Route 66 Gateway Sign, Miami, Oklahoma

Just as you enter Miami Oklahoma you see this really nice Route 66 sign

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The Miami not the Miami of Florida but rather the Miami tribe which had originally lived in Indiana (where they are no longer recognized as a tribe) but were moved here. This relates to other places I’ve visited such as Tippecanoe Battlefield, at which point the Indians who had Tecumseh, were forced to move to here, in Oklahoma (i.e., Indian Territory) while the ones who did not support him and had decided to live like white men were allowed to stay in Indiana.

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Indian Territory Memorial, Quapaw, Oklahoma

The word Oklahoma actually translates in the Choctaw language to “red-person,” specifically, ukla=person and huma=red, and the entire territory had initially been ‘given’ by the US government as a territory intended solely for the tribes… and it is where the tribes from the southeastern states were marched towards on the Trail of Tears.

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This Memorial located directly upon the old Route 66 route marks one of the boundaries of “Indian Territory” a continually shrinking zone that the American government promised to leave to its native populations that at this point is more easily observable via the names of places than on the faces of its occupants.

Route 66’s Rainbow Bridge, Riverton, Kansas

The Rainbow Bridge in Riverton KS, (Baxter Springs is the closest town) dates back to the two lanes period, and is directly adjacent to a much newer version of 66.

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One of the things you realize driving route 66 is it developed in stages. There’s the original one, which was generally two lanes and existed in a time when there wasn’t much traffic… then increased usage necessitated wider bridges, or that the road be moved entirely… and then there’s the most recent version some of which I’m beginning to think was organized AFTER the road had been decommissioned, when it started to become a tourist destination.

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View from 66’s newer route and the new bridge

Apparently, in a fight between the county, which wanted funds from the government to build the new bridge whose rules demanded demolishing the old bridge, and the Kansas Route 66 Association… who clearly wanted it preserved, a compromised was reached. And now the bridge is listed with the National Register, so it will never be demolished, and has since been used as local for filming route 66 specials on TV.

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Cars on the Route, Galena, Kansas

Yet another historic gas station repurposed to take advantage of renewed interest in 66 that the Pixar Movie Cars generated. Every car has been anthropomorphized, and the police car is claiming to be from Radiator Springs. (From what I read they also serve sandwiches and stuff to generate income.)

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As is clearly obvious from the photo, it was approaching 7pm by the time I got here, and it was raining, and the temps were dropping precipitously … I think it was already like 47 F according to my car’s “outside” thermometer (in MID October, i.e., unusually cold).

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The website I had looked at said they were open on Sundays….AND, I got there on a Sunday (this part of the country seems to close down on Sundays…), but apparently not so much.

The Round Barn of Arcadia, Oklahoma

This is one of those seriously iconic Route 66 things. Numerous times along the route people had asked me had I seen it yet, or was I intending to go see it. It’s a barn, it is old, it is red, and unlike most barns it is round…. that’s about it

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When I first arrived I was a bit excited about what I was going to see.

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But, other than some placards on the walls that talk about it’s history….

IMG_1066.JPGFrom which I learned that back when they were building this there was a folk-belief that round barns were tornado proof, and that there had been a huge preservation movement in support of the barn that began in the 1970’s, which resulted in it being placed on the Register of Historic Places, … really not much of major interest was offered.

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currently, the ground floor, for the most part…. it’s a great big shop full of junk… no seriously, the sort of stuff you find at flea markets in poor neighborhoods. (I didn’t bother taking photos of it) Well, that and some obligatory Route 66 stuff you could easily find on Amazon and pretty much EVERY other 66 stop, but that said… it is mostly junk. As a potential marketing space it is being completely wasted. WHY the community doesn’t make it gallery for promoting local artists or something of the like, I don’t know.

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That said, the UPSTAIRS is GORGEOUS, and is rightly used a venue for weddings.

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Another photo taken using the camera app on my watch

Chandler Oklahoma’s Route 66 interpretive center

Located in Chandler Oklahoma on Route 66 in a beautiful building that once served as their national guard armory, is a museum dedicated to the Route 66 experience. Smartly, its designer looked at the other museums dedicated to 66 (the good and the not so good) and opted to compliment them rather than to repeat them … So, this exhibit is about the experience of some of the local high-points, rather than the road itself — for the low price of $5

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I have got to admit, this is one of the better local attempts at a museum I’ve seen.

