The Nut House, Claremore, OK

One of the places that I kept hearing about as MUST see on Route 66 was The Nut House in Claremore Oklahoma and for the life of me I don’t know why.

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It’s a 40 year old store. As such it dates from 1978, when 66 was already being decommissioned, and is not even one located within interesting architecture. Why This is a must see makes about as much sense as saying ANY gift shop along the route is a must see.  It sells nuts, fresh fudge (tasty, but fudge) and has a deli. The goods for sale are a wider variety than one normally sees in these Route 66 places, but most of it was made in China so … a generic gift shop none-the-less.

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The ONLY interesting thing about this place is that it’s located adjacent to a store that sells RV’s which makes good sense as I’m sure more than a few people at this point are wishing they had one.

 

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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Russell’s Travel Center, Glenrio, NM

Most Travel Center’s along highways are a dime a dozen, but every once in a while you see one worthy of notice, such is the case for Russell’s Travel Center in Glenrio, New Mexico located on I-40/Route 66fullsizeoutput_4b01.jpegThe center is located in the middle of not much,

IMG_9909.jpgIMG_0483this travel center seems to be pretty all-inclusiveIMG_0477.JPGThere’s a restaurant, a subway subs, and a grocery store IMG_9830.JPGthat sells a large selection of pre-made foods, and other tastiesIMG_0478.JPG

IMG_0479.JPGI was at the truck stop at around 11am and the donuts were sold out. When I mentioned it to the manager, he said they only make a limited amount every morning, and when they sell out they’re gone.

Where most truck stops will sell a small selection of foods, this place was practically a grocery store of foods that store easily and don’t require refrigeration or freezing.

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Another thing that impressed me was this place stocks its shelves with a LOT of single serving options. This is actually unusual and I know this because I’m always in search of these things. Most stores for instance only sell soup or chili cans that serve two or more servings …

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Now if your someone who lives on the move like I do, or a trucker does, this means either you end up eating twice as much and get fat, or your stuck with eating one serving and trying to store the other serving, which means you have to eat the same thing multiple times a day.

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They have the normal distribution of services for truckers, and it was nice that they were making the sports equipment available to non-truckers, but that said, $12 for a shower seems a bit pricy to me… but this is the desert.

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They have a car/collection museum so big that it spills over into the product section

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Some of what they have in their relates to the history of their own business (which has been on 66 for a long time)

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But for the most part it’s yet another one of those museums that is more a hoarders delight than curated wonder

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… there’s SOME explanation of what things are, but very little…

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(Still trying to figure out what Yoda has to do with anything)

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And it’s kind of cool that they lift the hood on some of the cars allowing you to see how much simpler engines were back then

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That said… how is ANYONE supposed to make sense of the breath and depth of this collection … less is more folks!!!

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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 Grove (shopping mall) & The Original Farmers Market, Los Angeles California

These two shopping areas, The Grove at Farmers Market & The Original LA Farmers Market are directly adjacent to each other, are built on what was initially one property, are radically different from each other and still, should be done as one visit. The Grove is a VERY upscale open-air shopping mall that is frequented by locals, and out-of-town tourist flock to in hopes of seeing movie stars. The Farmers Market, by comparison is a historic landmark, is a far more down-market, mostly indoor facility where the locals go to buy fresh produce and to grab very tasty but affordable meals from over 100 small vendors … that also sells a lot of affordable tourist stuff (T-shirts, mugs, etc).IMG_0168.JPGAnyone who watches TMZ is familiar with The Grove; it is supposedly frequented by Actors and stars; and as such, it’s just a major draw for tourists hoping to run into said stars. According to a friend of mine who is movie star adjacent (he grew up in Beverly Hills and has worked in the film industry his whole life, not an actor) they in actuality NEVER shop there… with the caveat that if they do, they’ll usually call the photographers before they get there to let them know they’re coming. Usually they have a project about to be released that needs press, or their marriage is rumored to be in trouble so it’ll be a “happy family” outing, etc. My friend went so far as say that the mall has a sort of copacetic (you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours) relationship with said actors, singers, etc., to make sure that they choose The Grove as the location for said ‘upstaged out-on-the-town ‘ photos. And it’s “outdoor” venue is highly useful in that respect.

[I have to admit, I watch TMZ live regularly, as in almost every night. I load their pod cast, put it next to my pillow; I don’t usually really listen to it closely, so much as it lulls me to sleep. Occasionally it holds my attention and is genuinely interesting and informative, but more often than not — on the days when there’s no real “news” of any note, they’ll start with something about the Kardashians or Kanye West and I’m out like a light. So, that said, I was a bit excited to see it. (AND, my cousin lives walking distance from it so it was it was walking distance from the Airbnb I rented in order to be near her.)]

