Thousands Hit Oklahoma's Route 66 For Adventure
TULSA, Oklahoma - Historic Route 66 has taken many turns in its 91 years. Five interstates eventually replaced much of the old road, but now many of the iconic stops on Route 66 are thriving.
"It's the trip of a lifetime; it's the most famous highway in the world," said Michael Wallis, author of "Route 66: The Mother Road."
For years, historic Route 66 took travelers to their destination; now, it is the destination.
"People like to go on adventures," said Route 66 Historian Jim Ross. "People like to be out. They like the freedom of the open road."
Oklahoma has the most miles of the iconic highway - with a string of attractions statewide. Near Foyil, Ed Galloway's Totem Pole Park draws visitors off the beaten path.
Back on the route to Catoosa, you can discover a giant concrete Blue Whale.
"It's unbelievable how many people stop here," said Blaine Davis.
Blain Davis' dad built the dock back in the '70s - when it was just a swimming hole.
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"No swimming allowed anymore, but they can come out here, bring the kids and imagine what it used to be," he said.
In Stroud, travelers make a pit stop at the Rock Café. The restaurant was one of the inspirations behind the animated movie "Cars."
You get all the way down in Arcadia, and you have that one-two punc of old and new," said author Michael Wallis.
The Round Barn, built in 1898 to shelter livestock, is now one of the most popular attractions on the roadway.
POPS offers gas, food and 700 different types of soda. The 66-foot pop bottle is the signature of the business.
"Really, when you look at Route 66 and the attractions, it's all about icons," said Marty Doepke of POPS. "So it really plays into the Mother Road."
As you head west towards Hydro, you can see Lucille's. The gas station was opened in 1941 by Lucille Hamon - nicknamed the mother of the Mother Road. She ran it for 51 years.
"She was just a neat old gas that liked to talk," said Rick Koch, owner of Lucille's.
"People knew her and had stories to where she had helped them out, and you know, loaned them money or helped them with a tank of gasoline," he said.
Down the road in Weatherford, a restaurant honoring Lucille opened in 2006.
"We patterned the restaurant after that building so the story could be told," Koch said.
For a real history lesson, stop in Clinton at the Route 66 Museum.
"We have our map that shows the main street of American," said Pat Smith, Route 66 Museum director.
The museum takes visitors on a journey through the nation's most revered highway.
"I've noticed this year, our visitation has been the most of any year," Smith said.
The road still connects rural towns and cities - in fact many places, it still serves as Main Street.
"This road puts vehicular traffic, vehicular traffic in your state, in your county, in your town," said Michael Wallis, author of "Route 66: The Mother Road."
"You're not a pass through on the super slab on the turnpike. People will actually stop."
About 45,000 people travel along Route 66 through Oklahoma each year, and 30 percent of them are from other countries.