01 May 2021

RAPEA - Day 16 - Part 1 - Vinita OK to Glenpool OK via Route 66

Step right up for the fresh kitsch of the day! Our first stop was the Blue Whale of Catoosa OK. In my opinion The Blue Whale is understated in the Route 66 Guides. I found it to be a delightfully funky rustic rest area with picnic tables and bathrooms that's open from dawn to dusk. It was built in the early 70s by Hugh S Davis on a pond on Davis' property as a 34th anniversary gift to his wife. It was initially intended only for family use but it soon became a major attraction of Route 66. It was recognized by the Hampton Hotels Save-A-Landmark Program as a site worth seeing on Route 66. It's currently being operated by volunteers and a small gift shop is available where you can purchase Blue Whale and Route 66 memorabilia and provide donations to support the park.

Next we drove directly to recon the site for my night shoot at Route 66 Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza in Tulsa OK. It's a beautiful park on the Arkansas River with geese, benches,  and a myriad of serpentine paved walking and biking trails that wind (under the three overpasses which carry I244E, I244W and Route 66 separately) and cross the Arkansas River where the park continues along the water's edge. In addition to walkers, joggers, runners and bikes the paths are well used by the Lime Electric Scooters which can be found and dropped off all over the city. The park is the site of the  Cyrus Avery Memorial Bridge aka the 11th Street Bridge. Cyrus Avery was known as the Father of Route 66 as he brought about the creation of the route while he was a member of the federal board appointed to create the Federal Highway System.

Having nothing to do until the sun went down we then drove to our motel in neighboring Glenpool to check in and for the very first time of our trip (I knew it was bound to happen sooner or later) we were told by the jovial Janice at the desk that we didn't have a reservation. But not to worry, for once the pandemic, which shall not be named, was in our favor. With a few clicks of her keyboard Janice announced "There are rooms available!" Not only that but the rooms totally ticked all our boxes for requirements: two rooms close together; first floor egress to the parking space; TV, Refrigerator, Microwave, Coffee Maker and Wi-Fi (Believe it or not some rooms have not included appliances. In some they were only available upon request. First come, first served.) ; AND ASHTRAYS! That's right folks, in this PC land of ever diminishing rights (What do you mean I can't buy menthol cigarettes anymore?!?) we have managed to occasionally find motels that allow smoking in your rooms! Chalk one up for smokers! We ain't dead yet!

A short time after we checked into our rooms we decided to forage for sustenance. Lucky for us sustenance was close at hand and only two doors down. Now normally I don't plug any restaurants here in the blog although I have been actively reviewing them on Google Maps. But this one I have to tell you about. The name of the restaurant is Mamadou's and tonight I ate the most delectable fried catfish with Cajun seasonings I've ever eaten while 50's top 40 hits played softly in the background. It was lightly breaded with cornmeal and fried crisp without being greasy. And the portions are so large that I brought tomorrow's lunch back to my room with me. If you're ever in Glenpool OK you've got to check them out.

The night shoot was a total bust. I had been looking forward to it as we eased our way ever closer to Tulsa. I had originally read about the Neon Park of Tulsa in a news article online. Although we've seen many Route 66 heyday era neon signs along the way, all of our travels have been in daylight since we're both experiencing the challenge of less than stellar eyesight after sunset.

My first inkling that something was amiss was when we passed by the accessible only on foot, under the overpass Neon Park site while driving to our motel after our recon...it was very small. When I returned to my room I scoured the internet for any news I could find. Curiously, all the news articles were dated September of last year during or right after their grand opening. Undaunted we headed back to the park about 45 minutes before sunset to be certain to snag a good parking spot since it was Friday night. No worries on that front. It was completely empty when we arrived and the occupants of the few cars which arrived minutes later didn't exactly give off those, "We're here  to do touristy things" vibe. It felt more like a "We're here to conduct illegal activities" vibe.

Earlier in the day we couldn't help but noticing the tell tale signs of homeless activity. Behind the bronze East Meets West monument what I had first suspected was a senseless act of littering, upon closer inspection, was actually the detritus of an unfortunate life that had been carelessly abandoned. What had happened to the owner? Had they been injured or killed? Had they been arrested? Had they jumped from the bridge? We'll never know. While following the path to view the bridge I would later walk across to Neon Park, once under the overpass I quickly turned and took a quick shot up the concrete embankment which when blown up revealed people and possessions up on the ledges under the steel girders.

As I was walking across the Arkansas River at dusk I glanced up trying to see where the lights were. What lights? There were no lights! How is it possible that trails in a park advertised as "open 24 hours" aren't all lit for night time use. I kept walking thinking of how dark it would be by the time I was making the return trip. Unfazed, I decided I would simply use the flashlight on my phone to light my way. I finally made it to the park on the other side and quickly found the Neon Park site. It was very small. Three neon signs, which I soon discovered were replicas, stone information markers explaining where they had been originally and a large Route 66 Tulsa road sign painted on the walkway. 

As I waited for darkness to fall and the light show to begin I spotted a young man approach walking his German Shepherd puppy (which I had to pet of course). I asked him approximately when the lights come on. "Oh, they haven't come on for months. They were disconnected because the homeless kept tapping into them," he replied. Seriously?? What a complete letdown. He also advised that the beautiful park by day quickly turned into a rather sketchy area after dark and that I should cross over Route 66 and take the street level sidewalk on the bridge for my return trip to the parking lot. Figuring a local knows best the area in which he resides I followed his advice. At least I got a couple of good shots of the river and skyline as well as a sunset shot from the parking lot before the light completely dissolved.

Tomorrow is a day of rest so we'll probably just replenish our road trip supplies from Wally World down the road and take it easy. When we purchased our items at the Blue Whale gift shop this flyer was place in our bag so I added a Part 2 tonight to share it with ya'll. I'll still write a blog tomorrow (today?) but it will be much shorter. This one is going out very late but at least I don't have to wake up early tomorrow. See ya on the flipside!

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