More Kicks on Route 66 – Eastern Oklahoma
Our recent Route 66 trek began in St. Louis, Missouri and ended in Amarillo, Texas. We drove about 800 miles between the two cities over four days. Traveling Route 66 truly is a kick, but navigating it is sometimes tricky. Although, having to get on and off of the interstate highways when the route ends or backtracking because it’s easy to get lost is just part of the adventure.
Now, on to our first stop…
OK-KS-MO Tri-State Marker
Thanks to Google Maps, we had to backtrack to find this off-route site. While Google took us close to it, we kept ending up at a casino and resort in Oklahoma. We finally found it on an almost hidden gravel road next to the resort. Sadly, after all the time and gasoline spent looking for the marker, we found it to be quite unremarkable. We got the cheap thrill of standing in three states at once though, so the stop wasn’t a total failure.
Tired and hungry, we got on the turnpike, paid our toll, and headed west. We couldn’t find a place to eat, so we got back on Route 66 near Afton, Oklahoma hoping to find food. All we found was barbecue, so we paid another turnpike toll and headed to Catoosa which was our stop for the night. Just when we were both on the verge of becoming hangry, we were gifted with a spectacular Oklahoma sunset. Oh, how nature’s beauty soothes the soul!
Catoosa is located on the banks of the Arkansas River and is home to about 7,100 residents. A couple of museums, the Hard Rock Casino, and the Tulsa Port of Catoosa also call the city home. The reason for our stop? The Blue Whale of Catoosa, of course!
In the early 1970s, Hugh Davis built the whale on the edge of his family’s swimming hole as an anniversary gift for his wife Zelta who collected whale figurines. Local residents showed so much interest in the site that the Davis family eventually added a picnic area and opened it to the public. The swimming hole was closed in 1988 due to Hugh’s failing health. He died in 1990. When Zelta died in 2001, the park fell into disrepair, however, local volunteers joined forces to restore the beloved whale. The City of Catoosa purchased the property in 2020, and today it remains a favorite stop for travelers on Route 66.
Oklahoma, the eastern part of which was known as Indian Territory
prior to becoming a state, has some of the greatest place names ever. Most of them are from Native American names or words, such as: Quapaw, Catoosa, Pawhuska, Chickasha, and Watonga, just to name a few. Our next stop got its name from a derivative of the Creek tribe’s word tallasi which means “old town.”
With only a couple of things we wanted to see in Tulsa, we didn’t spend much time there. Our goal was to see relatives who live just south of the city. Luckily, we were able stop long enough to learn about Cyrus Avery, the “Father of Route 66.”
This beautiful bronze sculpture depicts Avery stopping his Ford on the 11th Street Bridge as the automobile startles two horses pulling a wagon carrying oil barrels.
U.S. Highway 66 Association
In 1927, while serving as a member of a board appointed to create the Federal Highway System, Cyrus Avery successfully advocated for the establishment of the U.S. Highway 66 Association. The association was instrumental in ensuring that the road was paved in its entirety, a major undertaking which was completed in 1938. Furthermore, the association continued to promote Route 66 tourism for more than forty years. In 1970 the association changed its name to Main Street of America Association. However, with new interstates bypassing the old highway, or replacing sections of it completely, the association dissolved in 1976. Click here for a short National Park Service article about the origins of Route 66.
One picture, three eras. The photo above shows the current Route 66 Bridge (left) crossing the Arkansas River, the original Route 66 Bridge (middle) also known as the Cyrus Avery Memorial Bridge, and Interstate 44 (right). Cyrus Avery Memorial Bridge is included on the National Register of Historic Places.
We found the 32-story University Club Tower apartment building to be intriguing with its retro vibe and location overlooking the Arkansas River. Completed in 1966, the tower is supposedly the first major building in the U.S. to be designed using a computer.
