Route 66: The mother road – Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma

At the end of the previous post I had made it as far as Springfield, MO, in my Route 66 ride from Chicago to Los Angeles. I awoke to an unpleasantly familiar sound. Rainfall. Heavy rainfall.

Wishing my bike had a roof

I looked outside and, sure enough, the parking lot of my motel was bathed in liquid sunshine. This presented a problem: I had somehow thought the rain would stay away for two weeks and had no waterproof clothing as a result.

I stomped off to the nearest motorbike store to buy some waterproofs, my mood reflecting the weather. However, the world seemed intent on cheering me up. As I waited, bedraggled and forlorn at the traffic lights of a major crossroads, the window of a car stopped on red rolled down and a voice called out, “Hey man! Do you want a donut?” The owner of the voice had a tray of Krispy Kremes resting on his knees. I confirmed my interest in a donut and reached through the window to select one before the lights changed and my unknown benefactor sped off, my words of thanks lost amid engine noise. 

It’s like a lucky horseshoe but with the added benefit of being edible
Buoyed by this gesture of goodwill, I struck forth into the maelstrom (poetic license – “rain” sounds dull). Dressed in high-vis waterproofs and a black helmet I looked like one of those highlighter pens everyone used for exam revision at school.

It was about 12 seconds into the day’s riding that I regretted wearing the open-face helmet. Rain pelted me in the face, stinging my cheeks, dropping from my chin. It was cold and wet. Two hours later I was cold and wet too. I stopped at a lone sports bar in the middle of nowhere for some food and heat.

Seated at the bar was an assortment of slightly menacing looking gents, almost all wearing caps and, despite it being only minutes after midday, almost all with half-empty (or half-full) pints of beer in hand.

I took a seat at the bar just as the bargirl asked a regular, “So, Chuck, are you going to come to karaoke tonight?” To which the hard-as-flint looking guy at the end of the bar responded, “Yeah. Reckon I’ll sing Purple Rain again.” Suddenly, things felt less menacing.

My luncheon companions
Confirmation I was going the right way, at least

After some food, lots of good-natured banter and thrashing Chuck at pool, I bade farewell and ventured back out into the rain.

At some point in the afternoon, on a sodden stretch of Kansas road, I passed a sign pointing to the location of the baseball pitch in the film Field of Dreams. “If you build it, he will come. Unless it’s raining.” I thought to myself, ruefully, as I splashed past.

Some brief stops later, I arrived in Tulsa, OK, where I had arranged to have dinner with Kjerstie, a Tulsa local whom I had met on the architectural boat tour in Chicago.

A damp main street somewhere in Oklahoma
Oil. It’s referring to engine oil.

A long warm shower, a friendly face, good food and conversation were a perfect remedy for the hours of dampness I had endured during the day.

The next morning brought dry weather. Not much funny stuff but some nice pics and a video of crossing and old bridge on a defunct section of the old road.

The famous “Round Barn”. Say what you see!

One note-worthy stop was the “pop” store just outside Arcadia, OK. It subtly drew my attention with a mammoth bottle sculpture by the side of the road and, once inside, I discovered what must be the greatest variety of fizzy drinks to exist in one place almost anywhere in the world. They filled countless fridges and even decorated the walls!

Fizzy pop at the OK coral
And if one green bottle should accidentally fall……
Pop art

In the car park I found a beautiful, old Ford Model T that I had overtaken shortly beforehand. Its proud owner showed me the makeshift backseat where he threatened to put his wife whenever she complained about his driving.

Stunning vintage Ford
Backseat drivers need a backseat

Several museums and some beautiful machines later, I found myself in Texas, in a deathly quiet, tumbleweed town called Shamrock.

A classic Indian motorcycle
One if the historic road markets that dot the route
Abandon hope all ye who enter here

But it’s lunchtime here in Mexico, so I’ll tell you all about that later.


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