Skepticism rapidly evaporating

My initial skepticism about Route 66 is rapidly evaporating, especially in the heat here in the States.

From Illinois, July 2013

Still a day ahead of my original plan, my aim for today was to ride from Lebanon, MO to Tulsa, OK. The more I try to keep off of the interstate and follow the historic Route 66, the more I am appreciating it. I might keep losing it in places, there might well be lots of stores trying to sell Route 66 memorabilia, but frankly, unless you are in a hurry, this route is just far more pleasurable and interesting to ride than the interstate.

From Missouri, July 2013

The speed limit may be less than on the interstate, but it is rarely less than 55mph, except in the towns you pass through, and it is sometimes as high as 70mph. But I’m finding the slower pace, with the detours through all the towns, a blessing. It is giving me a chance to see a lot more than I would have done blasting along on the interstate, with the added bonus that you can usually stop to take photos. There has been several occasions where I have taken a stretch of interstate only see things I wanted to take a photo of but haven’t been able to stop.

From Missouri, July 2013

Riding further south into Missouri, the scenery took a sharp turn for the better as I climbed up into the Ozark mountains. I think I must have become mesmerised by it all because idiot boy on a Harley was just enjoying all too much and didn’t stop to take a decent photo. The best I got was the one above which really doesn’t show a great deal. The ride through the Ozarks was definitely the most scenic part of the trip thus far.

From Kansas, July 2013

I’d been riding merrily along fully expecting to enter Oklahoma at any minute, and I was really quite surprised when I rode into Kansas, I’d completely forgotten that Route 66 cuts through a small portion of Kansas. And it was in Kansas, that a small Historic Route 66 detour takes you across the 1923 Rainbow Curve bridge shown in the photo below.

From Kansas, July 2013

Kansas was also where I took a couple more photos showing another facet of Historic Route 66. Route 66 had brought prosperity to many of the small towns along it’s path from Chicago to Los Angeles. Thriving businesses grew up to accommodate, feed and fuel it’s travellers. But with the introduction of the interstate system, the first stretch of which was the I-44 replacement for Route 66 constructed in Missouri in 1956, many of these towns were bypassed completely, which lead to the inevitable decline and eventual closure of many of these businesses. All along Route 66 you see derelict buildings which must have once served the many travellers along the Mother Road.

From Kansas, July 2013
From Kansas, July 2013

I’d seen similar all along the route so far, and I’d seen the same in a few of the Route 66 towns I passed through in Arizona and New Mexico two years ago. It’s only in fairly recent years that some of these small towns have seen a bit of a resurgence in business from Route 66 nostalgia tourism. I’m actually finding it rather sad, seeing what was once thriving businesses now closed and decaying. I certainly won’t be-grudge any of the remaining businesses selling tacky tourist trinkets to try to make ends meet.

After crossing the border into Oklahoma, I noticed I was now entering Indian Territory.

From Oklahoma, July 2013

As I approached Tulsa, the road signs counted down the miles. I was really hoping to come across a sign that said Tulsa 24, I thought it would be a good photo, but alas it was not to be.

I rolled into Tulsa around dusk, and tried initially to look for somewhere to stay downtown, but the only options downtown seemed to be expensive hotels, which probably wouldn’t have welcomed a sweaty biker even if I felt inclined to pay over $100 for my night’s lodgings. Instead I rode back out to the highway and found a hotel next to a couple of bar & grills at one of the intersections.

Having unloaded all my gear, which requires a luggage trolley when I’m on the 3rd floor – perhaps I over packed? – I headed over to the next door Applebees and installed myself at the bar where all the best conversations take place. I wasn’t disappointed tonight. The bar staff were friendly, my barman had more tattoos than I do, and 4 or 5 people were chatting to each other across the bar. I listened and joined in when I could.

The initial conversation seemed to revolve around the heritage and upbringing of one lady at the corner of the bar, which the rest of the group seemed genuinely interested in and were asking lots of questions. The lady was a Sioux Indian originally from north western Nebraska. She had been adopted by a white Canadian couple apparently just 4 months before a law was passed to prohibit the adoption of Native American children by white couples. She also said she didn’t really like or identify with the term Native American, she thought of herself as an Indian – an American Indian. The conversation was very good natured with everyone else very interested in her stories.

I’d sat next to a couple, Jim and Brenda, who had come over to Tulsa from Oklahoma City for the 30th wedding anniversary. Jim was an interesting character who had studied history at college and asked a lot of questions about Europe and told stories about American history – many of which I surprisingly knew already. I think the history conversation bored Brenda, because after a while she declared she was going back to the hotel. Jim had no intention of leaving just yet, and we had another round of drinks. He mentioned he loved scotch whisky. As I had a bottle from duty free, I asked if he’d like a wee dram back at the hotel, since he was staying only two doors down from my room.

Well he seemed to like it – a lot. We managed to polish off 2/3rd of litre and my, did I feel dehydrated when I came to ride the next morning.


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