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The Renaissance Of Historic Route 66 In Oklahoma

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Historic Route 66 has taken many turns in its 91 years. Historic Route 66 has taken many turns in its 91 years.
OKLAHOMA CITY -

Historic Route 66 has taken many turns in its 91 years. It connected the east to the west, spurring a new way of travel. Even though five interstates eventually replaced the old road, a renaissance is putting the famous highway back on the map.

"It's the trip of a lifetime, it's the most famous highway in the world," said Michael Wallis, the 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, people like to be out they like the freedom of the open road," said Jim Ross, Route 66 Historian.

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. The folk artist constructed the pieces from 1937-1961. The totem poles are made of stone, concrete, steel and wood. The park is located just 3.5 miles off of the Mother Road.

Back on the route to Catoosa, you can discover a giant concrete blue whale.

"It's unbelievable how many people stop here," said owner Blaine David. "And they're from all over the world, literally."

Davis' dad built the huge whale dock back in the 70's, when the site was just a swimming hole.

"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 punch of old and new," said Wallis.

The Round Barn, built in 1898 to shelter livestock, is now one of the most popular attractions on the roadway.

Less than a mile down the road is POPs.

"The 66-foot pop bottle is the signature," said Marty Doepke, with POPs.

POPs is a fairly new stop on the route and offers gas, a restaurant and 700 different types of soda.

"Really when you look at Route 66 and the attractions it's all about icons," said Doepke. "Being on route 66 it really fit. Every aspect and architecture of this building is based off Route 66; every inch of this building has a reason to it. So, it really plays into the Mother Road."

As you head west towards Hydro, you can see Lucille's. The gas station opened in 1941 by Lucille Hamon, who was nicknamed the mother of the Mother Road. She ran it for 51 years.

"She was just a neat old gal that liked to talk," said Rick Koch, who grew up in the area and now owns 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 or her husband had fixed the car."

Koch restored the old gas station just as a historic stop. Down the road in Weatherford, he opened Lucille's Roadhouse restaurant in 2006 to honor Lucille.

"We patterned the restaurant after that building," he said. "So the story could be told."

For a real history lesson, stop in Clinton at the Route 66 Museum. 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 and more and more people are becoming interested in Route 66," said Pat Smith, Route 66 Museum Director.

The road still connects rural towns and cities. In fact, in many places it still serves as Main Street.

"This road puts vehicular traffic, vehicular traffic in your state in your county in your town, you’re not a pass through on the super slab on the turnpike, people will actually stop," said Wallis.

Approximately 45,000 people travel the route through Oklahoma each year, 30-percent are from other countries.

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