Above photo: Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma
Day 2 Miles: 83
Clinton, Oklahoma to Shamrock, Texas
Greetings from Shamrock, Texas! I stopped in Shamrock at the corner of Route 66 and Highway 83 to see the restored Tower Conoco and U Drop In, a beautiful example of Art Deco architecture. (It was completed in 1936 for $23,000.) The site is now owned by the City of Shamrock (population 1,910) and was refurbished with a grant from the Texas Department of Transportation. It is truly a gem.
It was a 4:45 when I arrived in Shamrock, and I was beginning to think about where to settle down for the evening. I asked the clerk for her recommendation. She replied, “Well, how about my driveway!” At 5:00 PM Hazel locked up and led in her car to her house, three blocks from the site. What a sweet and generous woman! She dropped by for a visit and gave me a crocheted shamrock for good luck.
Today was a day of wonderment, joy, surprises and desolation. This may be my favorite day on the road so far.
I began the morning in Clinton, Oklahona, where I visited the Route 66 Museum ($5 entry fee).
I almost burst into tears of happiness when the cashier explained, “Each room of the museum is broken down by decade – 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and so on.”
It was only fitting that I visited my first Route 66 museum while still in Oklahoma, home of Cyrus Avery, the father of the Mother Road.
Did you know that the parking meter was invented in Oklahoma? Route 66 turned into Main Street in most of the towns in intersected. Those main streets became crowded with cars, and voila.
There was a very good exhibit of Route 66 home movies:
From Clinton it was on to Elk City, site of another Route 66 museum. The $5 entry fee was reduced to $4 because I am a AAA member. However, this museum was a bit dated, and it was geared (get it?) more toward transportation in general. Two exhibits were very cute – in one you could sit in a pink Cadillac and “drive” Route 66.
In the other you could sit in a convertible at the “Drive-In” and watch a horror flick.
From Elk City I stopped in the crumbling town of Canute, for one reason: to snap a photo of the now defunct Cotton Boll Motel. I doubt there is Cotton Boll Motel anywhere else in the country. Now, there isn’t one in Canute anymore either. Just a cool but fading sign.
Another photo op of a carcass of a motel was in Canute, but there was no place to park the RV and no way to turn around once I passed the site. Once again I was faced with the challenges of driving a motorhome on Route 66. The next thing I knew, I was traveling along a portion of Route 66 which was a frontage road to I-40, with no exits in sight; I was driving immediately parallel to the interstate, but could not get to it. Salvation finally came in the form of an exit in Sayre, home of the Beckham County Courthouse featured in “The Grapes of Wrath,”
and a great old motel that has been lovingly maintained:
While I was taking photos there, the Gideons delivered some Bibles.
All day long I listened to Roger Miller in anticipation of visiting the Roger Miller Museum in Erick, Oklahoma. In the Erick area, Route 66 is known as the Roger Miller Highway. Things are pretty sparse out there. Here’s Route 66 into town:
And here’s the route out of town:
I stood in the middle of the road a good long while to get these photos, without a care in the world. Not one car passed. Here are a couple of old motels in Erick which gave up the ghost long ago:
I parked the rig directly in front of the museum.
The docent, June, was exceptionally nice and informative. I took a photo while buying a ticket, then noticed the sign asking that no photographs be taken. Ruth said not a word. (Roger’s widow requested no photos, concerned that people will not visit the museum if they can just look at photographs.)
I did not know that Sheb Wooley of “Purple People Eater” fame was from Erick. And here’s a little-known fact: Sheb was married to Roger’s cousin, and he bought Roger his first fiddle and taught him his first guitar chords.
Oh my goodness what a fabulous museum! There were four Nudie suits, Roger’s Army uniform, a tuxedo, many pages of scribbled song lyrics, countless photos, and so much more. Did you know that Roger was noodling around with a song based on a sign he had seen which read, “Trailers for sale or rent?” He was having a difficult time coming up with the rest of the lyric until he saw a little statue of a hobo in an airport, and the statue was inscribed, “King of the Road.” The statue is in the museum.
Roger died of cancer at the age of 56 in the 1990s – a sober reminder to me that life is short, despite fame and fortune and talent and love of life. I left the museum with a DVD about Roger narrated by Waylon Jennings, who has also left us now; the original cast recording of the Broadway musical “Big River” written by Roger; a flask that says “Chug A Lug” (squee!) and a chair-in-a-bag with the museum logo on it. Heaven!
Taking the Mother Road out of Erick, I set my sights on the “ghost town” of Texola. I found Texola to be more creepy that ghost-towny. Besides, there was a working diner and a few people milling about, so I did not to stop.
That’s when things got a little dicey.
The portion of Route 66 west out of Texola is purportedly two lanes in each direction, but the lane I traveled was about 9 1/2 feet wide. Here’s the road I was traveling on:
The road was rife with ruts and potholes and dips. I thought for sure I had shaken something loose on the RV, and the GPS kept going back-and-forth between the map and the welcome screen. Uh oh. We’ll see if it’s working tomorrow.
From now on I think I’ll stick to the interstate and just jump off and on at the various towns I want to visit. Traveling along the actual Mother Road was hard on the RV and on my spine!