Thursday, July 30, 2009

I've just gotta' say....

. . .I was inspired today. Here's the back story:

There is a man. . . a 71-year-old man. . . running . . .yes running. . . Route 66 . . all of Route 66 . . . this summer. So as not to expose you to excessive verbiage here, I'll just lead you to for details. Since I knew he was roughly in the Afton area this week, I've been keeping a lookout for him so I could invite him into the Station for a cold drink and to offer my admiration. So. . . this morning my trip to Afton took place in a teeming. . . no, blinding. . . thunderstorm. On the way out of partially-flooded Vinita I caught sight of an older man run-walking, swaddled in clear plastic, being splashed by oncoming cars and surrounded by lightning bolts. I was traveling east and he was going west. Thinking he might be the gentleman in question, I decided to drive to the closest place to turn around and go back to meet him. To make a long story short, I quickly figured out that it WAS him, since I knew he was being shadowed by his daughter in a car, and I saw a car with an Illinois license tag waiting up the road. Alas, by the time I got turned around, after being caught at a long red light and major construction, the last I saw of them was the daughter's car driving past me, with him in it. I tried to catch up, but lost them in Vinita. So, all I got was this picture of the car as it went past me in the rain. . .and VAST admiration for the senior citizen who has the guts to do what I wouldn't be able to do in a million years.
Talk about gutless! I had a call yesterday from the NPR reporter who interviewed me a few weeks ago. He said the show would be airing this morning. This tiny bit of information threw me into a ridiculous state of angst, and I spent time tossing and turning last night worrying. Did I say something wrong? Give erroneous information? Did he edit it to make me sound like an idiot? Or do I not need bad editing to sound like an idiot? Well, I listened to the show this morning, and if I do say so myself, I did pretty well! It turns out only two of us appear in the show, and the other interviewee is the famous Route 66 authority (and my friend) Jim Ross. If you'd like to hear the interview (never fear, it's only 3 minutes long, and you get to hear my melodious voice and marvel at my erudition) you can hear it at: KOSU: Why Route 66 still matters (2009-07-30)

The rain let up about midday and we had a lot of visitors, 23 in all. Ron Jones arrived to surprise me, but could only stay until about noon. We played host to the following:

- The road crew that resurfaced our road last week. They are from Tahlequah, OK but had to be back in the area today to finish up some tasks, so they took some time to come in and visit.

- Foreign visitors from Paris France, Norway, and Zurich Switzerland.

- Others from Bella Vista AR, Hutchinson KS, Tucson AZ and Grove, OK.

- My friend Mike from Baxter Springs KS with news from the Kansas Route 66 front.

- A family from S. Dakota with two cute little boys.
Now, check this out. I took this picture from the car as I was driving to Afton this morning. It was raining so hard there was almost no visibility. When I looked at the photo later, I found this. I have no idea what it is. Looks like a car on fire with black smoke billowing from it. No such thing happened. I guess it's some sort of optical illusion.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Grab Bag

Since this wasn't an Afton Station day, I've decided to post a few "second string" photos, those that didn't quite make the cut in the past week or two. But first.... I drove down to check out the progress on the El Rancho Grande sign this afternoon, and the guys were there installing the neon. You can see (maybe) the "El" in yellow neon that had just been applied. Looking good! I'll be going there for dinner on Friday night with Ron, Brad, and LaSandra.

Then I drove over to Sapulpa to take a picture for a friend who is thinking of eating at this place when he takes his Route 66 trip in September. (Cort, I hope you're reading this because for some reason I'm not able to attach it to an email.) It's the Sunrise Grill. I know absolutely nothing about it, but it looks like it might be fun to have breakfast there some day.

Ok, now for some saved photos from the last few weeks.....

This is the Summerside Winery in Vinita, just 15 miles from Afton. It's a truly great little winery that has tastings and serves lunch on weekends.

If you must tear down a really great vintage sign and replace it with plastic, it might as well be colorful and eye-catching. The Okie-Inn is in Claremore.
Here's the Moose Lodge (or what's left of it) in White Oak.

