Saturday, October 31, 2009

WAY too spooky for my taste!

This has been one HELLISH Halloween so far, and it’s only 9:20 in the morning. I just arrived at Afton Station, but bear with me while I first tell you what’s happened to me already today. It began at 1:10 a.m. when I was awakened from a sound sleep by someone pounding and kicking at my back door, which happens to be about 10 ft. from my bedroom. This wasn’t a neighborly knock, believe me. The person, whom I could not identify as being male or female because of his Exorcist-type voice, was cursing and howling at the top of his lungs as he smashed repeatedly against the door. Terrified out of my wits, I crept to the front of the house to call 911 and prevent the person from hearing me do so. I was shaking so hard I could barely talk, but managed to tell the police my address. Suddenly, the pounding and kicking and cussing began at the front door, which is very close to he room from which I was making the call. The police officer kept me on the line and assured me that he’d sent three squad cars, which should be there in less than 5 minutes. He also asked me very unsettling questions such as whether I had a weapon to protect myself if required. After about a hundred years (actually, just the aforementioned 5 minutes) the squad cars arrived and I heard a big ruckus on my porch. Finally I heard the voice of the officer telling me they “got him”. I opened the door a crack to confirm, and there were three policemen holding a guy (wearing a really bizarre blond wig) whom they’d already cuffed. They asked if I knew him, which I didn’t. They said they were hauling him off to jail. Good! Clearly he was extremely drunk and maybe wandered up to the wrong house. I guess I’ll never know. I just know that I was totally freaked out, and it took me forever to get back to sleep.

I rarely dream, or at least I never remember my dreams, but after that incident I finally fell back to sleep then woke with a start around 3 a.m. I had dreamed that the police decided not to take the guy to jail, but instead to rent a dumpster, put it on my front lawn, and let him sleep it off there until morning. (comic relief)

And just to add a bit of Stephen King to this tale, this morning when I left the house, I found that one brick had been pried up from my brick patio and it was lying next to the back door. I suspect that if the police hadn’t interceded when they did, that brick would have eventually gone through my window.

Enough? Hell, no. There’s more. (I know this has nothing to do with Route 66, but I’ve got to tell somebody about my horrendous morning. ) I do my grocery shopping on Sat. mornings around 5 a.m. (Don’t ask…it’s just a habit. I hate crowds). So off I went, did my shopping without incident, and as I was ready to leave the market (in the pitch dark, of course), the store guard approached me and told me he was going to escort me to my car because a thief “in a gray hoodie and jeans” had just left the store and they thought he was hiding somewhere in the parking lot. Good grief! By this time, I just wanted to go home, get back in bed, and pull the covers over my head!

But wait….it's not over yet! On the way home with my groceries, the moon was full and about as big as I’ve ever seen it. It was such a beautiful sight that I decided to pull over and snap a picture. I pulled into a parking lot and put down the window just as I saw a dark SUV careening in my direction. I honestly thought he was going to t-bone my car, but he jammed on the brakes just in time, rolled down his window, and screamed (and I do mean screamed) “Where’s the library, Bitch?!!” I was pretty darn jumpy by this time, but had the presence of mind to know that there were no libraries open at 6 a.m. and also that I just wanted out of there. I floored it, and he floored it too, only in reverse. I drove the five or six blocks home at breakneck speed and lost the guy before I pulled into my driveway. Good heavens, save me from another morning like this!

I’m at Afton Station now and absolutely nothing has happened so far. I like it that way! I put out basket of candy for any little ghouls or witches who may come by, and that’s it for me as far as Halloween goes this year. It’s normally my favorite holiday, but tonight I plan to turn out the lights and be a grinch to the 100 to 200 kids that usually come to my door. I’d be doing it alone this year since Ron M., who usually helps out is away, so just this once I hope the little ones will understand if I lock up and hide. It's just too much for just one already frazzled person.

It’s 1:30 p.m. now, and the time has flown by. Betty spent the morning with me, and David (and son Patrick) came to help with the Mustang group. The group arrived over an hour late, having been held up on a Coleman Theater tour in Miami, so they could only stay here for about a half hour. It actually turned out to be two clubs, the SW Missouri ‘Stang Gang and the Route 66 Corvette Cruisers, both out of Joplin, MO. Most of the Mustangs were late models and they parked too strung out for good pics, but here’s the best I could do.

There were 21 cars, and some of the 45 members were dressed for Halloween. Nice group.

Fifties Family

Nice hair, Elvis!

A touch too much makeup?

