Since I44 is the Will Rogers Turnpike, a toll road, we decided to stay off as much as possible. In the old days (early 1800’s) this would be known as shunpiking, avoiding the turnpikes. Today, I’ve found that shunpiking refers to avoiding major highways for the more scenic routes so I guess we are shunpikers most of the time even in the modern definition. Route 66 in Oklahoma allows one to shunpike without losing too much time as it follows I44 and snakes back and forth over and under the interstate. We avoided the segments in Oklahoma City and Tulsa and will save them for another time. We got on the Mother Road northeast of the city. The first attraction was a giant cross at the LifeChurch.tv in Edmond. It’s not as big as the one we saw earlier in Groom, TX or the one in Effingham, IL we passed at the beginning of the trip, but it’s still big.
A short distance down Route 66 is Pops Soda Ranch, what a zoo as the place was packed. Pops is a gas station/convenience store/restaurant that has the world’s largest selection of soda (pop for those not from the mid-Atlantic area) and is the home to Bubbles, the “World’s Largest Bottle of Pop”. There are over 500 refrigerated types of soda in every flavor you can think of, even bacon flavored pop. We have a preference for cream soda and root beer. There were probably 50 or 75 different brands. We bought a 6 pack for just over $13 that included Red Ribbon Root Beer, Frostop Root Beer, Jones Vanilla Bean Soda, Virgil’s Cream Soda, Jones Pomegranate (not sure how this one snuck in), and Round Barn Root Beer. The Round Barn was the next attraction on the route. Built in 1898, it was rebuilt in 1988 after the roof caved in. We didn’t stop and it sounds like we may have missed another Route 66 character, Butch the round barn expert. We’ll have to add this as a stop for another trip.
Even though it was getting late in the day, we had to stop at one of the Route 66 icons, the Blue Whale, in Catoosa, OK. It was built by Hugh Davis, the Tulsa zoo director as a gift for his wife in the early 70’s. It was originally supposed to be for the family, but became a public swimming hole and attraction. The Blue Whale almost died after Davis closed the attraction in 1988, but was brought back about 10 years later. Volunteers converge on the site periodically to paint and patch the concrete.
As we left Route 66 to head for the RV park on Grand Lake near Vinita, OK, we stopped at the “World’s Largest Concrete Totem Pole” constructed by Ed Galloway starting in 1937 and finishing it in 1948. Galloway was on his way to California on Route 66 when he got a temporary job in nearby Foyil. He stayed and spent the next 20 years teaching boys woodworking at an orphanage. He retired in 1937 and decided he needed something to keep him busy so he began building the totem pole. Once he finished he built other concrete sculptures over the years and eventually the Fiddle House supported by 25 totem poles to house his collection of handmade fiddles. He worked every day on his projects until he died of cancer in 1962. As with most of the roadside attractions, they tend to slowly deteriorate after the creator dies, as did this one until it was revived by Rogers County Historical Society in the 1990’s.
Along the way to our overnight stop, we crossed over US69 that we travelled on our way to Dallas in late July. We arrived at the Waters Edge RV Park just before dark. It’s a nice place right on Grand Lake.