This is the remains of another filling station in Afton. Prior to being encased in metal, the office portion was quite unique, since it came to a point in the front. Of course, you can't see that now. Oh well....
I guess that's all for today.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mostly pictures

It was a busy day at Afton Station today (How many times have I said that lately?). Well, it really was. So, this recap will rely heavily on photos I took during the day.

Guests included a Tulsa, OK family of five (three generations). The little kids loved the pressed penny machine......

...then, four guys from Denmark on motorcycles..... ...followed by a guy from Gravell, AR who had some neat stories about growing up in the countryside outside of Afton..... a couple from Kansas City, MO.... two guys from Miami, OK..... a couple from Kilgore, TX who were tired on the 16th day of their Route 66 trip... and then our friend Jane Dippel from St. Louis MO, a veteran Route 66 traveler, a friend to ALL along the Route, and a very, very fun person.....

...then, two brothers from the Netherlands......
...and finally, adorable Rascal the Dog (and his parents) from Ponca City, OK.
To that mix, please add Ron M. and Betty, who kept me happy and occupied all day. Ron did all of his usual (and voluntary) chores around the Station, like emptying the garbage, taking out and bringing in the signs and flags, and everything I'm too lazy to do, and Betty brought a newly acquired photo of Afton in the '50s that includes a view of the Ritz Theater! We've been wanting one of those, and this is a good one.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pleasant People and Plush Pets

It was Children's Day at Afton Station today, and I didn't even know it until the families with children started arriving. But I'll start at the beginning....

First of all, here's a completely UNfooled-with photo of today's sunrise. If I do say so myself, this is a very cool picture!
Here's the picture I promised yesterday. My friend Brad took it of the wonderful El Rancho Grande neon sign on 11th St. in Tulsa which is finally getting a much-needed makeover. I can't wait to see it when it's finished. You can see the guy in the bucket working on it.
I was alone at the helm of the Station today, and there were plenty of drop-ins. Early visitors from Paola, KS didn't have kids with them, but they had huge stuffed animals. The husband and wife are traveling in separate vehicles, his a cool '53 Ford truck which he plans to keep in primer, and hers a nice convertible. Both of them travel with big plush critters as companions. A lot easier to keep under control than kids, if you ask me! Coincidentally, this couple stayed in the same room at the Afton Route 66 Motel that I stayed in on Wed. night. They seemed relatively untraumatized by the invasion of the giant purple roses. Whew!

Two more unique visitors were guys from Joplin, MO in a semi tractor pulling a travel trailer. You don't see that very often. They said they simply had no other vehicle to pull the trailer when they went to pick it up. You can catch a glimpse of the rig here.
This cute young couple is from Chicago and they're heading for the Grand Canyon and other points west.
And then the children started arriving. First a family of seven from Ripon, WI. That's one full van load! The amazing thing is that each and every child seemed enthusiastic about their trip.

A family from Tulsa with two cute little boys (ages 7 and 8) were next in the door, but I forgot to take their photo. :-(

This family of three is from Yorkshire in the United Kingdom. Another very polite and personable little girl. It's the family's first visit to the U.S. and they are well armed with a battalion of guide books. They won't be getting lost!
Finally, just before I closed a local man from Afton came in with his son and grandson, age about 4. And that's definitely the largest number of kids we've ever had in one day. It makes my heart go pitty-pat just to know that people are taking their kids out on the road, and even more so that the kids are enjoying it! As for me, I'm tired.....

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Dog Named Chicken

It was a marvelous mix of visitors at Afton Station today, but surely the most uniquely-named was a dog named.... Chicken! Yes, really. Here he is, and he was a cutie! The pet of a family of three from Norman, OK was so named because when he was a pup he was afraid of just about everything. That's not true any more, but the name stuck.
Birthday Boy Ron M. rode with me to Afton today, and Tattoo Man was already there when we arrived. The morning was a little slow, but we used the time by pondering important questions such as who said "Sufferin' Succotash" in the old comics. (We later recalled that it was Daffy Duck, but I just looked it up on Wikipedia I found we were wrong. It was Sylvester the Cat.) But I digress....

