Thursday, February 28, 2013

Where The Buffalo Roam

I hope you won't mind if I present another post filled with photos of bison.  I apologize, but I can't help it.  On my last free day before going back to Afton Station full time, naturally I used it to drive up to my favorite place on earth, the Nature Conservancy's Tallgrass Prairie Reserve, to visit my favorite animals, bisons.  I've written about this place before, and I've posted lots of bison photos, but you can never see enough of them, in my humble opinion.

Today, I hit the jackpot.  I seldom make the 2-hour drive up there in the middle of winter, but I was curious to see the differences in the flora and fauna after a big snow.  As it turned out, the snow was virtually all melted, but the dirt road (the only road for miles) was a sea of mud, made worse by the fact that the work crew was scraping the last of the mud and gunk off of it and piling it, for the most part, in the middle of the road.  It was a messy drive, but worth every mud chunk and ice boulder that hit the underside of my car.  

Here's the dirt road as one enters the reserve.  At this point, it was clear and easily driveable.  I love how it stretches out as far as the eye can see.  It continues that way across the many miles of the reserve, with only an occasional electric pole to break my fantasy of being the first explorer to discover the land.  (a fantasy I repeat every time I visit the prairie).

Of all my trips to the Tallgrass Prairie (and there have been many), there were more bison grazing within my sight this time than I've ever seen before.  There are over 2,500 bison there, but the prairie reserve is so large that one usually only sees a few hundred per trip, depending on where the herds feel like grazing that day.  Today, I believe that most of them chose to graze within my sight, and some of them chose to graze within a few feet of my car.  Some even dared to cross the road in front of my car, which isn't really much of a risk, since I drive about 5 mph when I'm in the reserve.  

 The brown grass was an interesting change from the lush green fields that I usually see there in the spring and summer.  The bison look a bit different as well, since they are wearing their winter coats now.  Otherwise, nothing ever changes at the Tallgrass Prairie, and that is as it should be.  The many books that I own which describe the biota of the prairie say that there are literally hundreds of living things there, but most are too small to see.  In the summer,  there are dozens of varieties of flowers and other plants.  I've seen several interesting insects there, and today I saw my first bobcat quickly dash across the road in front of my car.  That was another thrill for the day.

On the way home, I drove through the small towns of Pawhuska, Wynona, Hominy, and Cleveland.  One of these days, I need to go back and spend more time in each of these charming villages.  But that will have to wait, either until next fall or on the day that I decide to play hooky and let someone else take over the Station  while I roam with the buffalo once again.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Loose Ends

I'm always impressed by the number of excellent photographers roaming Route 66.   I was very disappointed that I was unable to be at Afton Station last Saturday, Feb. 16 when a group of shutterbugs from the Photographic Society of NW Arkansas came for a visit.  Marly was kind enough to give them a good tour and all 16 of them set up their tripods and clicked away.   The results are quite wonderful!   So far, I've only received permission from one of the photographers, David Stowers, to show his photos  here.  Here are two of them.  To see more of David's work, go to  He tells me he hasn't posted all of them  yet, but here are two of them.   To see the work of others in the group, go to and click Galleries.  It will lead you to the photos taken by all the members of the group on their Route 66 tour.  

 Now, here are some shots from a bad photographer -- me!   The first is the stained and leaded glass window hanging made by Robin and given to me for my birthday.  It represents three jumping blue whales, and it's really very pretty.  I love the cobalt blue glass.

 This summer, a group of producers from the Jerry Springer Show toured Afton Station on another day when I wasn't there.  Robin gave them a tour, and they must have very much appreciated her hospitality because the other day she received a package with two t-shirts from the show enclosed.  She gave me one of them for my birthday, and here it is!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Gone Fishin'

I didn't exactly go fishing today, but I went to fishing.  First, a confession.  I think I need an intervention.   I am completely and seriously addicted, or "hooked" as it were, on the Bassmaster Classic fishing tournament!  (Just to prove it, I'll confess that I'm writing this blog post layered upon the live streaming on of the final weigh-ins of the fish caught today, and I keep switching back and forth, so if this post tends to sound a little disjointed, forgive me).  I've been glued to the live streaming the last two evenings, and today is the big finale.  