There were also 16 other visitors today. One was Gary Kroll, a former pitcher for the Mets, Phillies, Astros, and Indians. He pitched from 1959 to 1971 and thus got to throw against some of the greats such as Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron. Nice guy. BIG guy. Here he is today, and here he is when he was with the Mets. Being a baseball fan, I was duly impressed. (BTW…. GO, YANKEES!) Gary Kroll Baseball Stats by Baseball Almanac

Other travelers came from Tulsa OK, Pittsburgh PA, Overland Park KS, Denver CO, Grove OK, Clear Spring GA, and Arlington, TX. The day ended WAY better than it started. We've had almost twice as many visitors this October as in October of '08. Yes! More tomorrow.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Crowd in the street

In the poor excuse for poetry I posted here yesterday, I mentioned the "crowds on dusty streets" in Afton. Clearly, that's an image from the past since the streets of Afton are no longer dusty and the closest thing to a crowd there these days is when I have more than a couple of visitors to Afton Station at once. However, here's the photo postcard from the turn of the century that inspired that reference. I suspect, since the people are in their finery, that this was some sort of celebration. It's in front of Livingston's Dry Goods, which no longer exists, but Afton Station is just beyond the vacant lot that used to be Livingston's. A group of Mustangs drivers will be visiting Afton Station tomorrow, and I'll be there with my camera at the ready.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Open for Business

I started the day with a trip to the airport with Ron M., who was leaving for a 2 1/2 week trip to Florida and the Caribbean. Sounds wonderful, but I just can't tear myself away from this grungy old gas station. I know he'll have a great time, and I wish him well.

Upon arrival in Afton, I discovered an 18-wheeler with a flat tire parked where it was completely blocking the Station. It would have upset me except for three things: 1) I try not to sweat the small stuff, 2) clearly, there was a problem, and 3) the truck driver was SO nice. I ended up inviting him in to wait for the tire fixer to arrive from about 20 miles away and we had a nice chat. He was delivering chickens (frozen) to Hannibal, MO. It's amazing how fast they can change a tire on one of those behemoths.

I then had a phone chat with a guy from the big Mother Road Rally who wants to bring about 100 motorcycles to Afton Station next June 14th. This is a well-known international group of bikers, and I'm thrilled to be included on their itinerary.

As I sit here now, I've had no visitors other than the trucker, and the sky continues to get blacker and blacker as the morning wears on. We're expecting large storms this afternoon, so I'll probably be very lonely today.

Well, the "storm" came and went, in the form of some sprinkles and a few refreshing downpours. Nothing serious. It remained gloomy, however. Nothing boosts my spirits on a day like this than a visit from two very Route 66-savvy travelers in a spiffy late model red Corvette. It was raining when they pulled up, but they weren't letting it spoil their trek to Needles, CA and beyond. He's a long-time Route 66 roadie and she's just learning the ropes. They own a small mom 'n pop motel in Gravois Mills, MO so I sent them off to make the acquaintance of my friends Frank and Trudy who own the Chelsea Motel down the road about 30 miles. I know they'll appreciate one another.

Two guys from Miami came in to ask some questions about Big Ugly, our new metal building, but then they stuck around for quite a while admiring the cars and asking tons of questions about the Station.

My final visitor was a young man from Tulsa, recently graduated from law school, who was up in NE Oklahoma on a job interview. He took me by surprise when he walked through the door in a dark suit and tie. I rarely see anything other than t-shirts at the Station! He was a great guy who is just forming an interest in Route 66. I hope he gets the job!

During my down time today, I fiddled with a poem -- a rather gloomy, mawkish amateurish one -- but I'm going to stick you with it anyway.

I've heard stories about the time when this town had a life.
I've seen pictures of crowds on dusty streets
And heard tales of real gun fights and serious stand-offs
Right here where I sit.
I know they used to toss turkeys off the roof of the town hall
Just for fun.
Unless that's just a legend.
There was a skating rink
Where people met and married,
And a movie theater called The Ritz
(Although anything in this town called The Ritz
seems the worst possible oxymoron).
A couple of department stores,
A busy railroad station and the rail yard that served it.
Harry Truman's campaign train stopped here.
Buddy Holly slept here.
And there was Route 66.
It went away and took the town with it
Eight restaurants, eight motels
More filling stations than I could count
In old phone books.
And parades
With clowns
And marching bands.
All gone.

Photo of a photo. Photographer friend Michael Scruggs took this photo then took some artistic license with it and presented it to me. It's now displayed at the Station.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Visitors and Turkeys

The sun was out for much of the day, Tattoo Man is back from his trip to Springfield, IL, and we had a pretty good day at Afton Station. Actually, it was kind of slow, but quality is usually better than quantity, and that's how it was today. The first of our five (yes, a mere five) guests consisted of a solo traveler from Indianapolis, IN who won my heart by being a fellow postcard collector. He's headed for Albuquerque to visit his mother and he spent some time checking out the postcards I have for sale at the Station.

