During my pursuit of Monsieur and the white Audi S5, I decided to take the unbeaten path and retrace my steps along Route 66. During 1999 to early 2000 I traveled the famous Mother Road. At that time my companions consisted of camera equipment with plenty of print film (remember that?), an overnight bag and a book titled, Route 66, Lives on the Road. My energy pushed me to locate not only the famous road stops in the book but the people or relatives that owned the businesses. They would autograph and in some cases, place a special designed ink stamp of their company next to their signature. So here I am, years later, seeking out the changes that may have occurred.
Departing Kansas and heading 35 South, I passed college towns and the Flint Hills, this time, green and brown in color. One of my favorite stops along the turnpike is the Belle Plaine Travel Information Center and Gift Shop, 770 North I-35. The small but wonderful store carries any thing related to Oz as well as Kansas items in general. This pit stop has the kindest people and one in particular, Else Brunholtz. This 86 year-old feisty woman with the brightest smile, shared personal stories when she learned of my lonesome journey. In 1942, during WWII, she traveled by bus, standing the whole way, from Nebraska to Reno to meet her husband to be. The trip took a week to complete after being bumped several times. When asked why no one offered her a seat, she said soldiers had taken them all and that’s the way it was. After they married, while her husband was fighting the war, she was given 50.00/month to live on. For her child, an additional 20.00 would be added. “We lived on rations and were not allowed rubber products. We also sent V-Mail, very brief notes to let people know you were alright. You didn’t dare put X’s and O’s (hugs and kisses) at the end of a letter. They would delete it for fear of an encoded message.” The time period consisted of blackouts, brownouts and women that came into their own by working in factories. Else is a walking history book and a joy to hang around. She is what traveling and meeting people is all about.
Pushing on to Oklahoma, westbound to Amarillo. There is a healthy taste of Route 66 in this stretch of the road starting with the Will Rodgers Memorial Museum in Claremore and the Blue Whale Amusement Park three miles north of Catoosa. Who say’s all barns should be square?The Round Barn of Arcadia, dates back to 1898. It is the only wooden round barn in Oklahoma. One of my favorites is the National Route 66 Museum in Clinton. The energy starts from the moment you walk in the door when the period music greets you. Then enter into the world of Route 66 with great exhibits, murals, recorded histories and personal accounts that lead to fun and learning along the way. Next stop? Texas.