Sunday, January 31, 2010

I NEED Spring!

I was reading through some of my blog entries from this time last year. Things were moving along beautifully at Afton Station, with quite a few winter visitors and decent traveling weather, for the most part. Not so this year, because the weather has been prohibitive for travel. On top of the ice, sleet, and snow, this morning we're having something called "frozen fog". It looks like ultra-fine snowflakes to me, but I'm willing to go along with the frozen fog label. It's not pretty. Just make it go away!

I've got to admit to something that you probably already know if you're a regular reader of this blog. That is, I have an incurable, serious case of wanderlust. Being cooped up in my house for more than a short time drives me right up one wall and down the other. I'm getting to that point. I want to jump in the car and D-R-I-V-E !! I want to drive to Afton Station, throw open the doors, feel the warm breezes, pull a chair outside and wait for a long line of visitors from all over the globe. And I will. Soon. But not today.

I'll be trying for Tuesday. I'll see you there.

Friday, January 29, 2010


This was sent to me by a friend who lives in Mesa, Arizona -- along with a taunt and a description of their lovely weather there today. Thanks a bunch, Mike! (LOL!)

Where the cold front's sweepin' down the plain
And the piles of sleet,
Beneath your feet
Follow right behind the freezing rain.
We know we belong to the land
But it could use some more salt and sand
That's why we say.....
WHOA! We're sliding the other way.....
YIKES! We're ...only sayin'
You're slick as snot SNOWklahoma

I'm sorry to say that it's a perfect description of Oklahoma today. Right now we're having a virtual blizzard, which is doing a fine job of covering up the 1/2 inch of ice and the 1/2 inch of sleet beneath it. Everything is at a standstill, including me. I spent an hour this morning first melting then scraping that 1/2 inch off the windows of my car. I couldn't go anywhere, I just wanted to get ahead of things.

There will be no Afton Station tomorrow, and unless a miracle occurs, no Afton Station on Sunday either. So instead, here's a photo of what I'm seeing out my front door in Tulsa right now. Just lovely.... NOT!
From what I can tell by reading their Facebook page, apparently the Extreme Makeover project I told you about yesterday is going ahead today despite the inclimate weather. I'm sure they have a schedule they have to stick to as closely as possible. It will be interesting to see today's report.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Extremes in Tulsa

Extreme Makeover weather has come to Oklahoma. Well, actually both! Those of you who are familiar with the ABC reality show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" know that it involves going to various towns in the U.S., choosing a deserving family, and in the course of one miraculous week, demolishing their house and rebuilding a beautiful new home for them. I've always been fascinated by the speed with which the homes are built. I was skeptical for a long time, but having followed the progress of another one of the homes built in this area, I know that there's no TV "magic" involved. They really DO build, decorate, landscape, and furnish a whole house in seven days. Amazing.

This week, Extreme Makeover is building a house for a Tulsa family, and the house happens to be less than a half block off Route 66 (11th St.) and easily within view when driving past. Ron M. had signed up to be a volunteer helper, but due to the huge response, apparently he wasn't chosen, so we decided to drive down and check things out today.

Since we have a BIG ice storm arriving today at just about the same time that first day filming was to begin, we found out they've pushed back the actual filming until tomorrow. Nevertheless, there was plenty of activity going on at the site today. The big "Move That Bus!" bus is there, lots of people milling around, and of course lots of roadblocks and police presence. But we managed to take a few pictures on the fly driving past on Route 66, and I'll try to get some more photos as the week progresses.

The bus that brings the "stars" to the site.
People gathering at the house to be demolished.

In the meantime, wish us luck. The ice storm is predicted to be pretty severe. I'm not happy! If I don't lose power, I'll be posting updates.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Another big ice storm on the way? Oh, c'mon, not again! This could prevent me from going to Afton again this weekend. I hope not.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mondrian Buffalo Butt and other things

On one of the last days before I go back to a regular schedule (4 days at Afton Station, 3 days of dialysis), I decided to take a "little" drive which, naturally, turned into a not-very-little drive. It's a lovely, sunny day, and with a big snow and ice "event" predicted for Thursday and Friday, I decided this was my last chance to do a little poking around here and there.

