Amelie’s First Route 66 Road Trip
“Route 66! Route 66! Look, Grandma! It’s Route 66!” Those were the words my then 7 year old granddaughter gleefully exclaimed every time she saw a Route 66 sign, shirt, or anything else that read, “Route 66.” Imagine my happiness and excitement hearing her say that over and over!
One of my granddaughters, Amelie, had expressed an interest in traveling Route 66 for a few years now. I worried if I took her on a Route 66 trip when she was too young, or if waited until she was a teenager, she may think it was boring and never show any interest. I certainly did not want that to happen. I’m a firm believer that we need to start molding the next generation(s) of Route 66 enthusiasts, preservationists, business owners, and travelers. Amelie had turned 7 years old in the summer of 2018 and her zest for the Route had never waned. Additionally, I knew at her age, she would never forget her Route 66 trip, whereas, if I had taken her when she was younger, the risk of her forgetting the trip was quite real. I decided it was time to get this adventure started and seal the deal with her love of Route 66.
I took steps to prepare Amelie for this trip. Although she had seen many of my Route 66 photos and we had discussed the Route many times, I bought the following books for her to take on the trip, for her to look at and read, and have some decision making on where she wanted to stop: ” Annie Mouse’s Route 66 Adventure: A Photo Journal,” by Anne Maro Slania Ph. D.; “Another Annie Mouse Adventure- Annie Mouse’s Second Route 66 Photo Journal: The Journey East,” by Anne Maro Slania, Ph.D.; “Route 66 In Search of Ghosts and Treasures,” by Phyllis Chandler Grey; and of course, “Route 66-The EZ66 Guide For Travelers,” by artist and author, Jerry McClanahan. I had already met each of these 3 authors and thought highly of them, especially Jerry who had invested many years traveling, exploring, and documenting Route 66. Amelie and I had a pre-agreement that these books were the only entertainment she would use on our trip and her electronics could only be used while on the interstate or in our motel rooms.
Amelie and I already had our bags packed and left Springfield, Missouri on a Friday morning. Since we lived in Missouri and can travel Route 66 from Springfield to the Missouri/Oklahoma state line any time, we opted to travel the interstate to Joplin, Missouri, then hop on the Route and stay on it for the rest of the trip. We made our 1st stop at the Kansas state line on Route 66. I am rarely a “selfie” person, but I love when Amelie is in the photo. So, we decided to take a selfie at each Route 66 state line signs. While driving through the approximate 13 miles of Route 66 through Kansas, we stopped at some of the icons: Cars on the Route, Front Street Garage, the Rainbow Bridge, etc.
Amelie was very excited when we reached the Oklahoma state line. A hearty and delicious breakfast awaited us at Clanton’s Café in Vinita, Oklahoma. After filling up on our meals, we continued further west on Route 66.
Amelie had expressed an interest in going to Totem Pole Park. It’s certainly an interesting and unique work of art. The biggest totem pole was 90 feet tall and was the creation of the late Ed Galloway. Also, we admired the 11 sided ‘fiddle house’ which is on the property. Totem Pole Park is located 4-5 miles off Route 66 and is considered a side trip. It was worth the drive.
I’m not going to lie, one of the places Amelie was most excited to see on this trip was the Blue Whale in Catoosa. Upon reaching the Blue Whale, Amelie could not wait to get out of the car! The closer she walked toward the whale, the more mesmerized she became. She slowly entered the mouth of the whale and looked all around. Amelie was in love!!
While there, she met our friend, Linda Hobbs, the care taker at the Blue Whale. If you haven’t met Linda yet, be sure to do so; she’s a very sweet lady with beautiful blue eyes and a big heart!
Amelie and I ended our day with an overnight stay at an older Route 66 motel. We read the Route 66 books she brought with her. Of course, she has read them several times, but she loves books so much, she’s happy to read them many times.
Saturday was off to a great start when Amelie and I stopped in Chandler, Oklahoma at the art gallery of Jerry McClanahan. Amelie loves art and Jerry and his lovely wife, Mariko, made us feel very welcome. Amelie and I both enjoyed the art gallery.
We had a great time visiting with Jerry and Mariko, as well as meeting “Mystery Cat” out on the front steps of the art gallery. Amelie and I both are HUGE animal lovers and a sweet little gray kitty hanging around outside the art gallery seemed happy to share its love with us. It was not Jerry or Markio’s kitty and they had never seen it before, hence the name from the always clever Jerry McClanahan, “Mystery Cat.” Before leaving Chandler, Amelie and I enjoyed a delicious breakfast at the very retro Boomarang Diner.
One of the Route 66 icons Amelie and I both wanted to visit was Pop’s, west of Arcadia. Before going to Pop’s, I stopped at the other Arcadia icon, the Round Barn. Amelie did not know barns could be shaped in various ways other than the traditional designed/shaped barns we were all used to seeing. We read a bit of the history of the Round Barn; she seemed to really enjoy the second level and the idea of couples having their weddings, receptions, and even dancing there.
Leaving the Round Barn, Amelie could not wait for the next stop, Pops! As we neared the parking lot, I heard her say, “Wow! That’s tall!” referring to the 66′ tall pop bottle outside Pops. Once inside the store, we looked at all the different brands of pop over and over, so many times, our heads were spinning! How does one make such a choice when there were so many to choose from? We decided to think about it while we had ice cream at the diner in Pops; Amelie chose a dip of vanilla ice cream and a dip of chocolate ice cream and I chose their rootbeer float-YUM! (It’s the lunch of champions, you know! lol) After choosing a couple bottles of pop, we continued our journey west.
Of course, when driving through Oklahoma, don’t miss out on driving over the unique 1933 Pony Bridge with its 38 trusses. It’s one of the “Must See” bridges on Route 66! Also, check out the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton.
Later in the day, we arrived in Elk City, Oklahoma. We got a room at the Flamingo Inn, located on Route 66. I had stayed there before and knew it was nice, clean, and very reasonably priced. (Thank you Dean Kennedy) To Amelie, we may as well have been staying at the most fancy hotel around, in part, based on the previous night’s motel, as well as the appearance of the rooms at the Flamingo Inn-they were nice! Amelie and I then walked next door to eat at Pedro’s, which served great Mexican Food. After supper, we decided to drive around and explore. The National Route 66 Museum was already closed for the day, but we walked around the outside of it and took some photos.
Driving around town, I saw Elk City’s park, a park that would make many other towns envious. We were quite excited when we saw a large carousel in the park! Although it cost us $1 each time she rode it, Amelie was thrilled to ride the beautiful carousel. I loved the look of pure enjoyment on her face the first time she rode it, as she had never ridden one before. After riding the carousel a couple times, we walked over to a tiny train in the park. We bought a ticket for her to ride it, but it seemed she loved the carousel ride more. Amelie decided to play in the park on the playground awhile until nearly dusk. Leaving the park, we returned to the National Route 66 Museum and photographed their spectacular neon sign at dusk, then settled into our cozy room for a great night’s sleep.
Sunday morning, Amelie and I packed the car and finished our Route 66 trip west through Oklahoma until we reached the Texas state line sign on Route 66. I had been worried about Amelie being bored on the trip and worried that she couldn’t wait to get home. As we got out of the car for our selfie at the Texas state line, Amelie exclaimed, “I want to go to Texas, Grandma! I want to do Route 66 through Texas!” Unfortunately, I had to return home for work. I promised her we would travel the Route through Texas next summer.
Yep, I’m still smiling over her desire to see Route 66 through Texas…so that’s where her next Route 66 adventure will begin during the summer of 2019. We hope to see you AND your kids, grandkids, school kids, etc. on the Route!