I got quite a surprise when we stepped out of our room for a short walk on the third day of our road trip: FROST! The plants were all covered in frost. Now that’s nothing out of the ordinary for a Canadian such as myself but I did not expect to wake up in Oklahoma to see frost. I almost didn’t believe what I was seeing and had to check the weather network: -3 degrees. Celsius. I actually had to scrape the windows of my car; thankfully I had left my scraper in the car although I did not expect to have to use it in Oklahoma.
There’s no better way to cope with cold temperatures than with a hot coffee and good breakfast so I stopped at nearby Hugo’s Family Restaurant. I asked one of the women at the counter for a recommendation and was told that the Haileigh’s Special is one of the most popular breakfast items on the menu. You just can’t go wrong with two pancakes, two eggs, and bacon. I ordered a large coffee and also a side of bacon (to share with the pups patiently waiting in the car) and was met with a confused look, the kind of look that says “are you sure about that?” Even in my un-caffeinated state, I picked up on “the look” and asked about how much bacon comes in the order. I’m used to two, maybe three slices and if you’re really lucky you get an extra one because two get stuck together. She told me that there was a lot of bacon, sometimes half a box. Now I’ve never seen a box of bacon but if she was saying it was plenty of bacon then I figured I would trust her. It seemed as though I had barely mixed up my coffee before I was handed a bag and my goodness was it ever heavy. A large open field of grass spread out next to the restaurant so I parked the car at the edge of the lot and opened up the container. She wasn’t kidding when she had said there was lots of bacon. I counted a dozen strips of porky goodness. There was so much bacon that it almost covered everything else. I don’t know who Haileigh is but I definitely like her choice in food. The dogs got to share in the bacon bounty and even a few little bites of pancakes. After letting them out for a quick wander around the grass, we jumped back into the car to continue south.
We were happily driving along Route 66 approaching Catoosa when a somewhat bizarre sight appeared on the side of the road. I pulled the car into an empty parking lot and we got out to investigate. No my eyes had not tricked me: I was staring at a big blue whale. Not just any big blue whale but THE Blue Whale. I had heard about the whale but it still took me by surprise when I found it. The whale was in a small pond with a sandy beach and lots of shaded tables. It would be such a nice place to sit and have a picnic in the summer. I was confused about a large wooden structure that looked like a boat next to the parking lot. It made me think of a snack bar.
This was a location that required some further research. The Blue Whale was built by Hugh S. Davis as a gift to his wife, Zelta, for their 34th anniversary. Completed in July 1972, it was initially for the family to enjoy but was soon open for the locals and passersby on Route 66 to swim in the pond and dive from the tail of the whale. What I had thought was a snack shop was the Animal Reptile Kingdom (A.R.K.), a reptile zoo. As the Davis’ became older, they were unable to keep up with the management, and the Blue Whale was closed to the public in 1988. The grounds fell into disrepair until their son Blaine began to restore the grounds. Volunteers and private corporations including Hampton Inn also joined in the restoration project. It has since re-opened to the public and although you can’t swim in the pond anymore, you can still enjoy a picnic and buy some souvenirs from the seasonal gift shop. Click here to learn more about the Blue Whale. Once we had wandered around, we continued south on Route 66.
I lost the signs for Route 66 somewhere in Tulsa and I’m glad that I did. I had stopped the car in a parking lot next to what appeared to be a park and I brought the dogs out for another walk. John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park appeared to be very new with pristine buildings and perfect landscaping. I was drawn to a large three-side structure with three bronze sculptures showing three different men. Each platform that the men stood on had a different label: hostility, humiliation, and hope. I was particularly taken by the one labelled humiliation; there was something about this man that really spoke to me. We continued through the park and came to the Tower of Reconciliation, a 25’ tower depicting the struggles of African Americans from Africa to America. I found a plaque that explained that the park was built to memorialize the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 which has been called the worst incident of civil unrest in the United States. The statues had been made from actual photos taken during the riot. All information about the park and the descriptions of the statues below came from the John Hope Franklin website. Read more about John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park here.
I was deep in thought as we walked back to the car but was brought to a halt when I looked at the building next to the parking lot and saw some stunning graffiti on two adjacent buildings. Needless to say, photos were taken before we piled back into the car and with a fresh route entered into the phone, we were back on the road.
