Before checking out of Oklahoma City for some classic Americana fun on Route 66, I made a point to visit the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
What can you find at the Cowboy Museum? Why, a statue of Abe Lincoln, of course.
The museum’s justification for featuring Lincoln is that he was a “western president” who encouraged settlement and development on frontier lands in the west. Ok, I suppose I’ll buy that.
Plenty of actual cowboys can be found in the rodeo exhibit, which offers a video with audio commentary narrated by Reba McEntire. Is that country & western enough for ya?
I liked the branding irons display. If I had cattle (which is a terrifying thought), I would consider the J Cross E brand. The Quien Sabe Mexican brand is also an aesthetically pleasing design, though it’s perhaps a little too close to another unfortunate symbol.
Did they have cowboys in ancient Greece? Evidently!
Route 66 Oklahoma Points of Interest
After the Cowboy Museum, I headed east on historic route 66 to get my fix of bizarre sodas at Pops.
I posted an in-depth piece on Pops Soda Ranch not too long ago. That’s the store that sells more than 600 varieties of pop, including crazy flavors like sweet corn, buffalo wing, coconut cream pie, and peanut butter & jelly.
Pops is one of the oddest (read: coolest) Route 66 attractions in Oklahoma, so don’t miss it.
I ran into this interesting roadside attraction on Route 66: An abandoned gas station. The story behind this place is that it was built in the 1920s. You would bring a quart can, stick it under the spigot of a 50-gallon drum, and walk the gas back to your vehicle to insert into the motor.
The place also had a kerosene fill-up station, which came in handy for local residents since they did not have electricity in these here parts back then. The station also sold pop, hard candy, and chocolate.
A note on the property indicates that the station was done in by a shyster who conned the owners into buying money plates that could be used to print up counterfeit $10 bills. The owners thought they had a way to get rich quick, but it didn’t quite work out that way. One of them was arrested for using the phony dough, and the station was shuttered.
Other long stretches of Route 66 in Oklahoma weren’t especially interesting but did offer a chance to experience small-town America. There were a handful of little communities and a lot of farmland. As the Oklahoma road trip continued, I passed through towns like Davenport, Chandler, Stroud, Bristow and Sapulpa.
Chandler, Oklahoma did have this kooky little mural.
I found an odd historic marker that mentioned the Run of ’89 without fully explaining what it was. And it used the word “peopled” as a verb. Strange!
The full story is that on April 22, 1889, new lands in what would become six counties of Oklahoma were opened up by the U.S. government for settlement. They literally held a “land rush” in which whoever got to a piece of land first got to keep it.
As this property was highly valued, a crowd of 50,000 people lined up at the starting point on their horses and took off at high noon. The marker reports that “tent cities sprang up before nightfall.”
The Run of ’89 literally looked like this. Chaos, I tell you!
I passed a ton of roadside motels that apparently don’t have websites. I had booked a room in eastern Oklahoma for more than $60, since that was the cheapest I could find online. But it turns out a lot of these places that aren’t on the internet cost much less.
Note to Route 66 Oklahoma road trippers: If you want to save money, don’t bother booking a hotel in advance. Stop at one of these cheapo motels and get a room for $40 or so.
Eventually, Route 66 led right into Tulsa, best known (at least to me) as the home of those MMMBoppin’ Hanson brothers. I only had a few hours to check out the town, which is a shame. I’ve heard people say that Tulsa is cooler and more “east coast” than Oklahoma City, so it would have been interesting to see if that description was accurate.
The main quirky attraction in Tulsa was “The Golden Driller,” a huge statue of an oil driller. At 76 feet tall, it made the Keeper of the Plains statue I saw on Day 2 of the trip seem tiny. The Golden Driller is reportedly the sixth-highest statue in the U.S. This guy ranks right up there with the Statue of Liberty! I don’t know whether that’s tragic or awesome.
The rest of my afternoon was spent in the Blue Dome District, a cool entertainment area that had a lot of bars, restaurants, and street art.
Coming on Wednesday: The final day of the Oklahoma road trip, in which I visit the freakiest ghost town I’ve ever seen…