Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dysfunction Junction Now Functioning

I'm not one to put down any of the wonderful little towns along Route 66, particularly in Oklahoma, but I have to admit to avoiding Catoosa whenever possible. There are two reasons for this: 1) I think the city fathers are out to get me. I'm a very careful and slow driver when I'm within city limits. Granted, I may put the pedal to the metal on the interstate now and then, but since driving is my hobby and having a great curiosity for and awareness of everything going on around me, of course I go slowly in order to observe my surroundings. In Catoosa, I've been pulled over three times for "speeding". (Note the quotation marks, which in this case indicate skepticism on my part.) Two of those times I've been let go with a warning, as I was only going 5 miles over the limit. The other time I was hit with an astronomical fine for . . . you guessed it. . . going 5 miles over the limit! I'm not alone in this. I have two friends who have also been pulled over numerous times for the "5 miles over" thing. (By the way, let it be known that I've never had a speeding ticket anywhere else in my life.) Catoosa's roads have ridiculous speed limits, and it's nearly impossible to keep one's car creeping that slowly. Therefore, I declare Catoosa a speed trap, and I advise anybody driving through the town to try to go 5 miles under the speed limit, if you can. It ain't easy, but it's a nice town so don't completely avoid it.

Secondly, I have bypassed Catoosa more recently because of the mess where 193rd E Avenue (Route 66) goes under the I-44 overpass then, going north, makes a turn shortly thereafter. It's been under construction forever, and it was indeed dysfunctional, as the nickname "Dysfunction Junction" indicates. However, yesterday it was announced that the construction had been completed, so I just had to drive out there and check it out. Indeed it is finished, and there are now 7 lanes approaching the underpass. The traffic was sailing through with ease. It's for sure not the prettiest piece of Route 66 in the country, nor does it retain a scintilla of historic value, but at least it's not a traffic-stopping bottleneck any more.

So, having negotiated that no-longer-problematic stretch and having made it through half of Catoosa in my new Subaru without attracting the attention of the police, I decided to proceed to the Blue Whale. I haven't seen him in a while and frankly, I missed him. A lot has been going on there since I my last visit. The town has taken an interest in the Whale and now has a weekend souvenir stand there where one can buy Blue Whale memorabilia. They even decorated him with lights for Christmas. They also cleaned up all the weeds around the abandoned and crumbling Ark which used to be a part of the scene when the whole area was a small water park. Mr. Whale seemed to be very nicely spiffed up, and there were three families with kids visiting while I was there. I was cheered! I then turned around and drove through Catoosa and on home, with no incidents.

I can't say this for certain, but I'm guessing that, except in the very large cities, there aren't very many dim sum restaurants on Route 66. Tulsa is lucky to have one of them, and it's menu is very authentic and very good. I happen to love dim sum, and I spent a lot of time consuming it in New York's Chinatown, where it's the real deal. Guang Zhou in Tulsa is excellent and the menu is extensive. Dim sum is traditionally eaten as an afternoon meal (like brunch) on weekends, but Guang Zhou serves it every day except Thursday, although the menu is somewhat abbreviated during the week. There is still a nice array of selections, at least 25-30 available each day. I've been there four times now, and haven't been disappointed at all.
It's in an old McDonald's, so it's not beautiful. It looks like an old McDonalds, without the counter service and with soya on the tables. The staff is just great. And best of all, it's directly on Route 66 ! It's at 4003 E. 11th St., about halfway between Harvard and Yale. If you love dim sum like I do, it's a "must stop". Home - Guangzhou Dim Sum

ADDED NOTE: A Tulsa friend just informed me that the McDonald's in which Guang Zhou now resides was the first one in Tulsa and, if he remembers correctly, the first one in the state of Oklahoma.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Merry Day-After-Christmas! I had a wonderful Christmas, but now have begun my "Post-Christmas Ants-in-the-Pants Can't-Bear-to-Stay-at-Home Jumpety Jitters". You'd think I could take a couple of days off the road and enjoy my very nice home, but that's not how I roll. And since there's virtually nowhere left to go within a half day's drive that I haven't been to a thousand times before, this morning I just got in the car and pointed it down Route 66. I probably should have just gone to Afton and opened up for the day, but I still want to feel like I'm on vacation.