A father and his extremely adorable little almost-three-year-old daughter from Langley, OK stopped in, and little Gracie got a big kick out of the pressed penny machine, although she could barely crank the handle and needed a bit of help from dad.
A deaf couple from Paola, KS were our final guests. As with my foreign visitors, communciation was difficult. However sometimes a picture says a thousand words, and when the gentleman pulled out his iPhone to show me pics of his two beautiful restorations, a 1930 Ford and a 1932 Chevy, the "language barrier" was broken. Even so, I wish I knew American Sign Language!

All day, trucks full of live turkeys going to market kept racing past Afton Station on Route 66. We're not many miles down the road from the poultry processing area of Northwest Arkansas, so I guess the little guys were heading for their demise in preparation for the Thanksgiving rush.

Tattoo Man was back from a few days in Springfield, IL where he went to visit our mutual friend and Route 66 icon Bob Waldmire. Besides seeing Bob, he reported that he had a couple of wonderful breakfasts at the Cozy Dog, which is owned by Bob's family. Cozy Dog Drive In

We'll be having a big Mustang group from Missouri stop by on Saturday, so I'll be sure to snap some pictures of the cars. They plan to take a group photo in front of the Station, so photo ops should be plentiful.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dry, boring (and not overly accurate) statistics :-)

During my free hour at Afton Station on Saturday morning I was mentally trying to compile a completely unscientific and unsubstantiated list of statistics that would provide a picture of who traveled on Route 66 this summer, based on my observations here at the Station. Please remember, all the following are strictly estimates. Other business owners may have entirely different results, and if that's so, I'd be very interested in hearing about the differences.

This summer, about 25% of my visitors were from foreign countries. Another 25% were local (which I define as being from a 100-mile radius). The other 50% were travelers from within the U.S. but from farther afield, and of that 50%, about 10% were tour groups.

Of our visitors, about 50% were traveling the entire length of Route 66, 25% were traveling large chunks but not all, and another 25% were just taking day or weekend trips.

This was a little bit harder to discern, but my educated guess is that about 50% came to Afton Station after reading about us in a publication or seeing us on TV or a video, and the other 50% found us just by driving past or by word-of-mouth.

European visitors almost always start their Route 66 trips in Chicago, whereas Asian or Australian visitors often (but by no means always) begin in L.A. Most foreign visitors supplement their Route 66 trips with side trips -- most often to the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, or San Francisco.

About 70% of our U.S. visitors are over 50 years of age, whereas 70% (or more) of our foreign visitors are under 40 years old. Sadly, only about 5% of all of our visitors are children or teens.

75% of our visitors arrive by car. The other 25% are divided between motorcycles, big-rig trucks, bicycles, tour buses, and walking/running. The vast majority of that 25% are on motorcycles.

Spending: I actually do keep this statistic somewhat accurately. Folks spend an average of about $1.30 per person here at Afton Station. Granted, I don't sell much. Most folks buy nothing, because I don't really have that much to sell. Interestingly, best sellers are my two most expensive and two least expensive items. Small $1 stickers and pins sell very well, but so do Images I and Images II, my most expensive books. The EZ66 Guide also sells well.

I'm guessing that our visitors are about 60% men and 40% women. Men remain longer, looking at the cars longer, and they also buy more.

99.9% of our visitors are delightful people -- maybe even more than that. I can only remember one or two cranky visitors so far this year. When people DO complain, they complain nicely. The vast majority of complaints are about the confusing signage in Missouri. Second would be about places that were closed when they tried to visit them (including Afton Station, if they're on their second or third attempt to visit). Occasionally, but very seldom, there will be a complaint about a motel or a restaurant. I've never heard a single complaint about a rip-off or someone being unfriendly along Route 66 (other than at the notorious Indian Harvest Trading Post).

In conclusion, just let me say this: How cool is this job??!!! Friendly people, no complainers, daily variety, and a sense that I'm making a difference, however small. Perfect! I'm living my dream!

That's all, class. Any questions? :-)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Creek Runs Red

We had a "full house" of 20 visitors to Afton Station today, although I have to admit that a pretty large percentage of those were a family of eight from Tulsa. A big family like that will jack up the statistics in an instant. But they were far from the only visitors. Others came from Marshfield MO, Caneyville KY, and Grove and Miami, OK. We also had a surprise visit from friend and veteran Route 66 enthusiast Jane Dippel from St. Louis. She does a lot of solo trips, and this time she was driving to Tucumcari, NM on a last-minute whim because she said she just wanted to "get away". I can definitely relate!! It's always good to see Jane.

