During a recent trip to Tulsa Oklahoma I ended up with a few hours to spare. Rather than drive the turnpike all the way down to Oklahoma City, I jumped off at Stroud Oklahoma and drove the 40 mile stretch of Historic Route 66 to Arcadia. I could have covered the same distance, on the Turner Turnpike, in less than a half hour. But how much fun would that have been?
This is a great stretch of highway. There are some historic attractions along the way, and plenty of opportunities to stop and look around. Some of the historic attractions have been polished up, but a lot of what I saw was unvarnished. Buildings and places from a bygone era should look old. Kind of like a rare old coin or piece of antique furniture: worth more in its original state. Clean the tarnish from a rare old coin, and its value is diminished. The knocks and dings are part of the provenance of the piece. In other words old stuff looks more authentic if you don’t fix it up too much.
I started out in Stroud Oklahoma. The town’s old commercial district is just west of Highway 99 on Route 66. Here you’ll find the Rock Cafe, a Route 66 Roadside Attraction. The business was established in 1939, and constructed with rock unearthed during the original road construction. This is a real sweet place with an old neon sign out front. It’s still a cafe too. Some locals own the place and had their kids waiting tables, the day I was there. I love it when these places are still active businesses. [The Rock Cafe burns May 20, 2008. They intend to rebuild. More]
A little further west on 66, on the same side of the street, was a nice old Coca Cola sign on the side of an old building. Then after that there’s a little park with a gazebo and an vintage water tower behind it. On the corner of Route 66 and Highway 99 was an old motel with a classy neon sign. The Skyliner Motel, that name just reeks of the 1950’s.
Chandler Oklahoma is a few miles further west on Route 66. This town has several roadside attractions worth stopping to check out. The Lincoln Motel is on the main road and you can’t miss it. This is a classic 1930’s motor court. Small wooden cabins each house two rental units. The whole place is finished with dark brown paint or stain. Very rustic! Neon sing out front, too.
A little further down the road is the Chandler Route 66 Interpretive Center, housed in a 1930’s-era armory building on the crossroads of Route 66 and Mickey Clarkson Avenue. They have video presentations that tell the story of Route 66, America’s Mother Road.
In the main commercial district is the historic Phillip’s 66 Station. It’s closed but still interesting to see. On the next block is the Lincoln County Museum of Pioneer History. The museum was closed and I didn’t get to visit, but you should stop in and ask questions.
Across the street is the office of the local news paper. The St Cloud Hotel is a couple buildings down the street. Researching on the Internet, I found little about this property. it’s a National Register property and I found it on a list of endangered Route 66 hotels. Closed and in need of repairs, it has some nice old painted signs.
Just a bit out of town is the Seaba Station. It was built in 1924 as a filling station and garage and operated continually until 1996. Today the building is still a work in progress. It houses an antique store and some sort of repair shop. This is another designated Route 66 Roadside Attraction.
West of the town of Luther is a 1920’s filling station. it’s just a shell of a building now. A small sign tells the story of the place. It was built in the late Teens or early 1920’s. This was before electricity so gas was sold out of a 50 gallon drum. The building was heated with a fireplace.
The next major town is Arcadia. The big attraction in Arcadia, and along this stretch of Route 66, is the Round Barn. This historic barn was built by William Odor in 1898. By 1988 the barn was severely deteriorated and some time after that the roof collapsed. The owners deeded the property to the Arcadia Historical Society. A group known as the over the hill 60’s gang got involved with the restoration and in cooperation with local business and many volunteers the Historic Round Barn in Arcadia was restored.
Even on the day I visited the barn, a local volunteer was busy painting. He showed a real sense of pride in the barn and the work that had been done by the community. According to this fellow, the barn was originally built as a place to have dances and meetings. The ground level of the barn was for livestock and farm business, but the second level of the barn was a place for meetings and dances. The second level of the round barn is still a place to have a party or dance. It can be rented for a reasonable rate. The ground level is a gift shop today.
This was the end of my Route 66 journey. It took 2 or 3 hours to travel the 40 miles from Stroud to Arcadia Oklahoma. I could have easily spent more time exploring, but I needed to be on my way. If you wanted to extend this trip by a few more hours, the ride through Tulsa is interesting. There are several landmark Route 66 attractions in Tulsa. Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa has a rich history. The stretch of the Mother Road from Tulsa to Claremore has plenty of marked attractions and would also make a good extension of the trip I describe here.
Let me know if you make your own Route 66 trip. Leave a comment or drop us an email. Most of all, if you do travel the Mother Road be sure to stop and visit with the people along the way. That’s the best part of road trip travel, meeting the locals and discovering the people and stories behind the places you visit.