A big benefit to not going out was being able to get on the road early and get the hell out of Lenexa KS. Today was an almost completely freeway-free day. I headed south on US71 through Peculiar MO en route to Joplin, the only town mentioned in “Route 66” (the song) where I’d never been. Pretty anti-climactic place, but at least I’ve been there now…
The most exciting radio moment on this stretch was an ad for a “mountain oyster fry” somewhere in Missouri. I’m hesitant to describe exactly what a”mountain oyster” is, but if you ask really nicely I may email you the gory details.
And as of Joplin, I was officially on Route 66. After Joplin, I saw the 12-mile stretch through Galena KS, and then crossed into Oklahoma, through Miami and Vinita, on a course for Tulsa. I managed to skip the Oklahoma Turnpike (I-44) completely and followed the old road all the way to the outskirts of Tulsa.
Tulsa was more impressive that I’d pictured. In retrospect, I’d really like to have spent more than an hour there. My friend Grant had recommened lunch at Nelson’s Buffeteria, which looked great but was, alas, closed by the time I arrived. So I pretty much just drove around downtown for a while and found my way to outbound Route 66 and Sapulpa. Never did get around to eating, and by the time I hit Depew, I was desperate enough to settle for KFC.
The stretch of Route 66 between Tulsa and Oklahoma City is great if you’re not in a hurry. It’s a two-lane road through a dozen or so small towns like Chandler, Bristow, and Warwick. There are diners and old gas stations and leftover tourist cabins from a bygone era. I can only imagine the generic horrors of the turnpike a mile away, with its franchised rest stops, etc. Glad I missed it…
Hearing “I Am the Walrus” while driving down a particularly deserted stretch made it all the more surreal.
Rolled into Oklahoma City about 8:00 and checked into the Red Carpet Inn off I-44. This was truly one of the creepiest motels I’ve ever stayed in, which is (of course) the reason I was so drawn to it. It was the quitessential “major chain gone to seed”, a once large collection of motels which has dwindled to about a dozen (my experience with the Red Carpets dates from trips to Atlanta in the 1980s). This one was particularly far-gone and was empty, aside from me and two cops from some small town.
The really nice Southern gentleman at the registration desk told me the attached restaurant had closed on Thanksgiving Day in 1996. It was now, he said, a really huge employee break room. The guest rooms were huge too, with tasteful pink tiles in the bathroom, a sink which was becoming disconnected from the wall, and a laminated Waffle house menu on the table. The place smelled, but I liked it.
After a nice dinner of fried okra, sweet tea (and other stuff) at Luby’s Cafeteria, I hit the frightening Oklahoma City bar zone. First was Levi’s, which I loved last year but was lukewarm about this time through. At least I scored free beers from a friendly bartender.
I met a guy named John at Levi’s. He knew Planet SOMA, which was just a little creepy. We talked and decided to drive over to the Habana Inn bars. In the car, John told me he was on trial in the morning for felony DUI. Needless to say, he was a little antsy, what with this possibly being his last night of freedom and all.
The “gay area” on Oklahoma City centers around this motel called the Habana Inn. It was as creepy this year as last year. I hit four bars. Two of them had drag shows. And somehow this year, I never made my way into the actual motel complex. I don’t think I missed much. I went back to the empty motel alone.