From the Ozarks in Arkansas we headed west on Route 66 through Missouri landing in Sapulpa, Oklahoma. Decrepit road signs, abandoned gas stations and empty diners along the way -all symbols of an era gone by. In addition to quick tips, this post shows a mostly photographic journal of the many towns we sifted through on this leg of our journey. Less than 200 miles and this little tour was an all day event.
Quick Tip: Map out your route in advance.
Check out the cool and comprehensive Oklahoma-Route-66-Guide that details various towns and attractions. Highlight the attractions you would like to visit. With a highlighter, circle the corresponding towns to those highlighted attractions on your map. This makes for easier decision making as you drive through the numerous Route 66 towns.
Route 66 Fast Facts
- The route is 2448 miles long
- It was commissioned in 1926
- It crossed 8 states and 3 time zones
- It starts in Chicago and ends in Santa Monica
- In 1926 only 800 miles were paved and wasn’t until 1937 that the entire road was paved
- Currently, one can only drive parts of 66. It has been replaced by interstate highways I-55, I-40, I-15 and I-10.
- A large amount of the old road is waiting to be discovered by the adventurous traveler
- Other names for Route 66: The Mother Road, The Main Street of America, The Roy Rogers Highway
- There was a TV show, Route 66 that aired between 1960 and 1964
- In 1985, Route 66 was officially decommissioned, but the interstates were already in daily use by that time.
- Many current maps do not include Route 66
- Interesting article from National Geographic about how Route 66 is a time line of America.
Route 66 was decommissioned on June 27, 1985 and replaced in its entirety. Virtually the entire length of I-44 east of Springfield, Missouri was once Route 66. But in many towns it has different names, which means one has to pay attention and follow the distinct “Historic Route 66” signs. The sign may be slyly hiding behind a pole or a tree or camouflaged by its surroundings, so keep an eye out lest you land in a perpetual Twilight Zone’esque state of circling round and round looking for 66 while you’re still on 66.
Our particular route on this Main Street of America Mother Road dictated that we bypass the Illinois portion of Route 66 and instead entered through Missouri. Vivid landscapes, alluring towns and interesting landmarks greeted us at every turn of this verdant show me midwestern state.
Carthage, the seat of Jasper County, has an air of conflicted history ranging from slavery to civil war conflicts in which Union and Confederate troops fought tenacious battles incinerating the town to rubble and ashes. The prosperity of the town post-Civil War gained from limestone quarries and mines is still evident in the stately and well-groomed Victorian homes that surround the town center and beyond. In Carthage, we met a woman who insisted Joplin was the end-all be-all town, but that paled in comparison to the retro enchantment of Carthage.
Carthage Quick Tips:
- The Boots Motel has a fascinating history of abandonment and salvation by two adventurous sisters.
- The Carthage Drive-in
- Seeing the town square (just one block off of 66) with its towering courthouse and finely groomed yards gives one the feeling of walking back through time. Check out the interesting courthouse square history here.Learn more about Carthage from the Road Wanderer.
Located in southern Jasper county, Joplin has undergone a major project to revitalize its downtown district, which lies on the historic Route 66. With that “main street America” feel it’s worth a drive-through as you head west. Despite all the Joplinian efforts, we still preferred Carthage.
Learn more about historic Joplin here (the link is a pdf).
The state motto for Oklahoma is Labor conquers all things. Oklahoma is nicknamed The Sooner State, because according to 50states.com:
In 1889, the Indian Territory was opened to settlers. Thousands of people lined up on the border and, when the signal was given, they raced into the territory to claim their land. Some people went in early to claim their land. They became known as Sooners.
And maybe Oklahoma is called the Sooner State because the sooner you get through it, the sooner you get to Texas.
There are several Route 66 towns to visit in Oklahoma. We drove through most stopping only at what we considered the highest highlights. These are the towns on our list: Vinita, Chelsea, Foyil, Claremore, Catoosa, Tulsa and finally Sapulpa.
Vinita – just passing through
Like the two towns before, we were just passing through Foyil.
Quick Tip: If we ever find yourself passing through Foyil, definitely stop to see the famous Foyil World’s Largest Totem Pole.
There are two reasons to drive Route 66 through Oklahoma:
1. To visit the Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore
2. To see the Blue Whale in Catoosa
Quick Tip: The Blue Whale
A trip on Route 66, well, life, really, would be incomplete without a quickie at this remarkable site. And by quickie, I mean a quick stop. Maybe the other thing too, for those more intrepid. Though, this isn’t a humpback, it’s a Blue Whale. In its heyday, the Blue Whale was a destination for those wielding a picnic basket, fishing pole and swim fins. Standing at this spot, one could easily imagine children jumping off the whale tale splashing into water below. I think it’s the perfect place for a quirky Coen Brothers postmodern film noir.
By the time we arrived to Tulsa, we were hot, hungry and tired. We carried on heading toward our final destination of the day, Sapulpa.
Known for its big bull on the hill (I just made that up), Sapulpa was named after a Lower Creek Indian Chief of the Kasihta Tribe who also happened to be the town’s first permanent settler and who started a trading post.
I’m hard-pressed to identify must-sees in Sapulpa. With its dry, dusty climate and the sensation of being enveloped by hot concrete, we would have otherwise driven through Sapulpa had we not planned to stop there. It’s a logical resting place and easy to access. So, what are the must-sees in Sapulpa? Let’s just say the Big Bull on a Hill and the Super 8 Motel and call it a day.
Can’t say I had a good night’s sleep at the Sapulpa Super 8. On the plus side, it was a spacious room with cool retro style. On the minus side, the room smelled like stale cigarettes. I pictured this place in its 1950’s heyday with strangers from all walks of life hosting cocktail parties up and down the halls of this joint. Vodka Highballs or Whiskey Sours poured in their corresponding glasses and passed around with a bowl of Chex Mix as everyone lit up and laughed the night away.
And then back to reality and the highway 44 traffic including successive tractor trailer Jake Braking that could be heard from our room until wee hours of the morn.
Oklahoma-Route-66-Guide is a cool and comprehensive guide to Route 66 that shows details of the various towns and attractions.
[Route] 66 is the path of a people in flight, refugees from dust and shrinking land, from the thunder of tractors and invasion, from the twisting winds that howl up out of Texas, from floods that bring no richness to the land and steal what little richness is there.
~John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath (1939)
Photos, videos and stuff*** Please contact me for permission to use images and text for commercial or private use. And please do follow this blog and/or write comments.
A blue whale of a thanks for reading.
Our Journey West Across the US
Post #1: Macon Music in Georgia
Post #2: Boy from Tupelo, Mississippi
Post #3: Two Must-Sees in Memphis Tennessee
Post #4: Mosey Through the Arkansas Ozarks
This is Post #5: Gettin’ Our Kicks on Route 66 from Missouri to Sapulpa, Oklahoma
Post #6: More Route 66 Kicks from Sapulpa to Oklahoma City
Post #7: Don’t Mess with Texas on Route 66
Post #8: Route 66 Texas Panhandle
Post #9: Bound for Tucumcari, New Mexico
Post #10: Santa Fe’ed Your Soul
Post #11: The Winds of Taos
Post #12: The Good, the Bad, and the Heinous of New Mexico
Post #13: Dusky, Durable Durango
Post #14: Cliff Dwellings of Mesa Verde Colorado
Post #15: Moab Rocks
Post #16: No Clever Title for Richfield, Utah
Post #17: Leavening Las Vegas