Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Under the Bridge

Wednesday, July 29, 2008

Everything in Oklahoma seems so big.   The sky is huge.  The vistas as I drive across the grazing lands are vast.  Sometimes I think I can see for a million miles.  It wasn't that way in New England, where hills, trees, and civilization seemed to crowd everything.   I love the expansiveness of the Oklahoma plains, and I particularly love the sky and the cloud formations, something I rarely saw or thought about in Connecticut.   But today I realized that the wondrous immensity of Oklahoma is beginning to make me forget to look at the small things.  Occasionally, I must remind myself to look down instead of always looking up. I often fail to appreciate those little unassuming gems that can only be seen by slowing down and making an effort to seek them out.

Yesterday morning, instead of my usual path to Afton (a later alignment of Route 66 through Chelsea) I decided to take the older alignment that goes over the amazing Pryor Creek iron bridge.  The bridge is the same age as Route 66, built in 1926.   It's situated on a rather remote part of a country road east of Chelsea, where it's almost impossible to believe that this was once the main road across America.   It spans a quiet creek which, in the summer, is entangled with vegetation on both banks, much of it stretching all the way across the stream making bridges of the trees themselves.   Yesterday, instead of driving across the iron bridge with just a quick mental nod to the remarkable fact that I was on the early Mother Road, I stopped mid-bridge and got out of the car.   With my car parked in the middle of the road (no traffic, and actually very little at any time), I looked down.  The creek was still, so I heard no babbling.  There was no wind, so I heard no rustling.   It was perfectly quiet.  The heavy vegetation obliterated much of the sun.  My main sensory appreciation was for the earthy odor of forest and damp earth, which reminded me of camping trips from my past.   It wasn't easy to leave that magic setting, but I had to move on down the road and open up the Station.   The bridge will be there for a long time, and I'll be back. 

The Pryor Creek Bridge

Looking down


Looking up

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More Gas Pump News

The insides of the old gas pumps were installed yesterday, thanks to Marly. Since I have zero knowledge of the terminology for what I'm talking about, I'll describe the innards as the rotating cylinder mechanisms that indicate gallons, price per gallon, and total price.  We decided to set them at 12 cents per gallon, since that's what gasoline was selling for in the 1940 photo of the Station I have.  I hope folks realize these are non-working pumps.  Otherwise there's danger of them causing a traffic jam. :-)

It was a slow day today, with only 6 visitors, total.  They all showed up before noon, but the afternoon was lovely because Betty stopped by and spent about an  hour here.  I'm learning so much about the history of Afton from her.  Tommy Bassett owns the remains of the old Avon Courts, the shells of the three little cabins on the west edge of town.  Tommy also owns the little mom n' pop grocery ("Since 1922") across the street, and comes over sometimes just to chat.  He came over to see if I had a postcard of the Avon Courts in their heyday, and I do!  The faded black and white card isn't the best by any means, but it does reveal that the original Court had about 8 cabins with carports in between.  I was elated to hear that Tommy wants to restore at least one of the units and fit it with an old '50s TV, furniture, and of course an ugly picture on the wall.  Great news... I hope it really happens!

Quite a difference!

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Sunday, July 27, 2008

From time to time I'll be mentioning Betty, so allow me to introduce her to you.  Betty Wheatley is the "youngest" 70+-year-old lady I know, and she's becoming my dear friend.  Besides being beautiful, smart, and interesting, she was a fixture on Route 66 for 41 years prior to her retirement about 8 years ago.  Betty was the proprietor of Dairy Ranch, the snack bar adjoining the famous now-defunct Buffalo Ranch two miles east of Afton.  Betty is known by everyone in these parts (as well as scads of travelers from all over the world) for her buffalo burgers, limeades, milkshakes, and lime squeezes.  And oh, does Betty have tales to tell!  I'm now the incredibly fortunate recipient of her reminiscences.  She comes to visit and we talk and talk and talk nearly every time I'm here.  She feeds my unquenchable needd for stories from the Mother Road of the past.  And if that's not enough, to feed my body she brings me goodies like spring honey from her friend's beehives and the most awesome Amish-churned butter.  Now that's what I call a friend!

Feeling Sorry for Myself

Sunday, July 27, 2008  (very early morning)


I woke up feeling perky, got myself showered, and was ready to head for Afton with a little extra time on my hands.  Therefore, I decided to watch the slide show on the website of the Route 66 People group, of which I am a member.   Beautiful photos stretching across the whole of Route 66… my favorite Route 66 song playing in the background (The Mother Road by Rhody and Welch)… but by the time Slide #100 passed before me, I found myself with tears in my eyes and a pain in my heart that requires explaining.   Such a huge sense of loss overwhelmed me, loss of that original unspoiled love I had for Route 66 the first time I rediscovered it in the mid ‘90s.  I mourned for the awakening, before my pristine love became polluted by politics, favoritism, and idolatry in the Route 66 community.   Don’t get me wrong -- I do love just about every one of the extraordinary individuals I’ve come to know in that community, but it’s the cumulative ethos that has bummed me out this particular morning.  There are a couple of ways I can combat this feeling, I think.  Perhaps I need to pull back a bit and get a bit less involved in things like eGroups and online communities.  Perhaps, for a while, I need to concentrate on nothing but my own little hunk of the Road, the 100 yards that runs in front of Afton Station which brings me the uninitiated folks I am privileged to meet and greet every day.   I have no illusions that my beloved Afton Station is anything but extremely low on the totem pole of Route 66 “icons”, and although that used to bother me a bit, I’m beginning to think it might be a blessing in disguise.   Did I ever strive for idolatry?   Hmm… perhaps more than I’m even willing to admit to myself.    But realistically, all I really hope for is that I can be a pleasant, hospitable waypoint for those who are having their first Route 66 experience and are forming ideas in their minds about what the Road is all about, just as I did back in the ‘90s.  I know my love for Route 66 was fired up by the hospitality of folks like Bob Waldmire and Lucille Hamons on some of those first trips.  Perhaps I need to change my approach to what I DO impart to my visitors, and start thinking more about them and less about myself.    That will be my goal for today, and that, I feel certain, will boost my spirits.


