Sunday, November 1, 2009

Get thee to a guidebook!

On this perfectly beautiful fall day, I arrived at Afton Station early in order to compile the statistics for October. They were mixed, but mostly wonderful. The wonderful part is that we had well over double the number of visitors as we saw last October, and the second most that we’ve had this year, just behind September, which is always our best month for volume of visitors. The not -so-great news is that they spent less than $1 per person, which is by far the lowest ever. Good thing I’m not in this for the money! The logic behind the lack of spending (in my humble opinion) is this: Primarily, I sell guide books. By this time of the year, most travelers have already purchased guidebooks, unless they’re just local day-trippers, who rarely need them. But this seems a good time to reiterate what I’ve said so often in the past -- DO NOT travel Route 66 without assistance in the form of a really comprehensive guide. If you don't want to shell out for a book, then please at least go to a website that has Route 66 maps and suggestions for what to see and how to get there, then download and print it. Don’t depend on the AAA or state governments to have adequate information. All the best guidebooks are available at For Oklahoma, a marvelous publication, the Route 66 Trip Guide, is available at

If you’re the free-wheeling type who thinks you’ll just tool down the Mother Road and see whatever there is to see from the window of your car, you’ll be missing so much. You might not know about the rather obscure alignment that takes you to meet Gary Turner, a true treasure of the highway, at his Gay Parita service station in Paris Springs, Missouri. You may not know that the beat up old wrecker along the side of the road in Galena, KS was the actual prototype for Tow Mater in the movie “Cars”. You’ll never find the Painted Desert Trading Post in Arizona or bother to stop at the Devil's Rope Museum in Texas, which is so much more than just a collection of barbed wire. I could go on and on. Just get a guidebook, y’hear!

When friends Brad and LaSandra called last night and suggested we go out for dinner, I dodged the bullet of being the Grinch That Stole Halloween by not locking myself in a dark house and ignoring the doorbell. So, I guess I was a grinch in another way by not being at home to answer the knocks at the door, but at least it didn’t seem quite so grinchy that way. We had a lovely dinner, delayed somewhat by the entire restaurant being overfilled with International Eastern Star conventioneers, but that was ok because it gave us time to talk. Brad and LaSandra had attended the Oklahoma Route 66 Association 25th Anniversary celebration two weeks ago, at which time it was officially announced that Oklahoma Route 66 had been designated a National Scenic Byway. This is fantastic news! It would seem that all of Route 66 would have been named a Scenic Byway years ago just because, well, it’s Route 66! But that is not so. Each state, region, or segment must be nominated and go through rather rigorous scrutiny before the honor is bestowed, and not that much of Route 66 has been designated. Certain perks come with the honor, but I’m not entirely clear as to what they are. I know we’ll get some new signage, which is always welcome. I’m just thrilled that my little filling station now sits on an actual National Scenic Byway! Well, la di da!!!

I never knew how attached I was to my little Canon point n’shoot digital camera until I got halfway to Afton this morning and realized that I’d left the memory card at home. And wouldn’t this just be the day that I’d pass a herd of stampeding bison on Route 66, or a parade of 75 colorfully photogenic Italian sports cars going to a rally, or that George Clooney would drop by the Station? Well, none of that happened of course, but I did, in my panic, stop at the Walgreen’s in Claremore and pick up a new memory card at an outrageous price, just so I’m not without camera function today. Ok, George, you’re welcome to come visit now. I’m ready for you.

Actually, I’ve been here at the Station for 90 minutes now, and not a thing has happened. I’ve just been sitting here pounding this out on my laptop. The town is dead as a doornail, as is often the case on Sunday morning. A lone little boy keeps riding past on a scooter, the old-fashioned kind that you push with one foot. I didn’t even know they still made those! Somewhat ironically after the panic over not having a card for my camera, I only took one photo today, and that's of the little boy with his scooter mentioned above. He seemed so lonely in Afton on a Sunday morning.

We had plenty of tourists today, but most of them were local. The 70-degree temps brought them out to enjoy the day. There were folks from Dallas and Plano, TX and all the rest were from Tulsa, Prior, Claremore OK and a group of young people from right there in Afton. Betty spent most of the day with me and we had a chance to review the slide show I'm making on the history of Afton. David and Patrick also came to hang out for a while. It was a non-stressful day.


Ken Riches said...

Sounds like you need a few more non-guide book options, knowing it is not about the money, but there are still bills to pay.

Glad you had a nice sunny day today :o)

E/C Supply said...

GREAT blog, and good advice. I wonder, is there any Route 66 business group out there? A Route 66 Chamber of Commerce?

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