Into the Hot Country

SHAMROCK, Texas:  Oklahoma is the state where Route 66 is said to come alive. We got an early start from Twin Bridges and picked up the Mother Road a few miles north of Miami. At that point, you’re driving at 65 mph through empty prairie, with I-44 in the distance, busy with rush-hour drivers, going I’m not sure where. In Vinita, about 20 miles on, we stopped for a quick breakfast at Clanton’s Café, said to be the oldest continuously owned family restaurant in Oklahoma. Most of the patrons were older than us and the staff much younger, a consistent trend on Rte. 66. We then gassed up at $2.47/gallon and picked up another long empty stretch, making good time, while dark clouds out to the horizon threatened rain. It held off, though. As we slogged west we noticed the temperature rise, the humidity diminish.

We passed through a blur of small towns with little to offer, but couldn’t resist stopping to gawk at the Blue Whale in Catoosa, just east of Tulsa. The whale, about 60 feet long and painted light blue, extends into a pond of about an acre, shaped from concrete by the builder, Hugh Davis, in 1972. He intended it as an amusement for kids who swam in the pond. image0000001.jpg

I said hello to a man doing yard work, who turned out to be Mr. Davis’ son. He said that no one swims there any more, but people still fish for perch and bass. He advised us to avoid downtown Tulsa traffic by taking I-44 around the city—great advice.

We steered back onto 66 to get lunch at Rock’s Café in Stroud, run by a woman named Dawn Welch, who is said to be the inspiration for the character Sally Carrera in the Pixar movie, “Cars.” Comfortable, casual, and cheap, it was patronized by a crowd of Harley drivers when we got there. Would love to go back.

We then detoured back on the interstate to Oklahoma City. Sandy wanted to stop at the new CACI Inc., facility (see first installment of this blog), to say hello to a former co-worker, a young man who stayed with the company by taking a job at the new Oklahoma City site—a brick-and-glass behemoth of a building several football fields long—think an Amazon or Walmart distribution center—in an industrial park south of Oklahoma City.

We tramped inside where a security functionary grudgingly called Sandy’s friend. He came down and with difficulty persuaded the functionary to give us visitor’s passes. We walked through several corridors into a cavernous room where dozens of people sat at long tables staring at monitors, doing accounting tasks. Made both of us shiver.

We almost ran to the van and blasted out of Oklahoma City, suspending the Rte 66 tour to make miles out of Oklahoma on the interstate, watching the environment change from suburban-industrial to prairie to flat scrub shimmering in the Oklahoma August afternoon. In 90 minutes we crossed into Texas, then steered back on 66 and into Shamrock, an isolated, dusty, yet friendly and comfortable place. Got a nice room at the Western Inn, across from the U-Drop Inn and next to Big Vern’s Steakhouse, where we got a simple but delicious dinner. Our first and probably last night in Texas.

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