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It has a docent, who, as soon as you walk in…. gives you a little tour of the place. First she talks a bit about the history of the building and it’s construction

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Picture of workers mining and working the stone that makes up the walls

Then she showed us the drill hall which has now been repurposed by the community for things like a wedding venue

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and finally she took us into the exhibit hall and explained how the interpretive center works. She told us (me, and two women I had run into previously at Pops), about how they had hired a curator to design the space, and I could have told her that just based on layout. (As you guys all know nothing pisses me off more than museums that don’t even TRY to curate themselves). Less is more people, less is more…

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The suggested way to start the exhibit, is a 20 minute movie (assuming you have the time) about a man originally from IL who made about his first trip on 66 in his 20s (in 1939 going road-tripping with a buddy to their university in Arizona). On that trip he had written letters to parents at every top along the way, and had taken photographs. Years later, when it was time to move his mom into managed care, upon clearing out the family home he found his mother had kept all the letters and post cards… and this stimulated in him a desire to do the trip a 2nd time, in 2000, now that he was retired. He did so, making a point of trying to stop at all the same motels (or finding out what had happened to them) and focusing on the differences between the two trips. With the help of a friend, a documentary was created which is being shown only in this museum (I looked for it on-line and couldn’t find it, other than references saying it was showing at the museum.

Then you move into a section where you can lie on beds (as though you were staying at one of the Route 66 motor homes), or sit in chairs (which were pulled from classic cars), And watch from a large selection of shorts (about 5 minutes or so each) on a variety of different topics

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This one showed either a movie about renovating the Round Barn, that I had visited earlier that day, or a movie about the former icons that are no more — and the changing awareness of local communities and the government that these road side attractions actually need preserving as they are part of our history.

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Ludlow Cafe on historic Route 66

From what I’ve been seeing on line, the current Ludlow Cafe on Route 66 in Ludlow, CA is resurrection of what had been. That said, this whole area is kind of disturbing. As you drive, its through the mohave desert, where there’s nothing… and then you come across this cafe. I didn’t eat here (it looked kind of sketchy to tell you the truth) … but when I started reading the various plaques on exterior walls… well it was a bit disturbing.

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So if you head just pass this café heading  back north you’ll see the route 66 that no longer exists. The road’s blocked, but you can see where it was.

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I’m currently seeing truckers, as the sun is starting to go down, parking their trucks on a closed off stretch of road that is in fact where 66 used to be. The last few miles I was driving on the opposite side of the freeway from where 66 had been (it was fairly obvious that this was the case) even though the signs were telling me I was on 66 (I think it was more a marketing ploy than the reality… I wasn’t on 66 but rather a frontage road constructed after I-40 had cut off that piece of it) …

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because the road had been cut off by the freeway construction… if that makes sense. ANYWAY, when I got to the building I started seeing the signs below embedded into the walls and into concrete pillars in front of the place

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Spooky shit dude!

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Grand Canyon, South Rim, Arizona

It’s the Grand Canyon, South Rim… it’s a classic! Rather than drive here, however, I took the train ride from Williams, AZ (on Route 66) where I was spending the night.

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To be honest, the three hours the Train service allowed me was ENOUGH, in large part because my pinky toe on my right foot was seriously unhappy with me (I had sprained it and rather than let it rest and keeping it elevated, I had been driving cross-country and doing a load of walking.) As such, rather than walk I first took the shuttle bus for invalids (organized by the train company) from the train to

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I LOVE the fact that an old-fashioned station wagon drove up just then, haven’t seen one of those since the 1970’s

El Tovar.. in order to get some lunch, and to see it because … HARVEY HOUSE!!!

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On the train I had asked the girl to suggest which of the restaurants had the best food, and she said the main restaurant at the El Tovar for sure… but I had done so much snacking on the way over that, while looking over their lunch menu, I found I wasn’t actually all that hungry, so I opted for the Onion Soup

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It was VERY good (definitely a cut above the average), and every person I spoke to at the surrounding tables was also extremely happy with their food. Let’s face it, you don’t expect food at restaurants like this actually be good, especially when the food prices are relatively reasonable. (You’re paying for the location, ambiance and view).IMG_0588

That said, the room is also quite spectacular…. both its interior and decorations,

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And of course if you’re very lucky (I wasn’t) you’ll be placed next to a widow with an amazing view.

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The bottom right image was from my table… I was WAY in the back but that said, ….Heh, my table was RIGHT next to the electric plug and my iPhone’s battery was down to 20% after the train ride.

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A bar, that also has a wonderful view

I wandered around the building a bit afterwards, cause it was gorgeous (and a Hardy House that had been kept authentic over time)… ‘

IMG_0597Directly adjacent to the El Tovar is Hopi House, which is also a historic landmark, that is used as store for mostly high-end Native American goods. It was designed by Mary Colter, the same woman who designed almost all of the Harvey Houses. IMG_0598IMG_8096IMG_0601After checking it out, I went to look at the rim…. pictures don’t do it justice, there’s something unreal about it.IMG_8107.jpgThat said, I was in AWE of how clear the view was. I kept saying to people, “do you realize that a few years ago you wouldn’t have seen this? That there was a horrible haze mucking it up? That its only because of the Clean air act, and the recent closing of some near by coal-burning power stations that you can see this so clearly” Apparently nobody did… Not only that but some Trump supporters actually started yelling at me (I’m shitting you not.)IMG_0602IMG_8114.jpg

IMG_8119.jpgMy weather karma is continuing— like I said it was supposed to be raining today…

IMG_8129IMG_0606IMG_0605IMG_8216At the other end of the part of the southern rim that I had walked along, is the Bright Angel Lodge which was also designed by Mary Colter, and this one has a very famous fireplace (that the one behind me in the images below)…. which again has amazing views at its restaurant… only the girl on the train told me the food isn’t quite as good.

