Why Cycle Oklahoma Bicycle Route 66?

October 27, 2015

Why would I want to ride in Oklahoma? Well, my three buddies and I, one a persuasive Sooner, chose to ride there as part of our annual "Old Guys Tour." Two facts clinched the deal: one, Adventure Cycling had just released its Bicycle Route 66 maps and, two, Oklahoma would be the 47th state of my 50 state bicycle quest.

What I did not expect was an Oklahoma gift of eight days and 400+ miles of rolling terrain, warm weather, great local food, nostalgia about a time that preceded my car-awareness, great friends, and a step back into time on The Mother Road.

I was thinking that I would just be riding a route with a with a brown sign indicating that I was on a road bypassed by time. I was surprised! Oklahoma has embraced its past and made Route 66 a tourism destination for the state.

"Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plain. Where the waving wheat can sure smell sweet." -a typical view of Route 66 west of Oklahoma City.
A bike tour is not complete without photos of the flora and fauna of the area. This spider was in the middle of Route 66 before El Reno.

Small town America is what I expected to see and experience all along Route 66 and I was not disappointed in the least. Although Oklahoma City and Tulsa are cities in their own right, small town America was gushing all across the state from Erick in the west, home of Roger Miller, to Quapaw in the east.

There were moments of nostalgia for me along the route. As I rode past the many grain silos, I fondly remembered my TransAm days across Kansas, just north of the Oklahoma border.

Those that know me, know food is never far off my mind and exploring the diners along our journey was a real treat. I carried the Route 66 Dining & Lodging Guide along in my pannier because immediate access to food information is important to me!

Here I found the best onion burgers on the planet. I'm not sure if the claim is true, but these were awesome. I arrived before my buddies this day. 
Inspiration for the movie Cars, the Rock Cafe served up the freshest blueberry pancakes that my palate has experienced in quite awhile. (Sorry Shawn.)

While I was getting my handlebars rewrapped with yellow tape in Claremore, I took a stroll down to Dot's Cafe to enjoy the special stew on the menu and what was hands down the best peach cobbler, EVER!

Southern cooking was the special on the menu for lunch at the Pecan Cafe a few days earlier in Wellston. It's not jambalaya without andouille sausage and they served up plenty of it with great fried okra and homemade cornbread. Did I mention the sweet tea?

One of the most amazing aspects of the Oklahoma Route 66 section is the myriad of historical sights that can still be seen. I had read about many of them before I started riding, but I discovered many more along the way.

The Catoosa Whale was among my favorites. Truly amazing what people will build.
The Coleman theatre in Miami, pronounced "Miama" for those non-Sooners and Boomers, was as fascinating inside as it was on the exterior. Fully restored and in frequent operation, our Sooner buddy said it was a must-see, and I was not disappointed.
The oldest original building on Oklahoma Route 66 in Riverton near the Kansas border. It was even older inside.
An original concrete bridge on a bypassed section of the original Route 66. A side road allowed access to cars as well as our bicycles.
I have seen round barns before, but the locals as well as the tourism organization really played this one up big time. It may be the only one in Oklahoma and is a popular attraction.

We began in the hometown of the King of the Road, Roger Miller, and eventually saw a sign that read "trailers for sale or rent," but no rooms for fifty cents. We thought thirty minutes would suffice for a visit to the museum in Erick at the start of our tour; two hours later we departed.

My friend Dave restores vintage gas pumps and there were plenty of pumps to critique along the way with all the restored garage buildings.

An original nine-foot wide section of Route 66 still exists and is gracefully designated with a monument to Route 66 as the Will Rogers Highway. Will Rogers is a native of Claremore.
A must-stop is a visit to the studio and museum of Route 66 expert, Jerry McClanahan, who opened his place to us on a last minute phone call in the late afternoon. Two hours later, with some really funny stories about his parent's journeys across Route 66, I had made another good friend for life. Jerry is a passionate supporter of Route 66 and all that take an interest in the Mother Road.
As I rode west to east across the state, reading its history and experiencing the route, I realized that I captured four modes of transportation that have impacted the economics of the region. The fourth is my favorite.

What started out as a camping trip quickly turned into a classic Route-66-motel-with-neon-sign-trip, though we carried tents all week. Many of these iconic motels have fallen by the wayside, but a few classics remain and pride themselves on catering to history buffs, including a few with cigarette burns on the bathroom sinks where cigs of the past were carefully balanced until the last drag.

I enjoyed the overnights in every little motel we chose. Upgraded with "Free Wifi" and "Cable TV" signs, these small, clean, low-budget accommodations in the heart of small town America enhanced our experience. I wouldn't do it any other way. Immerse yourself.

If you are interested in cycling Route 66, take a peak at Adventure Cycling's Bicycle Route 66 maps or perhaps take one of our van supported or self contained tours on Bicycle Route 66. You are in for a ride down memory lane, through history, and with some great cycling.

As for me, Bicycle Route 66, Sante Fe, NM to Flagstaff, AZ, has made my bucket list as a direct result of riding across Oklahoma!

Happy Trails!

Post and photos by Arlen Hall.

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ON THE ROAD is written by the tours team— Paul, Mandy, Emma, Mike, and Arlen — tours specialists and intrepid bicyclists, helping you bring your cycling dreams to fruition. Check out our 2018 Guided Tours today!

Comments

Kathryn Tolford October 27, 2015, 1:38 PM

Hi Arlen, Enjoyed your article on Route 66. Loved the photos!!! Just wondering when you rode across Oklahoma? Thank you very much

Arlen Hall October 27, 2015, 3:13 PM

Hi Kathryn,

Thank you for the compliment. My tour was September 19-26, 2015 Erick, OK to Gelena, KS. Temperatures ranged from an overnight low of 50 to a high of 92 one day, but usually in the low 80's. Always a wind from some direction.

Brian Managan October 27, 2015, 9:28 AM

Great post Arlen ... getting excited for April 2016!

Arlen Hall October 27, 2015, 10:47 AM

Thank you Brian. Now that I see what Route 66 has to offer, I know you are going to have a great ride. Glad you agreed to lead the inaugural tour!.

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