The town of Quapaw is a good choice for bedding down after touring Route 66 through Missouri and Kansas, which can be done in one long day. Quapaw is where travelers going west have the choice of jumping on the modern high speed Interstate Highway 44 Toll Road that completely bypasses Route 66 or taking a leisurely tour of some of the most famous sections of the Mother Road through eastern Oklahoma. In this case, being in a hurry will result in lost opportunities and higher expenses, so good old Route 66 it is!
I did the I-44 trip the first time that I passed through these parts and it was not exactly a pleasurable experience. The tolls add up to some serious money spent and if you head west in the afternoon, you will be looking straight into the blazing sun for what seems like an eternity. I was nearly blind from the staring into the sun while keeping the eyes on the road the last time around, so I swore that I would never do a repeat performance on I-44 ever again.
Quapaw is tribal land, so there are a few benefits to be aware of. Tobacco prices in Tribal shops are not taxed, so bargains can be found. There are several good casinos in Quapaw and the Buffalo Run Casino Hotel is as posh as it gets. The Indian Territorial Memorial is located in this town and this attraction is definitely worth checking out. Quapaw is a good starting point for Route 66 ventures in eastern Oklahoma, because the old Mother Road is only a few miles away.
From Quapaw, heading toward the historic town of Commerce on Route 66 is a good way to start the day. Commerce is the home of the baseball legend Mickey Mantle and fans worldwide make a pilgrimage to this town to pay homage to this great American athlete. There is a statue of Mickey Mantle near the center of town and the old Mickey Mantle residence still stands. A local that I was chatting with stated that they have been trying to turn the Mickey Mantle Home into a museum for many years, but the funding has fallen short. Mutt Mantle Field is another famous attraction in Commerce and this baseball field was built by Mickey Mantle’s father to honor his son. Mutt Mantle Field definitely is a place that baseball fans should place high on their Route 66 destination list!
Other Route 66 attractions in Commerce include the old historic Dairy King and the Conoco Gas Station, which are located practically across the street from each other. Automobile fueling stations were a premier new idea when the Conoco Station was first built way back in the 1920s and this is evident in the design. The Conoco Station was basically an addition to the old main street brick building next door, so it is often referred to as the "Hole In The wall Gas Station." This gas station was constructed in 1929 and it still looks as it did when it was originally built. The Dairy King is an old historic Route 66 landmark too and it also was equipped with gas pumps during the same era. This Dairy King was one of the first to apply the “fast food-gas station combo” concept. Now the old Dairy King is a tourist attraction that is stocked full of interesting Route 66 memorabilia.
Oklahoma is the land of pecan trees, so it pays to take a little detour down a side street to check out the Oklahoma Native Pecans store just south of the Commerce main street area. Munching on something healthy like pecans while driving on Route 66 will help to fight driver fatigue.
When heading southwest on Route 66 from Commerce, it does not take long to get to the historic town of Miami, Oklahoma. This part of Route 66 is doing well in the modern age, since this old road still functions as the main street business district. The old historic buildings are a sight to behold and one can see how Miami has progressed into the modern age while preserving its Route 66 heritage. Landmarks to look for in Miami include Waylan’s Ku-Ku Burger and the old Coleman Theatre. Munching on a Ku-Ku Burger while cruising down old Route 66 is as classic as it gets! The Waylan’s Ku-Ku Burger building design resembles a Ku-Ku Clock, so when the sign is seen when passing by, everybody knows that it is officially burger munch time!
The historic Coleman Theatre is an architectural masterpiece. This business has been open since 1929 and the building still looks brand new. The Spanish style architecture was considered to be exotic way back in its day and this old theater complex was the first to offer an all encompassing entertainment experience along a major highway. Hot food, lodging, theater entertainment and cultural attractions are what the Coleman Theatre was famous for back in the old days of Route 66.
Of course there is much more to explore in the Quapaw to Miami section of Route 66 that is not mentioned in this article. There are fireworks stands, museums, native art galleries and trading posts located along this stretch of the Mother Road that are well worth looking into. The pace along Route 66 in this area is easy going just like it always used to be, so there are no hurries or worries. Just fold the top down on the old convertible, put on the sun glasses and cruise, cruise, cruise down good old historic Route 66!
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