Route 66: Tucumcari Tonite!

Well, we’re more than halfway there! It’s our eight day on Route 66 and — after visiting a couple of museums — we depart Amarillo, Texas with our goal being Tucumcari, New Mexico.

“Tucumcari Tonite!”

It is a slogan used for many years up and down Route 66, which enticed travelers to spend the night in the many motels of Tucumcari, formerly known as Six Shooter Siding.

Our goal is the Blue Swallow Motel, a Route 66 icon since 1939. Originally known as the Blue Swallow Motor Court, it retains much of the original charm, including some rooms which still have the carports in place. The classic neon sign was installed a few years later when the Blue Swallow changed from “Motor Court” to the more modern “Motel” and still boasts “100% Refrigerated Air”.

There are a lot of things to see before we get there though. From well-known places like the midpoint of Route 66 in Adrian, Texas to the photogenic ghost town of Glenrio, with some small surprised mixed in — such as a former iron ore car from the Southern Pacific railroad converted into a bridge.

Farewell Texas, hello New Mexico! For the next while the most important question to be answered is “Red or green?

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Route 66: Into Texas We Go!

You need to meet Harley.  No, you *really* need to meet Harley.

We start our seventh day on the road in Erick, Oklahoma.  Erick is the home of the Sandhills Curiosity Shop and it’s eccentric owner Harley Russell.  Emily and I were familiar with Harley from videos we had seen on YouTube from our favorite vloggers.  Honestly, we weren’t sure if we really wanted to meet him or not.

The Sandhills Curiosity Shop is one of those places where you’re not sure if you go in if you will end up having a great time or end up a statistic.

This was my mindset while I was standing around the corner from the shop taking photos by myself.  Emily was around the front checking out the myriad of signs and antiques hanging all over the porch of the shop.  Suddenly I heard her say “Oh, hi!  We didn’t know if you were around today or not.”

Immediately I knew she had met Harley.  This was it, the one Route 66 stop we had hesitated about checking out but we had crossed the Rubicon.  I came around the corner, with the camera rolling just to see what would happen next.

What happened next was Harley.  How to describe him?  You’ve got the long redneck beard.  You’ve got the red and white striped overalls and you just *know* he’s got nothing else on underneath them.  You’ve got the booming voice welcoming you and telling you to take all the picture you want.  You’ve got a guy who doesn’t hesitate to drop a f-bomb, take a drink from a bottle of Jack Daniels, to talk about how the local community has tried to get rid of him by “turning me in to every agency you can be turned in to” or threatened to burn his shop to the ground.

But, the longer you are there, the more you relax and the more you get to see the many layers of this man.  Even after you leave, you’re not really sure how much is real and how much is an act designed to put money in his tip jar.  Make no mistake about it, Harley is a smart businessman and he’s one of the few people in Erick, Oklahoma who seem to be having any success.  All those oddities and signs in his shop?  They didn’t pay for themselves, you know?  Are the locals trying to get rid of him because he’s the crazy guy down the street or because they’re envious of how he has used the lure of Route 66 to make a living?

This is his schtick.  He does it day in and day out, often for busloads of tourists (often from Europe) or for individuals like us.  As I said, we sort of knew what to expect but for the uninitiated, I can only image what sort of impression he leaves on them.

Only once during our visit did we see a break in the act.  When Harley picks up an old photo of his late wife Annabelle, the true Harley emerges.  He looks at the photo and speak of her in a longing tone.  This is a man who misses his wife dearly and you sort of think the drinking and the smoking is his way of trying to get to be with her sooner rather than later.

Harley was a real character and the most unique individual we met on Route 66.  While Lowell Davis in Red Oak II was quiet and thoughtful, Harley is the polar opposite and you can’t help but love the guy for it.

You know he had an impact on us because despite seeing sights like the U-Drop Inn in Shamrock, TX or the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, it is the former butcher shop in Erick, Oklahoma with its freedom-loving owner that remains the strongest memory of the day for me.  Watch the video and see for yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

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Route 66: Tulsa to Hydro

Our first Saturday on Route 66. We start the day checking out a bit of downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma. First up is the Blue Dome gas station, which pre-dates Route 66 by a couple of years, opening in 1924.

From there, we visit Cyrus Avery Plaza. Cyrus is considered the “Father of the Mother Road” and he was instrumental in pushing for the alignment of Route 66 through Oklahoma.

