fell victim to the devastation of the Detroit auto industry, lost their jobs, and own a home in a market where homes just aren't selling. Like the brave Joad family in Grapes, they are making their way west to a brand new life. They're not sure where they'll end up, or if they'll find work there, or even if they'll be able to sell their Michigan home in order to afford the move. But they're heading west on Route 66 to see what's there, because they're courageous and industrious, and because they must. I was saddened by their story, but cheered by their guts. They're considering Arizona, but Ron M. and I suggested they consider Oklahoma, where the cost of living is low and so is the unemployment rate. I wish them, and others like them, well. I am so pleased that they took the time to stop at Afton Station.

We also had eight other visitors today, two from Vinita OK, three from Royal Center IN, and another couple from Manhattan KS, so it turned into a nice day. Betty brought another yearbook with some more great photos for me to scan. Ron and I drove home in quite the rainstorm. If what the weather pundits are saying comes to pass, Saturday could be a bad day for getting up to Afton. Snow! And quite a bit, for Oklahoma. We shall see if they're right, and how it impacts my travel.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Yearbooks or Annuals?

I've always called them Yearbooks, but I guess around here they're called Annuals. At any rate, Betty Wheatley (of Buffalo Ranch fame) has been kind enough to loan me three Afton School annuals from 40 years ago, when her sons were in school. The advertising sections have yielded a treasure trove of neat photos of Afton from the late 60's, before the evil Interstate had taken hold enough to bring on it's demise. I'm in the process of scanning the photos, and Ron McCoy has agreed to clean them up and put them in a slide show. When they're ready to go, I'll send out the URL where everyone can see them. I thank Betty from the bottom of my heart for loaning them to me.

Here are two I've already scanned....McBride's Pony Rides at Buffalo Ranch. Buffalo Ranch was the famous "tourist trap" icon in Afton. Pony rides were just one of the attractions there, geared to appeal to kids. There were also Indian dancers, peacocks, and of course Betty's world famous Buffalo Burgers and Limeades.

Here's the Jon-Daw Beauty Shop. I just like this picture a lot. The hairdos of the beauticians definitely date the photo.

I was going to go to Afton Station today, but due to the dire predictions of the local weather gurus, I decided not to go. What's the weather like here now? Sunny and beautiful of course. Go figure! Anyway, I'll be going up there on Thursday instead (and Sat. and Sun. too, as usual).

Sunday, March 22, 2009

...and the beat goes on

Sometimes it's hard to reconcile my love of Afton Station with my need to wander. In this respect, today was a real killer -- sunny, warm, emerging leaves on trees, greening fields, a floral aroma in the air. Knowing that there will be plenty of days like this as spring emerges, I realize I need to work on my will power. I could have driven right past and enjoyed a day in the country, but I knew that once I got to Afton I'd be glad I was there. So I sublimated my wanderlust by taking a quick 15-minute side trip through Claremore, where I snapped a few pictures. And... here they are!

Here's the main street of Claremore. It makes the town look bigger than it really is. In the far distance, at the top of the hill, is Rogers State University.
Here's a former motel on the old alignment of Route 66. I suspect it's private housing now. I remember when it was a cute little southwestern-style motor court.
This is the J. M. Davis gun museum right on 66. Never been in there. I'm not into guns.

Ron "Tattoo Man" Jones arrived in Afton just a few minutes after I opened up. And thus commenced a mighty onrush of humanity -- 18 visitors in the first hour! It was a virtual mob scene for a while there, with folks from Dubuque IA, Williamsport IN, Clinton MO, Wichita KS, Cross Plains WI, and Vinita OK. I was too busy for photos, but couldn't resist this cute red-headed family from Wisconsin. Several families had small children, a situation I always like a lot. There was a couple in a big trailer who were about to quit Route 66 and get on the interstate for the rest of their trip to California because they were very disappointed with the signage in Missouri. I fixed that by selling them a guide book. They left happy.

I was too busy for more photos then, but I'm disappointed that I didn't get one of Mike and Kerri Wiltfong from Missouri. Mike is an old friend whom I haven't seen for about 8 years, and I was thrilled when David brought them in. So sorry I didn't have more time to talk to them!