I ended up in Sapulpa. It's the nice little Route 66 town west of Tulsa that had the great Christmas parade last year. Missed the parade this year, but it's still a good Christmas town. There are a few things in Sapulpa I haven't highlighted in previous posts, so I stopped to take some photos.
This is Humpty Pharmacy. No offense to the owners, but I every time I drive past it I can't help but recite:

Humpty Pharmacy sat on a wall,
Humpty Pharmacy had a great fall.
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty Pharmacy together again.

I also love this big glass plant that sits directly (and I do mean directly) on Route 66. It's so close to the road that once and a while a train stopped at their loading dock actually briefly blocks Route 66.
Entering Sapulpa on old 66, one passes this concrete paean to the glass and pottery manufacturing facilities in Sapulpa. Unfortunately, the iconic Frankoma Pottery Co. has closed due to ownership changes. We're all hoping it reopens soon. More about Frankoma here: Frankoma Pottery

The sun just came out, so I'm heading out again, I think. Where shall I go next?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Visit from Santa

Apparently Route 66 fans can be found everywhere, including the North Pole. Yesterday, during my dialysis treatment, we had a visit from Santa Claus. It was a surreal experience, so much so that I thought perhaps my blood, coursing through the machine which strips me of all of my potassium and phosphorus, had made me lightheaded and delusional. But no. It was Santa. And I'm fairly sure it was the real Santa. He gave me a candy cane, and then stopped to talk, since everyone else in the unit was sound asleep, as usual. He noticed my Route 66 necklace, and between ho ho ho's he let me know that he has a '55 Cadillac and loves to explore the back roads. And to think, I always thought he only owned the sleigh and the reindeers, and I actually didn't know that the North Pole had anything but back roads.

Anyway, we chatted a while, and he didn't leave until he'd informed me that he and Mrs. Claus would visit Afton Station in January as soon as his 'busy season' had ended. You just never know when and where you'll get a good lead. Plus, so far I haven't had a single visitor from the North Pole, so that will be another feather in the cap of Afton Station!

For many years, I've had issues with Cracker Barrel and thus have boycotted the restaurant. However, this morning I woke up very badly needing, if not a vacation, at least the feeling that I was on one. Apparently, it's been way too long since I've seen and experienced new places, and I admit that I'm well overdue for a trip. Since I tend to go to the same old two or three places for breakfast morning after morning, I tried to think of something new and different. I remembered that I saw a Cracker Barrel next door to the IHOP the other day, and so I decided to swallow my pride and give it a try.
I was pleasantly surprised. The breakfast was way too big and very very good, but what I liked the most was the atmosphere. It was quiet, dimly lit, and sort of cozy. Not what I expected. Although I resent having to wend through a gift shop in order to get into the restaurant, once in there, with a fire blazing in the fireplace, I felt very at home. Everyone else in the place seemed to be tourists, and that made me happy, too. I ate my scrambled eggs and grits and read my paper in happiness and pretended I was in Pennsylvania... or maybe New Mexico.... or even Kentucky. Anywhere but here. That was my mood today.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. I will be among friends, and I sincerely hope that all my readers will be surrounded by the love of family and friends, too. MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Early Morning Tulsa Prowl

I just can't stay at home. The first thing I think about on a morning like this, since I decided yesterday not to open Afton Station today and I have no particular other plans, is to hop in the car and go somewhere. So, I did. By the time I left the grocery store by 6 a.m. and breakfast at a diner by 6:30, the sun was just beginning to make the sky glow a little bit. There was a haze in the air and I was pretty sure it would lend itself to some good photography once there was a little more light in the sky, so naturally I went for a drive. Here are a few of the pictures I captured in the chilly pre-sunlight.
It's mornings like this that make me renew my love for this town. Tulsa is the perfect combination of industry, green spaces, commerce, beautiful homes, wonderful people, and Route 66!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Very Afton Christmas

Since this is the last day I'll be in Afton (probably) until the New Year, we had a small but moderately festive celebration today. Ron M., Betty W., Betty B., and I exchanged gifts (mostly food.... good food!), and the paucity of visitors ensured that we weren't interrupted. In fact by 1:30, both Bettys had left and Ron and I were kind of tired of waiting for visitors, so we left, too.