But, now that I’m here, I don’t get what the big deal is…

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In the middle of the mall area is a water feature, that does the dancing waters thing

it’s an outdoor mall, a bit like Old Orchard in Skokie, near where I grew up… maybe a bit nicer/newer.. but similar… although a bit more upmarket… unlike the Grove, Old Orchard does NOT have its own trolley that runs INSIDE the mall area

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The Trolley only runs during the daytime, probably for safety reasons

Among the stores was this desert place called Dominique Ansel Bakery that was kind of to die for from the looks of it. It makes all sorts of very fancy looking deserts and ice cream concoctions that look like other kinds of food. IMG_0179.JPG

I got the water melon thing, which was made with a non-dairy ice-cream… but in retrospect I wish I’d gotten the avocado sandwich, because the other than the little chocolate seeds and the actual hollowed out melon, it was a major let down. (The non-dairy ice-cream kind of seriously sucked. It didn’t taste good, nor did it taste like watermelon… I ended up dumping it into the trash and just eating the fruit and the chocolate)

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—OK then, I had to go to the bathroom and discovered it is the NICEST mall bathroom I have ever seen, it is far more like a 4-star hotel’s bathroom.

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… and after that, as I was standing at the roundabout where you’re supposed to get picked up by “Taxi”‘s (including Uber and Lyft), the valet guy offered me two bottles of water one for myself and one for the cab driver… (this is NOT a level of service I’ve ever encountered at a mall before) …so, that said, I think I’ve discovered what the big deal is

The Farmer’s market was (with the exception of the Grove’s bathroom) far more my speed. I went there one night on my own, and discovered it has a music scene

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The night that I was there (a week night) a game of trivia was being hosted

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Note all the different food stalls surrounding the area

There were SO many tasty choices… I could eat here over and over and go months before I had to repeat a dish.IMG_0182.JPG

But I found this Afghan/Middle eastern place called Moishe’s — known by most for their Falafel, but they were also selling one of my favorite things, so I bought it, and it was good… I got a doughnut at Bob’s for desert, as they were described as baked and not fried (it was too bready/cakey for my taste).

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A Afghan/Turkish sort of ravioli that covered in yogurt, spices, and a some spicy oil

and then my cousin and her spouse brought me here for dinner. They’re vegetarians, so they got the Falafel from the vender I had eaten at the night before, and I opted for this seafood place which I discovered puts all the food that’s already out in their case for sale at half price starting at 7pm on weekdays. I got a very large lox and bagel sandwich — tasted like they were using Costco purchased lox and bagels, but I love that stuff. Afterwards we got ice-cream from Bennet’s, which they promised me was handmade. I got one of those cones dipped in chocolate and topped with nuts. It was very good.

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Like I said my cousin lives nearby, and she and her wife come here to eat regularly and buy produce — which she did again that night.

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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.

Navajo Arts and Crafts Enterprise

The Navajo Arts and Crafts Enterprise is located in Window Rock, Arizona, and is for anyone visiting the Southwest in search of Native American Jewelry who gives a shit about their rights and/or disenfranchisement …and all that good shit.

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This is a store run by the Navajo nation that sells the work of some of their best artists– who are insured proper payment for said work. In other words, this is NOT where you come to get the “best prices” (which are often obtained by taking advantage of artists who don’t under stand pricing) but rather some of the best work, guilt free. Everything from jewelry to Navajo rugs, all of the highest quality … where you know for sure it was made by a Navajo and with the best locally sourced stores and wool, etc. (no Chinese crap pretending to be Navajo, etc.)

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If I had a friend who was a Native American Doctor or nurse, I’d buy this for them

The Store also sells Navajo raw products (locally mined stones, wool, etc.) to other Navajo looking to turn them into products for sale to the public.

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They’ve gotten much bigger and much more bureaucratic/professional since i was last here (20 odd yeas ago). In the building they used to not only sell stuff but also have workmen on staff who could repair it for you on the spot. Now they’ve got a second building mile away where they do storage and they keep the repair men hidden away, and you have to drop off and wait a week or so to get the repairs done.

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I had been saving up some stuff I needed fixed for when I next passed through the area, but it appears that was for naught. I even went to the second building hoping I could find somebody who would fix my ring ASAP, as I was only in town for two days… but they said they don’t do that anymore

Casa de’Fruta; Hollister, California

Casa de’Fruta in Hollister, California, has been a mainstay tourist trap on the route from San Francisco to Los Angeles, pretty much for forever (apparently they’re celebrating their 100th anniversary). It started out as a fruit and nuts stand and has since then expanded to being a multi building tourist trap with a market, a gift store, a coffee shop, a restaurants, and distractions for the kids. AND if you want to sleep there there’s both a motel and an RV park. That said, it’s a MAJOR tourist trap and really only good as a place to stretch your legs.