So anyway, Ron M. and I drove at the usual time to Afton this morning, intending to spend a normal day at Afton Station.  When we approached the Station, I said something like "Too bad we can't just drive right past the Station and go to Grove to see what's going on with the tournament."  He said, "Lets do!".  I said, "No, better not.  We might miss some visitors and I'd feel very guilty if that happened."  So he said, "Well, ok... but we really could....", at which time I said,  "Oh hell, why not.  It's my birthday after all."   And that's how we ended up on various bridges over Grand Lake in Grove, Oklahoma seeking glimpses of fishermen and their entourages.  Well, we h ad no luck with that.  We only saw one of the 25 boats (the finalists) who were fishing today.  So, we drove to the docks from whence they left, but of course they had already shoved off so all we saw were a lot of people still lingering at the docks, plus these two gigantic inflatable motors advertising Mercury and Evinrude.

The tournament has been amazingly well-attended, with a full house in Tulsa at the huge BOK Center Arena for the weigh-in each evening.  If you're thinking this isn't exciting, you'd be wrong.  It's always great to see such enthusiasm for events in Tulsa.  The only unfortunate thing is that it appears very few of the attendees from all over the world took advantage of the proximity to Route 66.  [Sigh...]

We finally got back to Afton Station at about 10:30 a.m., after which we sat there for 3 hours with only one visitor, a man who has visited before who apparently came this time just to make a purchase, because he wasn't interested in viewing the cars.  (He did arrive in a very slick hot rod, however).   At 1:30 we decided to close up for the day and head for home.  

 I'll be back tomorrow because I have a few more photos to show you.  Now, I must leave and give all my attention to the bass weigh-in.  I hear they're having a gigantic birthday party for me later tonight in Hollywood, but I'd rather just stick with the fish.  

Saturday, February 23, 2013

My Last Day at 66

No, I'm not moving away from of Route 66.  I'm moving off being 66 years old!   Since I won't be 66 years of age after tomorrow, my crew at Afton Station threw a little birthday party for me today.   That was so sweet of them!  Here I am showing off my beautiful pink roses from Betty and one of the three bottles of Coffee Mate Fat Free Original I got from Ron M.  (Long story about that.  Just suffice to say that it is an extraordinarily thoughtful gift for a dialysis patient who can't drink real milk).  I also got a simply beautiful stained glass piece, hand made by Robin, which I'll photograph tomorrow and post here.   Those colorful balls  you see in the foreground of the photo are cupcakes provided by Betty.  A great time was had by all (especially me!)!
 Meanwhile, it was great to be back at Afton Station again.  Besides the aforementioned Ron M., Betty, and Robin, we were also visited by Marly, Tattoo Man, and Scott from Afton.   I opened the museum today specifically because I thought we might see some folks who are in the region this weekend for the Bassmaster Classic being held at Grand Lake and Tulsa.   Indeed, there are many thousands of folks here for the event, but none of them came to the Station today.  It was probably just too much fun on the lake and they didn't want to leave the competition.  They're in from all over the world for this gigantic event.

We did have 10 visitors, which isn't bad for an icy February Saturday.   They came from Joplin MO, Broken Arrow OK, London England, and right here in Afton.  The four English young men are traveling the full length of Route 66 and, besides being a little nervous about the weather as they cross the country, they're having a ball.   This family from Broken Arrow, OK were just out for a day in the country and seeking some fun along the way.   The fellow from Joplin, David, has visited Afton Station in the past.  He has his own restored gas station in Pittsburg, KS and was looking around for some more memorabilia for his extensive collection.
 Tattoo Man has a new tattoo (surprise, surprise....), the emblem of the German Route 66 Association on his neck.  Looks good, Tat.  Here's the photo you requested.
 On the way home, Ron and I drove downtown in Tulsa and indeed, the whole town is full of folks visiting for the Bassmasters.  I've never seen downtown Tulsa so lively.  I'll be back in Afton tomorrow to attempt to hook and reel in a few of those fishing groupies.  I'm not overly optimistic, but you never can tell.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Talk

I gave a Route 66 talk to about 75 retired Tulsa teachers today.  I knew I was preaching to the choir when I asked,  "How many of you have driven on Route 66 anywhere, not including here in Tulsa?" and nearly every hand in the room was raised.  It was a great group, with good questions and a lot of interest.  I hope I've inspired some of them to get back out on the road. . . and especially to drive up to Afton!

Ron M. came along to help lug the books and other visuals I took with me, and to help out if my mouth went totally dry (a la Marco Rubio) or if I forgot what I wanted to say.  Fortunately, neither of these things happened, although I'm sure Ron could have added some pearls of wisdom if he'd spoken up.  He also took these pictures.  

