Saturday, April 30, 2011

First Things First

Yesterday, I drove up to Afton after dialysis because the Vintage Car Rally Assoc. (VCRA) was coming to dinner, for the second time in three years. We had hired an outstanding BBQ guy, who incidentally happens to be the generous person who gave us the 1917 Motorcoach on permanent loan. Prior to the VRCA's arrival in their customary array of cool old vehicles adorned with loads of rally stickers, we also greeted 16 other guests, and it was an international day to say the least. They came from Ohio, Spain, France, Helsinki Finland, Melbourne Australia, Juneau AL, and Kansas City, MO.

There were 80 members of the VCRA, and they thoroughly enjoyed the food, the museum, and our Afton Station hospitality. However, it was a very long 18-hour day for me. Thank goodness, Marly, Robin, Phil, David, and Sylvie were all here to help out and be gracious hosts.


Today (Saturday) was another story altogether. It was again a beautiful day, but except for a major outbreak of flies (who chose to remain overnight after participating in last night's barbecue orgy), visitors were few and far between in the morning. It was nice to have both Tattoo Man and Betty Baumann to keep me company. Betty brought a bunch of her new, beautifully hand-crafted merchandise, so be sure to come check it out!

Although there were only 6 visitors by the time Betty and Tattoo left, as so often happens, as soon as they were out the door the visitors started coming. By day's end, I'd greeted 18 folks, who came from Tucson AZ, St. Paul MN, Rome NY, Fayetteville AR, and Vinita, Afton, Ponca City, and Yukon OK. Since I took no photos today, here are a couple more from yesterday's VRCA visit.

And here is a photo I took this morning in Claremore. I wish I could have taken a good picture of what these BNSF engines were pulling. I lost count at about 70 cars, each a flatbed carrying four camouflaged army tanks. They just went on and on, and were all identical. I can't help wonder where they were going, and where so many armored tanks are needed. They were, unfortunately, unphotographable (and NOT because they were camouflaged, silly!)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Watch This Spot. . . Tomorrow

VERY long day. Ninety-six visitors (!), and just got home from Afton Station moments ago. Tomorrow, you will see photos of what happened today, but I'm just too tired tonight.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Oh my! What a day!

I don't even know where to begin. It was a wonderful, varied, exciting, and BUSY day at Afton Station! I'm somewhat limited in my time to blog tonight, so I'll dance over everything rather quickly, in hopes that I'll find time in the next few days to elaborate on some of the details.

First, the visitors. There were 24 today, which is a huge number for an April weekday, and I'm sure the weather being absolutely perfect had something to do with it. Visitors came from Helsinki Finland (three RVs worth!), Oslo Norway, Kansas City MO, Guadalajara Mexico, Temple TX, Dawson TX, Oswego KS, and Mounds, Ketchum, Grove, Afton, and Tahlequah, OK.

Today's youngest visitor was Savannah, a two-month-old who lives right here in Afton.

This is Charley Johnson, the kind gentleman who gave us the antique cash register. He stopped in to see if we were treating her right. He was delighted by my appreciation for the cool machine.

Regular visitor Jon Edwards from Tahlequah, OK brought his brother from Texas to look at the cars rather late in the day. However, his timing was perfect, because. . . .They got to be the two first guests to see the new 1917 PACKARD MOTORBUS!

Here it is as it rolled into the Station. David and Marly went to Kansas to pick it up in the morning and arrive back in Afton by mid-afternoon.

Cleaning began immediately. David worked on the wheels. . .

. . . while Marly and Phil scrubbed the topsides. The vehicle is such a beauty, and in great shape. I had time to do a little research after David told me it was originally owned by a Mr. Pickwick of the Pickwick Stage Line. This is interesting, to say the least. Supposedly, it's the first motorcoach (turned into an early version of an RV, even fitted with a bathroom. I can just picture a family camping out on a trip across Route 66 in this vehicle. And it's the only one made out of a Packard!