Then, as if we had contracted a plague, everyone left and not another person came through the door for the next three hours. Tattoo went home, but I remained waiting for someone who had told me that he'd be there late in the afternoon. I twiddled my thumbs until suddenly people started coming through the door again. There was a couple from Tahlequah, OK and a couple from Ft. Smith, AR. And finally, my much anticipated guest.... Cole Starr is a 16-year-old young man from Arkansas who is one of us -- a crazed Route 66 enthusiast! I'd "met" him on email in the past, but never in person until today. He arrived with his wonderful grandparents, Joe and Beverly, and they were pleasant, fun, and as enthusiastic as Cole. I liked Cole so much that I offered him a part-time job at Afton Station when he gets out of school in a couple of years. His dream is to work on Route 66, so who knows? Here are the Starrs.
I finally left at about 4 p.m. and then got stuck in a massive traffic jam on I-44 on the way home (That's what I get for hopping on the Interstate to save time! I should have stayed on 66!) People were out of their cars and there were helicopters overhead, so I knew it must be a bad accident. When we finally crept past the accident, it was pretty awful, and looked like it involved a State Trooper car. I'll find out on the news later, I'm sure.

Ok, I'm TIRED! Big weekend.... big fun... and now for some big rest! Nighty-night!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Miatas... and everybody else

Wow, what a day at Afton Station! I think we may have exceeded attendance numbers for any day since early last summer. A total of 44 visitors walked through the door today, and that's not counting Ron M., Betty, my friend Emily from Tulsa, my ex-husband, the three kids from town who drop in now and then, and a Route 66 souvenir salesman. One of the most exciting visits was from Doris, my friend for 33 years. She started out by working for me when we lived in Connecticut, and when we moved to Oklahoma, she decided to move here too. It was a very brave move for a lady who had immigrated from England to CT, and had never really been anywhere else. She's retired now, and I haven't seen her for almost two years. So good to get back with her!

We had visitors from Missouri, Minnesota, Iowa, Massachusettes, Chicago, and several towns in Oklahoma. I'm thrilled to report that several families who visited had small children; most were on Spring Break. It's so refreshing to have visits from kids. Here are a couple of cute little girls from Joplin, MO.
The largest group consisted of 21 people in 10 Mazda Miatas, the Miata Club of Tulsa out for a Route 66 cruise. They were late arriving, but that's not unusual for a car club, because they often get behind schedule while exploring all the wonders of the Mother Road. They were a jolly group and seemed to enjoy both the cars and the Route 66 memorabilia.

Here they are, listening patiently while I delivered the very short introduction I give to visiting groups.
And here are their beautiful cars.

Betty brought me two more old Afton yearbooks, so I'll have more old pictures to show you in a few days, I hope. This was just about the perfect Afton day, with many interesting guests, never a dull moment, and I even managed to sell a good number of guidebooks and squashed pennies. I'm happy!

Friday, March 20, 2009

At the Auto Show

I worked the Mercedes Benz Club booth at the Tulsa International Auto Show yesterday, just as I did last year. I also made the "decorations" for the space last year and this year although I must say, with some shame, that I didn't put much effort into it this year. The theme this year was Route 66, so we used Burma Shave signs and shields on the cars to identify them.

In light of the current state of the auto industry, I was eager to see what would be the impact on the '09 car show. Our club was given a larger booth than usual, so we speculated that perhaps there wasn't going to be as much participation by the big car companies. Generally, the car clubs are given the "leftover" space after the biggies block out their areas. As it turns out, although there were somewhat fewer cars than last year, the place still seemed relatively full and prosperous, and the Big Three, as well as all the other manufacturers, were represented. And... Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep all exhibited concept cars, which was somewhat surprising to me. Since it was opening day of the show, we didn't expect many visitors, but we were pleasantly surprised that the walk-in attendance appeared to be as good as, if not better than, last year. I don't know if that will continue through the weekend, however.

Here are a few pictures of our booth. All the vintage cars belong to members of our Owners' Club.