Moving on Down the Road
Trivia: Indian Territory, which was comprised of most of the eastern half of Oklahoma, almost became the state of Sequoyah. Tribespeople living in Indian Territory held a constitutional convention and overwhelmingly voted for Sequoyah’s statehood. However, due to party politics on the national level, the plan failed. The people of Indian Territory were forced to see their lands merge with Oklahoma Territory to become the 46th state as Oklahoma officially joined the union on November 16, 1907.
Chandler, Oklahoma helps to preserve its Mother Road heritage with the Chandler Route 66 Interpretive Center. The center is housed in the Chandler Armory building which was constructed in 1937 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. While the center is part museum, it also has a gallery that features videos and artwork depicting the history of the route. We enjoyed watching the videos from the unique seating the center has installed for the comfort of its guests. It even has vinyl beds to lounge on while watching the videos. Needless to say, it is a very laid back, relaxing experience, especially for weary travelers.
Eight miles west of Chandler is Warwick, Oklahoma, home of the Seaba Station Motorcycle Museum. We spent over an hour in the museum where we saw some unique motorcycles and learned the history of the building as well.
The building was constructed for use as a gas station in 1921 by John Seaba and his wife, Alice. Later John turned the building into a machine and engine rebuilding shop but sold the business in 1951. In 1995, the building was sold again, refurbished, and reopened as an antiques store. The current owners purchased the property in 2007 and have restored the front to look like the original gas station. The addition of the motorcycle museum was completed in 2010.
Trivia: Oklahoma’s official state meal includes barbecued pork, chicken fried steak, sausages and gravy, fried okra, grits and squash. The state bean is the black-eyed pea, and the state fruit is the strawberry. Pecan pie is the official state dessert.
This is where we close the post but stay tuned for more of our Route 66 adventure coming soon. Thank you so much for joining us on the eastern half of Route 66 Oklahoma.
If you like American road trips, we think you will enjoy these posts:
Route 66 – Missouri
Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire
Death Valley National Park
Travel safely, and we will see you on the road!
Mike and Kellye
As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.
46 thoughts on “More Kicks on Route 66”
A pity that Route 66 has become so disjointed, but perhaps that is what leads many to try and discover it. We crossed Route 66 (now highway 40) when we were travelling through Flagstaff on our way to Zion Canyon. Wish we had more time then to take a turn down that part of it. Happy weekend. Allan
Route 66 is definitely an adventure. We plan to do the western half at some point. Thanks for checking out our post!
Wow Catoosa looks amazing! Would love to travel route 66 one day.
I hope you can, Wayne. We would like to travel Ireland someday too. Dreams…
Oh you would love Ireland I’m sure.
I’m sure too!
Fascinating. I’ve heard of Route 66, but never really knew anything about it so thank you for changing that. I loved the story of the Whale 😁
Route 66 is such an American icon. Thanks for reading our post and commenting, Brenda!
My traveling days are likely over, due to two decades of fibromyalgia, so I especially enjoyed your sharing your journey with us! That whale! And the compelling story behind it. yum
Thanks so much Joy! Actually, we started our blog because some of our family members couldn’t travel anymore. Ride along with us anytime. Hugs.
Always wanted to do 66 on a Harley or as the wife puts it a mobile transplant machine. Anyway could never afford the divorce so that’s another thing struck from the list.
We have been had that Harley/divorce discussion too. Mike couldn’t afford the divorce either – LOL. Thanks for checking out the post.
Standing at the intersection of three states sounds cool, even if it was hard to find. Love the blue whale. It’s nice the family opened it to the public. Is the whale a decorative statue or does it serve another purpose inside? Thanks for sharing.
Inside the whale was access to the slide and a place to jump off into the water. We saw a snake in the water while we were there – no way would I have jumped in if I could have. Thanks so much for checking out our post.
Oh wow, thanks for sharing! Driving on Route 66 is one of our dreams! Love all the history!
I’ll trade you a drive on Route 66 for a visit to Ontario – LOL! Thanks for reading our post Vanessa. I hope you get to drive the route one day.