A gentleman from Afton came in with his grandson from Houston, TX. The older man, who has visited before, told me he has some old pictures of Afton he'll let me copy for our history slide show. We also had several avid Route 66 fans visit. James Dawson from Bentonville AR and the Nagel family from Des Moines, IA were all on seriously-researched Route 66 trips. Having studied the Route for years, they were sure they could complete their trips without missing any of the significant sights. Oh, how I wish others would take a page from their book!

Other visitors hailed from Tuscaloosa AL, Centerton MO, Independence MO (with two very cute dogs), Miami OK, Blue Jacket OK, and those folks from Norman OK with their dog. Several children accompanied their parents today, too.

Could it be? Are those people on the Afton water tower? Yes! Looks like they're up there prepping for a new paint job. So that's what they're doing with the $12 Occupancy Tax they collected from Afton Station this year! :-)

Friend Brad Nickson tells me that the wonderful old neon sign at the El Rancho Grande Restaurante on Route 66 in Tulsa is in the process of being restored. I'll furnish a photo tomorrow, or even better, I'll post Brad's excellent picture as soon as I get his permission. Great news for Tulsa Route 66!

Friday, July 24, 2009


Although the above poster hangs in my office right next to my desk, I tend to look right past it because I'm so used to seeing it there. But today, for some reason, it commanded my attention. Since I've chronicled the restoration of Tulsa's beloved Meadow Gold sign here on the blog, I think you might be interested in it. It's a very popular piece by local photographer Greg Roach, produced just in time for our 2004 International Tulsa Route 66 Festival. It's a photo collage of signs from all over Tulsa, and on the original poster Greg quotes from Michael Wallis's "Route 66: The Mother Road":

"Signs are the ambassadors of Route 66. They are symbols of who we were and who we are and they connect travelers to their journey. Signs are forever."

It's amazing how many Route 66 enthusiasts are also interested in signage. Attempts to save, resurrect, and restore signs are taking place in many Route 66 states and cities. New Mexico has been very actively restoring it's neon heritage. I recently heard that the Tulsa Historical Society is logging all the neon in the city and so far, if I remember my figures correctly, they've logged 60-some existing neon signs right here in town.

It's always sad to see a beautiful neon sign replaced by one of those evil backlit plastic things. I wonder if some day we'll look back and feel nostalgic about backlit plastic. I doubt it!

Thanks to a suggestion by Ron, I've changed my blog instructions so that it isn't necessary to have a Google email account in order to post a comment. I never even knew this was a problem. But now... go ahead and comment away!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Oh, what a beautiful morning!

Call me weird, but there's nothing like waking up in a motel on a cool midsummer morning, when the low-slung fog blankets the surrounding fields and the sun is rising like a gigantic flaming ball in the east. I am energized! Now I'm sitting in Mom's, a cafe in Miami that's brand new to me. The chance to try a new diner adds to my enthusiasm. I think I'm the only one here who isn't sporting a John Deere cap (or a close fascimile).

This is a mini-vacation for me. Eating in this new place is a two-part experience. Atmosphere is No. 1, and Mom's gets an A from me for that. The food, on the other hand, gets a B-. My breakfast just arrived. The omelet is big and decent, but the bacon is somewhat flavorless, and both the grits and toast are swimming in melted margarine. But never mind that. I'm just glad to be here. The temperature was only 65 when I left the motel this morning. It's only 6:30 now, I'm only 15 minutes away from Afton Station, and I don't have to be there until 9:30. I have three hours to roam! The motel last night was just fine. No mistake about it, it was definitely of the mom 'n pop variety, but very clean and lacking nothing (except perhaps a decent sized bar of soap). They do have "theme rooms", but I didn't ask for one. I managed to sleep like a baby without, surprisingly, any nightmares involving being devoured by gigantic purple roses. The photos of the room will explain. But hey, nobody ever said that motel owners have to be interior designers!

Last night was great. I met up with old friends Nancy and John Howard from South Carolina at David's house, and after cocktails we all headed for dinner at a local Grove restaurant where I had the greatest catfish EVER (although way more than we could eat). It was nice to catch up with John and Nancy, whom we've known for about 30 years. They'll be driving over to Afton Station later to check out the Station.