Here's a Jeep Renegade concept car. Yes, those are holes in the doors. It's a "green" car, according to the spiel being given by the Jeep rep in the booth.

Here's the Dodge ZEO concept car.

And, here's the Chrysler Nassau concept. All of these cars can be seen at their manufacturer's websites.
Finally, here's a purple Smart. We have plenty of Smart Cars around here, but this is the first purple one I've seen.

I'll be in Afton tomorrow, and we're expecting a visit from a pretty large cruising club, so you might have to sit through some more car pictures tomorrow. They'll undoubtedly be much different from these, however. :-)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Some exciting pictures!

Well, exciting to me! Actually, most of today at Afton Station was pretty exciting. There were only 7 visitors, but they were good ones. The day started with a very cool couple from Kansas who had three free days and chose to use them on Route 66. They were heading west, so I sent them to Clanton's (of course!) for lunch. Then, to my great delight, an old friend from our National Packard Club days arrived unexpectedly. It's always so much fun to look up and see a familiar face, especially one I haven't seen for years and years. He and a friend were hauling a car from St. Louis to Norman, Oklahoma. We had purchased our '34 Packard 12-cylinder from him years ago, and I think mostly he came to say hello to his old car. Here it is:Betty arrived and brought me a treasure trove of photos of Afton, in the form of the 1965 school yearbook!!! The advertising section has a number of photos that helped me identify stores that no longer exist in the town. We went through the book page-by-page and she pointed out the childhood pictures of people I've met recently, in their older years. What fun!!!

Here's Betty herself... when she owned and operated Dairy Ranch. She was a cutie... and she still is! And here's Afton Station in '65, when it was called Eagle Service Station. That's Mr. Marion Lee Baker, the owner, and his son. And look! They had a phone booth! The day ended with a visit from Jordan, Joey, and Maggie, three really sweet 7th graders (on spring break) from Afton Middle School. They stayed for a long time, and I had forgotten how bright and polite some middle schoolers can be. I gave them each two quarters and a penny so they could use the penny squashing machine, and you would have thought I'd given them hundred dollar bills. I hope they come back often.

I woke up this morning sort of dreading the new season, and having to drive up to Afton four days a week. I left this afternoon very pleased and enthusiastic about the uptick in numbers of travelers. It's going to be a good year.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Short Day

Thanks to all of YOU, I registered my 10,000th blog hit while I was at Afton Station today! I really appreciate all of my regular readers, as well as those who just visit occasionally. I'll continue to try not to bore you to death.

As for today, I was supposed to meet my financial guy from Maryland at Afton Station for a brief meeting, as he was in Oklahoma for just one day. Meanwhile, Ron was with me today, and our mutual friend Joe asked if he could tag along today, too. I was very excited about Joe wanting to spend the day at Afton Station, and had hoped to impress him with a busy day. We had only greeted 5 visitors by 1 p.m., when the financial guy called and, said that due to a flight mix-up, he was going to be quite late getting in. So, I closed up the Station early and we drove toward Tulsa, with the intention of meeting him somewhere half way between the Tulsa airport and the Station. No telling how many visitors I may have missed by closing two hours early, but it really was the best plan, since I didn't want to miss the guy who was going to tell me how all my holdings had multiplied in value since last year. HA HA, VERY BIG JOKE! :-) I ended up meeting him at the McDonalds in Catoosa right next to the huge casino there. Joe and Ron spent 45 minutes at the casino while financial guy and I had our meeting at a table at Mickey D's. Usually when he comes to town he takes me out for sushi, but (sob!) that just wasn't possible this time. (However, the financial news was better than I expected, so I'm breathing a sigh of relief.)

Betty stopped in after church and she and Joe enjoyed chatting. Both are history buffs so they had a lot of local history to discuss.

Like yesterday, one couple who visited the Station today was very young and very enthusiastic. They were from Texas, heading toward Grinnell IA, and were a cute sort of hippie couple whom I can imagine would have a great time if they decide to "do" Route 66 some day -- and I think they will.