The folks from Caneyville, KY were driving an absolutely gorgeous '55 Mercury Montclair. Check it out and see if you agree. They are the owners and operators of the Pine Knob Dinner and Show, an outdoor dinner theater in Pine Knob, KY. Ron M. and I had the time this afternoon to view one of the DVDs given to me yesterday by Mr. Dollison, the man from Cardin, OK. Although he made all the other DVDs himself, this one was a copy of "The Creek Runs Red", an incredible documentary made in 2006 that tells the story of Tar Creek SO much better than I've ever been able to tell it. It won top awards at a number of film festivals that year. I implore you, when you have a spare hour, to please watch this. It's on Hulu and, if you were the slightest bit interested in what I've said about the problems of Picher and Cardin in previous posts (or even if you weren't!), it is worth every minute of your time. Remember, this area is just a few miles from Afton Station.

Hulu - Independent Lens: The Creek Runs Red - Watch the full episode now.

I've been trying to get a picture of this statue in Claremore for ages, but it's in the center median (oops, that's repetitive) of a busy road, so you have to be in the correct lane and stop just right at the traffic light in order to snap it. That finally happened today, although I caught the butt end of the horse and not the front. At any rate, it's Will Rogers, the most famous and revered citizen of Claremore.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The man from Cardin and a purple car

During my not-so-busy time this morning at Afton Station I wrote a long piece that I planned to post here tonight, but I think I'll save it for Monday. After a little slow time, folks started coming in and I ended up having a pretty busy Saturday, for the off-season. My visitors came from Cheboygan MI, and Wynnewood, Ponca City, and Fairland, OK.

One of today's visitors requires my special attention. Edward Dollison grew up in Cardin, Oklahoma. Those who remember my obsession with the Federal Superfund site in Picher and Cardin (OK), two towns very close to Afton which have been abandoned due to contamination by lead mine waste, will understand why I was excited by meeting Mr. Dollison, who was one of the citizens of Cardin who was bought out when the town was officially "closed" several months ago. He abandoned his family home and moved down the road to Fairland, closer to Afton Station. He has taken it upon himself to collect photos and other remembrances of Picher and Cardin and put them on DVDs which he distributed to other displaced families. What treasures these must be for those people who lost their town but didn't want to lose their memories. When I told Mr. Dollison how much I was fascinated by the fate of his town, he offered to give me all eight of his DVDs, and even went home and got them. He wanted to give them to me for nothing, but I made him take a bit of money anyway. It was the least I could do. I plan to watch some of them tonight and tomorrow. Meanwhile, here's a good YouTube video about the tragedy in Cardin and Picher. Worth seeing.

Other news: David went to a large vintage automobile auction in Branson, MO today to place a bid on a car I've wanted for decades. My "dream car" is a 1957 Packard Country Estate Wagon in violet! It's the very car (and color) used in ads for the model back when it was built. David was awfully nice to go there and take my check and a car trailer "just in case". I waited all day to get his phone call. It just came. Big buildup -- big letdown. It went for $53K, which is considerably more than I was willing to spend. Oh well.... Here it is, anyway....
Autumn comes to Afton, Oklahoma!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Autumn, 2009

To dispel the notion of some people that Oklahoma is desolate and treeless, I present a few autumn foliage photos I snapped right here in Tulsa this afternoon. Here in the eastern portion of Oklahoma, we have trees and even a few hills. And the trees turn colors in the fall, too. These aren't on Route 66, but close. Tomorrow, it's back to 66 and Afton.


It's been a long week in many respects, but an excellent one, too. Business has been brisk at Afton Station despite off-season timing and not the best of traveling weather conditions. Add to that the visit from my daughter Sarah and you can see that it's been marvelously intense. Right now, I'm about to take her to a VERY early flight out of Tulsa, since last night's flight was cancelled.

Yesterday was drizzly and gloomy (where have you heard that before?) but it didn't stop us from having a fairly full house at the Station. Aside from the 27 visitors from the Owasso (OK) First Methodist Church, there were others from Lebanon PA, Pingree Grove IL Rock Island IL, Moline IL, Liberal KS, and Rondaberg, Norway. I just loved the Norwegian mother-daughter traveling duo. The daughter was full of laughter and her English was almost 100% perfect -- not even an accent! She attributed this to the fact that English is mandatory in schools in Norway, plus she spent a year working here at the Norwegian pavilion at Disney World. The two were having a great time on their cross-country vacation.
Here are a few pictures snapped by Sarah of the group from Owasso.

The appearance of these two trailer loads of building parts foreshadows the start of the new building out back, which will eventually be a second showroom. David is negotiating now for the pouring of the concrete pad on which it will be built, and upon completion it should hold from 6 to 8 cars.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Full 'o Steak

Sarah's flight back to Chicago was cancelled, so I have to "suffer"" through having her here for one more night. I love it! I'll take her to the plane early in the morning, but for now I just want to enjoy the pleasure of having her around this evening. We just got home from an amazing porterhouse at Doe's Eat Place, and are now settling in to watch "The Office". Photos of today at Afton Station will be posted tomorrow. The bus tour folks were great, and we had several other interesting guests as well.


