Pops soda ranch, a service station with a difference, in Arcadia, Oklahoma

While a 66 roadside attraction, Pops Soda Ranch, having opened in 2007, is most clearly NOT so much an icon of Route 66’s heyday, so much as one of its rebirth. This ultra modern ode to the soda pop includes a 66 foot bottle of pop, in Neon (would love to see it at night, but didn’t manage that, maybe next time).

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Pops has a fairly impressive selection of of drink options (I didn’t see any alcohol)

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They have these 6 pack cases, and you can either buy 6 of one or mix and match them as your heart desires

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I’m sad to say these were the ONLY ginger beers I found that weren’t diet… the Sioux city one was a bit better (more ginger burn) than the “extra ginger” Cock and Bull, ironically enough. And for those who really don’t want soda there’s hot chocolate or mocha coffee

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Of course the place sells gas (I only saw a handful of folks filling up there) and they have a large selection of things to eat (I didn’t eat there)

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odds and ends you can buy (many of them route 66 oriented)… but let’s face most people are there to try all the different flavors of pop.

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A VERY big historic gas pump: Sapulpa, Oklahoma

Located directly in front of the Heart of Route 66 Auto Museum, is a VERY big gas pump, but of the sorts that used to be used back when Route 66 was a thing.

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The gas pump stands along side car museum. I found the juxtaposition of the very OLD fashioned gas pump with the Tesla charging stations amusing.

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Unfortunately the places closes at 4pm and I got there at around 6pm… At first I thought it was open because so many cars were the parking lot and people were standing around, but it turned out to be a high-school reunion for the class of 1968 from the local high school

The mega Cross in Groom Texas

This Mega Cross belonging to “Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ Ministries” is located directly between I-40 and Route 66 in Groom Texas, is impossible to not see from either. That said, even as a Jew, the artistry of some of these things tends to impress me… whoever did this installation was actually pretty gifted, and has a tongue in cheek sense of humor, that I have got to wonder if the owners of the property who paid for it actually get.

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According to Atlas Obscura, this is the seventh-largest ‘freestanding’ cross in the world (at 190 feet)… so pretty frigging big. Like I’ve said before at other Catholic “Station of the Cross” tourist traps, Jews just don’t do shit like this… cause you know… the fourth commandment and all that good stuff.

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What I found kind of interesting was that at the base of the statue of Jesus on the cross, people had left engraved bits of stone

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As a Jew we place stones on graves, is this somehow related to that?

At the bottom of the hill is the last supper… And for reasons beyond me, into the dish from which Jesus is supposed to have lifted the bread, people were placing money

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surrounding the ginormous cross are the stations of the cross…. all of them impressive bits of work

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But what finally made me decide that I have to pat the artist on the back was the view as I walked towards the building with the gift store…. you don’t really get the full impact from a distance. Standing near the cross it’s just looks really pretty and inviting… but as you walk towards it, the impact hit me like a ton of bricks, so hard that it actually made me uncomfortable. I took a step back, looked again, and SURE enough I was damned sure the effect was intentional

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From about this position (and I’m not sure the photo does it justice) it looks like you’re looking between a woman’s legs into her vagina ….which is a paradise of gushing waters with the cross as her clitoris

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The alignment staying true even as you walk closer… wondering if Jesus is the G-spot

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… and note the placement of the huge phallic symbol. I’m sorry but there’s no way a professional artist did any of this by accident…. talk about the ecstatic moment of Christ’s love….

And of course inside you find a massive gift shop….

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Even the bathroom art made me giggle nervously… Seriously who was the artist and HOW in Christs name did he or her manage to convince the the folks footing the bill to allow any of this? Or were they THIS oblivious?