We managed to get back onto Route 66 and as we were entering Sapulpa, I noticed a giant bison sculpture on the side of the road. I hadn’t been able to get photos of the dogs with real bison but this would do. I noticed that it was called “Guardian of the Plains” and thought it was funny that this was the second “Guardian of the Plains” sculpture we had found, with the first being in Kansas. The dogs did not seem to be in any way concerned about the lumbering beast that towered over them. Leo was more concerned with rolling than anything else.
We continued down Route 66. I had no intention of stopping in Stroud until I saw some Cars on the side of the road. Not just any cars but THE Cars outside the Rock Cafe. I’ve never seen the movie Cars but my nephews have and I thought they might like to see some photos. I’ve been trying hard to get them engaged with their auntie’s wanderlust and hoped that this may do it.
A small confession here: I have a fascination with planes, especially military planes. Not to the point where I learn much about them but I will drop almost anything when I see a plane and I’ma write-off during the air show in Toronto. I blame it on the fact that my grandpa was, as he calls it, “an aeroplane driver”. So when I saw the plane outside the Stafford Air and Space Museum in Weatherford on the side of Route 66 a stop had to be made. We had passed by so many that I was glad to get at least one picture of the dogs with a plane. We didn’t go inside obviously but the dogs with an F-4 Phantom is pretty cool.
Even though we had made plenty of stops, they had all been quick “pop out and see” stops so when I saw a sign for McClellan Creek National Grassland off the I-40, I thought it would be a perfect chance to really get out and explore. We followed a narrow road as it dropped into a canyon and then wound around a small lake. There were plenty of campsites and I toyed with the idea of camping there for the night. A check of the weather forecast dashed that plan when I saw the temperature was going to dip below freezing again. Since there was no one and nothing around, I let the dogs loose so they could burn off any pent up energy. Naturally Leo dropped into the grass and then the sand and rolled before taking off with Piper down the beach. Jack ran into the water and was chest-deep before he paused for a drink. He and I slowly followed after Piper and Leo who ran ahead then back to us then ahead again. Once everyone settled down and were no longer running around like a bunch of crazy dogs, we returned to the car.
It was getting dark by the time we drove into Amarillo. I had seen a bunch of signs for a steak restaurant that advertised a 72 oz. steak and I wanted to try it, just for bragging rights. However, the crammed parking lot put a bit of a damper on that idea. So I decided to find a place to stay for the night and then figure out dinner. I settled on The Executive Inn and Suites and I basically stopped there just long enough to get checked in before heading back out into the dark. Since I was now in Texas, barbecue was the only option for dinner and we ended up at Rudy’s Country Store and BBQ. When I saw a drive thru window I was as giddy as a hungry girl could be. The problem is trying to figure out what you’re going to eat when you have no idea what the menu offers. The poor girl working there patiently helped me with my order and I left with a 1/2 lb of brisket, a side of creamed corn, and a side of green chiles. I propped the bag up on the floor of the passenger seat then had to keep hungry noses from poking me for the short trip back to the hotel.
Cradling the bag, I walked the dogs and gear into the room. I make it a mission to do as few trips as possible and this time it only took two to get everything we needed before I turned to the meal waiting for me. I should have made a point of asking for cutlery as there was none in the bag that had been passed to me. Now had I not been so focused on eating, I would have walked the 20 seconds to the car and grabbed utensils from there. Nope. I was hungry so rather than take time away from eating, I did the next best thing. The brisket was cut into thick slices which were easy enough to shovel into my mouth. The creamed corn and chile I ate straight from the containers, using the slices of bread that came with my meal to mop up the bits that didn’t want to surrender to gravity. I didn’t even bother to sit down, and ate the whole thing while standing at the desk. I can honestly say that was some of the best brisket I have ever eaten. The dogs agreed with me and kept sniffing around the floor hoping that I had dropped some. Once they were satisfied that the floor was clean, they jumped up on the bed and were asleep. It wasn’t until later that I learned that Rudy’s was a chain restaurant! That’s twice on the same trip. Since there was only one in Amarillo and the landscape isn’t dotted with them, I’ll chalk it up to being a regional chain which isn’t a total breach of the “No chain restaurant” rule.
I sat back with my glass of Tito’s and seriously debated going to the distillery. It was in Austin and Austin is not that far from Amarillo. Finally common sense won and I decided that I was going to stick with our plan to continue west and south tomorrow. I had an Airbnb booked and limited time. Tomorrow. Yes tomorrow would be the day that I fulfilled a lifelong goal.
Curious where we end up tomorrow? Read here to find out.