In other news: The Shaved Ice place on our property will officially open on Monday!!! Yippee! Please come visit and have a hot dog and a cool, refreshing pile of flavored ice!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Moving Day: Part 1

David, Phil, and Marly had a mostly sunny day today, just right for moving cars around and getting them set in their places in the new showroom. Finally! They didn't finish, but they got a good start. Most of the cars started and could be moved around on their own power.
The Hupmobile was being recalcitrant, so it needed to be towed around the corner. These two beautiful Packards were quite obedient and slid right in to their new homes.

The old showroom (the post-war showroom) looks a bit bare now, but there wasn't time to bring in other cars to fill in the blanks. That will probably happen tomorrow. And on Thursday, we take possession of the beautiful 1917 Packard Motorbus. Things are shaping up nicely!

Amid all this madness, I did have a few visitors today. It included a gentleman from Grove OK, another gentleman from Vinita OK, a couple from Victoria, Australia doing the whole Route, and this charming, adorable honeymoon couple from Porcari, Italy (that's in the beautiful region of Tuscany.) I just loved them. They brought me outside to look at the car they rented. They were very embarrassed about the bright color and the smallness of the car, but they were having a great time fulfilling lifelong dreams of cruising Route 66.

That's all for now. A pop up thunderstorm just started, and I'd better get off the computer!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Drippy Easter!

There wasn't a single moment today that it wasn't raining where I was. Fortunately, it was a more gentle rain than yesterday, yet it's still dark, windy, and now some thunder and lightning have begun. Additonally, it was unseasonably cold today, in the mid-50s all day in Afton. I'm back home now, having left Afton Station early due to lack of visitors.

The visitors I did have all came in this morning, and they were a hearty lot. One couple was from Brisbane, Australia and one from Peterborough Ontario, Canada. All four were finishing up the first third of their Chicago-to-L.A. Route 66 vacations, and thus far they haven't experienced a single day of favorable weather. They weren't letting it get them down, however. They were a spot of brightness in my otherwise gloomy day. The third couple to visit was from right down the road in Ketchum, OK and they were simply looking for something to do on this hopeless Easter Day. Betty W. stopped in for a while as well, another bright spot.
On the way home through Claremore

In closing, here's a photo to remind everyone of better days, and to wish all of you a Very Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Super Saturday

If I seem weather-obsessed lately, I hope you'll forgive me. In this business, weather matters. The combination of the crazy, erratic weather patterns and the rising cost of gasoline surely will make tourism suffer this Easter weekend. Driving up here to Afton from Tulsa this morning, there were lakes where once cows grazed. I know the farmers are thrilled, but enough already! The cost of my round trips is somewhat depressing (160 mi @ 30 mpg x $3.59/gal = $19 commuting cost per day!). Good thing I love this place so much!

Despite the weather, it was a very good day at Afton Station, with 20 visitors coming in the door. They came from White Springs FL, Barlow KY, Wierton WV, Valencia Spain, Bern Switzerland, Rolla MO, Kansas City MO, and Jay, Vinita, W.Siloam, Colcord, Ketchum, Miami, and Sand Springs, OK. As you can see, people ARE on the road, and foreign visitors are here enjoying Route 66 now, too. I was quite pleased with the crowd today. In fact, I left Afton a full hour late because people kept arriving after my official closing time. Fortunately, Robin and Phil had stopped in and helped me close up in a hurry so I could be on the road as soon as the last visitors left. Marly and Betty W. visited today as well.

This is a very cute and very much in love honeymoon couple from Valencia, Spain. They are having a ball on Route 66, but I have the feeling they'd be having a ball just about anywhere as long as they're together. Loved them!

This couple, from KY and FL respectively, are on a Route 66 trip and plan to see how far they get in a week. The woman is a photographer as well as a very avid Packard enthusiast, and she took a great number of photos of the cars. They were interesting and fun to talk to. (I also love her dress!!)

The Arizona Route 66 Assn. sent me a large box full of their new "Passports", which are just wonderful! A Route 66 traveler in their state gets the passport stamped at locations in each of the major cities on the Route, and those accumulating a full set of stampings are rewarded with a prize at the end of their trip. I just love this idea and hope that other states will follow suit. The little passport book is very authentic looking and there's a lot of good information for travelers inside. Nice job, Arizona!

