Travelling the Main Street of America
Old 66 isn't quite so easy to follow through the western half of Oklahoma, but it's all still there and the reward of tracking it down is driving some wonderful time-warp stretches of original roadbed. In Stroud, make sure you stop at "Curious Gifts" for some great 66 memorabilia. It's opposite Stroud's best known 66 feature, the Rock Café. It was (very) closed when I called, but perhaps you'll have more luck in August. Further on, Chandler has the Lincoln Motel, one of the very few fully operational old cabin-style motels. Dating from 1939, it retains the essential atmosphere of a more adventurous age. And for a slightly corny photo stop, position your car in front of the painted door of PJ's store on your way out of town.
Don't even think about driving past the famous Round Barn in Arcadia. This has been a beacon to westward travellers since long before route 66 existed. It has been beautifully restored by the local historical society. Its unique status is attested by Butch, its welcoming guardian, who will regale you with stories of the barn past and present. And don't try to pass off some multi-sided relic of your acquaintance as a round barn. Butch is the world's expert on round barns. He's got an exhaustive photographic archive of all known round barns, and as he says, "If it's got corners, it ain't no round barn." There's a lot of local and Route 66 history on show inside the barn, and even a notable display of bricks assembled by - and now kept in memory of - one of the world's greatest brick collectors. Don't miss it!
Although Route 66 went right through Oklahoma City in 1926, it is possibly better to bypass the central area on the later I-44 alignment. When I was there in October, the city was commemorating the anniversary of the appalling bomb outrage that destroyed a government building in the heart of the business district. A new memorial park was being inaugurated on the site, and security was tight. Traffic restrictions and deviations made it impossible for me to follow the older route, but this should be an option for you in August.
After Oklahoma there's yet another of my favourite steel-truss bridges at Bethany just before you swing onto the pretty run by Lake Overholser. Soon you're swanning through Yukon, the most famous feature of which is the "Yukon's Best Flour" sign on the side of a mill. This won't strike any of my fellow Western Australians as odd, as they will be familiar with the iconic "Dingo Flour" sign on a silo at Leighton Beach. Mankind needs landmarks on life's journey. In a featureless landscape, the eye will light on whatever stands proud - even if it is basically a shed.
The whole stretch of the Route in the Bridgeport area is a delight. You're on old Portland roadbed for much of the way, enjoying the rhythm of the tyres over the expansion-joints. Take careful note of the 38-arch "Pony" bridge over the mighty Canadian River. Until this was built in 1933, the road crossed on a 1000-foot suspension bridge that has since been demolished. When you meet Lucille a few miles further on, you'll hear her stories about the old and new bridges and it will help if you can picture the location.