Wednesday, May 24, 2023

2021-04-01: Cruising Route 66 Through Kansas and Oklahoma on Day 10 of Our 3400 Mile Roadtrip Adventure

Today was a very busy day. We continued to follow the historical Route 66 through the corner of Kansas and all the way down to Oklahoma City. There were many roadside attractions to see, many geocaches to find, and some new counties to get, and we tried to visit as many as we could. But we still had to put some miles behind us as our goal is to eventually get down into Texas for the next work project. So join us in the GeoJeep while we share the history and photos from "The Mother Road."

After leaving Joplin with coffee and breakfast, our first geocaching stop was in Kansas... wait no... Oklahoma... or is it Missouri? I guess it depends on where you stand, or park, or... well you get the idea. The virtual geocache (GC6F6D) technically is located in Oklahoma. The stone monument you see was erected in 1938 to mark the spot determined way back in 1857 as the Tri-State intersection. Sadly it had been vandalized, graffitied, and the original plaques stolen. Over the years it had been determined that the monument was off by 50 feet. In 2004, the Missouri Association of County Surveyors rectified the error with a "stand-in-three-states" plaque on the ground marking the correct location. I think this is my third tri-state corner marker that I've been to.

Ok, now that we've got that out of the way... back to Route 66. We stopped for three caches in Cherokee County, Kansas. A quick cemetery geocache (GC497WV) in Galena. A roadside park (GC85F4E) in Riverton highlighting the rather short stretch of Route 66 which passes through Kansas.

Then back over to the original Route 66 alignment and another old historical bridge. Built in 1923 as part of the Jefferson Highway, three years before the US-66 designation, the Rainbow Bridge is a concrete arch bridge and spans 130 feet across Bush Creek. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 and is the only one like it within the entire state of Kansas.

And finally a virtual geocache (GCBBF6) at the historical marker for Baxter Springs. Also here in Baxter Springs is this restored old gas station which is now used as the Route 66 Visitors Center. Built in 1930 by The Independent Oil and Gas Company, it was purchased by Phillips 66 Petroleum Company later that year. The original brick house style was modified in the 1940's to an "L" shape adding on a garage for service repairs. The gas station was in use up until the 1970's. After restoration, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

Route 66 enters Oklahoma into Ottawa County. Passing through the town of Commerce, I saw this little Marathon gas station which was built in 1927. They don't sell gas anymore. But they do sell cookies, candies, and other tasty treats. We resisted the urge to step inside and only left with a photo.

A couple of blocks to the south is the Hole-in-the-Wall gas station. This Conoco Station was built out from a wall of another business in 1929/30. It now serves as a Route 66 Gift Shop.

Following the Mother Road south through Miami, we found this rather unique older section of the original highway. With the early age of automobile travel in the 1900's, Oklahoma began improving the Ozark Trails turning them into an "Auto Trails" system of roadways connecting small rural towns. Working with very tight budgets while trying to still get the distance needed, they paved what came to be known as "Ribbon Road" or "Sidewalk Highway." (GC2ZXEE)

Kinda hard to tell from this photo, but it's basically a one lane paved road that's 9-feet wide with 5-feet wide gravel shoulders. Completed in 1922 as Federal Highway Project No. 8, four years prior to the Route 66 designation. Running from Miami to Afton, this 15.49 miles of narrow road is the only remaining 9-foot section of original pavement on the Old Route 66 system. While it was officially taken out of service in 1937, you can still drive on it today. Just be careful of oncoming traffic!

Passing through Afton, I see these rock walls and stop for a photo. No signs posted and can't find anything online about it. Old gas station? Old store? The ground out front of the sidewalk looks like there may have been gas pumps there. If you know, please leave a comment.

Taking a detour off of Route 66 for a moment, we drove down I-44 to the small Oklahoma town of Big Cabin. Back in my truck driving days passing through here and just as you exit off the interstate at US-69, there's a gigantic Indian Chief statue proudly greeting you as you enter the truck stop. I wanted to stop by here again so that Candy will get an opportunity to see it. Erected on August 9, 2001, the Tall Chief stands at 46 feet and weighs in at 15,500 pounds.

We continued a short drive further south in order to grab another county and a historical virtual geocache (GCFDCD). Just a few miles away in Mayes County is the County Creek Battlefield. Down the backroads through the woods to arrive on a hill with multiple historical markers creating a mental picture of this Civil War battle. On September 18, 1864, a Confederate force of 2,000, mainly General Stand Watie's Indian Brigade, intercepted a Union supply train en-route from Kansas to Fort Gibson. The convoy of 130 wagons worth $1.5 million was captured after a heavy engagement. This was the last Civil War battle in Indian Territory.

Making our way back to continue our drive down Route 66, we arrive in Rogers County. Approaching the town of Chelsea, the historical Pryor Creek Bridge (GC6F24Y) was built in 1926 and carried U.S. Highway 66 traffic from 1926 to 1932, when a new alignment of Route 66 bypassed the bridge.

Once in Chelsea you have to stop for the underground pedestrian bridge (GC6QCMW). Instead of the usual crosswalk from corner to corner, the town built this tunnel to cross Route 66. I guess it was much busier and harder to cross the street back in the day.

A little further down Route 66 and still in Rogers County, we make a stop for the World's Largest Totem Pole as well as a virtual and a traditional geocache (GC9251, GC6M4FJ). Built by Ed Galloway from 1937 to 1948, it stands at 98 feet tall. It was made with 100 tons of sand and rock, 28 tons of cement, and 6 tons of steel. There are 200 carved pictures with four 9 foot indian chiefs at the top.

