Route 66, the iconic “Mother Road,” winds its way from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California. If you don’t have the time to drive the entire route, why not take on this icon of American transportation history in bite-sized pieces? We’re going to help you do just that with a series called Get Your Pics on Route 66 in hopes that you’ll capture some great memories and images as you explore this little slice of Americana. Here’s the Western Oklahoma installment:
Route 66 through Western Oklahoma is a pretty straight shot, following Interstates 44 and 40 to the Texas border. We left off in our Eastern Oklahoma segment at Stroud. Let’s pick up our tour at Chandler, right off of I-44 at Highway 18 south.
Located in a distinguished sandstone building, the Route 66 Interpretive Center is just that—it offers many interpretations of the Mother Road, from memorabilia to sights, sounds, and smells found along its lengthy highway. The Center is continually adding new art and films related to The Route and strives to recreate the nostalgia found while traveling Route 66. It is well worth your time to explore this little gem!
Pick up old Route 66 just south of Chandler, following it west to Arcadia, Oklahoma. Here you’ll come across an architectural wonder—the Arcadia Round Barn stands just along the roadside. Built in 1898, it was here long before the highway encroached its fields. William Harrison Odor constructed the barn using young bur oak boards that were soaked to form the curved walls and roof. Used to store hay, the outbuilding also became useful for community dances and as a meeting place.
The Round Barn fell into disrepair in the 1980s and the roof collapsed, but with the help of volunteers, it was restored to its former glory by 1992. Today it is the only true round barn in America, having no hexagonal or octagonal walls.
Just down the road from the Round Barn stands a soda pop bottle built for giants! Pops is a wonderful refreshment stop along old Route 66. It wasn’t here for the original highway, but has made the most of its location today, offering over 700 different drink options, along with hamburgers, sandwiches, and desserts to travelers.
Built as an ultra-modern gas station and food stop along the original Mother Road, Pops offers a glimpse into the past with a look to the future. Over 12,000 bottles of soda line its glass walls, and at night the 66 foot outdoor sculpture puts on a neon light show, reminiscent of the neon signs that dotted the entire Route 66 corridor back in the day. Be sure to plan a stop here, if only for the “wow” factor!
The highway’s alignments through Oklahoma City were changed several times, but one great icon still remains. At 2426 North Classen Boulevard, a giant milk bottle still resides on the roof of the Milk Bottle Grocery, a tiny building that lies in the right-of-way of a busy thoroughfare. Over the years the bottle has been repainted to represent several businesses that inhabited the small piece of real estate, but it remains in remarkably good shape as a wonderful piece of nostalgia along one of the original alignments of Route 66.
Find your way to 620 N. Harvey Avenue, right downtown, for a sobering experience at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. Built in memory of the 168 people who lost their lives when the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was bombed in 1995, the site also commemorates the actions of the first responders and those whose lives were changed on April 19, 1995. The museum houses archives for research, as well as learning opportunities through exhibits, interactives, videos, and programs.
If you visit during the day, be sure to plan a trip back downtown at night for some amazing views of the memorial in a different light.
You can follow I-44 west (old Route 66) out of Oklahoma City, traveling through Yukon to El Reno. Two service stations still exist from the highway’s heyday, although both are inhabited by other businesses these days.
Avant Service Station is on the corner of Choctaw and Wade and was built in 1933 in Art Deco style, with a flat roof. Today’s version has been reconfigured, losing all of the wonderful lines and curves from its original design. Just down the street on Wade is what was once the Jackson Conoco Service Station. This was constructed in a Cotswold Cottage design, like many Phillips stations, with a high gabled roof and separate service bay building. Its design is still evident, even though it is no longer a filling station.
I-40 beckons you west toward the small community of Hydro. One of the nicest filling station restorations along all of Route 66 lies on Frontage Road, right by the highway. Lucille’s Place, also known as the Provine Service Station, has two vintage gas pumps out front, lots of transportation stickers on its windows and designation on the National Historic Register.
Built as a two story Craftsman by Carl Ditmore in 1929, lodging was upstairs while the business was run from the bottom floor. Travelers on The Route kept the place busy enough to add five tourist cabins, which became a motel. Carl and Lucille Hamons purchased the business in 1941 and Lucille ran the business for almost 60 years; hence its nickname, “Lucille’s Place.”
Just a little further down the old Mother Road to the west lies the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton. Commemorating the effect this highway had on the state, the museum has a wonderful timeline of exhibits by decade, starting with the construction of the road in the 1920s. Visitors can see signs, vehicles and artifacts that have survived to tell the story of Route 66’s impact on American culture.
Further west and just off Interstate 40 is the National Route 66 and Transportation Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma. Whereas the last museum we visited covered local Route 66 nostalgia, this museum breaks down the Mother Road’s lure state by state. Imagine sitting in a 1955 Chevy Impala at the local drive-in or driving down The Route in a pink Cadillac? Yup, you can “do” that here, while viewing other classic vehicles, roadside attractions, and memorabilia that made Route 66 special to so many.
You can drive the rest of Route 66 with our other “Get Your Pics on Route 66” articles. Read the entire series.