Andy Rieger mug

Andy Rieger

"Men desire a battle to fight, a beauty to rescue and an adventure to live." —John Eldredge

Route 66, known as America’s Main Street, turns 100 years old in 2026. In Oklahoma there is just over 432 miles of the old highway, much of it still passable if you can find it. During the summer and fall of 2021 and in part of 2022, some fellow cyclists joined me as we pedaled the length of the Mother Road across the state of Oklahoma.

This was our adventure to live. We took a little longer than expected. Along the way, we stopped to celebrate the famous Oklahomans who lived along the route.

The road symbolized more than automobile mobility. It represented the freedom to travel from Chicago to Santa Monica with only a map and some cash. It represented a way out for struggling “Okies” during the Depression and a route back home, too.

The adventure begins for three of us in Oklahoma City headed to El Reno. My cycling partners were OU professors Dave Sabatini and Bob Dauffenbach. Joining us for two of the legs were Chip Minty and Gary Miller.

Near our state Capitol starting spot, we cycled west on NW 23rd. It's one of the Route 66 alternates. The breeze pushed us north on Classen past the famous Milk Bottle to 39th Street, and back on the Mother Road. We pass through Bethany with its quaint downtown and Nazarene college and then farther west to through what was once a gaggle of automobile dealers and some hotels. The original bridge at Overholser provides our first photo-opp of the ride.

A loop around Lake Overholser takes us to the Route 66 park a few miles off course. There, a statue of Andy Payne reminds us of his history with the highway. In 1928 he ran the 3,400 mile Bunion Derby race from Los Angeles to New York and won $25,000 to help save the family farm in Foyil, OK. Much of the race route was on the new Route 66 highway.

Also at the park is the Cy Avery pavilion, named for the Tulsa businessman considered the father of Route 66. He was part of a federal committee looking at locations for interstate highways and was instrumental in Oklahoma being part of that route.

After the park leg, we head west to Yukon and its photogenic grain silos and Garth Brooks Boulevard. An aerobatic pilot from a nearby airport does barrel rolls and loops over the nearby interstate. The breeze stiffens as we continue westward to El Reno and our final destination on this day’s ride, Sid’s Onion Burgers. It’s a small diner with a big reputation. We order burgers, fries and shakes. Our traveling foodie splurges with a banana split. Can a nap be far behind?

In El Reno, we pass the federal prison and its cattle pens. We stay on the old route and seem to pass more dead animals than vehicles. A live snake guards his lane. The remains of a small deer, reduced to bone and skin, is on the shoulder. We see armadillos, raccoons, snakes and turkey vultures dropping down for lunch. Kite birds soar overhead in the afternoon heat.

We have a nice breeze which makes for a cool crosswind early in our trek.

A few miles later, we stop at Lucille’s, a famed gas station opened in 1941, closed but with old-time pumps available for our photo-ops.

We spin through Hydro and battle some wicked hills before a downhill segment through Bridgeport to the famous Pony Bridge. That 38-arch span is almost 4,000 feet long and was completed in 1933. It replaced a 1,000 foot suspension bridge built in 1921 on the dirt route.

The original route is marked better and we make few wrong turns this time. It’s a short ride and Weatherford’s downtown is thriving. It’s a college town and school is starting soon. We stop for a picture at the Tom Stafford museum, which highlights the hometown hero's Gemini and Apollo careers.

A few miles later, we stop at Lucille’s, a famed gas station opened in 1941, closed but with old-time pumps available for our photo-ops.

We cycle on to Clinton.

On the Mother Road’s far western stint, the Route 66 museum in Clinton was not open when we arrived for our next leg a few weeks later but it made a great place to take a picture and get oriented for the 70-mile plus ride west to Texola. They have a vintage Mustang, old gas stations and a motel motif.

The museum is a little off the main path but two EMTs lead us to what’s left of the Mother Road on our way to Elk City, Sayre, Eric and Texola. Like the museum in Claremore, they tout Oklahoma’s native son in their Will Rogers Highway marker. Clinton’s contribution is noteworthy: Barber Jack Cutberth and his wife, Gladys, spent more than 20 years boosting Route 66.

Jack Cutberth became the secretary of the Route 66 Association’s Oklahoma chapter and later became the national executive secretary. He was known as “Mr. 66.”

In western Oklahoma, Old Route 66 meanders on the north and south sides of Interstate 40. It’s often confusing as the state directs travelers to I-40 instead of the original Route 66. Once you figure it out, the concrete road has many remnants of the bygone days. We found old bridges, vintage service station buildings, under highway passages for school kids, stately homes and some schools and stadiums. There were very few travelers on the road, save for rural mail carriers.

In Elk City, a kids baseball game is taking place in a WPA-era stadium alongside Route 66. We opt for lunch at Fred’s in Elk City. It’s next to I-40 and a little way off the old Route 66 but worth the diversion.

On the way back, we see the old hotel where the 1931 Route 66 Association convention took place in Elk City. We see the courthouse in Sayre depicted in John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath movie.

In Erick, we looked for the birthplace of singer-songwriter Roger Miller. His song, “King of the Road,” was stuck in our hard-drives as we traveled Route 66, now named Roger Miller Boulevard, toward Texola and the Texas state line.

Next week: We head east on the Mother Road.

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