My ex-boyfriend who I was with in college …who my parents assumed would be the son-in-law, his mom was a painter who worked mostly in watercolors and used to do a lot of flowers along with Japanese inspired images (in spite of being Korean which I always found interesting). Anyway, my mom felt that she had to support this woman’s endeavors (since she might soon be family) and asked her to bring over some stuff that my mom could buy from her. I told her my mom liked flowers, so she brought a lot of those, and my mom looked through the pile, focusing ultimately on one image that she said called to her, but she wasn’t sure why. That’s the one she wanted….

I looked at my dad, who looked knowingly at me… and we both looked at Mrs Cha (my boyfriend’s mom), who was trying to smile. We all knew what she was drawn to even if she didn’t. Of ALL the images my mom had opted for the one with a massive phallic symbol in the middle. People do this all the time… artists know exactly what they’re looking at but the naive don’t see the hidden sexual messages in the art. THAT is what was going on here.

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These dish towels made me giggle

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I horrified this one nice southern lady by pointing out the art she was oggling (see above) because of what it cost for what it was, had to have been made in China. I’m serious, she dropped it like it was anathema, saying, “Oh you MUST be wrong, they wouldn’t sell that here.”… so I picked it up, turned it over and quickly found the “Made in China” mark… and showed it to her. Keep in mind almost all of these folks are the Pro-Trump, Make America Great sort.

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And then there was a movie theater showing a movie talk

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2nd Amendment Cowboy in Amarillo Texas

Why yes, I’m in Texas. This big guy stands right on route 66, in front of a small gift shop (with an unimpressive collection of things I’ve seen 100 times already) that visitors to the Cadillac Ranch from Amarillo have no choice but to pass, and also functions as the check in office for a small RV park.

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See the black box hanging from the fence?
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See the guy sitting in the car? He doesn’t look happy

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Remember that black box hanging from the fence in the picture above? I managed to sit my iPhone on that, leaning it back against the fence, walked over the spot, and then used my Apple watch’s camera app to trigger a three-second countdown… I was seriously impressed with myself.

The Big Texan Steak Ranch & Brewery; Amarillo Texas

Falling into my “big things” category, but not for the usual reasons…. This restaurant is sort of famous in the US (really, how many restaurants that aren’t major chains warrant a Wikipedia page?), not because the food is so amazing — it’s good, but I wasn’t deeply impressed (and even sent back the first dish)… but more for being an impressive tourist trap. In the vein of “everything is bigger in Texas” this place challenges the consumer to snarf down a HUGE 72 oz steak, a bread roll with butter, a side salad, and a fried shrimp appetizer in under an hour.

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IF the customer can, then the meal is free, if they can’t, it costs $72 (the other large steaks cost slightly over $1 an oz, so still a discount); and the challenge comes with a very specific set of rules.

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This is what a 72oz slab of steak looks like

As this was the question asked most by my Facebook friends…. According to the Wikipedia page: The challenge began in 1960 and “as of February 2018, over 9,500 people out of about 62,000 have accomplished this feat”… so in about 58 years, about 1,070 people try a year…

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That’s me, eating the steak

According to the manager I spoke with, HE said they average about 35 challenges a week — which sort of jives with my math (20 people a week) if you figure it took some time for the word to spread and with the number of people stepping forth to try it escalating over time.

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Note the date: this article is from 2007, so if true, 1,500 have done it in the last 10+ years

That said the restaurant has evolved over the years from just being a restaurant to being a “road side attraction”… aka tourist trap

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It property comes complete with its own Motel (and sufficient parking for Trucks and RV’s)IMG_0333

I arrived on a Saturday night and the poor girl who meets you at the front door essentially has the job of standing there and saying “It’ll be a 15 to 20 minute wait” while handing out buzzers… almost once every 30 seconds….

