Thursday, January 30, 2014

Tulsa The Beautiful

You've got to KNOW Tulsa to realize its beauty.  Sometimes I fear that Route 66 travelers who just drive through on 11th St. and Southwest Boulevard (both old and most direct way to get through the city on 66) might get an entirely one-sided view of my gorgeous adopted city.

I was thinking about this as I sat at breakfast this morning at Wild Fork in Utica Square.  My "vacation" from Afton Station will soon be over, so I want to take advantage of as many of my little special pleasures as possible before mid-February when my life returns to 3-days-at-dialysis and 4-days-at-Afton.  A breakfast at the Wild Fork is always one of those pleasures.
 [Scrambled eggs, country ham, cheese grits, biscuit with ice cold unsalted butter and home made strawberry jam, for those who appreciate food porn.]

The Wild Fork is in a shopping area called Utica Square, which is unequivocally one of my favorite places in Tulsa.  I'm not a shopper (in fact, I hate to shop), but Utica Square is different.  Built in 1952, it was one of the first suburban shopping centers in the country.  It's hardly "suburban" any more, since the city has grown around it, but it is still beautiful, restful, and the most conveniently accessed shopping area in Tulsa.   One can park right in front of each of the many upscale stores, and the landscaping is elegant and includes over 300 trees.  Although some of the stores have recently transitioned into chains (Ann Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, etc.), there are still several local shops including Petty's Fine Foods, arguably the nicest gourmet market in town, and Miss Jackson's, which will remind folks of a better full service department store in their hometowns in the old days.  Both of these stores are very special.   Additionally, there are more than a dozen restaurants there, most of them local, which range from simple to extremely upscale.  The Stonehorse Grill and Queenie's are two of the best.
 Saks Fifth Avenue, Utica Square
Miss Jackson's and Petty's Fine Foods, Utica Square

Utica Square is in no way like a modern mall.  All entrances are outside and parking is incredibly easy.  This can also be said about two other non-downtown areas of Tulsa which are wonderful for shopping and eating -- Cherry Street and Brookside.  Both are similar in that they contain dozens of restaurants (and not many are chains!), and some great stores and art galleries.  Both should be visited by travelers who have some time to spend in Tulsa.

Downtown Tulsa is experiencing a huge rebirth, too.  The Brady Arts District, for example, is the place to go to see several museums and a good selection of restaurants.  I could go on about other attractions downtown, but today I'd prefer to talk about the older and outlying commercial areas.  I hope you will visit these wonderful places, after which I believe you will come away from Tulsa with a whole new impression of our magnificent city.

This just in:  A very large wildfire is blazing close to Vinita and Afton.  No danger to the cities, but from  the the aerial photos I'm watching on the news right now, the heavy wind is carrying it for almost two miles in the country, and farmers are busy moving their cattle as quickly as possible to safe pastures.  My thoughts go out to the farmers and ranchers in the area.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Pawnee and Ponca City

What a beautiful weekend!   Saturday, I thought, was especially nice.  That's hard to believe, now that its Monday, with clouds, strong winds, and temperatures in the teens.   Will this winter ever end?   I know we still have February to go, but I'm hoping. . .

Meanwhile, back to the beautiful weekend.  Ron M. and I decided to take a spur-of-the-moment road trip to celebrate balminess.  Vaguely pointing the car toward Ponca City, we took the smaller roads and thus found some interesting sights along the way.  I had only been to Ponca once, many years ago, and just for a drive-through.   It's about 90 miles from Tulsa, so it would be a full day's drive the way we ramble, which means stopping a lot to see interesting things.

The first little town we encountered was Pawnee, home of the Pawnee Bill Wild West Show.  Pawnee Bill  (1860-1942) started out in the late 1800s working with Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show and later formed his own.  His ranch is now open during tourist season and besides lots of animals (buffalo, longhorns, horses), a show is produced there in a small arena in front of this backdrop.
I liked the reverse side of the backdrop.  It reminded me of the sets for old cowboy movies.
The livestock was allowed to roam, unfenced, as we drove through the pastures.

The City of Pawnee was interesting itself.   Built around a large square, an amazing number of old buildings remain intact, something not often found in older towns in Oklahoma.
 The old City Hall building remains, with a newer one right next door.
 The Roadhouse Hotel sign is still hanging on a rather dissheveled building.
I especially loved the "Steam Laundry" building -- dated 1911.
And incidentally, Pawnee is also the birthplace of Chester Gould, who was the creator of the Dick Tracy comic series.  