We decided to search the town of Afton for signs of the season, an exercise we thought might be somewhat futile, and we weren't wrong. Beginning right across the street, Ron caught this artistic photo of Afton Station reflected in one of the empty (well, sort of) storefronts over there. The strand of tinsel in the window is no less festive after one understands that it's been there for over 5 years.
And, in the very next abandoned window, there's this equally festive Santa. . . bending over. Don't ask. We have no logical explanation.
Wending our way through the few inhabited streets of Afton didn't yield much more. There was the one and only house with a front yard full of Christmas decor. . .
. . . the "angel pig" (and her friends). . .
. . . this potentially inebriated Santa relaxing in a lawn chair. . .

. . . and that's about all. Nevertheless, we wish ALL of you a very very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How long since. . .

. . . you've had a General Tightening of your Packard? I have a small collection of Packard service reminders on postcards. They were sent through the mail by car companies for many, many years. I believe these are from the late '30s.

However, this card sent to me by Ron M. is the oldest service reminder card I've ever seen. Postmarked circa 1928, it reminds the owner that he can get his Model T serviced for a labor charge of $20 to $25. Parts? New fender - $3.50 to $5. A set of platforms and rings - $7. Front axle overhaul - $4 to $5. Ahhh, those were the good old days!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Quiet.... very quiet

Were it not for visits from Betty W., Betty B., Tattoo Man, Marly, and Ron M. (who came with me today), it would have been an almost unbearably quiet day at Afton Station. Having friends around makes the day go faster. So does having a few visitors, and we did have just that. . . a few. Two gentlemen from Claremore, OK stopped by in the morning to take a look at the Packards, and a couple from Grove, OK arrived later in the afternoon. They've visited several times before, and she is responsible for the great local cookbooks I sell at the Station. She belongs to a group of ladies who created them as a charitable endeavor toward supplying clothing and toys to needy kids. Other than that, the only person who darkened our door was a young man looking for some local information.

We added Grant Denyer to our "Wall of Fame", now inhabited also by Jeanne Tripplehorn, Roy Clark, and Gary Kroll, a former Major League pitcher. We hope to add others in the future. (George Clooney, where are you?)
Tattoo Man gave us a bottle of the new Catoosa Cream Soda, produced by Pops in Arcadia and featuring the Blue Whale. I put it in our collection. Thanks, Tattoo!I've decided to play hooky tomorrow. It's going to be bitter cold, with a wind chill below zero. I posted this sign on the door this afternoon. (No, I'm not really going ice fishing. I'm not that crazy!)
That's all for another quiet winter weekend on wonderful Route 66!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How Now Brown Car

I've spent the last two days buying a car. It's not like it used to be. I bought it yesterday, then had to go back today for "lessons" on using all the buttons, dials, and electronics. My head is swimming.
I'm very happy, nevertheless, with my brand new Subaru Outback with all the bells and whistles. Yes, it's brown. I don't care what you say -- I love it. :-)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I think I'll begin with the BAD. No travelers today. None! This is the first "no travelers" day of the winter. There will be more like this, I'm sure. I'll get over it, eventually.

Now, the GOOD. I did have visits from good friends. Betty W., Betty B., and Marly all came and spent time with me. I did a little (very little) Christmas decorating today. Tripper now wears a penguin ornament hanging from his beak. Ok, not very exciting, but Tripper was quite thrilled.
I brought in a little tree decorated with a few garlands and bells. Betty B. added some of the little mailbox ornaments she made and which she sells at the Station. Each one says RT 66 and the name of one of the Route 66 states. A bargain at $3 each, too.
Now for the UGLY. On my way to Afton this morning I made an astounding and disappointing discovery. The Country Court sign is gone! Who ruined my morning and, I suspect, that of many others? Yes, it's gone. That simple, beautiful red and white sign along Route 66 between Chelsea and Vinita is one of the few landmarks I remember from decades ago, one of the memories that visits and revisits my dreams -- a random holdover from my youthful travels on Route 66. I am devastated, seriously. This is a very bad development for Route 66. There are some things in my selfish world that must not change. Where did it go? I would have paid a lot to have it in my museum, but I would have paid even more to see that it remained in its original location, where it belongs. If this sign is gone, then what's next?
Get out your EZ66 Guides, folks. Turn to Page OK-7. Cross out the mention of the Country Court sign in the first paragraph. You won't be needing it again. Damn.