Here and there turned out to be Bartlesville (OK), which is only about 50 miles north of Tulsa, in the Osage Hills. It's very pretty country. Bartlesville grew up around the oil industry, and as the home of Frank Phillips, founder of Phillips Petroleum. There is also a strong Native American influence in Bartlesville. During the oil boom early in the 20th Century, B'ville saw growth and great wealth.

Frank Lloyd Wright's only skyscraper is in Bartlesville -- the Price Tower. There's an art gallery inside, a cocktail lounge on top, a hotel, and tours.

Frank Phillips' home is now a museum and also has tours.

The train station is very nicely restored.

Bartlesville is apparently having one of those community art projects, the likes of which my mascot Tripper the Penguin was born in Tulsa. In the case of Bartlesville though, the giant artfully-painted creatures are bison! I managed to snap a photo of this guy from the rear -- a tribute to the work of the artist Mondrian.

Monday, January 25, 2010

St. Louis, Part II

We got up Saturday morning and ate a quick breakfast at the hotel, then headed for the fabulous Missouri Botanical Garden. It's many acres of gardens, but due to the cold, drizzly day we confined most of our touring to the buildings, including the mammoth geodesic dome in which there is a tropical "jungle", complete with waterfalls, fish, and even mosquitoes! Wow, mosquito bites in January -- now that's a new one for me! The hot, damp atmosphere felt wonderful on a chilly day, so we stayed in the dome for quite a while.

I took this picture before all the fog had left my lens. I like the look.

Sarah and Matt

There were some interactive displays featuring green technology. Here's Sarah on a stationary bike in front of a green screen that makes her look like she's biking through the park.

The Botanical Garden also has a collection of Chihuly art glass sculptures interspersed through the grounds. Chihuly is not my favorite, but some of the pieces were quite striking.

Since we're all lovers of anything googie, kitchy, or big we then sought out the "World's Largest Amoco Sign". Yes, it was big. We lamented the fact that Ted Drewes isn't open in January, so we squelched our disappointment by eating lots of oysters (raw) and some alligator (cooked) for lunch at the Broadway Oyster House, a great historic spot near Busch Stadium. We also took a ride around town and into Forest Park, a large city park that was the site of the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair (Louisiana Purchase Exhibition). We did a little Route 66ing, and I managed to snap this pic of the famous Eat-Rite Diner.
Before going back to the hotel, we stopped at Viviano's Grocery on The Hill and loaded up on Italian delicacies to take home.

Our evening dinner at Charlie Gitto's was very special. Charlie Gitto's Italian Restaurant (On the Hill) in St. Louis, MO 63110 I must find their recipe for the Penne Borghese with Cognac Cream Sauce. To die for.... as was the home-made peach gelato. Oh my, oh my!

On Sunday, it was up, hug and kiss the kids goodbye, and on the road by 9 a.m. An uneventful trip. I did stop and sneak a photo of the notorious Indian Harvest Trading Post in Villa Ridge, MO. It has been shunned by most of the Route 66 community because of the allegedly bad treatment most visitors have experienced by the owners. I'm too chicken to actually pull into the parking lot and get chased away, so I just took a photo from the side of the road. From there, it was drive, drive, drive until I got home.

Indian Harvest Trading Post

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Trip Report -- St. Louis

Because I just got home, and because I have a lot to tell and quite a few photos to go through, I'll give my Saint Louis report in two parts. I'll write until I faint or fall asleep today, then finish up tomorrow. Right now, I'm hungry, thirsty, and weary. I drank so much fluid over the weekend (a big no-no for kidney patients!) that I'm finding it necessary to fast today. I'm so thirsty I can't spit, as they say. But you know what? I wouldn't have traded it for anything in the world. I had a great little trip, loved seeing my "kids", saw plenty of St. Louis, and did quite a bit of free-range eating on The Hill.