From Pawnee, we roamed the countryside on the way to Ponca City.   We passed the famous 101 Ranch -- or rather, the site of the ranch, since it's been gone for years.   The Miller Brothers owned 110,000 acres of ranchland, and eventually they also held a Wild West Show of their own.   There's nothing left of the ranch now except a monument and a gateway, but Michael Wallis has written a very interesting and detailed history of the historic property (Wallis, Michael (2000).

In Ponca City itself, we were eager to view the famous Pioneer Woman statue. . .
. . . and the enormous Marland Estate, a Mediterranean Revival mansion built between 1925 and 1928 by oilman E.W. Marland.   Quite impressive.
From there we headed for home.  If I had the time and the energy today, I would have written more explanations of what we saw and did.   However, everything I mentioned is fully covered in Wikipedia, so I'm going to play the lazy blogger and stop here.  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Disappointed... and kind of mad

What's wrong with this picture?
I discovered this -- a missing globe on top of one of our D-X pumps -- when we went up to Afton today just to check on things.  Marly happened to be there working on a car and said they found the globe broken on the ground the other day.   I'm NOT happy.  Fortunately, it was just a repro, but even so....   I want to replace it right away, before the tourists start arriving, and it's not cheap either.  Well, bummer!  Vandalism sucks!

Otherwise, all was well at the Station, albeit very, VERY cold!  We only stayed for about a half hour talking to Marly, then proceeded to Grove to deliver bunches of Afton Station brochures to various places who have asked for them.  Getting ready for spring!!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Okemah, OK.... Proud Home of Woody Guthrie

I came by my appreciation of Woody Guthrie in a number of roundabout ways.  I've always loved the song "This Land Is Your Land", but when I was a kid I had never particularly attached it to a specific songwriter.  Then, as a young adult, I became completely infatuated with Woody's son Arlo, an infatuation that bordered on hero worship.  I attended quite a few Arlo concerts, and traveled several times to Stockbridge in the Berkshires of Massachusetts to visit the church in which Arlo lived for a while and which was a main feature of his well-known song (and the movie) "Alice's Restaurant".  Through his son, I eventually and gradually developed a greater awareness of Woody himself.  Since then, I've read a number of books both about and by Woody, and made a visit to the new Woody Guthrie Museum in Tulsa very soon after it opened its doors this summer..

It seemed only right, then, to visit the birthplace and boyhood home of Guthrie, which isn't too far from Tulsa.  The town is Okemah Oklahoma,  and there's not a moment of doubt that the folks in the town are utterly devoted to their native son.   Woody was known as a Dust Bowl writer and singer, and Okemah has a strong connection to the Dust Bowl itself.   So Ron M. and I made a last-minute decision to visit Okemah during the day-long road trip I described in yesterday's blog.

There is a small park in the center of town which honors their favorite son.   Murals on the sides of two buildings depict Woody and his influence on American culture.
 One of the murals mentions the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival which has been held every July for a couple of decades and is attended by many thousands of music fans.
The fine bronze statue of Woody is the focal point of the park.
Banners still appear on light posts around town. . . .
. . . and this carved tree stands at the site of Woody's actual birthplace.
The house of his birth was razed a while back, but the boards, bricks, and stones were saved and will be used in the reconstruction on the hill beyond the carved tree,due to begin very soon.  The house will be identical to the home in which the Guthrie family lived, and on the exact spot.   This shoud be an interesting addition to the already extraordinary town-wide memorial to their beloved son.

There is more to see in Okemah, which has done a good job of preservation of many buildings.  Here, for example is a ghost sign on the side of a building downtown.  There is also a vintage theater with a spectacular marquee (sorry, that photo didn't come out well), and some lovely old Victorian homes scattered around town.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Spring in January.... Road Trip!!

Roadies are practically required to take advantage of days like today.   The temperature -- in January, no less -- is in the 60s, the sun is shining, and the road is calling.

Ron M. and I decided to do a little exploring of some back roads, a little bit on Route 66 but mostly not.  Everywhere we went was within about 30-50 miles of Route 66, so Mother Road travelers might want to keep these attractions in mind for side trips.  Here's what we did:

I had read about an Indian burial ground in Sand Springs (near Tulsa) which had been virtually swallowed up by creeping civilization, and which now stood, fenced, in the parking lot of a shopping center. Here's what the Roadside America website has to say about it:
The Tullahassee Creek Indian Cemetery opened for business in 1883 and received its last body in 1912.
Sixty years later, peace was broken by the rumble of bulldozers and the smell of asphalt; progress had arrived! Keystone Plaza (now known as Atwoods Plaza) went up next door and covers nine acres, with its eponymous clothing-and-hardware anchor store, a Radio Shack, a Family Dollar, and other touchstones of civilization. The parking lot encircles and dwarfs the tiny Cemetery, which lies toward the outer rim, surrounded by subprime spaces.