On the road again

I've had a marvelous time, as usual, during Sarah's visit. She leaves to go back to Chicago tonight, but not until we spend one more day at Afton Station. Unfortunatly, it's another one of those all-too-frequent rainy and dismal days, but we'll make the most of it. A Methodist church bus tour will be visiting in the afternoon, and time will tell if we have any intrepid travelers drop in this morning. For now, we must pick up Ron M. and be on the road again.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Busload

Thirty-one folks from the Oklahoma Retired Citizens Travel Club arrived at Afton Station this afternoon via bus. Daughter Sarah was there to help with the crowd control. Tattoo Man had to leave shortly before they arrived, but he helped out for the rest of the day, especially during the noon hour when he took over while David took Sarah and me out to lunch.

Other travelers also stopped in, but I'll talk more about this in future posts. For now, I'm in a bit of a hurry. I do want to say that, thanks to you readers, blog hits reached 25,000 today. Hooray!


"Don't tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you traveled." (Mohammed)

If you happen to be a Facebook Friend of American Road Magazine, you've noticed that they've been spicing up their postings with travel-related quotes for the past several weeks. They're all thought-provoking, but this one speaks to me the loudest. (Mohammed was good at inspiring, wasn't he?)

What I've learned from these last few years of traveling less and greeting other travelers more is that one doesn't have to take planes, ships, rails, or even enormous road trips in order to "travel". "Travel" happens every time a person walks from Point A to Point B, even if that's only 20 feet. "Travel" is what you see on the journey, what you observe, what you absorb with every breath you take. "Travel" is finding new things, expanding your horizons, even if that just means walking from the porch to the mailbox. There's something new in every breath we take, if we're open to inhaling and observing. Thinking big is great, but thinking small is no less enriching. Every single day can be an explosion of new observations. Don't get me wrong. . . I'd love to get back out on the road one of these days, but for now I'm learning to appreciate the little things.

And speaking of traveling. . . I must wake my daughter so we can travel to Afton Station this morning. We're expecting a bus tour today. Yesterday, Marly was kind enough to meet, greet, and enlighten a tour bus full of Minnesotans in my absence. I haven't heard how it went, but I'll find out today. . . and of course, as always, I'll let you know.

TRAVEL somewhere today!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

For Rent

Anybody need an office on Route 66? If so, act fast. After Tommy, from the now-defunct grocery store across the street from Afton Station, has been trying for months to get rid of this lovely old pink bathtub by placing it outside the closed grocery store in hopes that someone will steal it, apparently he decided to try a new tactic. This "OFFICE SPACE FOR LEASE" sign appeared in the bathtub, photographed by Ron M. this morning. He doesn't mention whether it includes secretarial services or telecommunication facilities, but I can attest to the fact that there's no WiFi available. And yet.... doing business from a pink bathtub on Route 66 in an almost-ghost town might be a cleansing experience. And I'll bet the rent is dirt cheap!
It was quite busy at the Station today, but Ron M. and I were up to the task of handling the crowds. Actually, although there were lots of visitors, they arrived in a beautifully well-spaced manner, making our job both easy and fun. There were 18 visitors, including those from Joplin MO, Wichita KS, Cleora OK, Milwaukee WI, Spavinaw OK, Sparta MO, Congress AZ, DesMoines IA, and Frankfurt, Germany. Betty stopped in too, and at the end of the day Sarah and Matt came by briefly. They'll be back from David's house in the morning, then Matt flies home tomorrow evening (boo hoo!) and Sarah stays with me until Thursday (yippee!).

"Big Ugly" doesn't look so bad when it has a pretty Packard convertible parked in front of it!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Family Affair

I wasn't sure I'd have time to blog this weekend, and in truth I don't have a lot, but I'm too much of a communication junkie not to take my few free moments to report on the day at Afton Station. Besides, Sarah and Matt are staying with David tonight, so I have a little more expendible time than I originally anticipated.

It's so good to have daughter Sarah and son-in-law Matt visiting from Chicago for a few days, although I don't think they were real happy with me this morning when I dragged them out of bed at 6:30 for the drive to Afton. We stopped for a quick breakfast at Sonic and made it to the Station just about 5 minutes late. Last night we went out for a wonderful steak-and-lobster dinner at the Silver Flame, my treat, so I told them they could just stop bitching about the early morning hour today. They didn't. :-)
I am joking, of course. I love having them here. Unfortunately, we had no visitors for the first hour at Afton Station, meaning they had even more fodder for giving me a hard time about getting them out of bed too early. C'est la vie! Matt enjoyed some time with the pressed penny machine and dusted off all the cars in the showroom, and I showed Sarah some of the recent videos which have been made of the Station.
David picked them up at around 11:30 a.m. and they all went off to a corn maze. Of course, the moment they walked out the door, the visitors began to arrive, and interesting ones at that! They came from Norman OK, Wagoner OK, Olympia WA, Cordoba Spain, and Weisbaden Germany.