After breakfast, I drove east on Route 66 to Miami, Commerce, and Cardin. There wasn't much new to photograph other than one of the new Route 66 stencils on the roads of Commerce (coming soon to Afton too, if I can swing it), the Dairy King building in Commerce, and the beautiful Coleman Theater in Miami.

And so.... finally it was time to drive back to Afton and open the Station. My first visitor was a man from St. Paul MN who came to see the town where his father was born in 1918. Since it was obvious that Afton is nothing like it was almost 100 years ago, I produced some of the postcard images I've collected of the town at the turn of the century. He was thrilled, and I promised to send him scans of all the images I own.

Nancy and John arrived with David shortly after that. I think they enjoyed finally seeing Afton Station, since Nancy is a regular blog reader. It was so great to spend some more time with them, and wish their visit could be longer. I'm upset, however, that David rushed them out so quickly that I didn't get to take a picture of them. There were 16 other guests today, from Dexter MI, Fairland, Grove, Tulsa, and Claremore OK, and Paso Robles, CA. I was especially excited about a visit from four high school seniors from Tulsa who decided to spend a day of their summer vacation exploring Route 66. I told them to tell all their friends to give it a try, too! Wouldn't it be wonderful if traveling 66 became a high school fad!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Can't think of a name for this entry :-)

After a succession of thunder boomers interrupted my sleep several times last night, I drove to Afton in a fog, both literally and figuratively. I have just arrived and it appears that the rain has stopped for good. I'm now awaiting my special guest of the day, Lauren Kidd from the alumni office of my alma mater, the University of Kentucky, who has decided she wants to spend the day with me at Afton Station to see what Route 66 is all about. I just hope the weather won't interfere with her plan to drive here from OKC this morning, because I love to show off "my" Route 66 to newbies.

Well, Lauren arrived, and so did lots and lots of visitors. Since I just got home from dinner (sushi!) with Lauren, I'm a little short on time tonight, so this will be brief. I had visitors from Lakewood CA, Independence KS, Fontana CA, Norwood CA, New Eddingburg AR, Perkins OK, Claremore OK, Richmond KY, Montreal Quebec Canada, Garner IA, Minneapolis MN, Oologah OK, and Paris, France. Also, my friend Emily Priddy from Tulsa came by for a couple of hours on her way to a job in Miami. It was an extremely busy day, and I think Lauren got a good taste of what Afton Station is all about. Just as we were leaving, Marly came by. I left him there to close up, and as we were driving away, two more cars came in. So, the 32 people I recorded as visiting today increased by several after we left.
Lauren (left) and Emily (right)

Since I won't be home tomorrow night, I'll tell you my plans. Since some old CT friends are coming to OK, I'll be driving up to Afton tomorrow after dialysis, then going to dinner with David, Sylvie and our CT friends, then staying at a motel up there in Afton so I can take my time at dinner and drink a little wine without having to drive back to Tulsa. I'm looking forward to this because although I have recommended the Route 66 Motel (just 2 miles from Afton Station) to many visitors, I've never stayed there myself. I'm not very comfortable recommending a place for which I don't have first-hand knowledge, even though others have told me it's quite nice. After tomorrow night, I'll let you know.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Birthday Observations

Wednesday is the 1st birthday of this blog! It's hard to believe I've been doing this for a full year. I've enjoyed it immensely and have no intention of stopping my daily ramblings. From childhood, beginning almost as soon as I could write, I was a very determined diary-keeper, and somewhere around here I have a whole carton of my old journals and diaries. I did this for years, then stopped soon after I got married and never resumed daily writing. I must say that I've evolved just a little bit from those early days, where my most pithy entries were things like "I got an A+ on my multiplication tables" or "My mother made me go to my room and I'm SO MAD!" I just hope I haven't bored any of my readers into a stupor this year -- but then if I had, I guess you wouldn't still be around to read this. I do appreciate all of you, and hope you stick with me for a while longer. Since I'm the one who won't be around on Wednesday, I'm giving myself an early birthday cake.

I'm trying to clean up my photo files a bit, so here are a few pictures I took in the past week or two, all on Route 66 of course.
I posted a picture of part of this mural mural in Chelsea a few weeks ago. The artist has been at work every day when I drive past, and soon the whole building will be covered with color.