I chatted with some interesting people after the lecture.  One lady is the wife of the City Attorney from Afton.  Another lady told me that her mother traveled all of Route 66 before it was paved!  Another talked about her mother's family growing up in Afton -- five sisters who are buried in the Afton graveyard.  Now I want to go out there and look for the Jackson family markers.  Another gentleman was instrumental in getting the Route 66 Village in W. Tulsa built.  That's the place with the trains and the full size replica of an oil derrick which I talked about here in June, 2011.

All in all, I felt quite good about the event, and now that its over, I can finally exhale. . .

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Restless Roaming

I went to Afton this weekend, not to open up to the public yet (that will happen, finally, next weekend), but to pick up some material I'll be needing for the program I'm giving on Tuesday. I also wanted to say good bye to Phil, who will be leaving for California tomorrow and may be gone for an extended length of time.  As it turned out, Phil never made it to the Station, so we only stayed for a couple of hours.

Within those hours, however, we had a visit from a nice family from Ft. Worth, TX.  The little girl collects pressed pennies, so she, her mother, and her grandparents decided to do most of the Oklahoma portion of Route 66 while collecting pennies. I very much enjoyed this family.   It was great to have unexpected visitors, plus they purchased a good bit of stuff, which is also a bonus.  Maybe I can pay the heating bill for another month!  
Ron M. was with me today, and Betty stopped in for a while.  Another unexpected bonus!  It is always great
to visit with those two. 

Eventually Ron and I decided to leave the freezing cold confines of the Station and drive up to Miami to check out the new sign which has been erected over Route 66 at the west entrance to their Main Street.    It looks good, and by reading the explanatory sign next to it, we found out things we hadn't heard before.  The giant sign is actually a replica of a sign from the 1900s which was taken down in the 1930s.  Knowing that bit of history made it even more impressive.  

 It was still early, so Ron and I decided to go home "the long way", via Welch, Lenapah, Nowata, Oologah, Talala, and Owasso.  If all those Indian names have you dizzy, feel free to follow along in your atlas.  Ha ha! It is always refreshing to explore roads that are NOT Route 66 between Tulsa and Afton.  No offense to Route 66, but I have to admit to being just a bit tired of the same old corn fields and cows.  The new fields, cows, and small towns we saw today were charming.

Marly opened the Station again late this afternoon to greet 16 photographers from an Arkansas group.  He just reported to me that it was a very successful visit and lots of photos were taken.  When the photos are put online, I'll show some of them here.  Thanks, Marly!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

An Old Place in a New Place

My sadness about 6 months ago when I heard that the Blue Dome Diner in Tulsa was being forced to close was replaced by happiness last week when I found out that it was going to reopen in a new location.  The Blue Dome was formerly on 2nd St., across from the iconic Blue Dome Station on an old alternate alignment of Route 66 in downtown Tulsa.  I have to say from the start that the diner changed ownership a couple of years ago and has never since equaled its original uniqueness and excellence, but it was still a place where one could get a hearty, tasty breakfast.

It reopened last week in the old Family Diner on Admiral Place (on a different alignment of Route 66 further from downtown) between Harvard and Yale.  Since I always thought that the old Blue Dome had the best breakfasts around, I decided to head for the new location this morning.  The old chef/owner Brian Prewitt is still there, but there weren't any customers when I walked in at 7:30.  Since it had already been open for an hour, I was not feeling optimistic.  The old location was so perfect and the building space was so charming that I knew it would be  hard to duplicate that atmosphere anywhere else.  I was right.  The Family Diner building is nothing to get excited about.  The best I can say is that its a "typical" diner. . . lots of faux leather booths and some stainless tables for larger groups.  It's bright and clean and very diner-like, but really has no ambience.

The same waitress was there, although she didn't remember me because I hadn't been to the other Blue Dome for well over a year.  For some reason which I'm willing to concede may have been concocted only in my own head, the food just didn't measure up to that at the old place.  I had a mushroom and onion omelet, their famous homemade sourdough wheat toast, and a fruit cup.  It was all good, and yet not as good as I remember it.  I didn't have their breakfast specialty, the steel-cut oatmeal with lots of additives like raisins and nuts, but I can only imagine that it is still delicious.  The sourdough bread was still fine, but seemed a little tougher than before.  I do appreciate that they don't slather it with butter, or worse yet margarine, before serving it.  Instead, there are pats of real butter on the table for the customer's use.    The fruit cup had a nice mixture of melons, pineapple and grapes.  The omelet was just ordinary and slightly overdone.  My breakfast cost $8 and change.
  In all honesty, the best part of my experience at the new Blue Dome was eavesdropping on the table of six men who came in shortly after I sat down.  I won't go into what they were talking about because I wouldn't want them to accidentally stumble onto this blog and recognize themselves, but they were a hoot.  They were obviously "regulars" at the old Blue Dome and frequently met there to trade stories.  And wow, what stories!