P.S.  Shortly after I got to the Station this morning, Marly called to tell me that when he brought the Model A back from the car show last night at 9 p.m., all the lights in Afton were out.   Betty told me later in the day that a snake got in a transformer and caused a power shortage in both Afton and Grove for 6 full hours!   By the time I got there in the morning, everything was back to normal.  A snake!  Only in Afton!  BTW, the Model A won First Prize. 

Gas pumps!

Saturday, July 26,  2008


Despite the broiling heat, my excitement started when I pulled into Afton Station this morning and saw the GAS PUMPS!   God bless Marly, who has been working so hard to get the old beat-up gas pumps David found ready to be bolted to the island in front of the Station.  Yep, there they were, in all their bright red glory, albeit without any of the trim pieces or the globes atop.   But the guts were there, and that’s what matters.   I am thrilled.   Marly came in later to get the Model A to take to a car show, so I had the chance to express my appreciation.  He’s one great person, and I’m so happy to have him volunteer in so many ways.


Amid today’s visitors from Ireland, England (two separate groups), Sweden, and a variety of more “local” folks (Wisconsin, Springfield, and a few I can’t recall), I had two special guests.   Margaret, the social worker from my dialysis unit, and her husband drove up from Tulsa and spent over an hour as we chatted and did a little dialysis gossiping.   It’s always fun to be able to play host to someone from my “other” life.    Also, the Mopar Club from Shawnee ventured out in the heat, although by the time they arrived in Afton the weather had gotten to the folks in a couple of the cars so only two showed up.  No problem, since Scot, the group leader, his wife, and the folks in the other car stayed a while and we had a very nice chat.  And, what a sweet surprise -- Scot presented me with a box of yummy Danish cookies as a token of appreciation for hosting them!   Little did he know that I was probably enjoying the visit more than they were.


The down part of the day concerns Ron’s foot.  As usual, Ron accompanied me to the Station, but he was in obvious pain all day from a very swollen and bruised foot.  He was a real trooper, but I could definitely see his anguish.  He spent part of yesterday (his birthday) in the Urgent Care Clinic of St. John getting it x-rayed and being given pain pills. Hope he’s much better tomorrow.



Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hi to all who have decided to read my blog, which will include observations on life from the perspective of a rather new Route 66 business owner.  It will also occasionally include my random thoughts as I make the thrice-weekly 90-minute drive along old Route 66 from my home in Tulsa to Afton Station, since that's my best thinking time.  I'm warning you now, it's going to be essentially ego-driven, but I promise to tell it like it is, from the most exciting to the most boring days at my place.

Arrived this morning (Tues.) an hour early, and it's a good thing I did!   My ex-husband's enormous motor home was parked across the front of the parking area, my wonderful volunteer Marly was on hands and knees cleaning up a hose leak in the work room, and there were 34 Norwegians on Harleys right behind me.

David and Marly had turned on the A/C when they arrived, so the Norwegians were able to get some relief from the heat, which already read 88 degrees on my car thermometer when I got here and reads over 100 outside the Station right now.  (1:45 p.m.)  It makes me feel hot just to look out the window at the baking pavement of the Mother Road, especially when I see kids on bicycles panting past.  I know kids can stand heat better than we "olds" can, but even so....   The Norwegians, coming from a colder climate, must feel blasted here.  This group had come from California heading to Chicago, so they'd already endured the desert. Amazingly, they said that yesterday's trip across Western Oklahoma was the hottest day of all.  Well, y'know what they say... it's not the heat, it's the humidity.  The amazingly upbeat Norwegians left after buying a lot of stuff (pins, magnets, EZ66 Guides), then David departed in his motorhome for a 3-week vacation out west.

Some guys from Ohio came by.  They're not on a Route 66 trip, but are here to get an engine rebuild for their race car.  They saw Afton Station by chance and stopped to see the cars.  I was telling them that folks come to visit my little Station from all over the world and that 34 Norwegians had just left.  I think they weren't particularly buying it until a young mother and her two kids walked in.

"Hi.  Where are you from?"  (my usual opening line)

"Sutton, Alaska.  Fifty miles north of Anchorage."

The two Ohio guys gave each other that "well, so the goofy old gas station lady isn't hallucinating after all" look, and I was vindicated.

So far today, I've greeted 45 visitors and now there's a lull in the action.  I just ate an apple and a persistent fly is driving me nuts.  I have put the apple core at the opposite end of the table to lure the fly away, but so far it's not particularly effective.