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Still Kickin’

It’s easy for us to be immune to the effects of a place we live so near, but proximity doesn’t mean decreased value. Route 66 is a prime example.

Lindsey Mills
October 28, 2018

America’s Main Street was born in 1926. Well, 1926 is the generally agreed upon time for the birth year of the famed highway. It would take many years and many re-routes, however, before reaching true completion. Then, it would evolve to include or exclude different streets and lengthen to stretch farther west.

Then, it would nearly meet its end. As modern day interstates twisted their way through the country, travelers began to choose the much faster roads for long trips, and Route 66 began seeing more tumbleweeds than vehicles. Businesses closed and signs were taken down.

I’m reminded of a scene from the children’s movie Cars: Lightning McQueen finds himself in what’s practically a ghost town. Residents still wander the mostly empty streets, now lacking the charm and energy from its heyday when visitors would travel from all over just to cruise through the legendary highway and visit unique destinations. Interstate travelers didn’t know what they were missing out on.

Today, of course, Route 66 has been revived. You may have seen the Historic Route 66 signs when traveling around Tulsa. Visitors still travel from all over the world to embrace the iconic road, to visit the towns it passes through and to snap photos while visiting legendary landmarks. I’ve been on parts of the highway before, I’ve certainly seen the signs around town, but I wondered what it would be like to cruise the Mother Road as originally intended.

Turns out that’s quite difficult because there have been so many changes over the years. However, Google Maps highlights where the current Route 66 snakes through the country, and it’s easy enough to follow the modern-day route. I zoomed in on the map and spent a few hours driving Main Street America. I had some coffee, stopped in some stores, and admired the murals dotting many buildings.

In one store, I chatted with a woman about the many Route 66 travelers she sees regularly. “I ask them why [they are traveling],” she says. “A lot of the people who come in are from overseas, and I wonder why they would come to see this, of all things?”

I agreed with her, commenting that a lot of the time it’s just the novelty of something different that draws foreigners somewhere new. As I paid for my books and left, though, I found myself a little sad that we could so easily downplay the historical significance and overall attraction of the famous Route 66.

Why not travel around the world to visit a famous stretch of road that is home to iconic places and pit stops filled with character? Why not take a drive down that road and give business to little restaurants and local shops? Why not flaunt your tourist status, take photos of all the landmarks and purchase novelty souvenirs?

Seeing it through new eyes
Oftentimes, we take the things nearest to us for granted. We roll our eyes while others gawk in admiration at the things we see all the time. It’s easy for us to be immune to the effects of a place we live so near, but proximity doesn’t mean decreased value. I thought about the lady’s skeptical attitude of why foreigners would be drawn to the road that passed just outside her door. I thought of my own rolled eyes when I noticed tourists buzzing around my own hometown when I was young. Perhaps tourists see something that the locals have become blind to.

Travelers are drawn to Route 66 from all corners of the world, people longing to drive the scenic highway and experience everything it represents: freedom, restlessness and adventure. I tried to remember that and hold on to that same longing as I made my day trip across Tulsa.

Are you looking for a way to spice up a Saturday night, or shake up your Sunday afternoon? Roll the windows down, crank the music, and go check out what you might have taken for granted.

I want to hear your suggestions, whether you’re a native Tulsan or a newbie like us. We want to know where to hang out, pig-out, shop ’til we drop, and everything in between. If you know a place with a great story, share it with us so we can go check it out.

Every day is an adventure with our little family, and I’m sharing our story because I think some people can relate. Follow us on Instagram and/or search #TakenWithTulsa or #NewInTtown to check out our latest adventures as we seek out new experiences and share our advice on how to embrace Tulsa.