I got a taste of my own medicine on Friday morning. In Paris Springs, MO, I had planned to stop and finally meet Gary Turner in person. I've talked to him quite a few times on the phone, but so far this icon of the Mother Road and I have never been at the same place at the same time. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be this time either. :-(

Gary is the much-adored owner of Gay Parita, a re-created Sinclair service station on an old alignment of Route 66. Built by Gary and his son, it serves as an "office" for Gary to meet and greet visitors, and he greets lots of them! Home Page He has so much information and memories from his life on 66 that sometimes travelers are two or three hours late getting to Afton Station because they're so fascinated by Gary's tales. But alas, there was no Gary for me today. The place was shut up tight and although Gary has been known to come down from his house behind the Station when he sees visitors prowling around, that didn't happen this morning. I sensed that perhaps I was there too early (9:15 a.m.) so I didn't pound on his door, honk, or make any other commotion. I just snapped a few photos and went on my way. Now I know how it feels when travelers come to Afton Station and I'm closed. Ugh! (It was a gloomy weekend, BTW, so all photos will be correspondingly gloomy. I'm just letting you know now.)

Gay Parita at Paris Springs, MO

I stopped briefly in Halltown to check out some of the picturesque old buildings in this "almost ghost town", before getting back on the evil Interstate in order to make some time in getting to St. Louis.
The road between Gary's place and Halltown
The store in Halltown
RT. 66 Wedding Chapel and Tin Can Pantry, Halltown

When I arrived at the hotel, Sarah and Matt were already there (they came in the night before), thus we embarked on a weekend of ....well, I admit it..... mostly eating. Our Drury Inn was conveniently close to The Hill, the St. Louis Italian neighborhood, jam-packed with some of the best restaurants anywhere. For lunch on Friday we chose Greek, however -- amazing Greek salads, the best pita bread ever, and beautifully-seasoned giro meat on top. Since Sarah and Matt had spent the morning at the City Museum, they were tired after lunch and wanted a rest, so we just lolled around the hotel for the remainder of the afternoon, gearing up for more eating in the evening.

For Friday dinner, we wanted to go a little bit light since lunch had been large, so we chose Guido's Pizza and Tapas. Yum! We leaned heavily on the tapas, which were great and adequately filling. The sangria went down real easily as well. Knowing that the next evening we would be gorging at Charlie Gitto's, we tried to be conservative. We weren't.

On Saturday we spent most (but not all) of the day at the Missouri Botanical Garden, which was one heck of an amazing place. I'll write about Saturday tomorrow, so stay tuned.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Off to Saint Louis

My trip to St. Louis will be quick, but I'll report when I get home. I anticipate taking Route 66 for at least a little bit of the trip, but won't have time to take it all the way there.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Who Knew?

I didn't know until today, while driving down Admiral Place (one of the old alignments of Route 66 in Tulsa), that we were the home to the World Peace Monument! Furthermore, who knew that it was made out of BOWLING BALLS? As I stopped and gazed in awe at this magnificent tribute to harmony in the world, I couldn't help but wonder: What the heck do bowling balls have to do with peace? But hey, anything that tries to bring people together all over the world is just fine with me.
If you wish to contribute your old bowling ball to what I suspect is intended to be an ever-growing heap, the contact information is below.Here's Jimmy Kimmel's interview with the builder from late last year. This is great! The builder even mentions Route 66!

YouTube - Jimmy Kimmel - Bowling Balls For Peace

And here is further explanation from the Tulsa World.

Tulsa World: Monument of faith

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Spring(ish) Fever

This is Oklahoma, where it can be the Arctic Circle one day and a beach in Bali the next. I guess that's why it's possible for me to have a full-blown case of Spring Fever in mid-January. I woke up rarin' to go this morning, so. . . I went! I started with the mundane chores -- bank, gas station, grocery store -- then decided to get lost. I'm good at intentionally getting lost. Just tell me to "get lost", and I'll gladly obey. By the time I'd finished the chores, the temperature was almost 60, and to assuage any guilty feelings about not going to Afton Station (we're still officially closed on Tues. and Thurs. until February), I took off down a road with which I wasn't very familiar. There aren't too many of those left. I've pretty much exhausted all the roads leading to, from, and around northeastern Oklahoma, but I managed to find one today.

You can go on to other things if you're only interested in Route 66, because I wasn't anywhere near the Mother Road today. Don't ask me where I was, actually. I was out in the country a lot, and I did eventually find myself in some towns I'd been in before. I just don't know how I got there.

