Located on Route 66 in Oklahoma city, Ann’s Chicken Fry House & Gift Shop is touted on all of the “what to do on route 66” sites as one of the MUST-sees if you want to have that classic 66 experience, and the best Chicken Fried Steak in town. In retrospect, I was really annoyed to discover that the place only opened up in 1971 (i.e, barely a historic 66 restaurant, if at all), and I didn’t really enjoy my meal… NOT worth the calories.
First, Let’s keep in mind, that I-44 was bypassing Route 66 in Oklahoma city as early as 1958, when it was first built to link it to Saint Lewis. In fact the interstate STARTED there, and then worked itself out sideways… That said, HISTORICALLY even though 66 hit its cultural hey-day in the early 1960’s, and wasn’t officially disbanded till 1985, by the late 1960’s/early 1970’s it had essentially been made irrelevant. By the late 1980’s, when I tried driving parts of it, it was sort of an impossible struggle — and it’s revival as a scenic byway (the program officially began in 1991) really didn’t start till 1990. As such, I’m sorry, but for Ann’s place falls right into the years of 66 irrelevance as anything other than highways that people don’t even think of AS highways because of just how many paved roads there now were, and their function eclipse by the expressways. As such, for Ann’s to promote itself as an authentic route 66 business is kind of false advertising. I’m sorry but it is. That, and, to add insult to injury, it isn’t even considered one of Oklahoma city’s better restaurants by any of the locals (seriously, read Yelp, or any of those other sites) … i.e., it’s essentially a MAJOR tourist trap and nothing more.
That said… Be warned, they are a CASH ONLY business… they do NOT accept credit cards. (The mind boggles)…. and they are closed on Sundays and Mondays… Their specialty is supposed to be the chicken fried steak… so that is what I ordered… but I didn’t take any photos of it (it looked like chicken fried steak, and there was nothing impressive about the plating)….
that it was much better than the previous order of the stuff I’d had along the route — And I ate so much chicken fried steak over the few weeks I was doing 66 that when I got back to Chicago my liver numbers had once again spiked.
Chicken Fried Steak is one of my very favorite dishes, so I HAD to try ever one of the places that was advertised as offering the best example of the stuff.
One day someone should count up the number of Route 66 restaurants that tout their Chicken Fried Steak as the best in the city or the best in the state, or the best along the route …. the number of restaurants is probably very high…
but, all said and done, 9 times out of 10 when I’ve eaten it at these places I’ve been seriously let down to discover it is still just a hamburger fried in chicken batter … and RARELY, is it the much tastier and more expensive pounded filet-of-steak — and personally I’m spoiled; I MUCH prefer it when it’s a piece of steak that’s been pounded —- I love how in republican states they will insist that somehow its NOT a hamburger, and will call it ground steak as though somehow that isn’t just hamburger without a bun. And I’m sorry but hamburgers, no matter how good, don’t taste like steak. So NO, I do not really suggest their Chicken Fried Steak.
That said, I DO suggest finding an excuse to go inside the place as the interior is very kitschy and fun. Its one of those place where not only will they allow you to write on the walls…. they’ll even hand you the pen
That and, according to the owner, her husband (R.I.P.) had been kind a huge Star Wars fan, hence all the high-priced paraphernalia of the sort I’ve always lusted over but would never purchase because … “where would I put it?” … well I guess if you own a kitschy tourist trap restaurant… you can legally deduct it as a business expense.
Note: This post did not end as it started
Located at 2426 N. Classen, in Oklahoma City, on a street that USED to be part of the Route 66 network, but that is now no longer listed as such [No route 66 on Google maps, and no 66 signs on the building ???] is a tiny, one story, nondescript triangular-shaped brick building that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is considered one of the iconic Route 66 buildings… albeit one with NO 66 signage … what’s that about?