Sorry about the quality of this photo. It's the former site of the Country Court sign, taken on the fly this morning.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Winter Weekend

It's the first weekend in December. I have to keep reminding myself of that. I have to remind myself that visitors are few and far between in December. I have to remind myself that we've had 16 visitors so far in the first four days of December, which is more than the number of visitors we had that entire month last year. I'm doing all this reminding to keep myself from being depressed that it's winter on Route 66.
After observing an amazing morning sunrise like fire in the sky, I picked Ron M. up and we proceeded to Afton Station. It was chilly but not frigid, and the sun was shining. Shortly after we arrived, we had our first visitor, a gentleman from Manchester, MO who is traversing some of Route 66 to observe and photograph neon signage for a potential magazine article. He was most interested in our Packard sign, which he'd read about in a guidebook.

Tattoo Man arrived around 10:30 and stayed with us for several hours, during which we had only two other visitors, a man from Claremore, OK and another from Choteau, OK. Both were with wives who chose to remain in the car. The gentlemen, however, enjoyed their visits.

After that, the slowness of the day started to bother me, so we closed up a bit early and left. I'll be back in Afton tomorrow, so come for a visit!
So far, our only seasonal decoration. More tomorrow, perhaps.
I had a long, interesting call from River Pilot last night. River is the man with whom I've had several phone calls, emails, and one face-to-face meeting concerning the Route 66 GPS download he's been developing. He called to let me know that it's finished and ready for purchase! It can be used with Garmin Nuvi, Zumo, Street Pilot, and eventually other GPS systems. From my dealings with River, I know that it will be accurate and thorough. He spent a lot of time mapping and describing tiny Afton in detail, so I can only imagine the care and dedication he put into mapping the entire Route. Wow! I can't wait to see the fruits of his labor. Eventually, I'll be selling the system at Afton Station. Until then, visit Spot It Out to read more and place your order.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Aussies, Pt. 2

Just a few more pics from yesterday, taken by Mike Wheat and Grant's photographer.

Laurel, Grant, David (I don't know why I have the weird expression.)
Grant getting ready to drive the Packard

Tattoo Man chats with the crew

There are other photos here and there on Facebook. If anyone wishes to see photos from the Aussie road trip as they progress along Route 66, go to: Facebook (17) Grant Denyer's Route 66 Roadtrip for Sunrise.

Remember, Afton Station will be open on Saturday and Sunday, so come for a visit!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Very Aussie Morning

Be warned: This post will be rich with photos. Lots of photogenic things were happening at Afton Station today, and several photographers were recording it all.

This was the morning that Grant Denyer, well-known Australian TV personality, came to Afton Station. Our friend, Aussie tour director Dale Butel, was responsible for their visit. He's guiding Grant and his crew across Route 66 while Grant sends back a week's worth of live broadcasts about his trip for his morning TV show, "Sunrise". We've been very excited about their visit for weeks, and we weren't disappointed.
We rolled out the red carpet. Ron M. made these beautiful posters.

Our greeting party consisted of David, Ron M., Tattoo Man, Michael Wheat, and yours truly. It was a very early morning -- scheduled for 7 a.m. but actually commencing at 8, since Grant had a little trouble with frozen locks on the '79 Caddie he acquired for the trip. He's traveling with his wife (a TV producer) and seven other crew members. It's a big deal! Just look at the satellite truck with which they're sending back live feeds.
Here's Grant. Quite the cutie!
Two cuties! Grant and Dale!

The group stayed for over an hour. They drank coffee, ate some breakfast bread, and enjoyed looking at the cars and Route 66 memorabilia. Lots of filming took place. I adored Grant's wife, 4 months pregnant and traveling with all those guys! Grant was super friendly, as were his entire crew. And of course, I'm crazy about Dale, their guide.
David Kane shows some of the crew around the auto showroom.

Here are a few more photos. All are taken by Ron M. Later, I'm expecting more photos taken by Michael Wheat, Dale, and others, at which time I'll post them.

Laurel, Grant, Ron M.Grant's pretty wife.

Grant drives the '55 Packard. He's a race car driver in Australia, among other achievements.

I'll be back with more later. It was a wonderful morning!