But the definite stars of the guestbook today were a husband and wife who, by the most unbelievable of coincidences, reside in the tiny town of Bethlehem (and I do mean tiny... once named the smallest town in Connecticut), where we had our weekend house for 15 years. It went like this: I asked them where they were from, and they said "Just a little town in CT you've never heard of". I asked the name of the town, and when they said "Bethlehem", I replied "Oh, do you live on Long Meadow Pond?" I thought those poor folks were going to collapse right there on the floor! After some comparing notes, it turns out we know several people in common, which I guess shouldn't be surprising in a town with hardly any residents. What fun to encounter these folks, Dave and Jan, right here in little old Afton. Furthermore, they have ideas similar to ours when we decided to abandon the East Coast and look for a place on Route 66. I hope it happens for them.
I left a little early and had an uneventful (and fast!) trip home. Back to Afton tomorrow.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Stay tuned!

It turns out that Sarah and Matt will be staying with me this weekend instead of visiting with David for two days, since David's wife has the flu. So, even though I'll be at Afton Station both Saturday and Sunday, I probably won't have much time for blogging about it. Then again, maybe I will. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

It isn't over

Nope, tourist season isn't over, despite my dire predictions. Today was as busy and varied as any I had this summer. It certainly cheered me and gave me hope for at least a few more weeks. So, let me tell you how the day went. . .

Both Rons (Ron M. and Tattoo) were with me today, and both were great helps. David was also around for part of the morning. Our first visitors were at the door when Ron M. and I arrived at Afton Station at a little after 9 a.m. They were a couple from Cleveland, MO. Not long after that, a scheduled tour group from a church in Wagoner, OK arrived. They were all elderly citizens, 14 in all, and it was good that David was there to answer their many questions about the cars.

Folks from Wagoner inspect the Packards

A couple from Aberdeen, Scotland came next, and what a story they had to tell. They, along with another couple, flew into Chicago and rented Harleys for the full Route 66 trip. Somewhere in Missouri both of their motorcycles were rear-ended by a car, destroying the bikes, and causing the other couple to be airlifted to a hospital, where they remain until they recover and the insurance company flies them back to Scotland in the next day or so. The person who hit them left the scene but was later found and is now in custody. Meanwhile, these two people were not as badly hurt and continued on their trip in a rented car. They have lots of bumps and bruises, but decided to complete the trip, with the blessing of their friends who were more badly hurt.
Folks from Scotland check out the merchandise, while leader of Wagoner group looks on

We also had a visit from a couple from Paris, France who knew no English, two men from Grafton and Brighton, Ontario Canada, and a couple from LeFore, TX.

Two guys from Rose, OK kept us laughing. "Curly" (who was, of course, completely bald) had a rather remarkable business card that listed his "Personal Qualifications", including Divorce Counseling, Hair Transplants, Rain Dances, Cock Fights, Bootleg Liquor, Hangover Remedies, Gourmet Cooking, Quelling Riots, and Settling Strikes, among others. It didn't take long for him to admit that all of the above -- every last one of them -- were lies! We liked Curly. He was FUN!
Curly on the left, his friend on the right

Our final guests were Route 66 friends Richard and Suzanne Moeur. They're from Phoenix and are very ardent Route 66 enthusiasts who are raising their young son, Duncan, (about 4 years old, I believe) to be a good roadie by taking him on long road trips every year. They've visited Afton Station before and it was nice to see them near the end of their 2-week + trip.

I got home to find my driveway completely blocked by a new application of concrete by the water company,and I'm so mad I'm spitting nails. They never told me they were blocking off the driveway, and I will need it tomorrow when daughter Sarah and her husband Matt arrive. I'm also not excited about walking down the steep and somewhat long driveway in the dark tomorrow morning when I go to dialysis at 5 a.m. GRRRR!!!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Just received the nicest thing in the mail. . . not only the item itself, but the thought behind it. It was a surprise from my Big Sister in my college sorority, a person I hadn't communicated with for an embarrassing number of decades. We had very recently reconnected via Facebook, and the note she sent with the surprise gift indicated that she's been reading this blog all along, which makes me feel so happy. As a result of reading the blog, she knew that I was deeply into Route 66, so when she found this cigar box purse at a Delta Gamma (that's my sorority) fundraiser, she bought it and sent it to me. I'm truly moved, and very excited about reconnecting with Mary Frances.
Thanks so much, Mary Frances! ITB

Spaced out

The space heater is my friend. It kept me warm today at Afton Station, another day with no proper heat. The plumber was to arrive this afternoon to get the gas going again, but by the time I left, he hadn't arrived. I left Marly there to deal with it and also to greet anyone who came in after I left at 3 p.m.

