Friday, March 21, 2008

Day 3 - Joplin, MO to Oklahoma City, OK

American Ruins

Mom and pop businesses used to thrive on Route 66. Most of them have disappeared, but a lucky few have only deteriorated. This is, for me, part of Route 66's appeal. But it can get a little creepy and depressing, as it did today.

We started with this lovely piece of faded neon. I miss the time when a mobile home park was worthy of a stylish and attention-getting sign like this one. It would have made living in a trailer seem somehow very modern.

This is Commerce, Oklahoma, birthplace of Micky Mantle, and this is how a lot of small towns on Route 66 look: like you are driving into The Last Picture Show.

This is the Ku-Ku in Miami, Oklahoma. The restaurant is just as cool as the sign. I have to think that the name has nothing to do with the Ku Klux Klan, because I had a delicious lunch there and the people were kind.

Time for old signs. That's me beneath. There are still cabins behind the main building, and the woman who lived there said she wished she had a dollar for everyone who stopped to take a picture of the sign. Like a lot of people we've met, it looked like she could use the money.

We found this place on the other side of town, and it was in much worse shape. There were only three little white brick cabins still standing. The woman across the street was pretending like she was washing her windows, but what she was really doing was watching the out-of-towners take photos of the eyesore right outside her front door.

This is one of the cabins. They're filled with old tires and furniture and junk. That's me outside, looking like I've just spent a restful evening at the Avon Motel. It may not look like much, but the price was right!

Someplace in the middle of nowhere we found this. The sign is in incredibly good shape -- porcelain enamel is a wondrous material. The sign looks particularly good in light of how decrepit the rest of the place was.

This is the giant blue whale in Catoosa, Oklahoma. I guess this place used to be a popular swimming hole once upon a time, but no more. Now the blue whale will just scratch your sunglasses.

This is Pops, in Arcadia, Oklahoma. That's a giant pop bottle with a straw poking out of the top on the left. It lights up at night, and I'm sorry there isn't a picture of that because I bet it's pretty sharp. Pops is just down the road from the famous round barn. It's one of the few new places along Route 66 and a sign of new life and interest in the old road. It's amazing, with a brilliant but simple gimmick: they offer over 500 kinds of soda pop to go with your hamburger, grilled cheese, fries and pie. Guess what -- there's also a gift shop. Come one, come all!

After so much decay, it was refreshing to find a place so fresh and contemporary. I couldn't not visit.

It's incredibly modern inside. I loved it. We would have eaten there but it was swamped, which is a great thing. Someone has figured out how to make money off of Route 66 again. I wish them luck.

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