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Adjacent to it is an ice-cream place that also serves sandwiches, and pretzels and snacks (all the food you’d eat while standing outside)… although while I was there mostly all people were buying was the ice cream.

IMG_0604 As they warned us on the train, there’s a HUGE fine, like $500 if they catch you feeding a squirrel… and that they will try to steal your food if you don’t watch out… what they neglected to mention is the little buggers bite, and will infect you with the plague!!!!

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After this I took an un-scenic shortcut back to the train station, because it was about time to go back to Williams, and if you miss the train you’re kind of screwed.

Grand Canyon Railway experience; Williams, Arizona

The Grand Canyon Railway experience is essentially a two-hour train ride from Williams, Arizona to the Grand Canyon… if you return the same day (another two hours) you will have gotten to stay there for about three hours (so a taste). OR — if you are the hiking type, you can opt to stay at a hotel at the Canyon and return a different day.  The “experience” includes a cute little show before the ride, and then some entertainment while on the train, and concludes with a “faux” train robbery on the way back. All in all, when you add up the prices, IF you’re doing route 66 and just want to pop over to the Grand Canyon, to see it… this actually works out to be a pretty good deal money wise.

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The CHEAPEST ticket, which is what I got, was $62.86. This was for the Pullman car, their most historic car (No air-conditioning) and did not include the park entrance fee (as I have been buying the National Park’s yearly pass since I first started traveling… I have yet to not get my money’s worth — when you buy the ticket you tell you have it, when you pick up the tickets you show them the pass and they write down its ID number to submit to the park officials). IF you consider the cost of gas (maybe 3 hours there and back — the train does it slower), wear and tear on your car, finding parking, etc etc…. and the fact that the train includes live entertainment … I think it’s worth it to do it once.

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A lot of the people who do this opted to stay at their hotel as well, but this is not necessary and not what I did. (There is a Harvey House at that location, but its not where you’ll be staying… and you don’t have to stay at the hotel to see it. Essentially, its been replaced by a fairly generic building that looks like pretty much every other 3 star hotel along our highways)… I stayed at the Howard Johnson located about 2 blocks north, for substantially less money. (That said the hotel is OK, but the owners … an Indian couple… just don’t get it. The rooms are clean and comfortable, the WiFi was BLAZING fast… but the security is suspiciously lax. IF You go to this hotel make sure you check in early enough that you can change rooms if you need to. The hotel has no elevators, and they won’t help you with your bags if you have mobility issues like I do. The room I ultimately got did NOT have a chain on the door, or any sort of way for me to keep hotel staff out while I was sleeping. By the time I realized this — after dinner — it was too late to change rooms. The next day the woman who works for them — MUCH better at customer service than they are — and I looked for a suitable room, and we had to go through THREE before we found one with a working chain.)

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So… I checked the weather report for the next day at the Grand Canyon the night I arrived, and it said rain… eek… then checked again the day of, this time specifying the South Rim (which is where the train goes) and it said no rain… phew!! NOTE: It’s important to remember the Grand Canyon is a VERY big place, so when checking the weather, be specific for which part.

With the Train Ride, come a whole package of entertainments. The first happens BEFORE the ride and is cute… I THINK the whole point of it is actually a ploy to make sure customers are on site and ready to go a good 45 minutes before the train leaves… but still…it adds to the ‘ambiance’

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Looking around at the audience, I at first thought there may be one person in this whole crowd under the age of 40, But then I took that back … I just spotted a baby. That said, it was late September and most kids were in school, so the crowd consisted mostly of retirees who prefer to come to places like this when they are LESS crowded. It’s a cute show, funny even, more than a few good laughs. You can tell the actors have done this may be 1000 times but they’re not phoning it in

After seeing the show myself, and many days later… I watched this video and I guess the attitude of the organizers is, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” because in spite of the fact that I saw the show almost six years after this YouTube video was posted — this is almost word for word the same show I saw, just with different actors.