Wedged onto a bit triangular island (the result of three streets coming together at odd angles), it was built in the 1930’s initially as a street car stop (which sort of makes sense if you look at it) — [and Wikipedia did NOT know about this!! I found in on the National Park service’s page!!] … but within a short time the street cars were no more, and it was then known to locals as “The Triangle Grocery” (from 1940 until 1948) — for fairly obvious reasons. In 1948, when the then owner, as a way of getting route 66 traffic to notice that his store was even there, got the brilliant idea to put a large metal milk bottle on his roof, so that the local community renamed it, appropriately enough… the Milk Bottle Grocery… a name which has stuck to this day.
Interestingly, according to the National Park Services’s web page, the Milk Bottle Grocery’s the bottle was never directly connected to the business upon which it sat, and has always been rented out like a normal billboard (but always to various dairy companies) as location to advertise their brands, and has been painted and repainted accordingly. (Kind of brilliant actually, as it supplemented the building’s income)
Currently… the bottle advertises the 52 year old Bruam’s brand (i.e., didn’t exist when the building first went up), which is a well-known brand in this part of the country (I’d never heard of it till coming here). Braum’s headquarters is based in nearby Tuttle, Oklahoma (just at the edge of the expanding Oklahoma City region), and while they do sell their product in groceries, they are possibly better known for their about 300 drive through or dine-in outlets that are combination grocery stores and burger/ice-cream joints (with a few healthy options). These are scattered throughout the states of Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Missouri, and Arkansas (kind of an overlap of lower midwestern states and western/southern states). I actually visited one while in town, but didn’t think to take any photos of it. That said, they are all very shiny and clean, and seem to be very popular with locals — it was STRONGLY suggested to me if I had not tried one I really should. That they are all GOOD.
The Milk bottle building is now the offices of an architectural firm (??).
That said, I’ve seen what I’m pretty sure is a MUCH bigger milk bottle which seems to double as a water tank sitting on top of a very dilapidated building on the Island of Montreal, while I was up in Canada in July of 2017. This one is called the Guaranteed Pure Milk bottle, and also has its own Wikipedia page.
According to the page, the bottle itself was ALSO (like the bottle above) built in the 1930’s but this one was renovated in 2009 by volunteers using privately raised funds, to the cost of $100K Canadian (WOW! Power to you guys!) … and that sum was for JUST fixing up the bottle. It stands 33 Feet tall (I have not been able to discover how tall the Oklahoma City bottle is, but I’m guessing it’s not more than 10 feet high) … BUT, that said…. considering the state of the building it is upon, and the fact that the area it is in seems to be in a mad rush of replacing all of its old buildings with shiny new ones, I’m not sure how long it’ll still be there…
HOPEFULLY — and I hope someone out there is listening — the city of Montreal will have the good sense to either fund the renovation of the building rather than just knocking it down, at least …in this case… if that’s not feasible, PLEASE at least save the Milk bottle!!
As you’re passing through small town of Marshfield Missouri on Route 66 (population 5,720, so slightly larger than my high school) if you pay attention you’ll realize that within the boundaries of the town the route bears the name of Hubble Drive; this is in honor of the town’s favorite son, the historically important American Astronomer Edwin Hubble (1889-1953)
Hubble is highly respected in the scientific community as one of the most important astronomers of ALL time. He played a CRUCIAL role in establishing the scientific fields of extragalactic astronomy (studying objects OUTSIDE the Milky Way) and observational cosmology (the study of structure and evolution of the universe, not through theory, but through things we can actually see).
And, if you choose to divert just a little bit off 66 to enter the center of town, you’ll find a 1/4 scale replica of the Space Telescope named in his honor (which makes complete sense once you realize who he was and what he did) sitting alongside the town hall.
In addition his efforts are lauded in murals I spotted around town
And YET … Webster Country, where Marshfield is located is a deeply Republican area and voted 76.9% in favor of Trump… And Marshfield is 97.8% lily white…. So what do you want to bet that the old guy is turning over in his grave because most of his hometown’s residents believe science is a bad thing?
Located on a frontage road adjacent to Route 66/I 44, is what I’m guessing is the worlds biggest bottle of liquid life, a product that to be honest I’d never heard of before — and I’m guessing it’s the largest cause I doubt there’s another one like it anywhere.
