One of the five new states we visited on our Southwest road trip was Oklahoma. I’ll be the first to admit that we didn’t try real hard to find places to stop, but it was getting close to the end of the trip, it had been a long day, and we ended up losing a couple of hours due to their silly “exact change” toll road system (long story!). Otherwise we might have spent a little more time in the Tulsa area, as what we saw from the freeway made it look pretty nice.
We did manage to drive through Yukon, famous for being the birthplace of Garth Brooks. And we spent a little time in Catoosa, primarily to see the Blue Whale, a kitchsy Route 66 icon. And we grabbed shots of a few other places just to prove we were in the state. All in all we only ended up with 53 photos from Oklahoma, and that includes a few of Kathy’s “out the window” pictures. Not exactly our best effort, but it got the job done. We hope to make more trips out west to see more parks and visit our friends out there, so we’ll likely have more opportunity to visit the state. In the mean time, we’ve placed a check mark next to Oklahoma! 🙂
When we first started planning our visit to the Southwest, I was attracted to the idea of visiting all or part of Route 66, that legendary highway from Chicago to LA that marked the beginning of the car craze and gave rise to the whole road trip mystique that persists in the US to this day. A lot of photographers have documented portions of this iconic road over the years, and I wanted a chance to see and photograph parts of it myself.
In doing our research, it seemed that a lot of the guidebooks are directed at people who want to travel every last remaining inch of the road. There are lots of people who do that, and we ran into some of them, with their Official Route 66 T-shirts, hats, bumper stickers and guidebooks. There were a few caravans of classic cars, motorcycles and other assorted vehicles. But there seemed to be plenty of people like us, just attracted to the few remaining places that contain the nostalgia of the old “Mother Road” and wanting to see what it was all about.
It wasn’t our intention to travel the whole route, or even all of the relatively small stretch we visited (we started in Oatman, AZ and kinda followed it as far as Yukon, Oklahoma. After inadvertently finding ourselves on a 25+ mile long stretch of dirt road that “used to be” Route 66 at the New Mexico-Texas border I was glad weren’t expecting to cover the whole thing. For the most part, the portions of the original route that remain are well marked with “Historic Route 66” signage. But some parts are lost to time and conditions, and hardly suitable for travel by the people who live there, much less by tourists seeking to reconnect with history.
Sorry to say, but Momma’s showing some wear and tear these days, in my eyes. I’m not sure what I expected with Route 66, but I came away from it a bit disappointed. Maybe I was just 50 years too late, but it felt a lot like just another string of towns abandoned by time and the diversion of car traffic by freeways and bypasses. Yes, there are pockets of apparent prosperity, mostly in towns that have other means of economic support but also in places like Tucumcari, NM where a handful of wonderful businesses hang on due to their owners’ efforts and longstanding reputation. But mostly, we drove for miles and miles to get to a place or a thing, looked at it and said (or thought) ‘huh.” The glory of Route 66 lives on in memories or the imagination, I guess.
I didn’t set out with a “shot list” or really any kind of preconceived notion of what I’d find to photograph. I wasn’t looking to make my own definitive guide to Route 66 or even publish a comprehensive collection of photography. I wanted to see what we found and to let that determine the direction I would take with my camera. I shot some landmarks, photographed some abandoned buildings and other remains of the past. I made some nice evening photographs of the lovely motels in Tucumcari. And we drove right on by a fair number of places, partly due to time constraints but also due to lack of visually interesting subject matter.
But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as they say. So don’t take my word for it! There is plenty to see and photograph, just know that there are places where what there is, isn’t what it used to be, and that you may have to drive a long way between those places. And in many parts of the route, especially in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma, there ain’t a lot more to see! Fortunately, there are National Parks and other landmarks to break up the drive. But as far as Route 66 itself is concerned, get what you can while the gettin’s good.
We did it and I’m glad to have had the time and opportunity to check it out for myself. There are a few places I won’t hesitate to go back to, and a lot of places that will be lost to time before I have a chance to return. Everyone will find something there. It all depends on what you are looking for.
Skipping ahead a bit because I’m processing photos faster than I can write about them. If anyone is interested in seeing more of my “vacation photos,” head to my Adobe Portfolio page, where I’ve been adding galleries with more photos from places we visited. I’ll keep adding more galleries as I go and will eventually have a whole album.
The first stop on our Route 66 adventure was Oatman, Arizona. We had no idea what to expect, but suffice it to say that we could never have imagined it! We were expecting a sleepy little place with old buildings, a shop or two and some tumbleweeds blowing through town. But no…. We got there late morning on a Sunday, and the place was jammed with people, cars, motorcycles and…burros! Turns out it is a pretty happening place.
Our first concern was – oh, crap. Is this what Route 66 is going to be like the whole way? But no, I think we actually came across more people at one time in Oatman than we saw anywhere else on Route 66. It was amazing!
We didn’t stay long, only long enough to walk up and down the street, take in one of the “gunfights” that happens several times a day, then join the parade of vehicles out of town. But once we left the town limits the road was deserted, pretty much from there to Kingman.
A required stop for us along Route 66 near Tulsa was The Blue Whale of Catoosa. It is kitsch at its best with an interesting history. It was a good place to stop and have an on-the-go breakfast and to take a few photos.
This is probably the last “postcard” I’ll post, but I have lots more photos to share over the coming days and weeks.
On our way back through Texas we made this required pilgrimage to the Cadillac Ranch, on Historic Route 66 near Amarillo. We didn’t paint, although there were plenty of people who were painting (I got lucky that they all happened to be hidden in this shot). We had to be careful and stay upwind of the overspray!
We’re home now, but I’m a few days behind in processing photos.
We stopped for breakfast at the Midpoint Cafe in Adrian, Texas. It is purported to be the halfway point between Chicago and L.A., and who am I to argue? Great breakfast and interesting memorabilia make it a worthwhile stop.