Route 66 Relived & Revitalized - Central Oklahoma Frontier Country

Route 66 Relived & Revitalized

Posted by Emily Reagan, public relations director on 07/25/2008

CENTRAL OKLAHOMA – Route 66 is one of the most popular, romanticized road trip routes in the world. Stretching from Chicago to Los Angeles, it symbolizes America’s thirst for adventure.

The longest stretch of yester-year’s Mother Road wonders 426 miles through Oklahoma.

“Traveling Route 66 is a throwback to a time when the journey was probably as much or more as the destination,” said Mike Hickey, Oklahoma Route 66 Association president.

Route 66 helped usher in America’s unique auto travel industry. It’s lined with mom-and-pop eateries, service stations and motels in the form of flashy structures and bright signs all intended to lure passersby. A function they still perform today.

Travelers today get a wide taste of Route 66 in Oklahoma. There are long stretches of countryside, solemn relics of days gone and landmarks glorified and integrated into the modern landscape. Each town on Route 66 has a distinct character and its own story.

“Oklahoma’s portion of the fabled highway takes travelers back to a simpler time and through charming towns that celebrate the road today,” said Hardy Watkins, Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department executive director.

But Route 66 isn’t just about reminiscing. It’s a dynamic roadway that has changed greatly since its conception. It has withstood shifting routes, changing towns, new businesses and growth, and ever-shifting demographics of its travelers.

“What’s even more exciting, Route 66 keeps reinventing itself with new attractions appearing all the time,” said Watkins.

Route 66 is buzzing with new activities and events from themed Route 66 festivals, marathons and triathlons, to classic car shows and organized road cruises.

“Traveling was such an adventure back then,” said Hickey. “Nowadays it’s the idea of discovering how we get to be how we are and embracing the future.”

While Oklahoma boasts having the longest portion of the historic “Mother Road” than any other state, central Oklahoma’s Frontier Country contains 120 miles of the famous highway.

Cruisin’ east

Meander through the main streets of Stroud, Davenport, Chandler, Warwick, and Wellston. Find ghost signs, murals, monuments, historic buildings and the only remaining Meramec Caverns structure left advertising Missouri’s over-marketed Route 66 attraction. Lincoln County is also home to two remaining single arch steel truss bridges and several wineries, including the Sparks Vineyard and Winery, GreenField Winery and Vineyard, StableRidge Winery, Territorial Cellars and the Wine Village.

Stroud is known as Oklahoma’s grape and wine capitol with two wine tasting locations right on the main street of Route 66 and several unique specialty shops. Just off the beaten path, check out the Ozark Trail monument, a tribute to the critical road used before the era of the automobile. Davenport’s original brick main street is home to several diners that conjure Route 66 nostalgia. In Chandler, be sure to check out the restored Philips 66 cottage-style gas station, the Museum of Pioneer History, and the 1930s stone armory, which recently reopened as the Route 66 Interpretive Center with Route 66 memorabilia.

In central

The landscape of Route 66 has changed in Oklahoma County since the days of old. Arcadia has the famous red Round Barn, built in the 1898 and restored with a Route 66 exhibit. But there is new life since POPS opened in 2007. It’s a Route 66-spirited diner, soda fountain and gas station that tempts thirsty passersby with its giant, lighted soda bottle.

The route continues through booming Edmond, passing through historic main street with the Edmond Historical Society Museum, which has a Route 66 exhibit.

Route 66 runs right through the heart of Oklahoma City, passing the state capitol with its 6-year-old dome and the beautifully street-scaped Lincoln Boulevard. Be sure to visit the new Oklahoma History Center that opened in 2006 and features more than 200 interactive exhibits. Its Oklahoma Transportation Gallery relates to the Route 66 era with a 1952 Studebaker and the original tollbooth at the Oklahoma City end of the Turner Turnpike that foreshadowed the eventual rate of the “Mother Road.”

On the western edge of Bethany drive by the historic steel truss bridge at Lake Overholser and visit the new Route 66 Park with its observation tower, stamped map of Route 66 landmarks and themed children’s playground.

Cruisin’ west

Canadian County marks the spot of two important trails, Route 66 and the Chisholm Trail, where cattle crossed from Texas to Kansas. Its Old West flavor mixes with the automobile culture making for a blend of generations. Pockets of Route 66 are still visible on the historic main streets of Yukon and El Reno with cafes, service stations and motels, all intended to satisfy a weary traveler.

Discover the railroad landmarks that preceded Route 66 from the Rock Island Museum in Yukon to the Canadian County Historical Museum in the fully restored Rock Island Depot in El Reno.

Check out Johnnie’s Grill, Sid’s Diner or Robert’s Grill for a nostalgic atmosphere and a taste of El Reno’s famous onion fried burgers. Just at the western edge of Frontier Country, take notice of Calumet’s wall murals painted on buildings for those passing as Route 66 continues on east and west.

Oklahoma’s pride is evident for Route 66 heritage, said Watkins. After all, the first original U.S. Highway was the brainchild of an Oklahoman. And today the state has more miles of the original Route 66 roadbed than any other state.

To learn more about central Oklahoma’s upcoming Route 66 events, festivals and other attractions, visit www.oktourism.com.