I trust all of our Route 66 friends in the St. Louis area are safe after some mighty strong tornadoes hit Missouri yesterday. Whew! Mother Nature is certainly having her way with us lately.

Friday, April 22, 2011

"Ma" Barker

I've become quite interested in the legend of the "Ma" Barker gang lately, I guess since I know that much of the story plays out on or near Route 66. There was a great article in the local Afton newspaper last week, but unfortunately it's too long for me to reproduce here. I'll summarize a bit of it. I became interested in Ma Barker when I located and visited the Barker Family graveyard (Williams Timberhill Cemetery, Welch, OK) which isn't far off Route 66 near Miami. I never found the specific graves, but that's only because it was a rainy day and the ground was too mushy for me to tramp around. I'll be going back soon.

Ma was born near Springfield, MO and married George Barker in 1892 and had four sons. They moved to Tulsa, OK in 1915 and it was then that the illegal activities of the family made them known as The Central Park Gang. Although it's indisputable that the sons were engaged in a great deal of criminal activity, it's not certain that their mother joined them on their forays or rather that she was more of an advocate for them and defended them both in court and out. In any case, she was always lumped in with the "gang" which was made up of the sons and a few other unrelated men. Eventually, all four sons wound up in prison, Alcatraz and Leavenworth. One son committed suicide and another was murdered by his own wife. It's unknown why and how the entire family ended up in the Welch cemetery, but Betty W. told me it was because Mr. Barker (the father) was from Welch originally. There's so much more to this story, but I'm telling you this just in case you'd like to take a little side trip on your way down Route 66 to visit the graves. If so, here are the instructions for getting there:

Located off Craig County Road N4485, North of Oklahoma Highway 10/US Highway 59, at Williams Timberhill Cemetery Road. Craig County Road S485 is a gravel road that heads north off of Oklahoma Highway 10/US Highway 59. Right after you turn on to S485, on your left hand side, there is a sign pointing the direction to William Timberhill Cemetery. You go up the gravel road about a half a mile then turn right, under the arch that says Williams Cemetery. You travel about 100 yards to the entrance of the cemetery on your left. Once you reach the entrance to the cemetery, go straight through the entrance gates and up the road to the north side of the cemetery.

There's a more detailed story about the Barker family here:
Biography - Ma Barker on Crime and Investigation Network

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Happy Farmers, Soggy Aussies, and a Pretty Girl

I can almost hear the whoops and hollers of the farmers who must be ecstatic about the heavy rain today and predictions of a lot more for the next several days. Farmers around here were starting to get premonitions of the next Dust Bowl, but that's not going to happen now.

On the other hand, the 47 Aussies who arrived at the door of Afton Station late today were in no way looking forward to the soggy predictions. Dale Butel (a travel guide who has become a friend after three visits to Afton Station with his tour groups) brought 53 people to Route 66 this time, and when they came to the door at 3 p.m. the skies had darkened to the point that it looked like post-sunset. Dale sent the 6 motorcyclists in the group on ahead, thus skipping Afton Station, and that was a wise decision. On my way home to Tulsa right after they left, I met with driving, blinding rain and a good bit of wind. I feel sorry for those folks in their rental cars and bikes driving down unfamiliar roads with almost zero visibility. They were heading for Tulsa too, but fortunately I didn't see any of them along the side of the road.

But I digress. The Aussie visit was short but very satisfactory. Phil and Marly helped with crowd control, and in the rush to beat the rain, the travelers didn't linger long, although I do believe they enjoyed their visit. They bought a good bit of merchandise, including these American-Australian friendship magnets that I made at the last minute this afternoon.
I barely had time to snap any photos of the group, but here's one. Dale is in the back row with the white shirt. The morning, on the other hand, was eerily quiet. No visitors other than "regulars" Betty W., Tatoo Man, Marly, Phil, and Robin.

By the way, here's the photo of the "ghost" of the Palmer Hotel. Scroll back a week or so to see the story. The photographer was kind enough to send me one of the shots. Absolutely gorgeous and haunting, I think. . .