It is standing in front of the headquarters for the TRC Corporation, which makes the stuff. From what I can tell TRC’s major concern is actually minerals from mining. There is nothing on the internet describing why this bottle is here, and it’s only noted on the various Road tripping sites by people who’ve passed it.
On the topic of how to take a photo like this when traveling alone? My iPhone is sitting on the hood of my car, and I used the remote control on my apple watch to activate it.
Originally built as a symbol for the International Petroleum Exposition held in Tulsa Oklahoma (ever four years) in 1952 (and then temporarily again in 1959) the Golden Driller, is a statue of a Paul Bunyanesqe Oil worker. At 75 feet tall (23 meters), he stands majestically with his right arm resting on the top of an honest to G-d oil derrick (moved here from a depleted oil field in Seminole, OK), and is the 6th tallest statue in the United States — with Lady Liberty still being our tallest at 151 feet (not including her base)
As a result of how popular he was with Oklahoma natives, the exposition donated him to the Tulsa Fair grounds in 1966, this time as a permanent fixture.
He is located just a mile south of Route 66, on the Tulsa County Fairgrounds, and was officially declared the states monument in 1979 by the Oklahoma Legislature, and as such, he’s one of the few locations in my “big things” category that can easily be found on T-shirts and mugs, etc.
If you drive down Route 66 in downtown Tulsa Oklahoma you can’t but see the Meadow Gold Sign. All of the “what to see” sources had talked about this sign as an iconic Route 66, and when I first saw it I had assumed (never assume) that they had destroyed the original building but they kept the sign — and thought that there was something glorious about that… but I was wrong. While the sign had always been on historic Route 66, its original location had been at about a mile East (but still on the route) at the corner of 11th Street and Lewis Avenue.
The sign is in fact a set of two signs that once stood back to back (note the back of the 2nd in the picture above), but is now set at a sort of V alignment. This was done to serve its new purpose, as historical art, that has been made easily visible to traffic moving in either direction on route 66.
Originally installed in the 1930’s, on top of a small one story building, the sign’s lights started going dark in the 1970’s. Once the building where it had sat was destroyed (now an “Advanced Auto Parts” store) this iconic to the city neon-sign was saved from the wrecking ball, and began to be restored in 2004 (to the tune of $337K), and moved to this new location on Route 66, which was donated to the city for this purpose. What it stands upon is more of a shelter from the elements, than a building, and has a collection of brass plates explaining bits of the history of the sign.
The restoration and moving of the sign was a project that involved many hands. Initially the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture (TFA) had received a small grant of $15K from the National Park Service‘s (NPS), Route 66 Corridor group to restore the neon sign. This was done through their “National Center for the preservation of Technology” group, among whose stated goals is the preservation of the neon signs along Route 66. This is being undertaken in recognition that neon signs are not JUST advertising, they are a form of functional-art; and that together, these signs help to evoke earlier times along Route 66, but that are just like our historic buildings are currently under threat by neglect or demolition and can only be saved from the shortsightedness of the market place by government intervention. Maintaining these past technological structures is important not only historically, but also because it supports local economies through tourism.
Once the initial seed funding ($15K) had been secured by the TFA from the NPS, this “primed the pump” so to speak, making it easier to raise matching funds from other sources — to the tune of $322,273, the actual cost of restoration. Among these were the privately funded National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Oklahoma Route 66 Association. And then more funds were collected from the public at large via the City’s Vision 2025 initiative; this was a new one cent tax increase that would be maintained for 13 years whose proceeds were earmarked towards economic development and capital improvement projects, such as saving the Meadow Gold sign — but that had to be agreed to by the voters of Tulsa County.
This tax was ultimately instituted, in part as a result of multiple newspaper articles about how the sign was in danger of being destroyed, and that funding was desperately being at first being sought, and this new tax was needed to that end.
