After nearly 3 weeks on the road, I had nearly forgotten what traffic looks like. I was spoiled and that was about to end, our morning ride out of Tulsa, OK was during rush hour and we got the full brunt of traffic. A sort of preparatory exercise for returning back home. Fortunately, our morning was not encumbered for more than a half hour and we were soon on the open road again.
Our first stop was the Route 66 Park, just outside of Tulsa. I was expecting a bit more on Route 66, but the main attraction was an old steam locomotive towing a passenger car and a caboose as well as some other rail cars on display. The size of this old machine was quite impressive and it looked really good painted deep blue. Somehow these steam era machines seem to have souls compared to their modern counterparts.
After shooting some photos and enjoying a cigar, it was back on the Mother Road towards Catoosa, OK to visit the well loved Blue Whale Park. The Blue Whale was built in 1972 by Hugh S. Davis and Harold Thomas. This remarkable structure was built for Davis’ family and took over 2900 hours to complete and eventually became a popular spot for local kids and tourists to climb the whale, jump off the tail, slide down the fins and play in the water. It remained in use until 1988 and the pond is no longer safe for swimming. Since then, its popularity never waned and receives thousands of visitors annually.
This was my third visit to the Blue Whale and each time it brings back memories of being a kid in simpler times. It was Elaine’s first time seeing this famous Route 66 roadside attraction and fell in love with it. For more information, history and vintage photos, be sure to visit the official Blue Whale website.
For years I had wanted to see the world’s largest totem pole at Ed Galloway’s Totem Pole Park in Foyil, OK. I had bypassed this landmark on my last two Route 66 trips, namely because it is not quite on Route 66. The actual location is 3.5 miles (6 km) east of Route 66 and Foyil. So, we made our detour, went down a country road, passed a number of farms and small houses and turned into this unassuming property to witness the incredible life’s work of Ed Galloway.
In 1937, manual arts teacher, Ed Galloway retired and moved his family to a small farm near Foyil. He then embarked on a project to complete a colossal totem pole using modern building materials. The 90 foot (27 m) totem pole and park took over 11 years to complete. It required 6 tons of steel, 28 tons of cement and 100 tons or rock and sand. The totem pole is adorned with 200 carved pictures with four, nine foot Indian chiefs near the top. The park is kept in pristine condition through donations and volunteers.
In addition to several totem poles, the park also features Galloway’s 11 sided “fiddle house” that is supported inside and out by 25 concrete totem poles. Contained therein are dozens of fiddles made by Galloway and each one is made out of a different kind of wood, some from the other side of the globe.
I was astonished and inspired to see that the vision and hard work of just one man created Totem Pole Park. The 90 foot totem pole is definitely impressive, but it pales in comparison to Ed Galloway the man.
After Foyil, we rejoined Route 66 and continued the trek back home. We no longer had any set agenda for the day and would just let the spur of the moment dictate where to stop. A small curio store in Chelsea caught our eye and we decided to take a look.
An elderly couple and just bought the place and re-opened it for business. The new owners bought this place for a mere $14,000 and they did not even know what was inside this old store! They were two of the kindest people one could ever hope to meet. Inside one found all manner of antiques, collectibles, souvenirs, t-shirts and countless other objects. I purchased another t-shirt and the owners gave us some free key chains as a memento.
Our final Route 66 stop for the day was the famous and fantastic Clanton’s Cafe in Vinita, OK. It first opened its doors in 1927 and has become a Vinita tradition for generations. Clanton’s was recently featured on the TV show “Diners Drive-Ins and Dives”. Rest assured this place is no dive, the decor inside is full of Route 66 nostalgia and the food is as good as can be for a small family restaurant. It has also been featured in Gourmet Magazine for its Chicken Fried Steak.
We left Clanton’s Cafe late in the afternoon and rode out to Cuba, MO. Clear skies during dusk meant we had to throw on a few layers since the temperature was dropping like a stone. We arrived in Cuba after 9:30, too late to enjoy another fine rack of ribs at Missouri Hick BBQ. Cuba is one of those towns where the sidewalks are rolled up after 9 PM, so we had to settle for a mediocre pizza at Pizza Hut.
We put down over 350 miles (563 km) on the Harley and were on the last two days of a memorable trip. I was look forward to returning to the Toronto area as much as a person looks forward to cancer.