Our next virtual geocache (GCH7V1) was located in the town of Foyil, just a few more miles down the road. A graduate of Foyil High School, Andrew Hartley Payne (1907-1977) won the 1928 Great Transcontinental Footrace which began in Los Angeles on 3-4-1928 and ended 3,422.3 miles later in New York City 5-26-1928.

Then a short time later we passed this bridge from the 1936 Route 66 alignment. This 24 feet wide bridge replaced the 18 feet wide version from 1925. Now it leads to Molly's Landing Restaurant. I don't think this is the original location of this bridge.

The remains of the Old Route 66 alignment go down the hill to the left from this photo and head down towards the Verdigris River. There's a geocache (GC8H9MC) at the dead end about 1500 feet away from here. There's also an old cemetery up on the hill here. The River Hill Cemetery has about 20 internments dating back to 1882.

Our last geocache for Rogers County was in Catoosa. The Blue Whale (GC4ADE) is a popular Route 66 roadside attraction built by Hugh S. Davis from 1970-72. The Blue Whale is 20 feet tall and 80 feet long and took nearly 3000 hours to build.

Arriving down in Tulsa County, we starting searching for the virtual geocaches in the area. The community of Broken Arrow was named because reeds, found in abundance along streams and riverbeds, were broken to make arrow shafts. The Arkansas Valley Townsite Company chose the site for the town along the proposed MK&T Railroad in September 1902. The first virtual geocache was at Centennial Park (GCEABB) which was dedicated in 2002.

The next virtual geocache was at the Veterans Memorial Park (GCG235). Along with this wall of local veterans, there are two statues dedicated to Major William H. (Hank) Miesner Jr (1939-2003) and Lt. Col. Ernest Childers (1918-2005).

Speaking of memorial parks, we drove a couple of miles away to the Memorial Park Cemetery. It was there we found our next virtual geocache at the gravesite of comedian Sam Kinison (GC48BE). The son of a Pentecostal Preacher, he became a preacher himself at an early age. At age 24, after his first divorce, Kinison gave up preaching and became a comedian. In 1992, he was killed in a car accident when his vehicle was struck by a drunk driver. He was 38 years old.

OK, we don't have time to get to all there is to see in Tulsa. It is already late in the afternoon. So we make our way back to Route 66 and head down into Creek County.

Upon arriving in the town of Sapulpa, our first stop is another virtual geocache at the Sapulpa Trolley and Rail Museum (GCG4JG). The trolley on display here is called the Maggie M., which was built in 1919. The Sapulpa Trolley Company went out of business in 1933. It was donated to the museum in 1997.

The next three geocaches were on the west side heading out of town. There was a letterbox cache at The Heart of Route 66 Auto Museum (GC859VG). Unfortunately, being late in the day, the museum was closed. But the HUGE gas pump outside made for a great roadside attraction and photo ops.

This was followed by the historic Rock Creek Bridge earthcache (GC6Q151). This bridge was built in 1921 to serve the Ozark Trail. It became part of Route 66 in 1926. The bridge was used by motorists traveling "The Mother Road" until a new highway was built to the south of here in 1952.

Then just a few hundred feet down from the bridge was what remains of the Teepee Drive-In Theater (GCG4K2). The drive-in first opened in the 1950's and remained open until the late 90's. At the time of our visit, it was still closed. However, in preparation for writing this blog, I have discovered that the drive-in has been renovated and reopened in the Spring of 2023. And a really cool addition is that along the back row they have several retro RV trailers that can be rented out through Airbnb.

Another geocache in Creek County was at the Magnolia Memorial Gardens Cemetery (GC3AZXC) located just north of Bristow. This cemetery has almost 3,000 internments here dating back to the early 1900's. Most impressive is this 2-story chapel on the grounds.

Our last geocache in Creek County was a roadside attraction called the Route 66 Shoe Tree (GCHPFX). I'm not sure when this started, but it was just a tree along the side of the highway that people tossed their old shoes up and had them hanging from the branches.

Continuing westbound into Lincoln County, our next stop was the Seaba Station in Warwick, Oklahoma. Currently a motorcycle museum, it was originally built in 1924 as a gas station and garage. It stayed in operation serving travelers for many years until 1996. Then the building was restored and the museum opened a few years later in 2000. Unfortunately, the geocache (GC346Y6) was kept indoors and we couldn't sign the logbook after hours.

Now into Oklahoma County. Our next geocache stop (GC4759Y) was located at another historical Route 66 gas station, or what was left of it anyway.  According to the sign: supposedly built in the late teens or early 1920's, before electricity made it out to this rural area. Cold soda pop were only sold on the days when the ice man made it by. Chocolate candy was only sold during the winter when it was cold, otherwise it would melt.

Times were tough back in those days and it was hard to make an honest living. The station owners bought plates to make counterfeit ten dollar bills. A room was added to the back of the station and the only entrance was through a window. After one person was caught passing the fake bills and arrested, their identification gave the address. They were eventually traced back to the gas station. The plates were found, the crime spree terminated, and the owner taken to jail. The old station was closed, never to open again. Many years later and nothing to do with the counterfeiting, a murder victim was found in the abandoned building. The victim was never identified and the mystery never solved.

Our last stop of the day was at Pops 66 (GC162WP), an the iconic destination and must-see landmark on Route 66 in Arcadia, Oklahoma. It features a family-friendly, full-service restaurant, gas station, convenience store, tons of bottled soda, and a 66-foot-tall pop bottle outside that dazzles with multicolor LED lights when the sun sets.

Needless to say after browsing the store for about an hour, we left with a huge assortment of good and "gross" sodas!

That's the end of our LONG day. Twelve hours of driving and sightseeing the roadside attractions along the historic Route 66. Tomorrow we finish up Oklahoma and arrive at our destination in Texas.

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