Another couple was on their honeymoon! They just got married on Friday and were taking a quick two-day jaunt to celebrate before needing to go back to work tomorrow. Our other visitor was a single lady from Michigan who is taking Route 66 as far as Arizona, where she'll meet a friend and they'll continue together to the coast.
So, after all the craziness, and after dropping Ron and Joe off at their homes, I still got home earlier than usual today, but with great apologies to any folks who may have arrived late in the afternoon and found us closed.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

First of two big days, I think

Sunrise on 66 this morning

I stopped for breakfast at Clanton's in Vinita this morning on the way to Afton Station and was surprised when Tattoo Man Ron Jones tapped me on the shoulder and asked if he could join me. Of course! I guess we had a simultaneous hankering for Clanton's awesome breakfast.

The morning at Afton Station sure wasn't as satisfying as breakfast. On the contrary, Tattoo and I sat around all morning with the only guests being one young Afton couple who wandered in and stayed for a very brief time. The town was dead (but then, what else is new?). The grocery store is closed, but there's a new sign in the window upping the discounts from 10% to 20% in Tommy's attempt to get it cleared out. I looked in the window. There's not much left in there. Tattoo eventually got bored and went home around noon.

I closed out the February books. That took about 10 minutes. LOL! We only had 94 visitors for the month, averaging about 6.26 visitors for each of the 15 days we were open. Worse yet, we only averaged sales of about $9.25 per each of those days. Good thing we're not depending on Afton Station for our income! That doesn't even cover the phone bill, much less the astronomical winter heating bill, the electric bill, the cost of fuel for my 180-mile round trip, etc., etc.

Later in the afternoon, business started to pick up, and I ended up greeting a total of 13 visitors today. I was encouraged by the relative youth of most of the travelers today. Route 66 can use all the young faces it can get, since most travelers seem to be on the older side. But today, we had a young family of four from Austin TX, three relatively young fellows from Des Moines IA who were delivering some furniture to their mother in a nearby town, another young couple from Jay OK, an older car guy from Broken Arrow OK who went nuts over the cars (I like that!), and one other guy who just stopped by to remind me that his car club is stopping by next Saturday. Sounds like there are going to be a lot of cars, so I'm psyched about that.

On the way home, I had decided to stop at Clanton's and snap a picture for this blog, but I was stopped in my tracks by bulldozers and hardworking guys right in front, looking like they were tearing up the place. Turns out they are just excavating to put in some sewer pipe (much needed in Vinita, where the streets flood at the first drop of precipitation), but at first glance it looked like one of my favorite restaurants was succumbing to the bulldozer.
All in all, it was a pretty good day at the Station, and having 13 visitors in March ain't bad!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Dinner is served

As promised, here's the Irish Dinner, ready to be eaten. It was GOOOOOD, as was the company.

My Kindle has arrived!

Yes, it's Friday the Thirteenth. I'm glad I'm not superstitious.

My Kindle2 arrived yesterday. I'm absolutely thrilled with it! I read almost an entire book at dialysis this morning, and it was so easy to handle one-handed. I haven't learned all of it's features, but it's main function, reading electronic books, can be learned in about two minutes.

Tonight is corned-beef-and-cabbage night. I can't wait! The house still smells great from yesterday's preparation. I wish I could eat it right now.

I'll be at Afton Station tomorrow and Sunday, so we'll be back to some on-topic posts. Thank you for your patience.

Meanwhile, here's another picture of my beloved pansies, taken this morning. What can possibly be wrong with flowers that bloom for 7 months, especially when about 4 of those months are the dead of winter? They just seem to get better and better.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Don't mess with a good thing.

Ok, I have to start by saying that today's weather is lousy! Well, perhaps it's not lousy by some people's standards, but people who know me are aware that I hate snow more than Bristol hates Levi, so I've decided to spend most of the morning at home. That's a rarity for me. It's not even noon yet and I'm itching to go somewhere, but since a few tiny snowflakes are still floating through the cold, gray sky, and since I have something on the stove, I guess I'll stay put for a while. I did run errands this morning early.... breakfast at Jimmy's Egg, a trip to the bank, the bakery, and the gas station ... but then I came home and had a brilliant idea. This is where "Don't mess with a good thing" comes in. Since I'm having guests for my annual Irish dinner tomorrow night (a bit early this year, due to scheduling), and since I'm a huge fan of the incredible "Pioneer Woman" blog The Pioneer Woman Cooks - Ree Drummond, in which Ree spectacularly photographs every single step in the creation of her family dinners each night, I decided that if she can do it, so can I. Welllllll...... yes, I can take pictures of food, but they're not gorgeous like Ree Drummonds, not to mention the fact that I got bored with snapping pictures about half way through the operation. LOL! At any rate, here's my poor impersonation of the Pioneer Woman.