The actors do a bit of improve around what the audience does or does not do, and the audience member roped into the skit, but otherwise, I saw the exact same show. (They even found a guy wearing shorts who had a bag… albeit this bag was backpack)

IMG_3008And after the show, that’s when you’re led by the actors to the train, and you line up by the car you’re assigned to…IMG_7977.jpg

And this is where things got wonky. So the deal is this…. APPARENTLY if you sign up for the Pullman (which is the most affordable ticket) they tell you to show up at 8:30 like everybody else, for what you think will be a 9:15 departure…  but you won’t actually Leave until 10:00. IF they get a lot of people showing up, they’re going to break it up into two trains (according to the manager this is on behest of the park which doesn’t want a boat load of people showing up at once. He said they could easily put everyone on one train). Everybody who bought a ticket on the expensive cars — the ones with the observation bubbles on top of the train for better viewing…. and the MOST expensive cars which are old-fashioned luxury (but with air-conditioning), have a buffet and dedicated performers who are there just for you  — THOSE trains… they’ll leave on time … Those of us with tickets that have air-conditioning but no bubble up top, or those like me who purchased a Pullman car with no air-con…. they’ll leave you standing around and waiting for the second train (and there was NOTHING on my tickets denoting that).

GRRRRRR……

You do however get the same amount of time at the park because your return train also leaves later. That said, once we were on the train, it was actually very pleasant… first a guy comes on, and makes sure you understand all the thing you need to know

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Then we were introduced to our carriage’s aid, the girl in the blue and white outfit, and the photographer (the guy in the red shirt with the massive camera, whose job it is to wander between carriages taking photos on first leg of the trip, and then he tries to sell you your photos on our return one).

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While the downsides of being in the cheap Pullman car is that it goes last (leaving the station) and has no air-conditioning, the upsides are that one, it’s always placed directly adjacent to the dining car (they told me this when I was booking the trip)

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Although this also means everyone in the cars behind us has to pass through us to get to said dining car… for their drinks, snacks and ice-cream

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The other benefit… and this is the more important one I think… is that sitting in an old-fashioned Pullman with no aircon traveling through almost wild country it’s really easy to almost feel like you’ve drifted back in time to when train, horse or foot were your only options for getting out west … a mental fantasy that the more modern trains don’t really support.

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On the way to the Canyon we were serenaded by this young musician, who wasn’t bad

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And then on the way back (when we were all really pooped) we were played at by this guy

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Who was trying just a bit too hard to get us to be clapping our hand and tapping our feet, when all we really wanted to do was rest…

Towards the end of the ride to the Canyon we passed an area that had clearly had a forest fire, which made me wonder how it’d happened and if it were the fault of the train, or the people on it.

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And then right as we were approaching the park, our carriage’s aide (the gal in the blue and white outfit) began to tell us things like, that the red ponderosa pines that grown in the park have a scent. If you smell vanilla, than the tree is a female but if you smell butterscotch, the tree is male. (I never managed to get close enough to one to test it) That, and there’s a $500 fine for feeding the animals … even if it’s a squirrel who stole it from you .. and that we should all beware because they WILL steal your food if you let them.

And then we got to the park….

IMG_3023(I’m talking about the Park in a separate blog post, click here to see it)

And THIS is what you get to avoid by taking the train

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That said, the ride back was also very pretty,

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and the rain that the first weather report I had looked at promised, could be seen approaching us in the distance

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But it included rainbows, which made me happy….

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(and in fact greeted us as with a very light rain just as we arrived back in Williams, which got more intense later in the evening).

 

Towards the very end of the ride, we had a last bit of excitement…  there’s a train heist… it’s actually kind of cute

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(My video this time… Note how the train obligingly stops for the 2 riders )

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But somehow, even though there were TWO riders attacking the train, and TWO gunmen stealing from us… somehow one of them managed to be in two places at the same time (note: two horses carrying two gunmen, two gunmen stealing from us… yet one left over to take care of the horses… this happened how?)

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And then you’re ever so politely robbed. (They threaten to take your stuff, but never do.) We were instructed (by our conductor lady in the blue outfit) that if we wanted to we were supposed to take any money we wanted them to actually rob, and fold it and hold it out for them to take, which a few of the customers did… tips in other-words.

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And then a little later (after the thieves have had time to get all the way to the back of the train, where apparently the guy who plays the sheriff was waiting to arrest them (it’s a shame that only THAT car gets to see the arrest) he waltzes them back through the train to the front, and we all get to laugh about how law and order triumphs.

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Before I got someone to take our photo, the guy with the long white hair, who plays the sheriff, turns out he’s actually Dutch, has spent some time living in Japan, and speaks 9 languages at least a enough to get by… I didn’t get around to finding out how it ended up here doing this.

One thing to beware of… on the train, while you’re close to town WiFi is pretty decent, and from time to time it’ll pop back up…. but at the park and for most of the ride you can forget about connectivity. As such, save your battery and just put you phone on airplane mode to save the battery. This is especially true at the Park… Even though there is signal, you just can’t connect to it because TOO many people are also trying.

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