We are trying to follow the historic route 66 as closely as possible. From north of Tulsa to Oklahoma it follows the same general route as Interstate 44. West of Oklahoma City it runs roughly parallel to Interstate 40. The old 66 meandered from town to town along the path that was easiest to pave and did not run in a straight line. The interstates bypass most towns and run as straight as possible to allow high speed non-stop travel. This means that to follow old 66 requires that you zigzag back and forth and cross the interstate in a number of places. It makes for much slower travel.
We had a little breakfast and left Oklahoma city about 10:00 AM. I was assisted by my faithful navigators Susan and Smokey.
We drove down Lincoln Boulevard to see the Oklahoma State Capital building. The dome was just added a few years ago. It is impressive and the office buildings that make up the rest of the complex are also quite handsome.
Adjacent to the capital building is a working oil well. Oklahoma is the only state to boast of this feature.
West of Oklahoma City is begins to be very flat. This is good country for wheat and corn. Most towns of any size have large grain silos to store and ship the harvest bounty. This is the main street of El Reno with a view of its massive silos in the distance.
In a way, the star of this show is the highway itself. Almost the entire length was paved in sections of Portland cement. Expansion strips were cut across the pavement about every 30 feet and sealed with pitch. This was a very durable surface and after 75 years is still in excellent condition for the most part. As you drive along the sound made as front then rear tires slap over the strips make a distinctive slap-slap, slap-slap sound.
Where some distance separates the old road from the interstate, the old road provides
secondary access to rural areas and appear to be unchanged from the days of their construction. Most have a low curb at the sides which I would guess was used to control water runoff. This scene would have looked exactly the same in 1935.
Where the volume of traffic was sufficient to add additional capacity the existing highway served as two lanes in one direction and another pair of lanes were built to go in the other direction. This new pavement was usually of a different material, often asphalt. The difference in durability is soon apparent.
Here we stopped on one of the many crossovers and looked down Interstate 40 which carries a high volume of traffic at high speeds (75 mph). If you look to the left you will see the section of old route 66 that we are about to drive on.
West of El Reno are a number of very large wind turbines beginning to supplement the electrical grid. We will be seeing more of these in the near future.
We stopped here at the "Trading Post" for lunch. Places like this used to be a common sight along the highway. It offers a variety of gifts and souvenirs and a lunch buffet which was really quite good. Since the interstate roads provide controlled access, all the commercial services are bunched up at the exits.
On one of the many crossovers we came across a scene very reminiscent of the animated movie "Cars". I suspect not by accident.
Just outside of Canute we passed a lot of cotton fields. Susan had never seen cotton in the field. It is still a significant cash crop in western Oklahoma.
This looks about ready to be picked. Until a machine for mechanically picking cotton was invented in 1948, cotton was universally harvested by hand. This was back breaking work and left the hands sore from the many cuts inflicted by the sharp bolls which held the loose cotton. It was the mechanization of harvesting and processing cotton that encouraged the migration of southern farm workers to northern cities in search of work.
We encountered the Cotton Boll Motel in Canute, Oklahoma. It appears to have seen better days.
Also in Canute we admired the Canute City Hall and Water Department, the Canute Lions Club, and Joe's Liquor Store all in the same small building. We imagined a number of ways that this arrangement might facilitate local politics.
at 4:30 PM we stopped for the day in Elk City. The National Route 66 Museum is here and promises to be worth investing some time. We will look at that in the morning and start west to Texas and hope to make it to Amarillo by tomorrow evening.
One of the things that has surprised us on this trip is how much time it takes to travel this way. The road twists and turns, we have to stop and go at every little town, and by necessity drive much slower. We tried to imagine making this journey in an old car whose reliability was marginal or breaking down in the middle of nowhere miles from any mechanic.
Another simple fact was that in the early days there were long distances without anyplace to buy gasoline or oil. What people did from necessity was go to the nearest farm and hope they had some surplus gas they would sell. Ah, the good old days!
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