In late 2006 Atwoods Plaza was sold to a group of California investors for $3 million. We hoped that they might have a dark sense of humor and bring a Halloween store into the strip mall, but thus far no such luck.
The burial ground is also adjacent to a satellite business, "Torchies," a local bar. A sign on its door reads: "No drugs, No gang colors, No bad manners."
Here are a couple of photos which illustrate what those poor Native American souls have to look at now that civilization has overrun their land.  I couldn't help imagining how lovely the plot must have been when it looked out at the surrounding rolling land unobstructed by ugly suburban sprawl.

From there, we took a bit of old Route 66 to Bristow, hesitating briefly in Kellyville to take a short ride on the old Portland cement alignment. There's very little that's more fulfilling to a Route 66 fanatic than feeling the tires clump, clump over the expansion joints in an old concrete roadbed.
In looking around Kellyville itself, I liked this old feed store sign as well as the enamel pots hanging on the wall below it.
 As you may remember, a couple of years ago I set forth to visit all of the historically all-black communities of Oklahoma's past.  I think I made it to 6 of them -- Boley, Langston, Redbird, Rentiesville, Taft, and Tullahassee.   I still have quite a few to go, and Ron  mentioned that another one, Grayson, was on today's route so of course I wanted to see it.  We were quite disappointed to find no obviously old buildings that might have been there in the past.   Wikipedia says that the town is still incorporated and now has a population of 158, but although we saw a few houses, we saw very few signs of life or reminders of the town's history.

Finally, as we headed home, we passed through Henryetta and out of the corner of my eye I saw an old D-X filling station.  It's a beauty, and is restored and being used as an auto detailing shop.

They have a sign like ours, a roof similar to ours, and several vintage gas pumps, both older and younger than those at Afton Station.   A very nice surprise find!     

I left out our visit to Okemah, the birthplace of Woody Guthrie, because I have enough photos and information to do a full blog post tomorrow about that.  So, stay tuned. . . 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Just Checking In

I realized it's been a week since I posted anything here, and I'm sure you're all just starved for exciting information from me.  Ok, probably not.   But I don't want people to think I've disappeared because, to the consternation of some of you, I'm still here.    Since I've done virtually nothing on Route 66 this week, I'll just ramble a bit.

I now have new windows in my house, and they're quite lovely.  It meant a week of mess, noise, and 4 to 5 guys roaming around my house morning to night, but it was worth it.  They still have to do some painting of the outside trim, and after that I'll take a picture.  They still match the craftsman motif of my 1915 house, but are insulated and leak-free.  The old ones were 100 years old and really needed to be replaced.

My wonderful brown 2011 Subaru is at the dealer having its 100,000 mile checkup, even though the mileage is already over 116,000.  I'm a little late, but I put on so many miles in a month that it's hard to keep up.  It turned three  years old last week.  I am driving a loaner which is almost identical to mine so there's no learning curve.  The only problem is that there is no Sirius radio on board, so I can't listen to Howard Stern!

Driving down Riverside Drive, three swans started to cross in front of me, heading for the river, I guess.  The way cars speed down that road, I'm surprised they made it that far, and I hope they made it the rest of the way.  The only swans I've ever seen in Tulsa are on a small lake in a part of town called -- you guessed it -- Swan Lake.  If they came from there, they've taken a VERY long walk.

I almost burned dinner.  I put two lamb shanks on high to brown before braizing, and then left the house to get gas in the loaner.  Halfway there I realized what I'd done and SPED back.  Caught them just in time and dinner is saved.  I had invited Ron M. to eat with me, but he hasn't answered yet.  Since he's no fan of lamb, he'd probably have preferred that I burned them to a crisp.

Bored yet?   I'm hoping that next week (or maybe even this weekend), now that the window guys are virtually done, I can do some Route 66ing.   I need to get back in the groove!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Veering off the Road

I feel certain there will be no objections if,  in winter when very few folks are traveling Route 66, I veer off that road for a moment and on to another iconic cross country byway , namely the Lincoln Highway.  I know there are quite a few Route 66 fans who also drive and appreciate other historic roads, and I have something wonderful to introduce to those who have driven (or hope to drive) the Lincoln Highway at some point in their lives.