I'm cooking a day early because I won't be home tomorrow, and also because my Irish Dinner of Corned Beef and Cabbage always tastes better the second day. It's a menu I've cooked without failures every St. Pat's season since I was first married. It's also as easy as pie (actually, a lot easier than pie!), pretty cheap to produce, makes the house smell gloriously garlicky, and tastes like Heaven in Dublin.

I was thinking of using the crockpot this year, but it's not big enough, so I went back to the two-part pasta pot on top of the stove. With the basket in, at the end of cooking it's easy to lift all the food out in one mighty heft.
I bought two briskets this year, even though there will only be three of us at dinner. For one thing, they shrink miserably. Secondly, leftovers are awesome! I try to buy lean briskets, but not TOO lean. That's probably the hardest part of the whole procedure. This year I was lucky. One is very lean and one has a little too much fat, but it's not at critical mass. The fat is needed for flavor. I bought pre-corned briskets this year, which eliminates the several-days-long step of brining the meat. The ones I bought this year came with little packets of spices. I use about half of them, since I like to add my own garlic and bay leaves. The other spices in the packs are mustard seed, thyme and peppercorns.
The ingredients I use are: garlic (a lot!), salt and pepper, more bay leaves, baby carrots, little red potatoes, and of course, cabbage.
I put the meat in a boiling pot of water, add the bay leaves, garlic, salt and pepper, and let simmer for about two hours. After two hours, I add the potatoes and carrots and let it simmer for about another hour. Finally, I remove everything from the water, add the cabbage, which I've cut in wedges, and let it simmer for another half hour while everything else rests in a warm oven. Then I serve!

I'll take a picture of it tomorrow when it's ready to be served. Taking pictures while cooking is a huge pain in the neck for a lazy bum like me. :-)

I apologize for this decidedly NOT Afton Station-related blog entry. But hey... Happy St. Patrick's Day... next Tuesday!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Good News - Bad News

I didn't intend to visit a museum today. I really didn't! But free mornings are precious to me these days, and I decided to spend this particular one driving up to Catoosa (on Route 66, of course) to photograph a brand new mural on the side of a small but apparently well-established museum which, believe it or not, I'd never visited. Until the new mural was painted, it was so unobtrusive that I simply never bothered to stop. This morning, it was early and I didn't expect it to be open, but as I arrived, so did an older gentleman in a truck who was just opening up and invited me in. And that's when the fun began!

The Correll Museum (19934 E. Pine St., Catoosa -- a few feet off Route 66) is the private collection of Mr. D. W. Correll (now deceased), which is currently tended by a curator who was absent when I was there, and by Chuck Tapley, who gives tours to those of us who are lucky enough to show up on the doorstep. Chuck was gracious, friendly, chatty, and very well-informed.

In some respects, the Correll Museum is similar to Afton Station, in that it's the private collection of one person (although it's now owned by the City of Catoosa) and it's free (donations happily accepted). In the main building, which is the only one I visited, there's a very nice collection of about a dozen automobiles ranging from an early electric car to a 1949 Dodge. Naturally, my interest was piqued mostly by a lovely old Packard Twin Six. Along with the cars in this building, there are also buggies and other unusual transportation forms, a small collection of antique cookware, and lots and lots of old tools. In the other two buildings (which I skipped on this visit) are a rock collection and a bottle collection.

Judging from my conversation with Chuck, I did not get the sense that any emphasis is given to Route 66 in this museum, and I think that's a shame because I know their visitor traffic would increase by multiples if they got some publicity within the Route 66 community. I plan to return soon to talk to the curator about exchanging brochures and links. Maybe this blog entry will stir up a little curiosity. It's a fine museum, and I think it would appeal greatly to car people and history buffs. D.W. Correll Museum The link here will give hours and days of operation.