I skirted Wagoner and took this photo of their old railroad station. It appears it was once used as a restaurant, but now it's completely closed. It got me to thinking about the beautiful old depot in Afton that was demolished some years ago. If the photos I've seen of it are accurate, it would have made an incredibly picturesque restaurant.
I drove through the towns of Coweta, Rocky Point, and Mazie, crossed the McClelland-Kerr Canal, and finally found myself in Choteau, which is a town known for it's Amish population. It's the place where Betty buys that awesome Amish butter for me. I should have bought some for her, but since I won't be seeing her for over a week, I decided it wouldn't be a good idea. I did visit the Amish Cheese Shop, however, and couldn't resist some corn relish and pickled cauliflower. { Amish Cheese House -- I still amuses me that the Amish have a website. }

There are two great googie signs in Choteau, obviously crafted by the same sign maker. Unfortunately, they are both in bad shape, but still worth a photo or two.
Having wasted (no, not wasted. . . enjoyed) many hours on the road, I headed for home after that. I have to start getting ready for my weekend trip to St. Louis to meet my daughter and son-in-law for fun, awesome Italian fare on The Hill, and maybe a museum or two.
If you've been following my frequent mentions of Picher,OK and the toxic chat piles which were one of the causes of the recent abandonment of the city, you might wish to read this. Toxic waste will go to Kansas Because the use of toxic waste is illegal in Oklahoma, the chat will be sent over the border to Kansas to mix with hot mix asphalt to pave roads there. The EPA suggests that it might take another 30 years, however, to clean up the entire area.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Chocolate Soap!

First of all, here's a picture of the courthouse in Vinita that's actually the one that they're considering for demolition. It's about 2 blocks off Route 66, so for some reason I keep thinking that since it's not on Route 66 I shouldn't care as much about it's demolition. What kind of preservationist am I? I'm ashamed of myself! Now, I know that there are many old buildings which have been destroyed wrongly and without concern for history, but there are also those which have served their purpose and have died gracefully. In the case of this courthouse building, it seems a perfect edifice for repurposing. All it would take is some money and a good imagination.

Just a few blocks away, there's "Ladybug's", a clothing boutique that began it's life as a firehouse. This is an excellent example of reuse of a building. It's charming, and the old fireman's pole is still in place. Just a thought.

Down the road in Claremore, I finally got around to taking a photo of "Spirits of Route 66", a liquor store. I've always loved the clever name. Hey, any way to give Route 66 a little publicity, right?


It was a great but not busy day at Afton Station, at least not busy in terms of numbers of visitors. When I arrived, before the place warmed up, I warmed myself up by doing a little manual labor (ugh!). I dusted and Windexed the display cases, then I actually mopped the floor. I'm lazy so I usually leave that task to dear Ron M., but he wasn't with me today and I couldn't stand the muddy footprints for another minute. Shortly after I finished, Betty Baumann came by with yet another batch of cute things she made for me to sell. My favorites are a pair of oversized "fuzzy dice" made from some cool Route 66 fabric. They'd look great hanging from somebody's vintage vehicle at a car show. Betty stayed for a while so we had a nice chat.

Later in the day, Josh Bowen from Fayetteville, AR stopped by and stayed for a couple of hours. He was a visitor once before (See Sept. 17, '09 entry), a very Route 66-savvy young man whom I hope will visit often. He loves to take Sunday drives, so I told him he'd have to make us his destination as often as possible. He brought me a gift. . . a beautiful and beautifully-scented bar of soap made by his wife. She has quite a soap business going. You can see her work at Please check it out. It's unique! The bar Josh gave me is Chocolate Mint. Oh, yum! Thanks, Josh.

My only other visitor today was a man from Toronto, Canada who is in the area for a few weeks on business. He had a look at the cars, but didn't stay too long. I also had a call from someone who scheduled us as a destination for a Vintage Chevy cruise in mid-October. Love those early bookings!

My drive home was sunny and clear, quite a departure from the foggy ride to Afton this morning.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Well, it's about time!

It felt SO good to get back to Afton Station for a full day today! Ron M. went with me, Betty stopped in, the temperature was almost 50 degrees, the toilet actually flushed, we had 8 visitors, and it just seemed like the world was finally rotating properly.