Not to give it all away, but we also check out the Round Barn of Acadia, which dates back to the 1890s, followed by a relatively new “must stop” location on the Route, which is Pop’s Soda Ranch which opened in 2007.

Add in a stop at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, a trip across the longest bridge on Route 66, and the 1929 Provine Filling Station which was operated by Lucille Hamon right up until her death in 2000.

It’s another busy day on Route 66 so check it out here:

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Route 66 – Springfield, MO to Tulsa, OK

Our fifth day on Route 66 and it was the busiest yet!

We got an early start and left our comfortable bed and “best hotel wifi ever” at the Rail Haven Motel in Springfield, Missouri and set out with a goal of reaching Tulsa, Oklahoma before dark.

While we had seen a lot of quintessential Route 66 sites on our first four days, today is when the route really seemed to hit its stride.  Not only were we seeing interesting sections of the road such as the “Sidewalk Highway”, a nine-foot wide stretch of pavement, we also got to see some great roadway infrastructure such as the Rainbow Bridge in Kansas and Allen’s Filling Station in Commerce, Oklahoma but we also got to see where Disney’s writers got a lot of inspiration for Radiator Springs when we visit “Cars on the Route” in Galena, Kansas.

And, most importantly, this is where we really got to connect with some of the people who make Route 66 shine.  We meet the late Gary Turner’s son-in-law George at Gary’s Gay Parita Sinclair Station and we meet artist Lowell Davis — a man with a passion for his old hometown of Red Oak  so strong he bought most of the buildings and moved them to [what was] an empty corn field so they would be preserved.

And, by this point in the trip we were really getting into the routine too.  You can see us really starting to enjoy things on a deeper level, especially when we hit the Blue Whale of Catoosa which was really high on both of our lists of places we were most excited to see in person.

I can’t speak for Emily, but it was about this point in the trip where I started to feel like we were connecting with Route 66 in a different way.  I’ll say this multiple times over the course of the trip, but driving Route 66 changes you in a way that is hard to describe.  I think at the five day / almost one-third done point, I was starting to notice it, even if I couldn’t — and still can’t — describe it.  I think you’ll see my try and articulate it in words when visiting the ruins of the Avon Motel.

Anyway, that’s all for now.  I know this video runs a little long for the typical YouTube audience, but I think you’ll understand why when you see how much it covers.  Hope you are enjoying the series and I’ll get working on Day Six now.  Cheers!

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Route 66: On to Springfield, MO

Our fourth day on the road did not start as planned.  I awoke and, as I usually do when I first wake up, I reached over to the table beside the bed and picked up my tablet to see what was new in the world.  What I found was something that was both expected and yet unexpected at the same time.  Our good friend Richard McBride (http://richardislivingwithals.blogspot.com/) had passed away.

Now, I had only come to know Richard over the last six years but he had developed into one of my most trusted friends.  He was always ready to share a laugh, share a drink, and put you in your place when you needed it.

As I said, it was both expected (ALS is a death sentence), yet unexpected too.  We had just seen Richard a few days before departing on our road trip and we had been already making tentative plans for getting together again when we got back.  It just didn’t seem possible that this happened now, on this day, with us so far away from our group of friends we had come to know through Richard.

I may or may not write more about my thoughts later.  We’ll see.

If you knew Richard at all, you know he loved road trips.  He made several fantastic trips just in the time I knew him.  Richard loved the road, even as his disease made being on the road more and more difficult.

The other thing about Richard was he always wanted people to enjoy themselves.  As he once told me, “You never know what crappy hand life will deal you.  Enjoy the journey as much as you can because it can be cut short at any moment.”

Richard would have loved this trip.  I like to think he was enjoying following along on Facebook for those first few days we were gone.  And, we knew the best way to honour Richard was to go out on the road, have fun and experience it in the best way we can.  While Emily and I never talked about it out loud, I think we both know he was riding along with us in spirit every mile the rest of the way.

With that, enjoy our fourth day on Route 66 as we depart Cuba and set our sights on Springfield, Missouri.

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Route 66: St. Louis

Our third day on Route 66 sees us backtracking a little and heading into St. Louis where we check out the National Transportation Museum and we see if Dan can get over his claustrophobia long enough to get to the top of the Gateway Arch.

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Route 66: From Springfield to Cuba

Day two of Route 66 takes us from Springfield, Illinois to Cuba, Missouri with stops at some off-the-wall places as well as the tomb of Abraham Lincoln.

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