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for folks who show up single there’s a bar in the waiting area which gets very little traffic, where you can sit almost immediately (I didn’t take a picture of it, but it’s fairly long and there at least 10 spots held for solo eaters that I could have sat at, had I wanted to). This is because waiting sections of the place are HUGE and diverting. There’s a massive gift that is as big as if that were their sole business…. and stuffed to the brims

IMG_0336IMG_0337I was tempted by this … but where would I  put it? (This sign is particularly funny in Amarillo as they’ve NOT marked where 66 is… they sort of designated one area of town to 66 but it doesn’t seem to link to the rest of the road in any meaningful way, and almost feels arbitrary and resurrected for the tourists, unlike in say LA or Albuquerque, where the are actually roads that link to form a whole)

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AND there’s a gaming area with a shooting gallery for the kids/families AND gaming machines (see right side of image) for the adults

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Behind THAT there’s a section with tables for people who just want to sit with a drink and talk while waiting, but on a Saturday night it was pretty empty

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And behind that is the hallway to the bathrooms, which was lined with those moving pictures that change based on where you’re standing… all of which were historic portraits that changed into horrific images…. these sorts of things…. which kept me and a few other people entertained for a good 10 minutes as we decided which were the worst (and which could be purchased at the gift-shop). I.e., the “customer holding pen” is designed to separate you from your money, is almost as big as the eating room (which is two stories), and I’d bet is probably more profitable.

Only then do you enter the main eating area…

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Note the desert table at the bottom left

It is two stories high (happily I didn’t have to climb stairs), and is (I believe) set up so that anyone taking the challenge is sat in the central area and becomes part of the attraction; they are not only observable by most of the other customers.

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One of the things I noticed was how WHITE the room was…

But there’s a clock located below the massive cow-head, that can accommodate up to six competitors at once. But, no one was competing when I was there, which is why I think they have these guys walking around entertaining the guests (sort of a country western Tex/Mex nod to the Hispanic tradition)

 

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I arrived at the restaurant having not eaten all day… other than a cup of coffee. So I was pretty hungry. I consulted with the various guests around me, and one of them … who was eating Chicken fried steak convinced me to order that. It is very much NOT on my allowed diet (both steak and fried) but its one of my very favorite things. I ordered it with the vegetable soup and baked sweet potato (sweet potatoes are MUCH MUCH MUCH healthier than normal ones, and are even diabetic acceptable). I was also drawn to try the baby-back-ribs, which this place sells in a sampler menu of three as an appetizer.

The ribs were tasty … although, as I explained to the people next to me when they asked, “I’m Jewish”… they went quite for a second and then broke into laughter… “so really, I think they’re tasty but in 50 odd years it’s only like my 3rd time eating them.” The guy next to me asked if the meat was falling off the bone, which it was… and was it tasty, which it was… so he declared that meant they were good.

The soup was a bit thin… it was watery sort of soup with mushrooms and potatoes and other veggies in it, with a little bit of a kick (spice). But it was good, and since it had been a cold rainy day and my nose was running a bit, it was satisfying.

Then the “star” of the meal, my Chicken fried steak with white sauce, which is how they do it in Texas. (It was very pretty, but I didn’t take a picture of it, sorry.) I had my first bite and…. BLECH!!!! Firstly, it was neither cubed steak nor an actual fillet (which is how I prefer it), it was hamburger … and FATTY hamburger at that… and pretty much ALL I could taste in my mouth was a mouthful of fat. BLECH! I pushed it to the side and continued to eat my soup, with an intention of then starting on my sweet potato.

After a while a waiter finally came by (wasn’t impressed with the wait staff’s attentiveness) with an obligatory “how’s everything” which wasn’t genuine and I could tell he assumed would be “ok” only to be shocked when I pointed to the now cold plate of chicken fried steak… that was pushed to the far side of the table… which he REALLY should have noticed if he were any good at his job… and said, “I don’t like that.”

He went, and got the manager, who asked why I hadn’t like it… so I described my diet and how Chicken fried Steak is really one of my favorite foods, but that this one wasn’t good enough to justify breaking the diet… so he then suggest I order the grilled Salmon instead, which I did. And, unlike the day before when I had ordered salmon and got served trout… today it was actually salmon, and a fairly large slab of it.