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Friendly, Generous People Everywhere

Yesterday, I started to write a long piece about my discouragement and slight depression over Afton Station in general. Today, I've taken a 180-degree turn. I'd been upset about low numbers of visitors, high gas prices, crummy weather, and some unrest in our Route 66 family. Today, I've taken the time to count my blessings, and I have so, so many. So, you'll never see yesterday's grumpy piece.

Here are some of my blessings:

Have a look at the gorgeous antique cash register we've been given, on permanent loan from one Charlie Johnson of Miller, MO, simply out of the kindness of his heart. (It's made by J.H. Wilson of Dayton, OH in 1905, for any of you cash register enthusiasts.) I couldn't get a good photo of it because it's up against the bright window and too heavy for me to move, so I've added a picture of an identical one I pulled off the internet. Ours is in perfect, working condition. Love it!

More kindness: An older gentleman I met here only a week or so ago has taken it upon himself to search for the missing Muffler Man statue over in Grove. I'd related to him how badly I wanted to buy it until it mysteriously disappeared overnight a while back. So far, he's tracked down people who actually witnessed it being removed, but that as far as he's gotten. However, he came in today to let me know he's determined to work until he solves the mystery.

Marly and Phil are working here today, painting and sealing the floor of the new showroom. I am SO lucky to have those two kind guys here, always willing to help me in any way, at the drop of a hat.


I left Afton a bit early today because there was talk of nasty weather on the way. I think the nastiness never showed up in Afton, nor did it arrive here in Tulsa, now that I'm home. I had a mere 6 visitors prior to leaving: one from Afton, three from N. Bruner MN (on a "gambling trip") and this lovely couple, Stan and Susi, from Stockton, CA. Stan and Susi have done a large amount of Route 66 travel and their knowledge of the Mother Road made it fun to chat with them. They'll be back in May, and I hope to see them again then.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Serene Day

Once again, a quiet morning became a rather busy afternoon at Afton Station. I arrived early again, after taking a few short side trips on the way to Afton. The sunrise above was taken on a short side road off Route 66 near Claremore.

Further down the road, after the sun had fully risen, I took a quick photo of the wonderful Chelsea Motor Inn, hoping it would remind all of you that it's a fantastic little mom 'n pop motel which should be considered by anyone who is close to Chelsea when they're ready to turn in for the night. Trudy and Frank will greet you with open arms and treat you like royalty, and the price is right, too! There are only six rooms, so get there early!Marly dropped by in the morning and we chatted for an hour or two. The only morning visitors were a couple from Afton whom I'd never met before. It's always nice to introduce our place to local folks. They said they walk past all the time, but just never thought to come in!

Later, we had a visit from the grandchildren of an elderly Afton citizen. The grandkids are now living in Madison WI, and Mesquite TX and were in town to visit grandma. They were reminiscing about their childhood days visiting her in Afton. A gentleman from Framingham, MA came in. He decided to explore Oklahoma Route 66 while he's in the area on business. Two other men visited as well, but didn't tell me where they came from. Betty W. came late in the day and stayed until closing. It was nice to have a bit of time to visit with her.

My final visitor was River Pilot from Oregon. He has visited before, and he's the gentleman who is responsible for the new, extremely comprehensive Route 66 GPS software for use on Garmin and TomTom. It's on the market now, and available at Best Buy, soon to be available at various places on Route 66, too. I got a demonstration and I'm impressed. My favorite feature, which is on the deluxe edition, puts out an audible "beep" when one approaches a Route 66 sites worth visiting. Maybe that will slow down all those people who race through Afton, heads down and never looking from side to side. There are at least 10 points of interest in little old Afton alone!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Return of the Palmer Hotel Ghost

What might have been a very slow day at Afton Station was sparked in the afternoon by . . . the return of the Palmer Hotel Ghost??? Wait! What's that image moving in one of the upstairs windows of the long-abandoned Route 66 hotel? The spectre appears to be a woman, perhaps two, in garb reminiscent of the days of Belle Starr, or perhaps Miss Kitty from "Gunsmoke". Had their ghosts perhaps come to Afton, to the Golden West style hotel that reminded them of their stomping ground of old? Oh dear, this is just spooky!Alas, there's always a logical explanation In reality, the rather astounding sight turned out to be the work of a photographer (a relative by marriage of the owner of the Palmer), who obtained permission to enter the relic in order to do a fashion shoot of prom dresses against a primitive background. She certainly picked the right place to do it! Ron M. and I were transfixed, watching the activity in the 2nd floor window of a structure that hasn't been touched for decades.