True, eight visitors isn't really a huge number and most were locals, but even so, it's better than I expected. We were visited by a couple from Collinsville, OK who were taking a short Route 66 weekend to celebrate their 19th wedding anniversary, three guys who were from Yukon and Edmond, OK and Oakland, NE, and two men and a young boy from Adair, OK. People were just out roaming around today, taking in the nicer weather.

I got very nervous when I read an article in the Tulsa World this morning that indicated that the Craig County Courthouse in Vinita (OK) was in danger of being demolished. I had confused the county courthouse with the city municipal building, which I like very much. It's on Route 66 and when we pass it on the way to Afton, Ron and I often comment on how nice it is. Well, some research tells me now that I had the wrong building slated for demolition, and I presume this one will continue to stand. But, since I took a couple of pictures of it on our way to Afton today, I might as well publish them here anyway.

The frieze above the doorway is interesting -- two oil derricks paying homage to the town's contribution to the turn-of-the century oil boom.


Don't forget -- If you have a little money burning a hole in your pocket, even if it's just a couple of dollars, you can probably find no better place for it than the American Red Cross as they struggle to help those poor folks in Haiti. Making this happen is easiest by just going to They'll take you directly to the Red Cross.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Back to Afton tomorrow

I can't believe it's been four days since I've written anything here. I guess there's been nothing much to tell. The snow has melted, the temperature has risen, the toilet has thawed, and I plan to get back to Afton Station full-time this weekend. So tomorrow, if all goes well, I'll have some news for those who come here.

See you tomorrow!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tales of Afton Past

The 90-minute DVD that Betty gave me yesterday will haunt me for a long, long time. I don't know exactly why a town that I've never lived in, and actually have only known intimately for about 10 years, evokes such fascination and sentimentality in me. Perhaps it's because everything about the town presages it's eventual demise. Although I realize that to everything there is a time and a purpose, the loss of a town -- a whole town! -- seems to be an unspeakable tragedy. For a while, I thought I was the only person in town who "got" that, but now I realize that I was foolish to be so presumptuous.

The DVD opens with Tom Bassett, now deceased (2nd of three generations of grocery store proprietors) leading a "tour" of Afton, pointing out all the existing buildings and explaining the changes and the tear-downs and showing where buildings once were that are no more. This seems to have been filmed in the late '70s or early '80s. Following that, there are numerous interviews with citizens of Afton who were obviously chosen for their longevity and their knowledge of the town as it was in the early part of the 20th century. If there was ever an argument for taking oral histories from our senior citizens, this is it. The citizens are articulate and have amazing memories, often in great detail.
Afton Depot -- gone

Although I was quite emotional while I watched the DVD, I managed to jot down a few things that I felt were important, or interesting, or just amusing. From what was said, most of the people interviewed were born between 1905 and 1912, so many of the recollections were pre-Route 66 days. There were numerous references to how busy and vital Afton once was, primarily because of the large number of trains that stopped there -- about 20 in a 24-hour period. Many buildings had rooms on their second floors where railroad workers could "flop".

There was talk of several livery stables, and how many people would come in from the country in their buggies. A five-mile trip to Afton to shop was considered a big deal, an all-day excursion. The largest celebration of the year was held on the 4th of July, when people came from all around to party all day and night.

Fourth of July in Afton

Every Saturday night, all the stores remained open until midnight because the "country people" would come in to stock up on necesssities and to eat at one of the numerous cafes in town.

Cross Mercantile

One woman told of coming to Afton from the country when she was very young and finding the granite pillar in front of the bank to be the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen. Old bank building - note pillar

One extraordinary fact that surprised me was reference to the "town pump" which stood in the middle of the intersection of "66 and Main". Wow, that blew me away!

Around election time, the men of Afton (but not the women, since they couldn't vote) would gather in town and many fights would break out between the opposing factions. One woman described Afton as a "shoot 'em up" town. Another described it as the "hay center of the world", which might be a bit of hyperbole, but I'm sure that at the time the citizens believed it.

There was only one black family in town, and the gentleman whose name was Uncle Joe was in charge of uprighting the outhouses which were frequently tipped over by exuberant teen age boys.

