Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Great American Road Trip Part I:
Getting our kicks on Route 66

On Sunday, after crashing at Cathy and Wayne's house for a few days and attending the wedding of my high-school best friend, Jeremy, we loaded up the van and headed north to begin our adventure.

We headed north on I-35 to Lindsay, OK, the tiny farming town I lived in until I was 9 years old. My dad's parents and much of his extended family still live there, so we stopped in for a visit. My grandmother has Alzheimers, and although she still recognizes me, she can't remember Aiden and Aubrey's names and she gets very confused when we are there, so we kept our visit short--just a few hours to visit and catch up.  After an afternoon of country life, riding the lawn tractor, picking up rocks and sticks and following ant trails, we loaded back into the van to head farther north to Del City, OK, a suburb of Oklahoma City, to visit my mom's mother--Grandma Charlotte.

Grandma welcomed us in and helped us get the kids settled into bed. Monday, after Aubrey's nap, we headed down to the Bricktown District in downtown OKC. My great-uncle Paul, the former city planner/architect for OKC, helped to design the Bricktown project about 7 years ago, taking a large, crime-ridden area of warehouses and turning it into a tourist destination by digging out a canal, attracting restaurants and hotels, and making something ulgy into something amazing. Well, my uncle's vision has really paid off--Bricktown is a thriving area, full of shops, restaurants, monuments and statues, night clubs, even multi-million dollar condos. We took a river boat tour of the area, walked the canal, and ate dinner there, as well. We thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon, and I am so proud of my uncle's accomplishments there. He died a few years ago, having seen just the beginning of the transformation.  I know he would be proud and amazed at the change his "little project" has made.

Today, we loaded the van back up and headed farther north, jumping onto Route 66 in Edmond, OK. I've always wanted to make the full trek from Chicago to LA on Route 66, and although we don't have the time or inclination to embark on that adventure right now (can you imagine THAT trip with 2 kids?!), we did enjoy traveling a portion of "The Mother Road" today. We saw so many cool things along the way. In Arcadia, we visited the historic Round Barn, where my great-grandmother used to go for Saturday evening barn dances back when she was a teenager. How fun it was to climb the stairs to the loft and imagine my great grandmother, dressed in her finest, blushing and dancing with boys.

After checking out the barn, we headed across the street to POP'S Diner, a futuristic-looking gas station with a diner inside that also sells over 500 varieties of soda. We scarfed down some tasty burgers and fries and washed it down with some rather interesting sodas. Some of the flavors we sampled or purchased: Toxic Slime, Rat Bastard Root Beer, Swine Flu Tonic, Swamp Juice, Lemongrass Soda, White Lightning Grape, Espresso flavored soda and Soprano's Amaretto Soda. We even saw soda called Kitty Piddle, Bug Barf, and more. We had a great time reading the labels and checking out the many, many varieties.

After lunch, we hopped back onto Route 66 and headed north-east. We drove through many old towns and saw stretches of the original, now-abandoned Route 66 highway. Much of the old road is only 9 feet wide, requiring cars to pull over to let one another by. Most of the old road is now barricaded off, but you can see sections of it running parallel to the "new" 66. We drove over old bridges, some of them still bearing the original red brick decking.  We tried to stop at one bridge for a photo op, but quickly dove back into the car when we noticed the hundreds of giant mosquitos suddenly swarming all over us. Aiden thought it was pretty funny, watching me jump around inside our van with a rolled up map, smacking the mosquitos that had followed us inside.

In Catoosa, just north of Tulsa, we stopped to take in the Blue Whale. Once a swimming hole, the Blue Whale is a concrete and steele swim platform, complete with slides and diving board, that is made to look like a giant, smiling whale.  Although it is no longer open for swimming, you can still climb aboard the whale to take a look. We stopped for pictures, and were soon joined by an entire bus-load of Brits who were taking a tour of ol' Route 66. Just next door to the whale are the remnants of Noah's Ark, what was once a zoo housed in a wooden boat. The Ark has long-since fallen into ruin, but you can imagine what a fun stop along the road it would have been back in the day--swimming at the Blue Whale and visiting the animals at the Ark.

We climbed back in the van and headed a bit father north to Foyil, home of Ed Galloway's Totem Pole Park. Ed Galloway built a collection of totem poles, hand-carved from concrete and painted with colorful designs. The world's largest totem pole is here, a huge tower that rises far above the trees. Aubrey loved the totem poles, especially the large one she could go inside and yell, listening to her voice echo. There is also a museum that houses some of the 300 different fiddles that Ed Galloway hand-carved, each from a different variety of wood. Some of the woods he used were so exotic, I'd never heard of them before. There was also a small gift shop inside, and Aiden decided he had to have a souvenir, picking out a Native American shaker for himself, and even buying a mini-version for his sister. He used his own money to purchase them--his  great-grandfather, Papaw, had given him a jar of quarters at Christmas and we brought them along, telling Aiden he could spend his own money as he pleased--as long as he did all of the counting! Aiden is quickly learning to count by 25's!

After the totem poles, we piled back in to the car and headed north on Route 66 to Miami (pronounced my-am-uh). Once there, we enjoyed dinner at the Ku Ku Diner. The Ku Ku Diner used to be a chain of burger joints, famous for being shaped like a giant Ku Ku clock. Each hour, the giant bird would sound off with a loud "cuckoo." The chain died a painful death when McDonalds became so popular, and now the Ku Ku Diner in Miami is the last of its kind. Although the bird no longer cuckoos each hour, we still enjoyed some tasty burgers, cheese fries and corn dogs.

After dinner, we loaded up and parted ways with the Mother Road, heading east towards Branson, MO.  We arrived in Branson at 9:00--a full 12 hours after we headed out this morning. We only traveled a couple hundred miles, but we made a lot of fun memories along the way.


Becky said...

This sounds like a blast! I can't believe I've not been up route66 like this.

The Lashers said...

"People didn't drive on it to make great time, they drove on it to have a great time." Sounds like Sally knew what she was talking about.

Where are the Aiden stories? I'm sure you already have a ton of funny ones to share.

Want to hear more about the Pack?

Check out A Belly in Bloom, a page devoted to Angela's pregnancy with Aubrey. You can see belly pics, sonograms, and learn more about how Aubrey (formerly known as "The Bean") came to be the lovely little girl she is! You can also find Angela's favorite recipes and newest food experiments at Cooking with the Parker Pack.