Good thing something was happening in Afton today, because we sure had a slow day at the Station. Tattoo Man was there with us in the morning, but otherwise we only saw 5 visitors, who were from Oswego KS, Traverse City MI, Perry KS, and Grove, OK.

Meanwhile, across the street the green metal roof is being put on the new building, and every forklift in town came out to watch.


I've been "teasing" for a while about a new acquisition which we'll be getting soon at Afton Station. Today, the gentleman who is giving us the loan of his 1917 PACKARD MOTORHOME came in to the Station and told us how eager he is to bring it here as soon as the new showroom is finished. Now, I feel I can show some photos of this rare, incredible machine that will be the centerpiece of the collection. It's one of, if not THE, first motorhome of its kind.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Pack of Wild Jaguars

Ok, not really wild. But fun folks! Ron M. and I drove up to Afton right after I got out of dialysis today in order to meet and greet a group composed of 20 members of the Central OK Jaguar Club and the Tulsa Jaguar Club. They were on a cruise, heading for Buffalo Run Casino tonight. Marly, Robin, and Phil were also there to host our visitors, who arrived about 45 minutes late after a visit to the Summerside Winery in Vinita for lunch and wine tasting. There were plenty of very nice people and lots of very nice cars! There was even a couple I know from the Mercedes Club, who tagged along with the Jaguar owners for this outing.

Before we arrived in Afton, Robin had already visited with 7 folks, who came from Afton and Grove OK, and DeKalb, Iowa. We also had a few visitors while the Jaguar folks were there, so our total for the day was about 30, which isn't bad for a day of strong winds, constant rain, and boy oh boy, is it ever cold! We dodged the bullet during last night's tornadoes, but now it's incredibly cold and due to drop even further tonight. I'll be heading for Afton again tomorrow as usual, however.

Here are a few photos from today:

Thursday, April 14, 2011


I left Afton Station early this afternoon due to predictions of strong storms, hail, big winds, and potential tornadoes. I didn't want to wrestle with the steering wheel one more time during these nasty winds we've been having, nor did I want to get my new car pelted with hail. I guess I'm a big wimp where this Okie weather is concerned, but I'm getting better at reining in my fear and loathing.

So, I'm home from a shortened day at the Station, in which I had ZERO visitors, unless you count David, Marly, Phil, and one of the folks from the Mental Health Center. While I was there, I took a few notes about this and that:

Observation: The aroma of fresh baked bread was rising from the newly planted wheat fields as I drove down Route 66 at sunrise this morning. Is this normal? This is one of those things a transplanted city girl knows very little about.

Observation: When men visit Afton Station, if they have any questions or comments about the old cars, they will inevitably direct them to any man who happens to be in the room, before they will direct it to me. When they hear that I own the place, their eyes glaze over. Even if one of my volunteers tells them to ask me their questions because I know more than they do, the male visitors just can't seem to allow themselves to do it. They can't look me in the eyes. Apparently, cars = men only. I find it quite humorous.

Observation: The Afton city boys are digging to install a French drain from the place from which our leak is originating, or so they think. There's been quite a bit of head scratching. I'm a little skeptical about their knowledge of French drains. They've decided that "Lake Afton" is being created by groundwater, not a broken pipe. This could be amusing.

And now, I think I need to stop writing and close up the computer. The wind is getting stronger and the predictions on TV are becoming a bit more dire.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lemons into Lemonade

The Lemons: No visitors came to Afton Station for the first two hours this morning.