 I'll go back, of course, but just less enthusiastically than before.  They serve breakfast all day and lunch until 3 p.m. and since they've always had some unique fresh foods for those meals,  I'll also go back to try that fare again soon.  I still have great expectations for the midday meal.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mmmm, that's good bass!

Who remembers that line from an ancient Saturday Night Live sketch?   The Bass-o-Matic!  Do you remember now?  It happens to be my all time favorite SNL skit.  Anyway, what on earth does that have to do with Route 66 and Afton Station?  Well, let me tell you.... there's almost nothing better than fresh pan fried bass, and that's what Robin treated us to at the Station today.  She catches a lot of fish in the stream close to where she and Phil live, and today she fried up a huge batch of it in light corn meal batter and brought it to us with home made tartar sauce and chips and we feasted!   It was truly delicious, and I think we all ate until we couldn't ingest another bite.  Marly proved to be a human fish-consuming machine, and I wasn't far behind.  What a great treat!   Thank  you, Robin!

We were virtually uninterrupted as we ate, but we were hoping to have a few visitors because we put the lights on and we appeared to be open.   Nobody came to visit until near to the time that we had to leave, when a couple was seen roaming around outside the Station with GPS in hand.  We realized that they were geocachers looking for our cache.  We were able to lure them in, and we  had a great conversation with the couple who are visiting from Paris, TX.  Because they are both military brats, they have lived all over the world and it was interesting to hear about their nomadic life.

Ron M. and I had to leave at 1:30 so I could get home in time for my exercise session, so we left the couple in the good hands of Marly and drove back to Tulsa in a drizzly rain which may turn to a dusting of (aarrghh!) SNOW later.  Although the prediction is for "slim to none" in regard to snow, I hate the evil stuff so much that I don't want to see a single flake.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Catching Up

I thought I'd better post something here, lest you think I'd abandoned the blog altogether.  No way!  I'm still around, and in fact mourning the fact that I don't have much to say here although I'm dying to write something pithy and interesting.  So, lacking the pithy and interesting, I'll just mention a few things that have either happened recently or are upcoming.

I'll be going to Afton tomorrow for a while.  Robin has decided to fry some of the many pounds of fish she caught this summer and host a little "fish fry" right at the Station!  Should be fun and yummy!  I'll report on it when I get home.

A week from tomorrow I'll be giving a talk at a meeting of the Tulsa Retired Teachers Association.   The subject?  Route 66 of course.  Ron M. will go with me to fill in the blanks when I completely lose my train of thought and end up standing there wordlessly.  It happens, believe me!

The Chinese are coming!   The Chinese are coming!   Word has it that, due to their increasing affluence, citizens of China will be doing more and more touring in the U.S. in the next few years, figuring the numbers  to be over 100,000,000 annually by the end of the decade.   It got me thinking about how I might take advantage of this influx and make our Chinese visitors welcome at Afton Station.  If anyone has any creative ideas, let me know.  Since most will be coming on group tours, the first challenge will be to see that tour companies know about us, and that they are not inclined to jump on the interstate too often (or at all!) as happens with many foreign tour groups.  I guess my next task will be to find out the names of the tour companies and plant a bug in their ears.

Wait!   I DO have something pithy and interesting to say!  The new President of the Oklahoma Route 66 Association is my good friend Brad Nickson.  Congratulations, Brad!  You're the perfect person for that position.  Your commitment to the Mother Road as well as your brains and good sense will be appreciated by all of us.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

More About The Bridge

Due to a sick hairdresser, I couldn't get a haircut today so I took the time instead to drive back downtown and go over the Boulder Ave. Bridge (see yesterday's post) myself for the first time. Yesterday, we left before it was "officially" open to the public. 

Today, mine was the only car on it!  I drove over it twice, once in each direction, and the only vehicles I saw on it were trucks of workers who are attaching more decorative metal cutouts to the east side railing.  I stopped to take this photo of the Route 66 shield and vintage car cutout.  On the right is a cutout of the Blue Dome, also on Route 66. 