The day, considering the ominous, dank, just-plain-crummy atmosphere outside, was quite toasty and cheery inside. I didn't really expect many visitors, but I was wrong. David and Marly were there all morning working on something in the back room, Betty stopped in and stayed for a couple of hours, and there were also 8 traveling guests who took refuge in the Station. One couple was from Milwaukee, WI, another couple from Decatur, IN, and then came four folks from Harrison, AR. All of them are launching out on long Route 66 trips, so it reminded me that despite the prematurely unpleasant weather, the travel season is still in (somewhat) full swing.

Short entry and no pictures today. Consider it a vacation from me! :-)

Monday, October 12, 2009


I just read over the last few days of blog posts. I sound so negative, and I don't mean to be. I don't feel negative. I feel mellow and a bit nostalgic, and I guess that can be mistaken for negativity, even by the person who's feeling it. I get this way in October. I think it has something to do with the quality of light. The evening sky looks pumpkin orange just about every night. The soybean fields are tinted orange now too, and the other fields are mostly brown. Even here in Oklahoma, the trees are beginning to take on a yellow hue that will soon completely overwhelm the green. It's actually rather beautiful, but the beauty carries with it a twinge of sadness. For a change, I don't want to be anywhere that's quiet. I need a whole cacaphony of life-affirming sounds around me at all times. I start counting the days until we turn back the clocks, because that means a little more light in the mornings, my favorite time of day, although the tradeoff is nightfall at 5 p.m., which is just TOO early.

These are the days of comfort food. I'm making meatloaf and mashed potatoes tonight. Sounds good, doesn't it? So does chicken stew, chili, and just about any kind of soup.

I talked to David, who told me why the heat wasn't working at Afton Station over the weekend and said he'd get it fixed right away. Apparently they had to move the gas meter and need to get it re-hooked up. In the meantime, there's a space heater we can use if it doesn't get fixed by tomorrow morning. I wish we never needed heat there.

Sorry for this stream-of-consciousness posting. Can you tell I don't really have anything to report? My brain is feeling very lazy today. After all, it's a holiday, although I don't see any signs of Columbus Day being celebrated here in Oklahoma. Enjoy the day anyway.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Cold One

I have to gas up my car about three times a week. I know the obvious implications of this, both to my wallet and to the ozone layer, but I drive over 800 miles a week, so at the moment it can't be helped. This morning I stopped for gas on my way to Afton. Stepping out of the car, a blast of chilly air hit me in the face and startled me. What's this? Oh yeah. . . it's October. This is what I'll have to face -- and worse -- for the next six months. Time for inconvenient encumbrances like jackets and gloves. And this is Oklahoma! How ever did I endure the cold in Connecticut, New York, and Ohio? I must be getting soft.

Another unpleasant consequence of the upcoming winter is darkness. Too much of it. It's already dark most of the miles I drive to Afton in the mornings. I'm not a fan of darkness. I don't fear it, I just find it boring, especially while driving. Driving is my passion because of what I can observe while doing it, therefore darkness puts a huge damper on inspiration. There won't be many photos on my blog for a while, I guess, if I can't see anything to photograph. For instance, here's what I saw all the way to Afton Station today.


Well, to add to my anti-cold rant, it turns out that there's no heat here at Afton Station today. The heater keeps trying to come on, but it shuts off immediately. Good thing my ex, who is an HVAC engineer, will be home from his fishing trip tonight. He has a job to do! Meanwhile, I'll stay here until I start shivering, then I'll close up and hit the road for home.

I stayed until 2:30, when the chill finally got to me. Poor Betty spent a couple of hours with me, much too polite to to tell me how cold she really was, but I could tell. I had a visit from Michael Scruggs, a photographer who drops in every now and then. He does some beautiful car photos. Here he is, overloaded with cameras.
I also greeted visitors from Yorktown IN, Phoenix AZ, and Miami OK. It was another slow day. I've been contemplating my winter schedule. Should I continue to drive up here 4 days a week after October? I could sure use a day off, something I haven't had since March. But it kills me to think of travelers facing a locked door when they come to the Station. Winter travelers get enough of those, since so many Route 66 businesses are seasonal. I guess I'll just play it by ear, which seems to be the story of my life these days.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Dog Day in Afton?

I can't honestly say it wasn't a very scintillating day at Afton Station today. In truth, most of the day was kind of boring. As usual, things perked up toward the end of the day when people started coming in, but for most of the morning Ron M. and I killed time by sorting through more of those old travel brochures, getting ready to send them to Mike W., who was the first to request them.