This is how I display my magnets for sale at Afton Station. I get some from a supplier/friend and make some of them myself.

Just another broken window in an abandoned building.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A day of gifts

A day of gifts on Route 66 ! The weather itself was a gift -- sunny, balmy but not hot, a great day to be outside. So, that's what we did. Ron and I sat outdoors as much as possible, but a steady stream of visitors prevented us from basking in the greatness of the day for very many uninterrupted periods.

We had 37 visitors, and they came from everywhere. Our only foreign visitors were from Denmark, but we also visited with folks from Cookville TN, Amarillo TX, St. Louis MO, Golden CO, Louisberg KS, Springfield MO. Betty came and brought a gift of some corn from her friend's garden for Ron and me. (I just ate some, and it's mighty good.)

A large family group came in -- five little kids and three adults (3 generations). The kids all got a kick out of the penny smashing machine. They're staying at Grand Lake with other relatives , a total of 34 people in the house this week, 11 of them kids! Yikes! As a person with virtually NO family, I thought that sounded both incredibly scary and lots of fun! A wonderful gentleman named David Eames came to Afton Station this afternoon with his two sons, and handed me one of the most lovely gifts I've received in ages, and surely THE best I've ever received from someone I don't really know. He said he just wanted to give it to me because he knew and respected my work here at Afton. Here's a picture of David and his sons, and here's the beautiful metal sculpture he made himself, which will soon be hanging in a window of Afton Station. Frankly, I really felt honored that Mr. Eames would gift me without knowing me. Some of his work can be seen here: Fossil Forge - Fossil ForgeThis is a rather abbreviated blog entry today, but I have much to do, and next week will be kind of crazy, too. Meanwhile, here's a picture of today's sunrise.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Look Down

Since I began my love affair with driving Oklahoma Route 66 almost 10 years ago, I've been constantly seduced by the big skies, expansive vistas, monumental cloud formations, and spectacular sunrises and sunsets. I've barely taken a moment to look down, to think small instead of big. So today, I cast my gaze downward as I drove to Afton.

What did I see? Litter, of course. . . But also small, delicate yellow flowers growing by the side of the road . . . . . .roadside crosses memorializing those who lost their lives on Route 66 . . .. . . the sadness of roadkill.
There's so much more on Route 66 than the vintage buildings, the romance of nostalgia, the iconic sights, and the wonderful people. There's also a whole tiny, usually-ignored world down at street level. There is birth and death happening. Animals are being slaughtered by passing cars. Wildflowers are flourishing in their remains. Discarded paper is undergoing natural, albeit ugly, recycling. Aluminum cans and plastic bags are not. Birds are feeding on the seeds from the wildflowers. Grasses are trying to reclaim the plains which belong to them.

A few years ago I gave up my fantasy of finding an old Burma Shave sign lying in the tall grass along the side of the road. It was probably then that I stopped looking down. I vow to correct that in the future.
What began as a fairly slow day at Afton Station morphed into a crazy busy one, with some great, interesting guests, 34 in all. Fifteen members of the Valley Antique Car Club from Russellville, AR came for a second year in a row to have a look at the cars. A gentleman selling popcorn machines stopped in (sorry, we already have one!), a family of four from Kingsville Ontario, Canada visited, as well as folks from Bixby, Ponca City, Eufala, and Salina OK. Chanute, KS and Nixa, MO were also represented in our guest book.

A lovely family from Wales in the United Kingdom visited (my first Welsh visitors this year!). The 14-year-old daughter is a vintage car lover! Wow, that doesn't happen very often. The family has purchased an old Packard in St. Louis and is having it shipped back to Wales.

These three ladies are having the time of their lives on a "Girl Trip". Two of them are sisters and the other is their best friend. What fun they were! They said they'd be buying a motorhome so they can do more traveling together.
This gentleman, Bob Brotherton from just down the road in Vinita, has stories (and pictures) of growing up in Afton. He told me he even has photos of the old building across the street that used to be a livery stable. I've been looking for those. He promised to provide them to me so I can copy them. Yes! Great way to end the day!