You may recall that a few weeks ago I mentioned helping a friend by proofreading his manuscript, and today I can announce that it has been published and I am in possession of a finished copy!    BY MOPAR TO THE GOLDEN GATE is Denny Gibson's account of his New York to San Francisco trip in his 50-year-old Plymouth Valiant during the 100th Anniversary of the Lincoln Highway in the summer of 2013.  And since he returned from his trip via (mostly) Route 66, there's plenty for Mother Road folks to appreciate, too.
That it is very well-written will be no surprise to anyone who reads Denny's accounts of other road trips which he periodically posts on his blog,   He doesn't miss a detail when describing what he sees along the way, the people he meets, and what challenges he experiences when it comes to driving a vintage automobile for a great distance.  As a bonus, there are well over 150 photos taken along the way.

You will be pleased to know that the volume is now available to everyone at Amazon  Even if I hadn't proofread it for Denny, I still would have been one of the first in line to purchase this fine journal, a bargain at $9.  I suggest you do the same.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Motel Memories

If you're in Tulsa during the next couple of weeks (until January 23) you might want to drop in to Living Arts in the Brady District to see a photo installation entitled "Room 116".   The title refers to the room bearing that number at the iconic Desert Hills Motel on 11th St. (Route 66).  The artist/photographer, Western Doughty, lived in that room for a year and compiled a great number of photos showing what transpires on a day-to-day basis at a mom n' pop motel that may or may not have passed its heyday as a favorite spot for travelers.  Travelers do still stop there, but locals and transients also occupy a number of the rooms.   The rooms set aside for travelers are well-worn, but to my knowledge are still safe and clean and some are refurbished.  One should not necessarily base one's opinion on the sleazy nature of some of the photos in the show, but should instead talk to the owner and take a peek at a room before checking in, just to make sure it meets your standards.

A Letter to the Editor appeared in today's Tulsa World which I thought was interesting and nostalgic:

I was interested to see the article about Western Doughty's photo project [...] January 2.  My late wife and I stayed there on our honeymoon in 1959.  It was a very nice motel on Route 66.   
We were living in Joplin, Mo. at the time and we only had three or four days for our honeymoon.  We were headed for Oklahoma City.   
The room at the Desert Hills Motel cost me $8, with a 16-cent room tax.  I still have the receipt.  We stayed in Room 151. 
Ralph Hendrickson, Tulsa

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Oh, Balls!

Bowling Balls, that is!

For a few years, I've heard rumblings from various quarters about a man in the nearby town of Nowata, OK who has an amazing collection of bowling balls.  This is not, as far as I know, the same gentleman who is building a bowling ball Peace Monument here in Tulsa on the Admiral alignment of Route 66.  I don't know if having a bowling ball obsession is an Oklahoma thing. Maybe this is common, but I've never heard of such a thing before.

Anyway. . . despite it being a gray, cloudy, windy day Ron M. agreed to be dragged along with me to Nowata to check out this phenomenon.   We were fortunate to find the place, guided by a crudely penned and well-worn sign on the corner of a country dirt road which we traveled for about a mile before coming upon the place. What follows are the photos we took at this rather amazing site.  Remember, it was a very bad picture-taking day.  After looking at these shots, please go to and see those taken in much more vivid color by the gentleman who I later found out is responsible for the creation and is named Chris Barbee.  That page also contains the history of Mr. Barbee's passion.  And passion it is!  I love folk art, and this has to be one of the most creative and labor-intensive example of such art that I've seen.

There was nobody in sight when we went there, but there was a sign at the entrance inviting folks to drive in and have a look.  Please remember to go to the link above, which gives much more detail to this interesting collection.  Mr. Barbee is also featured at   Although the yard is about 25 miles off Route 66 (nearest Route 66 town is Chelsea, OK) it might be worth the side trip for folk art lovers.  We certainly enjoyed it.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Yippee, it's 2014!

Looking back at the last few years (not counting last year, when my hospitalization prevented me from having my customary New Years Day party), I've noticed that "food porn" seems to be the custom of this blog.  I don't know why I always post a photo of my table full of food, except that Ron M. snaps the pics and they're always so colorful that I can't resist showing them off.

Things get less elaborate each year, but I'm still able to fill the house with wonderful friends and we have a nice, quiet afternoon of laughter, wine-sipping, and story-sharing.  This year, I had a few children visit, for a change.  Lily and Hannah are the adorable and well-behaved daughters of my friend and personal trainer Jeremiah and his wife Jamey.
Tattoo Man and his wife Roz are guests each year, as are Brad and LaSandra (in rear).

My friends Jim and Margaret
Joe and Lily

Because of my inattentiveness, none of the other photos came out well enough to show here.  But you know, this is a Route 66 blog and my party has very little to do with Route 66, so I'll stop here.  Happy New Year to all!