When there's not much to do at the Station, looking out the window and observing life (or lack of it) ends up being the major activity. Of interest to us today was the fact that, after years of never seeing a dog on a leash in Afton, today we saw FOUR of them being walked down the road on leashes! Could it be a coincidence, or did Afton finally pass a leash law? (Which would be an excellent idea, as dodging free-roaming dogs is healthy neither for drivers or for the dogs themselves). We were so curious that Ron walked around town a bit trying to see what was going on, but found nothing. It's rare to see citizens walking the streets of Afton in any case, but walking dogs on leashes is extremely curious.

We only had 9 visitors today. The Distance Award was won by a couple from Calgary, Alberta Canada traveling most of Route 66. Coming in second was a couple from Cayucos, CA who also plan to drive as much of the Mother Road as possible. Back in California, they own a motel on Morro Bay. Must be nice! Visitors from nearby included those from Cleveland, Ponca City, and Miami OK. The couple from Ponca City was accompanied in their travel trailer by -- you guessed it -- a dog on a leash! Here's Roxy, a beautiful canine specimen. He is extremely camera shy, so this was taken on the run.
In one of the travel brochures we found today, there was a pamphlet of questions from the old World Book Encyclopedia designed to keep kids busy while traveling. The questions were remarkably difficult, and that surprised us. For instance: With as much weight as they carry, why don't an elephants' feet get stuck in the mud? First person with the correct answer will get an Afton Station magnet from me. Good luck! (Actually, the answer sounds a little fishy to me, but what Baby Boomer would ever question the World Book?)

Friday, October 9, 2009


I just got a report from Tattoo Man, saying that there were 35 people in the tour group at Afton Station today, as well as about 7 other drop-ins. I just want to publicly thank Tattoo and Betty for standing in for me today. I wish I could have been there, but it wasn't to be. I'll be back tomorrow, however.

I'm fascinated by birds on a wire. I saw these today on my way home from dialysis. I've always wondered. . . when they line up like that, do the ones on the top poop on the ones below them? I know, I'm crazy, but I think I'd choose the top wire.

Ron M. took this picture the other day. It's part of what I think I'm going to call his "reflection series". I like it.

I just found the website with the pictures of all the people who attended my high school reunion which, if you must know, was my 45th. I didn't go, never had any intention of going, and shuddered at the very thought of going. Then I saw the pictures. Hey, those people are all OLD! I was afraid that if I went, I'd be the only old one there. I spent about a half hour looking at every picture and comparing them with the pics in the 1964 yearbook. Maybe I should have gone! LOL!
This is a little too close to the truth.

That's all, Folks!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Well, THAT wasn't fun!

I just dragged my sorry, wet butt home from Afton. I took the interstate because of the danger of flooding on old Route 66 and other secondary roads. The interstate was no picnic, either. Basic deluge. This is supposed to go on for another 18 hours, but now that I'm home I feel much better, so here's what I wrote earlier while at the Station.

You're probably tired of hearing about dreary days at Afton Station but Holy Smokes (!), this one takes the prize for gloom. I just arrived and it's raining, and even though it's 9 a.m. it's so dark that it might as well be night. Since it's supposed to last until tomorrow, I don't expect to see any rainbows today, nor do I expect to see a whole lot of travelers. Perhaps I'll be pleasantly surprised, but I'm not holding my breath. With luck, a few intrepid souls will show up. We'll see.

When I first opened Afton Station 9 years ago, I had virtually no visitors that first year. There had not yet been any publicity or advertising, and I didn't even have much on the outside of the Station to indicate it was open. On those long, lonely days I started to count trucks driving past. I had a little chart on which I'd record which direction they were driving, their trucking company, and their point of origin if it was visible. This exercise was time-wasting, mesmerizing, and a little bit educational. I learned that an average of 75 18-wheelers pass in a normal hour, most of them going east to west. If the truth be told, that's about all I learned. :-) I watched trucks in the rain for a little while this morning, but my heart wasn't in it.


Well, well. People actually showed up today! They started coming in around noon, and by the time the day was over, I'd visited with 13 guests. Most were pretty wet and soggy. David's brother from Louisville, KY is here because they're going on a fishing trip this weekend, and since he was my brother-in-law for 35 years, I was eager to see him. He and David stopped in for about an hour and it was SO nice to get to see John again.

David (l) and John (r)

Later, I had guests from Bartlesville, Monkey Island, and Catoosa OK, Missouri City TX, Springfield TN, and Conway AR. It turned out to be a fine day after all, despite the weather.

Tomorrow a tour group is arriving in the morning and since I can't be at the Station, I've given the job of tour guide to Tattoo Man and Betty. I'm leaving things in good hands!