There was oh, so much more that I can relate here. If there's a way I can post the entire CD, I will do that. In the meantime, I must say that one woman said "I can't think of this becoming a ghost town", and another said "There's just no town pride any more." I'm afraid that, sadly, I must agree.


On a different note, I noticed when passing the Blue Whale yesterday on my way home from Afton, that he was encased in a frozen pond. I couldn't stop to take a photo because of a car riding my back bumper. Fortunately, however, Brad Nickson (who is a great photographer) went out there this morning and took this picture of the frozen fishie. Thanks, Brad!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

What does frostbite feel like?

This is probably a bad idea. I've been here at Afton Station for an hour and just now was able to remove my gloves. What does frostbite feel like? I was able to get the feeling back into two fingers on my right hand by sitting on my hand, so I guess I'm ok. It's taking FOREVER for this place to warm up. I'm going to stick it out until noon because I want to see Betty, but that should finish me off. The pipes are still frozen in the bathroom.

On the way up here, the car thermometer varied between 3-above and 3-below zero. I took this picture of the thermometer just as I was entering Afton. The roads are totally clear, however.I closed down the books for 2009. I had about 3,800 marks in my book representing visitors, but that number is way low of reality. It's so hard to get a reliable count. I'm too cold to start adding up states and countries, but I'll get to that another day. Financially, it was a very good year, that is if you don't want to heat and cool the place, make repairs, or EAT! :-)


Oh my gosh, VISITORS! And not just any visitors, but a family of four from Brisbane, Australia! Lovely family -- my first visitors of the decade! They're in a rented motorhome and have been struggling to find trailer parks open. They're heading to Denver to ski at Steamboat, which is why they're traveling here in this weather when it's beautiful summer back home.

MORE visitors! A couple from Lucerne, Minnesota came through the door and remarked that it was warm in here. Of course they did -- they're from Minnesota! When they left home yesterday it was -22 there. They're heading for Arizona's warmth.

Finally, Betty arrived and it was so good to see her after several weeks. Furthermore, she brought me the most wonderful thing -- a CD of old Afton. I think it was probably made in the '70s and is pretty crudely filmed, but it's a narrated "tour" of the town, with commentary by some of the old timers who remember which buildings held which businesses and what buildings occupied the numerous empty lots that came later. If I can find a way to put it on YouTube, I'll make it available to everyone. It's a treasure for sure. Thank you so much, dear Betty!


I left around 12:45 when I acknowledged that the temperature was never going to come up to a comfortable level. I'm writing this from home now. The trip home was sunny and pretty, and the temperature continued to rise as I approached Tulsa, but not until after I passed many fields full of shivering cows and horses.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

I have an icicle

It's probably ruining my gutter, but I'm "growing" this icicle. It's about 4 ft. long now, maybe a little longer. To me, it represents melting. And I do LOVE melting! As you know, I hate snow. It snowed a little more this morning, but just a dusting and didn't stick. If I have to see snow, I'd like it to be that kind. It's gone now, and the glorious sun is out. It was -1 degree in Afton this morning, so I didn't go. However, I'm tired of making excuses, so unless there's a tornado, blizzard, earthquake, or volcanic eruption, I'll be driving up there tomorrow. Being without operational kidneys, I can spend many hours there without worrying about the frozen potty if, in fact, it's still frozen. I don't know if David fixed that yet, but I doubt it. The visitors will have to fend for themselves, I'm afraid.

Nevertheless, I wouldn't want to discourage anyone from visiting Afton Station tomorrow. I'll be there, so come ahead. I'd hate a whole day with no visitors!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

No Public Restrooms?

What? No public restrooms at Afton Station, where "Cleanest Restrooms In Town" is our motto? Well yes, but just for a short while. David let me know that the outdoor pipes to the bathroom are frozen. He's taking care of the problem, but I didn't open the Station today anyway. The below-zero wind chill kept me away. Too cold, and probably no visitors anyway. If there's some improvement in the weather by Saturday, I'll be there. I'm sick of staying home.
Today the sun was shining brightly in Tulsa, despite the deep freeze. I spent several hours in the car just enjoying the brilliant day, and it certainly helped my dumpy mood. I did a little Route 66 cruising to Sapulpa, but didn't see anything that I haven't already photographed. It was a lovely trip, however.