The Lemonade: I had time to settle in with a new book. A rather renowned writer has asked to interview me in May for a book he's writing about Route 66. In preparation for meeting this man (who will remain nameless for now), I bought one of his earlier books, an authorized biography of a very well-known political activist having nothing to do with Route 66. I was kind of expecting it to be academic and boring, but it's incredible! I couldn't put it down! What a great way to start the day. More on all of this after I meet the gentleman in question.

In the late morning, a charming couple from Boise, ID came through the door, accompanied by "Charlie Weaver", their neat old mechanical toy they've brought on the trip to pose in photos with them at each of their stops. Coincidentally, I was thinking about the original Charlie Weaver (Cliff Arquette), the old time TV character, only this morning when I was listening to a lengthy interview with his grandson David Arquette on Howard Stern. Here they are, with Charlie. Tripper made sure he was in the picture, too. Visitors started coming in after that. A fellow on a motorcycle from Chelsea, OK visited for the first time after passing the Station several times before. As the former curator of a car museum in San Diego, he was most impressed and interested in the cars.

Other visitors were from Miami OK, Bethlehem PA, Sayr PA, and Munster IN, 12 in all. Regular visitor and friend Jon Edwards from Tahlequah stopped in on his motorcycle. Nice to see him again for the first time in this new season.

I drove down to Buffalo Ranch early this morning to snap a photo of this new building which has just been completed at the site of what's now the truck stop. It's unoccupied, but looks like an old western saloon or general store. Wouldn't it be nice if it turned out to be a tourist-friendly business? It's right next to the bison pens, so it's far enough away from the trucks to recreate the feeling of the old, venerable Buffalo Ranch that used to stand on the spot. Anyone know what it's going to be? I also took a little ride around those back streets of Afton that I mentioned on Sunday. Here's a somewhat typical Afton back yard. There are quite a few pastures with horses behind homes. Interesting.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Where are we going?

The town of Afton has taken a turn, it seems to me. I can't quite assess the direction of this turn, but it just feels different somehow this season. It might be the construction occurring across the street, now that it's starting to look like a real building rather than a wooden box.It might be the increasing number of mental patients trudging around town, giving Afton just a touch of horror movie flare. Whatever the case, Afton is long due for a change -- a change of any kind. Of course, on a daily basis I see only the main street of town, Route 66. I don't know what goes on down on the back streets. People are living their lives back there, in this town devoid of grocery stores, pharmacies, and other necessities of living life. I know only a handful of them, and those I know are fine people. But how much longer will they be able to exist here in a town without economic diversity? I'm so glad that I'm going to be a part of the changes this town needs and with which it could flourish.

When I threw myself into the mix a few days ago during our Economic Development meeting with the Mayor and others, my first interest was, naturally, Route 66. It seems to me that it's the key, and perhaps the only key, to raising awareness of the town in a way that will bring prosperity back to Afton. Selfishly, it won't hurt my business to plump up the attractiveness and viability of Route 66 here. But in the long run, it's the folks who have hung in there and still live here -- those folks on the side streets whom I rarely see -- who will be the real winners if our little plot to improve their city takes hold. That doesn't really explain why Afton feels different to me now though, does it? Maybe nothing is different at all, but there does seem to be a whiff of change in the air, and that whiff might make all the difference.


I got here at 8:30 today hoping those Model As would show up. It's 10:30 now and no Model As or anything else, for that matter. I've done a few routine chores and now will dig into the Sunday crossword. That should surely bring on a barrage of visitors.

Well, the travelers started coming shortly after I wrote that last paragraph, and by the end of the day we had a respectable 17 visitors. They came from Oak Ridge TN, Tulsa OK, Gaylord MI, Bentonville AR, and Vinita OK. The Michigan visitors were a family of mother, two daughters, and daughters' two friends. All the girls excaped back to their car while the mother and the boyfriend of one of the girls stayed around, took lots of photos, and we chatted for a while. The Oak Ridge couple was doing the full Chicago-to-L.A. trip. The five folks from Bentonville, Arkansas were scouting for an upcoming vintage car cruise. I'm delighted to tell you that they assured me that we will definitely be a stop on the summer cruise. They were most impressed by our facility and car collection. That opinion made for a great end to my day. But. . . no Model As.