A great post about a great highway. You came across many intriguing places on this journey down memory lane. I remember the Will Rogers Turnpike from 1958 when the family drove from Indianapolis to Los Angeles. One of the many things I learned from your post is that Oklahoma cooking is very similar to Southern comfort food.
Ah, Southern comfort food…yum! I was surprised to see grits on their menu. I grew up in Oklahoma and didn’t ever have grits until my son moved to Alabama! Thanks for reading, John. Have a nice weekend.
Love this!! One of my students is doing a report on Route 66 and designing a post for his display! 🤗👍
How cool! Route 66 is iconic. I wonder if your student would share his/her post. Thank you!
I’m trying commenting in Reader in the hopes my comment will ‘stick’ and be visible! I loved this post, in part because driving at least part of Rte 66 is high on our wishlist and in part because you’ve covered some fascinating history alongside some great looking stops 🙂 I love the Blue Whale of Catoosa, and the old neon signs, while the museums and interpretive centres looks excellent. I’ve bookmarked your post for when/if we plan a trip!
Thank you, Sarah. We love the Blue Whale too, and all of the nostalgia really. I hope you get to do it someday. Maybe take off from Chicago??
That’s one thought in our minds, yes 🙂
Oh, now I can’t wait to see what you get up to on your trip to the US.
I’m always up for more kicks on Route 66, especially through your words and images Kellye. 800 miles in four days! You really covered some ground and sights along the way, I lapped it up from start to finish. Your sunset-shot-on-the-hop was very nicely done indeed, though I wouldn’t describe you guys as amateurs 😉 I found the marker a quirky and curious sight, the kind of thing Sladja and I would also go out of our way to find. As for those old style motel signs, I think we would photo them all, just love it. I’m sure we could wile away an hour or two at the Interpretive Center. Will there be more, more kicks…?
Thanks so much, Leighton. We love those old hotel signs too, but a lot of them didn’t make it into the posts. We have two more Route 66 installments coming soon. I hope all is well with you and Sladja.
You sure covered a lot of ground! There sure is a variety of stops along Route 66. I thought the whale signs were adorable.
Thanks, Lyssy. It was a fun road trip!
This was so interesting we travelled a little of route 66 when we visited the Grand Canyon. The little towns we saw were quaint but clearly we need to see more. Thank you.
Thanks, Sandy! We still need to drive the western half as well as the Illinois section, but those are road trips for another time.
Yes , enjoyment is in the time give. . Too much is not always a good thing. Nice to have something to look forward too.
I absolutely agree.
What an interesting post and how amazing to be stood at the junction three states at one time. Heard a lot of Route 66 but learnt more from your article.
Thank you, Marion. It was a fun trip. Now we need to do the western half and the part in Illinois. Someday soon, hopefully.
How cool! We were just on the other side of Route 66. There are so many interesting things to see!
We still have to do the Illinois and the western half of the route. Hopefully we get to do it in the next year or so. Thanks for stopping by.
What a delight to see these unknown parts and sites of this highway icon! I think so often people only think of the part of route 66 that ends up in California, but there is so much more to it has you have shown 🙂
That’s a lot of distance to cover over four days! But it always helps to make some detours along the way to break up the drive and learn more about the places we visit. I’ve never been to Oklahoma before, but it seems like it has a lot of character and some interesting towns along Route 66.
Thank you. Stay tuned for our Route 66 post on the western half of Oklahoma as there are some interesting places there too.
800 miles in a few days is unfathomable to us English – we would be in the sea by that point hehe. I love following along on your road trips, and am a particular fan of the Phillips 66 Cottage Gas Station 🙂
Thank you, Hannah. Yes, there are lots of miles for road trips is the US.
What a great post. Our interest in Route 66 increased hugely with last year’s 66 stopover at Barstow CA. We’ve definitely joined the ranks of those who want to drive more of it. And for the record, I’ll probably be humming THAT Gene Pitney song for the rest of the day now…
Thanks guys! You would probably love driving more of the route – in a convertible with the top down and singing all the way.
Love the old hotel signs and the motorcycle museum!
Thank you, Sharon!