Now for the bad news..... Driving out 11th Street (yep, old 66!) and passing this head-turning sign for the umpteenth time reminded me to mention a very disturbing article that appeared on the front page of the Tulsa World on Saturday.
Last week, a Tulsa man and his son enrolled in a gun safety class because the son had raised his grades high enough to be rewarded with a hunting trip with his grandfather. His father wanted him to learn gun safety rules before he went on the trip. On the first day of class, before doing anything else, the teacher (who was a volunteer) asked if anyone in the class had supported Obama in the recent election. Several people, including the father (a former Marine) and his son, raised their hands, at which point the teacher ordered all of them to leave the class immediately and not return -- because he refused to teach liberal supporters of "the next thing to the Antichrist". Are you kidding me????????? I've been incensed all week, and I can't stop thinking about the incident. Gratefully, the volunteer teacher was "fired", and I'm not sure anything more can legally be done about it, but to me it says a lot about a certain mentality that exists in this country these days, and what it says is NOT good! No matter who or what one supports, this is still a free country -- isn't it? Details here:
Tulsa World: Hunter safety instructor removed after ordering 'liberals' from class

Monday, March 9, 2009


Once I started blogging, I find it's hard to stop! Even on days like today, when I have nothing of great interest to report, I just feel the need to say something. But, I'm trying very hard to keep the blog on topic, i.e. Afton Station and Route 66, so as not to bore anyone. Maybe I'll just post a photo. I did find one photo in my camera that is remotely on topic.... but not very. Well, I'm going to post it anyway, since it seems I just can't shut up! :-)This is the bookcase in my office. With the exception of a half dozen books on the bottom right hand shelf (including my autographed copy of Obama's The Audacity of Hope), every single book is road-related. The top two right hand shelves are all Route 66. On the left side, I have a shelves of motel books, diner books, petrobilia, and auto books.

All books that aren't roadside related are in other bookcases in the house and in about 20-30 boxes in the basement. And now I'm getting a Kindle (I wish it would hurry up and arrive!), so I won't have to worry about where to put books in the future.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Mostly Friends

The predicted severe weather didn't materialize and it was a lovely, sunny warm day at Afton Station. Even so, the beautiful day didn't bring out the visitors. Two young (very young... probably 16-ish) residents of Afton wandered in near the end of the day. He's a Chevy lover and she's a Ford lover, so I'm not sure if the relationship will last, but they seemed to have fun looking at the cars and I hope they'll come back.

Betty came by for a while so we could have our weekly chat, after which I was surprised by an unexpected visit from Emily and Ron, my Route 66 friends and fellow Tulsans. They were on a trip to procure a new rat terrier puppy. Their beloved 10-year-old ratty, Scout, had to be put down last week due to incurable lymphoma, and Em and Ron are missing her so much that they're eager to fill the void with a new pup. I wish them well. (I liked Scout, too. She never failed to converse with me whenever we met. Yes, she "talked", and Emily tells me she never talked to other visitors -- just me.)
Other than these visits, there was absolutely nothing going on in Afton today. Even the truck traffic seemed to a lot less vigorous than usual. So, here's my picture gallery for today:
I took the above shots in Foyil on my way to Afton this morning. I love the "Foyil COUNTRY Cafe" sign. The place hasn't served food for several years and the sign is slowly fading away. Next door, the Top Hat Dairy Bar does quite well. Known for their milkshakes and burgers, it's a popular stop for Route 66 travelers, particularly motorcycle tours.

Finally, here's the dreaded photo of me, taken yesterday by Ron. This is the best of the bunch (believe it or not!), and I think I'll go ahead and send it to the U.K. magazine and tell them that what they see is what they get. :-)

P.S. -- I forgot to mention that I had a great phone interview with a young lady from Connecticut who is working on a paper about Route 66 for her senior project. The interview lasted for about a half hour and she asked some extremely intelligent questions about the history of Route 66. I felt like I was taking a test!