Meadow Gold had been a dairy brand that belonged to the Beatrice Foods Company, founded in 1894 initially as the Beatrice Creamery Company, and then incorporated in 1905 as the Beatrice Creamery Company of Iowa. During that time they had begun the Meadow Gold dairy brand — which by World War II was a household name in much of America, and had branched out into the development of other dairy products … so that in 1946 the company changed its name yet again to simply the Beatrice Foods Co., as visible on the sign.
That said, the in the 1980’s the Beatrice fell on hard times mostly of their own construction. They lost a major lawsuit against them for toxic dumping (which resulted in an award-winning book and a film called A Civil Action), and they operated in South Africa during apartheid and hence suffered from some boycotting. As the company had taken on many other non-food business over the years, in 1984 they changed their name from Beatrice Foods Co. to Beatrice Companies, Inc., and then sold off their Meadow Gold Brand, along which was now part of their Beatrice Dairy Products, Inc., subsidiary, along with a couple of other brands, to Borden, Inc. in December 1986 for $315,000,000. Borden then went defunct in 2001, so that the Meadow Gold brand (which is still an American household name) is now owned by Dean Foods.
Interestingly, I did not find a SINGLE source talking about how the Meadow Gold brand or Dean foods chipped in to help save the sign advertising THEIR product. BUT, I could of course be wrong, and maybe they did so anonymously — which from a political standpoint would make sense.
Located right off of Historic Route 66 as it meanders through the town of Rolla Missouri and passed the Missouri University of Science and Technology, is a half sized version of Stonehenge, similar to the one on in Amesbury on the famous Salisbury Plain of England.
Sometimes referred to as the Stubby Stonehenge, according to their website the structure this ‘functional art’ ….
… works just the same way that the original Stonehenge, as a solar calendar… only in this case it comes with annotations in the form of etchings into the stone and plaques placed on the various rocks… and it
“stands for many things; a lasting monument to man’s drive for knowledge and engineering, the largest monument to ever be cut with a water-jet, and a link from the past into the modern. It was dedicated on June 20, 1984 or the summer solstice, at the site of the northwest edge of campus. Approximately 160 tons of granite were used in the monument. The rock was cut to the proper dimensions by Missouri S&T’s Water-jet equipment.”
According to other websites, it was mostly something to do to show off how good their High Pressure Water Jet Lab was at stone carving. Although I also found an FAQ page put up about the place by the University
Somehow I did not spot this on any of the preparatory maps that I used when planning this Route 66 road-trip… so to just happen to drive by it, unexpectedly… it was a super cool surprise…. it made the geek in me very happy…..
Of course this also gives me opportunity to include some images I took back on July 3, 2014, when I was at the REAL prehistoric Stonehenge site near Amesbury … less than a month before my father died. I had gone to the UK to present an academic research paper at a conference at Keele University near Stoke-on-Trent, and afterwards had gone to visit a friend of mine who USED to work for Google in SF (she was on the team the created Google mail) but who had grabbed her golden parachute when her stock options matured a few years before, and had retired to Bristol in the UK, about an hour drive away from Stonehenge.
[My T-shirt reads: “English doesn’t borrow from other languages. English follows other languages down dark alleys, knocks them over and goes through their pockets for loose grammar.” Why yes, I’m a geek, what’s your point?]
I remember that I got there late, and didn’t make it in time to actually be able to enter the site. I had “assumed” (never assume) that closing time meant closing time… it doesn’t. For Stonehenge the LAST admission to the site is TWO HOURS before the place closes, and they only let in a limited number of people at a time, so unless you’re very lucky, you’ll need to book your visit in advance (from this site), which I had not done… not to mention I showed up a half hour before closing. When I got there the guard refused me entry and told me to come back some other day, and to book my admission rather than just showing up. I almost cried… when I explained I was American and this was my last chance before heading home… he made a suggestion. He told me to drive around the henge area, to a gravel side road on the far side of the tourist entrance, where I would see a lot of other parked cars. From there, he said I could at least see it better. So I drove there… and met this new age-ie guy, making a mini- henge with rocks he found on the road…. [The paved road visible via google maps is NOT accessible to public traffic, it’s for tourist busses only]
There were in fact a LOT of new age types parked along this gravel road… they had a sort of mini community thing going on over there. Since then Folks have even noted its location in google maps, and if you zoom in you’ll see a LOAD of cars along that road, parked for free instead of in the paid lot. They ALL suggested that I walk down to the edge of the official property, at which point there’s a pedestrian accessible wooden gate to his property, with some warning signs on it about keeping your dog on a short leash and respecting that you’re on private property, etc., that opens to a path along the edge of his sheep farm and along the official Stonehenge property … and they promised me that the farmer who owns the place actually wants folks crossing his property to get a closer look — they said it was a sort of “fuck you” to the English Heritage Trust government folks — that was as long as you don’t mess with his sheep.
The ironic thing is… IF you go in the official way, while you do access to the educational tourist center, which is supposedly quite good (I have not yet seen it) … that’s not what you’re paying to see. What you’re really wanting is to get close to Stonehenge — but no one is allowed to do that anymore except on days like Solstice and other Pagan festival day like that. Somewhere we’ve got photos of when my brother and I were very young children (so like 50 years ago) and our parents took us to Stonehenge. In them you can see him on one of the rocks (I was still a toddler). But those days are LONG past… Today, ironically, the distance between this free path, and the path you’ll be paying to walk along is little enough as ‘never mind’. That said, the free way limits you to one side of the henge, while the paid path takes you all around it… but pretty much at an equidistant.
That said, three days later on July 6th, 2014, my friend who I was staying with in Bristol (she’s the one standing, wearing a backpack, with her back to the stone in the picture above) took me to an arguably more interesting, albeit less famous, prehistoric henge directly north of Stonehenge in Avebury, on what is debatably the northern edge of the Salisbury Plain (the actual edges of the plain are up for debate). This henge, which the public can STILL visit entirely for FREE and get up close and personal with the stones, is actually the largest Neolithic stone circle in Europe (in terms of ground covered). Unlike Stonehenge, which has the largest stones and as such is famous for the “how the fuck did pre-technology man get stones this big to this location?” question, that has in the past made people think aliens must have done it… This henge consists mostly groundworks, that encircle very large stones (but of the, “ok, I can see how primitive man working together might have moved these to here” size).
Here, and I was shocked when I first realized this — and you can’t but, I noticed it as soon as we drove to the location, the village actually cuts THROUGH the center of this historic henge, so that some homes actually have henge rocks in their gardens….
Note the road I was on when I took the photo cuts right through the circle, and the shot below is of the same location from a slightly different angle (you can tell from the church spires) only in the 2nd one I was up on top of one of the ground-works
In a way looking at these is sort of bitter-sweet for me. Unbeknownst to me, my father was having real health issues back in the states but he refused to tell me about them because he didn’t want me cutting my trip to England (he was British by birth) short on his account. MEN!
As is obvious from the above picture, this prehistoric area is actively used by locals for hiking and picnics, etc.
and it’s really easy to see how the ground was worked by prehistoric man, with both dug trenches into the chalk ground (which must have been very hard work) and then used that to make man-made mounds surrounding them
Located in downtown Rolla Missouri is the Totem Pole Trading Post which advertises itself as the oldest Route 66 business in Missouri.
According to various websites, the business has up and moved over the years, as Route 66 has changed routes.
I am not sure if it’s actually the oldest ……
but I saw that flag when I walked in… I looked around (they were mostly selling a load of highly embarrassing junk… seriously. One wonders how they stay in business)…. I asked the guy if I could use his bathroom, I took a dump… flushed and left….
Privately built as a toll bridge across the Mississippi River in 1929, The “Chain of Rocks” was part of the designated Route 66 city bypass beginning in the late 1930’s, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. When you see it, the reason why the bridge was retired is obvious, it’s only wide enough to allow a single line of cars headed in one direction to pass over it at a time. As vehicles are no longer allowed over the bridge, it is now (by default) one of the world’s longest pedestrian bridges.
It’s name comes from its location along the river. Previous the 1960’s when the United States Army Corps of Engineers built a low water dam to correct the problem, this area was actually the sight of river rapids that made navigating this stretch of Ol’ Man River very dangerous indeed.
That said, when the bridge first became the designated bypass, the Route 66 traffic that WAS willing to pass through downtown initially took the more southerly MacArthur Bridge, located just south of where the I-55 crosses the Mississippi… although that only the first of the bridges, as route 66 traffic was continually being re-routed….
As I’ve said repeatedly, when you are in this part of the country, being able to “drive 66” becomes a questions of WHICH 66 you want to travel on… there is not just one… simply to cross the river there are FIVE different options.
… the best place to access the bridge is on the East/Illinois side of the Mississippi rather than West/Missouri side. On the east side there’s easy parking dedicated to those wishing to walk across the bridge (with I might add police protection there around sundown), while on the west side there is no dedicated parking lot
When you first approach this area (heading west) you’ll pass over a shorter, cars traveling in one direction at a time, bridge that is still functional. This one takes you from the Illinois side to Chouteau, a man-made Island that when I was driving through it seemed like it was being used as garbage dump, but apparently its being converted into a recreational area. You then drive to the other side of the island, directly into the parking lot for the Chain of Rocks bridge.
If you look at google maps, the area directly after the gate (behind me) is green on the map… it’s not land so much as it’s swamp. As I mentioned before this section of the river was called chain of rocks because it was shallow enough that it had rapids before the corps of engineers fixed things… this was done in part by digging out the middle of the river, and this island was created with the mud …. but the first section of the Chain of Rocks passes over “land” that is still shallow and swampy
After you’ve walked for a bit — and its was a very lonely walk (it actually made me very nervous walking across it by myself, as it could have just been me and G-d knows whom else on the bridge, in a location where there’s no one to hear you scream) you finally pass the swamp land into the wide River
A 2nd word of warning… This bridge see’s so little traffic that the spiders seem to have taken over ownership of the place and humans are just intermittent visitors. It’s not just spider webs along the sides, as that is to be expected.
Rather, it’s that as you along it every second or third step you find yourself walking into yet another strand of spider silk … as in THOUSANDS of them live here — this is NOT a place for anyone suffering from Arachnophobia.
Over the course of the whole walk I saw only 6 people… one middle-aged woman walking alone (which made me feel much more secure) the group of three young people walking towards me in this shot, and then as I was leaving, middle aged couple who were smoking pot.
And from the above photos you get a sense of just how far from downtown St. Louise the bridge is…. that odd-looking thing is the Gateway Arch from a bit of an angle.
And no, I didn’t get all the way to the bend, the sun was going down and I was worried about getting caught out there when it started going dark.
The Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba Missouri is both one of the oldest historic motels along Route 66, and of them the only one to have been continuously operating since its opening. From the outside is actually pretty idyllic. It is built in the Tudor Revival style out of Ozarksandstone. It opened initially as a cafe and filling station in 1936, and then expanded into a motel in 1938; and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The motel consists of a collection of very cute looking homes with stone exteriors, that sits behind a larger main house
In front of which are some historic gas pumps (but gas is no longer sold here.
When I arrived, the main building was undergoing some regular maintenance/cosmetic upkeep repairs, which is in keeping with the whole “Viva Cuba” project that I discussed in my recent post about the town of Cuba itself. Inside the main building was a check in counter, and an unusually large gift store — taking up the area that I’m guessing originally housed the cafe.
The Motel was apparently fully renovated in 2010, but looking on-line I found some very mixed reviews… A lot of folks love the place, but those who didn’t were vitriolic, saying that it is one of those motels that looks a hell of a lot better on the outside than supposedly it looks on the inside. But like I said, MIXED reviews, and I haven’t stayed here so I can’t comment personally.
I asked the woman who seemed to be the owner “are you renovating the interiors too or just the exteriors?”, and she said “yes, you can go inside and shop” …. On the upside, the gift store was selling route 66 T-shirts that were specific to the location, rather than the generic crap that has annoyed me for most of the my route 66 Trek