Day 4: June 13, 2004
Pick a Path Home



How's this for a picture to start the day? At Friday's dinner, I botched a picture of Bob Waldmire, Scott Piotrowski, and Ken Turmel sitting together just moments before Bob became this year's Steinbeck Award winner. I had unwisely tried it without flash and ended up with some badly blurred faces. As just one reminder of the opportunity that got away (This wasn't the first or last.), Ken challenged me to get two thirds of the trio in focus as we gathered for the Route 66 e-group breakfast. Maybe we can imagine Bob's face. My difficulties with surreptitious photos continued with David Clark. David lives just barely off of Route 66 in Chicago and is a real expert on the east end of the road. When I checked out my picture inventory, this was the best I could find of David. I do have several that are worse.

That's David Knudsen and Mike Ward (the fourth blur) in the next picture. David heads up the Route 66 Federation. He helped organize and MCed Friday's Steinbeck Award dinner. I don't think Mike has an official title but he is the primary force behind the e-group breakfast. Greg and Cindy Laxton, the official moderators of the group, live in Florida and have yet to attend a breakfast. Mike not only MCed the gathering but provided a number of nice door prizes from his wonderful collection of maps and magazine. One of those maps went to Laurel Kane, chairperson of the Tulsa Festival and owner of Afton Station (one of my Friday stops).

When I left the hotel garage, I returned to Route 66 and briefly headed west. The reason was to visit the recently renamed 11th Street Bridge. This is now the Cyrus Avery Route 66 Memorial Bridge. The giant Meadow Gold is another Tulsa landmark undergoing changes. The building on which it sits is being demolished and the sign will be removed and is looking for a new home. Sign removal starts this week. As I walked around in front of the big sign, I noticed the Route 66 shield blocks in the sidewalk. The shields are placed at intervals in a ribbon of bricks running beside the concrete sidewalk. This was the first that I noticed the shields so I do not know how far they extend west of the sign but the brick ribbon ran for quite some distance to the east.

I know absolutely nothing about the Metro Diner but it easily caught my eye. I was even ready to drink one more cup of coffee just for the experience but the size of the waiting crowd convinced me to drive on.

While I was filling gaps in Foyil on Friday, I forgot about this one so I stopped at Andy Payne's statue on the way home. It was Andy who won that 1928 "Bunion Run". Andy received $25,000 for winning this 3422 mile foot race from Los Angeles to New York.

60 was the number that Cyrus Avery originally wanted for the Chicago-Los Angeles highway so it may seem like sacrilege to make this turn after leaving a big Route 66 festival. But the double sixes worked out well and I doubt that Cyrus ever regretted his compromise. The two routes run together between a spot about five miles west of Vinita to this spot about three miles east of Afton. Other than feeling a little bit guilty about turning off of the Mother Road, little difference was immediately evident. This stretch is hardly exciting but does contain the headquarters of the Wyandotte Nation and an 1850 mining town.

I've been told more than once that I really ought to visit the Bass Pro Shop in Springfield. Route 66 passes to the north of Springfield so I haven't been all that tempted in the past. But signs on 60 told me that it was just three miles away so off I went. Definitely an impressive store. There are restaurants, large dioramas, and a "Zooquarium". And you can buy stuff there, too.

For a long stretch east of Springfield, the road turned into a standard divided four lane (D4L) passing through reasonably scenic country. But that changed near Willow Springs when US-63 splits off. The road is back to two lane and the trees are actually close enough to know that they are real. Plus, I didn't have to forget Winona. In fact, I headed a short distance north at Winona to pick up a bit of Old US-60 and follow it back to the current route.

The road passes through the Mark Twain National Forest which explains the scenery and signs like this hint that it might be a little fun, too. It was. But the road too soon leaves the National Forest. From somewhere not far from Van Buren to Poplar Bluff, the road is either already D4L or on the way to it. The country is still pretty, but...

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