Route 66
Travelling the Main Street of America


A little further along, you'll arrive in Claremore where the Will Rogers Memorial is a must-see. Rogers is still held up by many as the all-time nicest American, the exponent of the most sensible, down-to-earth philosophy in human history. You'll need to explore his life and teachings for yourself to see if you support his canonisation, but in the meantime you'd be well advised to smile sweetly and nod in appreciation if he comes up in conversation with an American anywhere west of the Appalachians. After all, the whole of "our" fabulous Route 66 was officially named the Will Rogers Highway when the great man died. A common reaction is nausea, but if you're inclined to either suicide or homicide after your dose of homespun wisdom, I'd advise you not to tempt fate by visiting the J.M.Davis Gun Museum just down the road! The town's other legend, Lynn Riggs, hardly gets a look-in with Rogers-mania at fever pitch, but she wrote the book on which the musical Oklahoma! is based - an altogether happier note on which to leave Claremore.

The mis-matched pair of bridges over the Verdigris River will have you out of the car clicking the old shutter again before Tulsa, as will the sign as you cross Spunky Creek, former site of Fort Spunky, I kid you not.

Tulsa has a smart, modern centre and lots of prosperous, leafy suburbs. Feeling the need for a break from the chain restaurants out on the highway, I enjoyed an excellent meal at the Amoré Italian Restaurant in the suburban Lighthouse Shopping Centre. I was glad to have had such a pleasant introduction to Tulsa, as the following morning's run out of the city was frustrating. I tried several times to follow old 66's twists and turns through the west of town. Each time, I followed a different map or guide-book - but always with the same result. I'd get to the "S" bend linking 10th and 12th Streets and then find myself being siphoned onto one freeway slip-road or another. In the end, I found a straight-forward route of my own, crossing 21st Street Bridge and executing a deft left onto Southwest Boulevard. You only miss a half-mile of the "official" route, but the saving of in-car tension is ample compensation. When we come to write the Road Book, we'll have to look again at the options for achieving escape velocity from Tulsa.

I know this isn't supposed to be a bridge-builders' convention, but there are so many picturesque bridges on 66 that I can't help mentioning a few of them. In this case, it's just west of Sapulpa that a quick side-step onto an older alignment will bring you to the steel trusses of Rock Creek Bridge which retains its 1921 red-brick deck paving - a great photo opportunity. All along this section, you'll see bits and pieces of the narrow original concrete beside the present 66. Whenever you cross a creek, look carefully down from the present bridge and you'll see remnants of old pavement heading down the banks to the fords that took traffic through the waterways before the bridges were built. Heavy rain upstream would cut the highway for days at a time in the early days. And there was always a buck to be made by local farmers using their tractors to tow hapless motorists through the swollen creeks.