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It was well cooked (by US standards), but firm but not dry… and sort of heavily spiced with spices I’d normally reserve for steak. But, by the time it had arrived I’d had 3 ribs, a cup of soup, a piece of Texas toast and 3 bread rolls… so I ended up packing up it and the sweet potato to have for lunch the next day (I had booked in a rest day from my travels, which a forecast of really lousy weather ensured I’d take…)

That said…If you’re hungry but not THAT hungry, they also offer 12, 18, 24 and 36 oz steaks (see menu), which is what the owner originally was selling and referred to as his “Texas sized steaks”, before coming up with the challenge. Oh and if that weren’t enough…

Then, as you’re leaving you are forced to walk past this gauntlet, A a gelato, fresh fudge and pastries stand…

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….even though this is technically in the front area right by the entrance to the restaurant area, I noticed most people bought from it just as they were leaving the store… to take home for later (so that your full stomach shouldn’t be the master of your eyes… which is kind of brilliant if you think about it from a marketing perspective)

https://www.google.com/maps/place/The+Big+Texan+Steak+Ranch+%26+Brewery/@35.193658,-101.755103,15z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x47059aec958d9814!8m2!3d35.193658!4d-101.755103

Tex Randall, Canyon Texas

Saw this in my ongoing pursuit of “big things” during my Route 66 travels, but it was about a half hour directly south of the route as it passes through Amarillo. This is less of a “tourist trap” and more of a symbol of ethnic pride, if you can believe it… think “everything is bigger in Texas.”IMG_0292.JPG Finding this wasn’t all that easy because the address given wasn’t showing up on my GPS. HOWEVER the Mexican restaurant directly adjacent to it was and this thing is SO tall that by the time I was 3 blocks of it could see it towering over the trees and buildings. That said, this statue is one of the bigger ones (apparently there’s a 54 foot one in Dallas) AND it has actual clothes on it… see the description below.

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On the topic of no one appreciates what they have… There were two teenagers (looked to be high-school freshmen, or about that age… when I asked them to take this picture of me, the girl said to me, “You’re not from here are you?” They were genuinely shocked that I considered this worthy of coming down all the way from Amarillo just to see it.

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The Rusty Bolt, a really good store on 66 in Seligman, Arizona

The Rusty bolt is an exception among the collection of stores that line 66 in Seligman that for the most part only sell the obligatory (along route 66) mass-produced stuff that glorifies the road itself.

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These tend to include T-shirts, stickers, mugs, patches (mostly purchased by motorcyclists) that says Route 66, or that glorify the post WWII/50’s time period… and offer up various impulse purchases of that sort (most of it probably made in China), most of which could, at this point, probably found easier by shopping on Amazon.  Of ALL the stores it was the ONLY one I found that actually bothers to sell art produced by local artists that isn’t a trading post (most of whom essentially make their livings by taking advantage of the local native American populations). Although they sell some of that too, because it’s what the customer expects.

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Located half way (1 hour in either direction) between the larger towns of Kingman and Flagstaff, Seligman Arizona takes its place on route 66 VERY seriously… it sort of has to, it’s really got not much else going for it. (even if you needed gas, odd are you filled up Kingman or Flagstaff). It’s initial claim to fame was as a stop on Beale’s Wagon Road, a trade route from Fort SmithArkansas to Los AngelesCalifornia … and then as a stage-coach stop. When the railroads replaced the stage coaches, it was lucky enough to be chosen to be a railroad town, complete with a Harvey House (closed in 1955, demolished 2008), but in 1984 passenger trains discontinued service to the town entirely, and now just pass it by. Cars don’t really stop there much either, as while it had been on route 66 (obviously), when I-40 came through in 1978, it by-passed the town by a few miles — and like I said, most I-40 travelers are far more likely to pit stop at Flagstaff or Kingman, than they are Seligman. As such, all traffic in the town virtually disappeared on that day, according to Angel Delgadillo, a local businessman. To its credit however (you’ve got to work with what you’ve got) the town earned itself the name of “Birthplace of Historic Route 66” ten years later, when through their successful lobbying efforts they managed to convince the State of Arizona to make 66 a “Historic Highway” — and hence spend money on creating the signs that line the 66, and the big printed out 66 symbols in the middle of it.

