Route 66 Days 9 and 10: The Sooner the Better

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We woke up early in Amarillo and enjoyed the free breakfast at the Days Inn. Actually, we didn’t enjoy it at all. The biscuits were stale, the gravy was runny, and the coffee was so weak that I could taste the Styrofoam cup with each sip. Overall, it was probably the worst free breakfast I’ve ever had. But hey, it’s free.

After packing up and loading the car we decided to stick to old Route 66 from Amarillo to the Oklahoma border. Originally we planned to stay off the interstate as much as we could, but time constraints and road fatigue made taking I-40 too tempting to resist. While the interstate gets us to where we’re going faster, it misses a lot of the scenic beauty of 66 and all the old motels and gas stations that line the route.

Driving along the two-lane highway through rows of crops was a nice change of pace from doing 80 on the freeway. The first major stop we made was at the Route 66 and Devil’s Rope Museum in Mclean. The place had a bunch of old curios and trinkets going back to the 1940s and at first it seemed like every other Route 66 museum that we had visited. Then there was the section devoted to the “devil’s rope,” also known as barbed wire.

I never knew that there were so many types of barbed wire in existence. There hundreds of samples going back more than a hundred years, each with different shaped barbs and wiring material. I’m not sure of reason behind such fascination with something as mundane as barbed wire, but it was an interesting exhibit nonetheless. Behind the counter there was a nice old lady who was eager to show us a flag that had 49-stars. which is rare considering that there was only 1 year when the US had 49 states (between the admissions of Hawaii and Alaska in 1959).

The rest of the drive to Oklahoma City was pretty uneventful. It was nice to see a bona fide city skyline after days of traveling through small towns and cities that grew out instead of up. The first thing we did was visit the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial, which consists of a part of the foundation of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and a grass park with a chair for each victim of the attack. You really have to admire the Park Service employees who have to stand out there all day in the hot Oklahoma sun (it was around 100 degrees when we got there, which was around 5 pm). The guy who was working that day was very polite and offered us literature about the attack and gave us a brief overview of the memorial.

We then left to drive to our hotel on the east side of town and we checked into, you guessed it, a La Quinta. After our experience with Days Inn, we were happy to be in a (sort of) familiar setting. We finished the day at Mr. Sprig’s BBQ, which was about five minutes from our hotel. Anyone who knows barbecue knows that you have to go to a real whole-in-the-wall place to get a decent meal. I just wish we had more places in New York like Mr. Sprig’s. Then again, it’s probably better for my waistline that it’s not.

After a quick breakfast at the La Quinta, we made our way north to Tulsa. A slightly smaller locale than OKC, Tulsa has a bit of a more laid back vibe to it. We saw the Golden Driller, a huge statue of an oil driller that is the tallest free-standing statue in the world (according to Wikipedia). Then we went to the Tulsa Air and Space Museum, which had an interesting collection of old airplanes and rockets. We even got a sneak preview of an upcoming exhibit of an American Airlines MD-80 that was under construction. Afterwards we spent a few hours visiting with my aunt who lives in the area. She had pool in her backyard and there’s nothing more relaxing than a dip in the water when it’s in the 90s.

We said our goodbyes and continued on towards Springfield, Missouri. The original Route 66 takes a small detour through a sliver of Kansas, so we decided to follow it for a few miles and add another state to the trip. The first town we saw in our brief stay in Kansas was Baxter Springs, an old mining town that had clearly seen better days. There was only one real restaurant in town that wasn’t a fast food franchise, It was a family style that specialized in chicken fry steak and apparently “chicken fry chicken.” I had no idea what that was, so I just stuck with the steak. We finished the meal off with a nice slice of chocolate cream pie.

We drove the rest of our short detour through Kansas and rejoined the interstate near Joplin, Missouri. We raced against the setting sun as we made our way towards Springfield, but the darkness overtook us and we didn’t arrive at our hotel until 9 pm. Exhausted, we climbed into bed and rested up for the day ahead.

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