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IF all you want to do is to buy fruit, I passed any number of mom and pop stands set up along farms in the area that probably have better prices… but they all lack the sort of tourist trap shtick that this place has.

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I find it ironic that not only do they allow you to taste their wines (see below, they have their own brands) — they’ve actually begun to push them at you (just what every traveler should do before getting back on the highway)… while at the same time you’re no longer allowed to taste their nuts or candies before you buy them by the pound. (They used to, allow you to taste them, but no more)

IMG_0381That said, this place used to be all about the flavored almonds… but I didn’t see any for sale this time…. just a lot of wine

IMG_5446The place has actually become kind of huge — I don’t remember it being this big 20 odd years ago… the last time I was here

IMG_0382There’s now a set up for “mining gold” (even though the gold rush never really happened this far south of SF… it was more north) where you buy bags of the sluice to pan…

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There’s a 2nd shop that mostly sells wine (again), gifts and some deli sandwiches and things that might go on said sandwiches

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There are rides for the kids (a merry-go-round AND a train)

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A building devoted to all things sweet and sugary (of course, it’s placed directly adjacent to the kids area) — and coffee for the adults (after drinking all that wine you’ll need it).

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And now there’s a 24 hour restaurant, selling pretty normal diner types dishes. No I did not eat here.

Route 80’s Little America Travel Center: Little America, Wyoming

I have always really loved the Little America Travel Center just off of Intestate 80 west of Green River, Wy; and I have stopped here many times over the years. When I first discovered it, it had been recently renovated and stood as an oasis of green in the desert of western Wyoming, serving up decent food at very reasonable prices. It USED to be impressively shiny (ultra clean bathrooms, everything worked, etc) … it isn’t anymore — but the food is still cheap, if you can get any

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The original building
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The “newish” building… I didn’t take pictures of the bathrooms because mom’s were changing babies in there, but their roomy and have powder rooms

That said something has happened to it. The bathrooms aren’t AS well maintained as they used to be, and this part of the travel center was understaffed — or at least that staff that was there was less “motivated” to do anything other than their assigned tasks, so that point of sale counter for stuff from the store had TWO people working the cash registers (but standing there doing nothing)….

 

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…while the cash register/kitchen for the food area, with its $0.75 ice cream cones ($1.55 if you get the bigger waffle cone), $2.95 grilled cheese sandwiches and it’s $5.75 1/3 lb cheese burgers… i.e., where all of the customers were going… had only one open register and an understaffed kitchen…  so that those lines were impossibly long… etc etc.

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During the time period I was there, the line extended out the door

I talked to the two staff members working the essentially unused counter, saying I had intended to get my lunch there, but not with such a long line… and they suggested that I cross the parking lot over to the side of the travel center that handles the truckers — in this case a completely separate building from the one that services automobile traffic (check out the length of the line below, it averaged zero to three people)

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So I did ….only to discover a smaller building — less tourist junk, and more stuff truckers might want to buy — like a rotisserie chicken …  with a grill line that averaged three people in line maximum instead of 20-30 — with only slightly different food options (the auto side was had fancier options, and stuff for kids, like chicken strips and potato wedges…  but what was offered was at the same prices

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When I tried to pay for my grilled sandwich the tap mechanism did not work, and the girl who was working there made a snide comment about how “it was old is just like everything else around here.”

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That said, the serving size for the waffle cone ice-cream on the trucker side seemed to be twice as big as what they were giving out the customer side

Carlin Trend Mining Supplies & Services — & Rolling Rock Gallery/Gift shop!!

While walking around Elko, Nevada, a gold mining & railroad town located off of Interstate-80, (I was stretching my legs before getting back on the road) I chanced to find this really NEAT shared store site called the Carlin Trend Mining Supplies Services…. This is combined mining store (i.e., mining services/goods) and temporary employment agency for the local mines,

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AND Rolling Rock Gallery a pretty impressive Gift shop (I shit you not) but with a definitive science geek flare.

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At first I thought that place was just ridiculously eclectic,

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but the more I looked at it however the more I realized that there was a trend that veered predominately towards things of a science nature.IMG_0024I talked to the staff member and she told me that the store was owned by the local science teacher who was married to the local geologist and in addition to those jobs they had opened this store in town.

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https://goo.gl/maps/EkVQkW8maVH2