 In this (oops, somewhat blurred) photo taken from the bridge, the large brick building on the left is the Brady Theater, known to longtime Tulsa residents as the "Old Lady on Brady".  It's been around since 1914 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.   It is said to be haunted by the ghost of Enrico Caruso who, according to a local legend, performed there in 1920 and reportedly caught the cold that led to his death of pleurisy in 1921.

Another fact about the Brady Theater, and not one of which Tulsa is particularly proud, is that the building was used temporarily to detain black men rounded up by the National Guard during the 1921 Race Riot.  Read about the Race Riot and see some amazing photos at:

Monday, February 4, 2013

Boulder Bridge

Ron M. and I took a ride to downtown Tulsa this afternoon as we'd received invitations to the dedication of the new Boulder Avenue Bridge.  The original bridge was built over the railroad tracks in 1929 and had been deemed structurally unsafe, thus not used since the '90s.   A new one was seriously needed.
The new bridge opened today amid much hoopla, speeches by politicians and business leaders, a ribbon cutting, and the marching band from the University of Tulsa.  We watched from a bit of a distance since parking was impossible by the time we got there.  The bridge is a 4-lane now, and the railing on one side is adorned with metal cutouts illustrating important aspects of Tulsa life -- including a prominently-placed Route 66 shield.  The railing is really quite lovely.
The TU Band marched across the bridge playing "Tulsa Time" and "Take Me Back To Tulsa".  At the end of the ribbon cutting ceremony, selected dignitaries piled into the Tulsa Trolley in order to be the first across the new bridge in a vehicle.  The span should make getting from downtown to the newly revitalized Brady Arts District a lot easier.  It isn't directly on Route 66, but everything in downtown Tulsa is close enough to be considered a "must see" for out of town visitors.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Mr. Smith Goes to Tulsa

A Route 66 friend and photographer, Martin Smith from the U.K., came through Oklahoma on a Route 66 trip last month, but unfortunately I was unable to meet him in Afton because I was still recuperating from my hospitalization.  I was so sorry not to be able to see him again.  He did go to Tulsa,  however, and was able to enjoy an evening tour at which time he took some quite beautiful photos.  There are a few here, and more pictures of his Route 66 trip are viewable and available on Facebook at:

 The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame
 Downtown Tulsa
The famous and historic Cain's Ballroom in the Brady District of Tulsa

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Clubhouse

I think Afton Station is turning into sort of a clubhouse.  We all seem to congregate there on Saturday even though we're not open!   Today Ron M. and I drove up,  not planning to stay very long (same intentions as last Saturday), and eventually Marly, Phil, Robin, Michael Scruggs, and Tattoo Man all showed up, just to hang out for a while. We ended up staying almost all day.  It's a nice way to spend a Saturday, I must admit.  And as long as we were there, we were happy to open for the few travelers who passed by.   Our three visitors were a couple from Burleson, TX and a gentleman from Tulsa, OK who is at the lake with his newlyweds daughter and son-in-law.  All were quite impressed with the car collection.   I would have enjoyed having more visitors, but on a winter day three isn't bad, and these were especially nice people.

While there, Marly was kind enough to rub a bit of gray paint off of the fender of my car which accidentally had a slight encounter with my neighbor's fence a few weeks ago (ahem).   Thanks, Marly!  Michael Scruggs brought me some more examples of his nice black and white photography, and we discussed the possibility of him having a small show in one of our showrooms this summer.   Phil will be leaving for California to visit his parents in a week or so and may stay for as much as a month.  Robin said she would be happy to work at the Station during the week of the big BassMasters Classic at the lake, which is expected to bring thousands of people to the area.  Although the largest fishing tournament in the world is the reason for the event, we feel that some folks who aren't actually out on boats might enjoy a trip to visit a car museum, so we'll be open the weekend of Feb. 22, 23, 24.

And there you have it.   The news of the week.  No photos, however.  Sorry.

NOTICE:   A woman came to the Station today to ask us to publicize an activity that's coming up at the Buffalo Run Casino, which is in nearby Miami, OK, on April 5-6 of this  year.  Since it might interest some readers of this blog, I'll start talking about it here.  It's a going to be a big sale/show of Retro Signs and Advertising Materials!   Sound good?  Here's the website so you can find out more as the date approaches: