Tulsa and Route 66, Personification of East Meets West

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In the 1920s, when the section of the Mother Road was beginning to be paved through this part of Oklahoma, there was a clear dichotomy between “East” and “West”. This part of the country was dominated by dirt roads and horse-drawn vehicles, and the laying of a concrete ribbon of road to stretch clear across the country was the most blatant of notices that the vehicles of the future would be moving under their own power. This very dramatic (and perfectly rendered down to the last detail!) bronze sculpture made to one and a quarter scale to heighten the effect even more, portrays that contentious “meeting”.

Tulsa was the perfect place for this battle of technologies to develop. The Oil Boom reverberating through the newly minted State made a town bursting at its own seams from the start of its existence.  And there was “money to burn” to make it all first class. Many of Oklahoma’s “leading families” called this town “Home”. The architecture and infrastructure reflected a confidence that  the future would always be bright here.

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The fuel that powered the Boom came readily out of the ground, and derricks like this were more numerous than trees. When one well would Strike Oil, others would pop up like mushrooms. Fortunes were made and lost in a matter of weeks and months.

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The Railroads kept all things moving, while the Mother Road was still going through her “growing pains”. They were the “monsters of the Prairies”, and where they went, cities followed. Tulsa was the crossroads of four of the major rail lines of the era.

Just as an aside, this form of transportation is totally alive and well. Our Adventure Cycling Bike Route 66 seems to never be far from the major rail lines, and that is reinforced nightly when the train whistles echo through our campgrounds. They are the behemoths of freight movement, very often including multiple engines front, and rear of miles long collection of railcars. While traversing the mountains, they even added an engine (or two!) in the center of the train. On the days that my route ran directly along the tracks, it was a child-like thrill to coax a horn whistle out of an obliging engineer. 🙂

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Lest you think Tulsa ignores the needs and wants of its younger citizens, consider the extravaganza of a “play place” that covers a city block area; its called “Gathering Place”, recently built on donated land and is superlative in so many ways that it won’t be adequately described here. Suffice to say that Izzy and Colin recreationed at full throttle with HUNDREDS other kids, for close to two hours without covering all the different structures and venues that were available FOR FREE FOR ALL. A wonderful bike trail and a separate hiking trail connect nearly 30 miles of neighborhoods and this park. It would have been fun to be a designer or a builder on any of these projects. Imagination was given top priority.

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Note the whimsical “chicken legs” supporting the table Cathy and Tory occupy while enjoying the view of the kids playing and sipping hot chocolate!

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Creativity reigns supreme, as slabs of some of the trees that were felled to make room for the park are turned into the back supports of benches located in the “lodge” area.  Many of the trees were “repurposed” as playstations by trimming most of the branches off, bark removed, and turning them “upside down” with the trunks uppermost. The kids seemed to love these unusual presentations of a most common part of their lives.

I feel guilty doing any complaining about the weather here after reading of all the flood devastation going on in Nebraska. Knowing the long-term affects these disasters have on farms and farm communities, I am heart-broken at the realization of how this event will negatively impact their lives long into the future.

There has not been as much riding as I would like, but hopefully the winds will lay down and temps inch up to allow all day riding.

Thanks for coming along! More Oklahoma awaits, with Kansas and Missouri warming up in the wings!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friends and Anniversaries

Dateline: Tulsa, OK. ; 13 March, 2019. There was no planning about it whatsoever, but the serendipity’s took control and all the pieces clicked into place.20190313_223812

Exactly 50 years ago on this date in Quantico, VA, two studly young men were minted into United States Marine Corps Officers. Second Lieutenant Ken Brust and Second Lieutenant John Conway, that had trained together and achieved this hard-won goal together, would lay claim to each other’s friendship for the succeeding half century. Those same two are sitting in the foreground of this picture, young no longer (the other descriptive adjective is up for debate). No amount of planning could have made it work out this perfectly, for us to be in such a wonderful setting; A marvelous dinner prepared by Ken’s family, a 50th Anniversary Cake prepared for the fast approaching 50th Wedding Anniversary (on 31 May) of Cathy and I, and all fit into the series of perfectly connected “coincidences”.  The bad weather, the unrideable roads, the unforeseen delays, all played their part in making this stroke of good fortune fall into place. Thank you, God, for all you do, in your often mischievous ways.

This will be a “stand alone” publication, as it has very little to do with the riding of Bike Route 66. But, to me, it’s very big deal.

Thanks for checking in.

Weather Trumps Biker

One of the most difficult tasks for us out here is keeping track of the day of the week and day of the month. They truly all blend together. I can pretty much remember the biking legs that I’ve completed, and then try to go from that to where we are now. And the time thing is just bonkers now, as we go from DSMTZ to Arizona Time to CDSTZ and then back again a time or two. Not worth the hassle, since I only ride in daylight anyway. The weather, well that’s a whole nother thing!  It’s the Big Kahuna, The Top Dog, The Decision Maker: Ride or Don’t Ride. So, today is Thursday, and the last day on the bike was Monday. That’s a LONG TIME! Muscles get soft and relax, butt calluses soften up, Focus gets unfocused. And it’s all at the whim of this crazy weather. It was so windy Wednesday that it wasn’t even safe to drive Bridget! She was rolling port and starboard like a drunken sailor when exposed to those 50 plus MPH Oklahoma gusts. What to do? Why, seek out all the Route 66 Sights we can find, that’s what!

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The Heartland Museum of Route 66 introduced us to Isabel (celebrating her 91st birthday on our visit!) and Nedra, chief volunteer. A very nice roadside museum covering the developing years of Route 66 through Weatherford, OK. The 1931 Model A Coupe was a real jewell, and was owned by a local businessman. The kids saw innumerable items from farm and shop that were totally foreign to them, but easily remembered by me.

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Isabel insisted that Izzy, sporting her “Iowa Girl” shirt, get on the stuffed buffalo for an “official” picture.20190312_121056

In the recreated one-room schoolhouse Izzy tries her hand (and feet!) at the pump organ that supplied whatever live music the students would have been exposed to while getting educated here. She was reluctant to believe that Grandma Cathy had actually attended a very similar “one room” schoolhouse for her first three years of schooling.

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Driving conditions east from Weatherford towards Oklahoma City. The blurry object barely visible is one of hundreds of generating windmills that fill the skyline along the Route. Slow going, but not as slow as it would have been on my bike. Or as wet.

Seeking shelter in a storm is made easier by having long, true friends who will take you (along with two thirteen year olds!!) in for the night, even if you’re driving a 20 foot long RV that won’t even fit in their driveway. Garnett and Marsha Haubelt did that for us and made us feel like we were the most welcome guests in the world. That’s even with Marsha still wearing a foot boot and preparing for surgery to correct the tendon problem. We all SLEPT IN REAL BEDS for the first time since leaving cousin Jennifer’s in California. I tried to warn our hosts not to treat the kids too well or there might be a chance they would stay there!! “Hubie” even shared some of his prized and precious 22 year old single malt brewed-in-Scotland Scotch. Now THERE’S real friendship.  🙂

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The enormously impressive and heart-rending Oklahoma Memorial at the site of the former Murrah Federal Office Building, destroyed by a home-grown terrorist’s bomb on 19 April, 1995. One hundred ninety-six innocent victims lost their lives. Hundreds more were injured. At one end of the reflecting pool is the “9:01” wall, and the other end, the “9:03” wall. The moment of explosion precisely at 9:02, the walls representing life before and after the unforgettable event. The nearby museum walks the visitor through the moments before and the seconds, hours, days and weeks following the explosion. The emphasis throughout all the exposition was the city and state’s ability to recover .and rebuild and still forever remember all that had taken place on that tragic day.

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The area where the evergreen trees are growing over the “symbolic” marker chairs of all the victims on the sidehill where the actual building stood. The childsize chairs representing the 19 children who died in the daycare there are particularly poignant, especially after seeing their individual pictures inside the museum.

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A much more bucolic setting a few miles down the Mother Road at Arcadia, OK. A wonderfully built and restored Round Barn is a Highly Recommended stop. It was originally constructed in 1879 by a German Immigrant farmer using timbers harvested and sawed on his farm.

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The roof had totally collapsed and was rebuilt by a local carpenter, again using locally sourced trees. They even went to the extent of having a custom made circular saw blade made so the saw marks would match the ones in the rest of the barn. The lumber was soaked in the nearby creek for several weeks to allow them to be inserted into the forms and jigs to create the correct shape for the dome roof. There were 33,000 wooden cedar shingles used to recover the roof.

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A concession demanded by the reconstruction carpenter was that the upper floor be made available for dances and musical venues. The acoustics are excellent, and the ambience unbeatable!

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This geometrically mesmerizing cantilever construction, along with the 25 feet tall “pop bottle” drew us off the road. Winds were at their maximum at about this time and I wondered how the structure would handle these gusts had it been facing into the wind instead of away from it. The whole place is known as “Pops”, and boasts the biggest variety and quantity of “pop” in the USA. 20190313_170054

Since all four walls looked like this, I wasn’t going to try to contradict their claim!

Weather forecasts have not improved much, so we don’t know yet what tomorrow holds. Tulsa awaits.

Thanks for staying with us!

 

 

 

 

 

Oklahoma!

For those of us born early enough to experience the musical and the movie, it has an almost magical name. As a nine year old in 1955, we had no TV, and movies were a very rare treat. But I do remember getting to go to this everybody’s-talking-about-it-movie. I’m sure it must have been on a “buck night” (whole family for a dollar at the Drive In) or some such enticement or else it wouldn’t have happened.

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This marque shows the “big story” for today in Oklahoma. I put on all the clothes I have in the biking wardrobe that would allow me to actually pedal the bike and headed on down the road. None too early, mind you, hoping there would be SOME warm-up. Didn’t happen. My hands were cold. My feet were cold. Torso hot! So, body should be average. 20190311_134438

Elk City, OK, was a real “surprise town”. It’s not celebrated in any of the songs or lore of Route 66, but as a one-time center of Oklahoma’s “Oil Patch”, it retains a great deal of vigor and fortitude for building a future along with celebrating its storied past. This gigantic ” oil well drilling rig” sits right at the edge of town to remind all of that history which flooded the this part of the state with new-found riches in that liquid gold that could be pumped from the ground.

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As a life-long farmer and cattle feeder, I felt a real kinship with this nice-looking bronze of two ranchers “sealing a deal” with a handshake. Eyeball to eyeball, and sittin’ a horseback is the closest thing to a meticulously written legal contract that exists. The “fine print” doesn’t exist. “I will if I agreed to.” 20190310_165522-1

Advertised as “The world’s Largest Route 66 Road Sign”, and I’m in no position to argue with it. It is without doubt the largest that I’ve seen. The museum is very well done, and not a roadside grab at your billfold for buying even more souvenirs and knickknacks.

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The days when the Model A Coupe’s were the “King of the Road” are long gone, but it was their ability to take anyone on this long-distance journey is what created the lore of the Mother Road. This 1928 version of the first year of production of these classic machines looked right at home with the Oil Patch back drop.

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Any museum that incorporates some interaction with the youngsters is going to get high marks from Gramma and Grampa. To Colin’s delight, this old fire engine even allowed bell ringing and steering! It predates the Model A days, and it mounted on a Model T chassis and reportedly was still used in the 1940s!

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More of those items that defy any explanation. Tiny little town of Canute proudly displays their Route 66 “Knight in Shining Armor”. No. I don’t know why. The only thing we had in common was that we both looked cold this morning.

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A few more cold miles down the road and we come upon another Gem of a Museum find: The General Thomas Stafford Space and Air Museum at Weatherford, OK. We fortuitously found out about it when we checked into the Wonderlust RV Park at the edge of town. (It also had not been mentioned in the library of Route 66 books). This actual airframe of an F-104 was flown many times by the sponsor of this museum, LtGen Thomas Stafford. Gen Stafford was an Astronaut and test pilot for the US Air Force, flying on nine different space missions. The museum is of the most impeccable standards, with many items on loan from the USAirForce Museum and the NASA Museum. Whoever in in charge of governance, presentation, and maintenance are  consummate professionals. 20190311_144857

I had to include this shot of the A10, Warthog, as it was the plane my bestest Amigo, Ken Brust flew before he retired from the Air Force. All “ground pounders”, such as myself, love the sight of these ugly flybirds as they come in close and stay close to keep the bad guys at bay. 20190311_154811

From old fire engines to trainer simulators, interactive displays with the young’uns is a good thing.20190311_151118

Gen Stafford looks a bit like Caesar as he is portrayed here in his Space Flight Suit. I’m just glad this Oklahoman was on our side!

Forecast for the morrow looks wetter, by far, and maybe a little warmer. Not riding in the rain or snow, now you know.

Thanks for coming along. We love it out here, and love it more that you’re here with us.

 

Weather Conspiracy Strikes Again!

First it was the clocks conspiring to yank two hours out of what had been a perfectly satisfactory day schedule, then the thermometer joined in the pummeling and gave up all its above freezing digits, apparently to the anemometer, which wound itself UP to multi-digit numbers, and to add insult to injury, changed it’s primary wind direction to straight out of the EAST! And, no, Kenny Brust, I don’t have my USMC cap on while listing justifiable “issues” relative to why I didn’t ride my bike for a single mile today!

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Primary mission of the day was to meet up with Jana and Michael Barnet, who drove all the way (four and a half hour drive!!) from Richardson,Tx (Dallas suburb) to grace us with their wonderful company. Jana has ridden many a mile with me on Ragbrai and Oklahoma Freewheel and we had hoped to add a few more miles today along the Mother Road. Our readers will be glad to know that BOTH OF US placed comfort above misery today and elected to TALK AND REMINISCE about past riding adventures, in lieu of adding to them. It was a real treat to have that conversation while consuming some rare Texas Prime Steak at the Mesquite Canyon Steak House in Shamrock, Tx. Thank you So Very Much Jana and Michael. Only down-note was finding out that Jana will not be able to join our Merry Band of the Talleyrand Bike Club on Ragbrai 2019. 😦

While name-dropping towns in Texas, how about the town (well, almost a town) of Conway, TX, exactly on Route 66. This little burg may have had some good days, but it looks like they’re all in its past. The one bright spot was finding their attempt at new fame in erecting their very own “Volkswagon Ranch” to emulate the much more famous “Cadillac Ranch” highlighted in yesterday’s blog. Nice try, little Conway.

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The giant grain elevator showing on the horizon now functions only as a grave marker for a failed business since the railroad that once operated to take away the grain stored there is no longer running. Posing nicely is Colin CONWAY McClellen!

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Shamrock, TX had some nice surprises in store for us. One of the most iconic structures to be found along The Mother Road is this Tower Conoco Station in the center crossroads of the town. Constructed in the 1930’s, it has been lovingly maintained by the townsfolk since it stopped functioning as a viable business in the 1970s. The art deco style, along with the use of excellent building materials (glazed, colored tile and stucco covered concrete) have allowed it to weather the years in style. 20190310_144312

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The “U Drop In” cafe is all set up with period-correct decor and looks like it could start serving up 50 cent burgers and 10 cent cokes again any time.

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Another of those “travel mysteries”: the parking lot of the just discussed historic Conoco station contains these six “charging stanchions” for charging up your Tesla automobile. SIX of them!! In really rural Texas?? We’ve seen maybe 2 of these cars in a month of driving across country. Like I said, a mystery.

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A Blast From The Past: How many of you readers remember when we paid 34 cents per gallon of gas? Eight or nine times that amount now.

Hoping for more reasonable weather tomorrow to head on down the Road towards Oklahoma, “where the winds comes sweepin’ down the plain”. We’re just hoping it comes sweeping in the right direction.

Thanks for joining in with us.

And Now, Texas!

I clearly remember entering Texas on the Southern Tier ride on the eastern border two years ago and realizing just long it was going to take to cross that huge state on the route we would be following through the middle. This time, on Route 66, it won’t be nearly as long, but just the thought of “crossing Texas” gets your attention.

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We all had different reactions to the stormy night of last night. At bedtime, Bridget was tossing and rolling like a ship at sea, but all went to sleep relatively quickly. Izzy has been fighting a persistent cold for the last few days and her sneezing is strong enough to add impetus to the degree of rolling! I am always more attuned to the sounds from outside than any of the family, so I awoke quickly when the forecasted rain started. It soon crescendoed to fortissimo, and startled Colin out of his loft bed. His solution to handling his uneasiness with the situation was to climb down and strike up an animated conversation with Grampa, who was very happy to just “listen to the rhythm of the falling rain”.  Izzy woke up just long enough to enquire if it was time for breakfast. Calm Cathy slept through it all. All part of “life on the Mother Road”. Our camp last night was also directly on Route 66, so there was no time lost getting on the road and heading for our planned stop for tonight at Amarillo, about 95 miles on east.

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An unexpected delight surprised us near Glenrio, New Mexico. Not a single one of the many Route 66 guidebooks, nor my usually all encompassing Adventure Cycling Map info mentioned Russell’s Cafe on Route 66. For starters, it includes this very high quality classic car collection of more than 20 vehicles, and enough car paraphernalia to satisfy the most particular car lover. And, IT’S FREE! Not even a “suggested donation” bucket. Just go in and wander around to your heart’s content. And if you return in 6 to 8 months, there will be an entirely different collection of cars from the same owner, and the same thing for 12 to 14 months out, at which time the cars shown here will return for oohing and ahhing. It is advertised as a “Cafe”, and the food and decor of the 50’s persist there as well. And the prices were as reasonable as anyplace we have visited on the entire trip.  Quite an accomplishment considering the distance supplies need to travel to keep the cuisine fresh and tasteful. The final touch of naming the bathrooms for the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis, and the the women’s, Marilyn, for Star of the Fifties, was over the top! Highly recommended!! 20190309_132007

It was a beautiful bike riding day today, and I shed my layers of clothing as the day went on. If there ever was such a thing as a good day to ride a “century”, it would have been today, with the paucity of hills and persistent tail wind. It would have taken an earlier start than what I did to make that happen, and the kids were all excited about having enough time to visit the famed and fabled “Cadillac Ranch”. I have seen many pictures of it over the years, but still didn’t have much of an idea of what it was all about. Well, now I’ve been there, and I STILL don’t have much of an idea of what it’s all about. Not a single person around to make any attempt at control of the visitors, or collect any type of payment.

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For specifics, ten old Cadillac cars buried to a similar depth (about one third of their length) at a precise angle, spaced at a precise distance apart from each, over a thousand feet from the boundary of a thousand acre wheat field being simultaneously grazed by several hundred yearling steers and mobbed by 150 to 200 people who let themselves in the gate and meandered across the field to the spectacle. Yeah, that’s about it. Oh, and there are a hundred or so used containers of spray paint thrown willy nilly near the cars for people to pick up and add their personal contribution to the color aura of the cars.

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Izzy the Artist adding her touch to the rear deck of this 61 Caddy.

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No surprise, Colin was more interested in just how many spray paint cans he could find that still had enough paint in them add another layer of semi-permanent beauty to these modern monoliths.

We’re looking at a “double whammy” from the clock tonight as we just crossed into the Central Time Zone from the Mountain Time Zone and lost an hour, and at 2a.m., Daylight Saving’s Time begins and we’ll “lose” another hour! We’ll have to sleep really fast tonight here in the Amarillo East KOA to stay sharp for tomorrow.

Thanks for coming along!

 

 

Another Friday along the Mother Road

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Just to mix it up a bit, we’ll start out with the end point of today’s travel, Tucumcari, New Mexico. A Native American derived name, as opposed to the predominance of Spanish derived names of most of the towns we’ve traveled through, as in Santa Rosa, the place we left this morning. A totally cloud-covered sky as I rode out the front gate of our Campground, stopping to thank the owner, again, for finding and returning Izzy’s lanyard containing ALL her essential things (including Credit Card!). He took a few minutes to list some of the more “interesting” things he has found at the park. The most memorable was a handbag containing $18,000 cash accompanied by a fully loaded (as in, full magazine and a round in the chamber!) semi auto pistol! Needless to say, the local police were very interested.

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It was my turn today to make use of the dual-use dry wash culverts. I was relieved that Cathy wasn’t following my exact route at this point as I’m sure she would have been MOST uncomfortable piloting Bridget through these Interstate shortcuts. If you note, the highwater marks on the walls would have made it an exciting transit at some point 🙂

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I consider myself fairly astute at interpreting the sights I see in my slow speed travels, but this one had (has) me stumped. I’m presuming some kind of mining activity, but the steepness and ruggedness of the approach road would limit the size and capacity of any trucks transiting it. More research, I guess.

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We were touched by this extensive family cemetery in very remote ranch country. We are outside the border fence, so didn’t feel like we were trespassing. Several of the stones were obviously hand hewn from the local rock and the inscriptions were lovingly chiseled on the faces of the stone. Some sadly young, and very young folks buried here, and their ancestors nearby. One of the earliest dates we could read was 1868. When politicians declare willy-nilly that the cattle industry needs to be “eliminated” to create a “green revolution”, there is little thought given to these centuries-long stewards of this fragile landscape as they attempt to make their living raising calves in a very difficult environment. They have my utmost respect.

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Tucumcari markets itself primarily as an Original Route 66 town. This Blue Swallow Motel is listed in all the Essential Route 66 landmarks. Note especially the “100% Refrigerated Air” enticement, AND TV!! The late forties vintage car out front gives a good idea of when this establishment was new. It says there is a vacancy, but that is often not the case.

My route into town took me through the entire “strip” that was the original Route 66. Sadly, there are at least a third of all the businesses along the route that have failed to survive. I’ve decided not to add any of those pictures, but instead focus on the positive of those that have lasted all these many years.

Cathy took the kids to the TeePee Curios Shop and got some really nice pix, but, yet again, we can’t find a way to get them accessible to the WordPress site for adding here.

Our Bridget is swaying noticeably as winds are howling outside at 40 plus mph, and some forecasts for even stronger winds later tonight and rain. Going to be an interesting Night Along the Mother Road.

Thanks for coming along!