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Walking around Seligman I was starting to get kind of annoyed at the sheer rapidity of the goods for sale, and extreme tourist trap sensibility of the place. That was until I walked into the Rusty Bolt, which while it has some of the same, there’s actually MORE to it, even though the shelves aren’t as packed full as some of the other stores.

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Walking around I immediately spotted these little sculptures which in my opinion cross the line to art — they have such a feeling of movement to them, and then when I saw the price (they were selling for $26.75 each), I HAD to have them.

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I learned later that at the Rusty Bolt the price includes the tax!!!

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Not only that but, I was slightly amused by the coin descriptor the owner has taped to her checkout counter (see above photo bottom right). You can tell from it that she gets a lot of foreign visitors who aren’t familiar with our currency.

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The bottom right one is made with a tea strainer, and you can open the mouth

They are all made by a guy who lives in Golden Valley and just sits around making stuff by the name of Frank McKee. I looked for him on-line afterwards but couldn’t find him. According to the woman who owns the shop, he shows up from time to time at a nearby flea market that she goes to looking for merchandise for her shop. He’ll usually approach her first, sell her enough to be able to afford his hotel room for the night, and then he sells the rest at the market the next day.

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I went a little bit overboard in the shopping — I bought five of them…  I think they sort of look like a baseball team. The little route 66 magnets are removable. She had added them after the fact thinking they’d sell better if she did that.

Louie the Lumberjack Statue, Flagstaff Arizona

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Louie the Lumberjack Statue is …. well… not very big, only 10 feet tall and made out of cedar … while his two brothers who are both used by Northern Arizona University as their mascot, are both 20 feet tall … no wonder he looks sad

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Louis is on Route 66, right after this intersection (going east)

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https://www.google.com/maps/place/Giant+woodsman+sculpture/@35.1964527,-111.6544598,15z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0x31e1944c66d55945?sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjpw96f3OHdAhW1oFsKHcaRDecQ_BIwD3oECAoQCw

Stand’in On The Corner in Winslow Arizona

This park on Route 66 in the heart of downtown Winslow, Arizona, contains a brilliant bit of publicly funded art that is an intentional tourist draw, via a tribute to a song called “Take It Easy” — or more to the point, it’s a tribute to the fact that at one point the name of the town is mentioned in that song. Because what does a small town that is essentially dying do when it’s been mentioned in a hit song? Memorialize it in a way that draws tourism off of the highway into the town! (Essentially, therefore, this sort of falls into my “big things” category) But really, there’s something kind of fun and silly about this bit of public art, that people just love.

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But the town was already were memorialized in “Get you’re kick’s on Route 66” you say… shouldn’t that be enough?

[That said, I’m from a suburb of Chicago called Winnetka and there’s a song called “Big Noise from Winnetka” which was a HUGE hit in the 1930’s and 40’s and is still played regularly by marching bands and jazz groups, which my affluent upper-crust town pretty much ignored like the plague … but hey]

IF you can’t just by looking at the picture above identify the song in question, it is called”Take It Easy” and was written by Jackson Browne&Glenn Frey, and performed by the Eagles (note the eagle in the mural that’s sitting on the window sill)

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One of the interesting things was that all the shops directly adjacent to the park were promoting fund raising actives to pay for the parks restoration and upkeep

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Kiddy corner from the wall — which as this picture shows was built SOLEY to put the mural on — is this, along side a store called the “Standing on the corner” gifts shop

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