Route 66 Oklahoma is famous for being a place where the east of the Mississippi culture meets the wild west. As the Route 66 moves in the direction of the southwestern states, the mode becomes much more of a vacationland travel corridor. The motels, restaurants and tourist traps all take on more of a western theme as a Route 66 traveler heads further into the land of the wide open spaces. The western end of Oklahoma was a glorious place for travelers long ago when the golden age of automobile touring was at a peak, yet all the fun times tragically came to a crashing halt when Route 66 was bypassed by a modern high speed freeway back in the 1960s.
In modern times, only the remnants of some of the old Route 66 communities remain along Route 66 in western Oklahoma. A few of the old Route 66 towns are beyond any hope of rejuvenation, while other communities have fought hard to retain a spot on the map. The section of Route 66 between Sayre and Erick, Oklahoma provides a good example of just how economically devastating the loss of traffic from a major travel route bypass can be to local communities. However, because of the popularity of Mother Road nostalgia, the towns of Sayre and Erick have once again stepped back into the limelight.
Sayre, Oklahoma was a post Civil War era railroad town, which actually was an outpost in the vast Indian Territory of the old west. Sayre has an active main street area and a few remnants of the Route 66 travel era can still be seen. Sayre also was an industrial town in the mid 1900s, so it was a trucker’s port of entry. One of the largest truck stops along Route 66 was once located in Sayre and a few scenes from the classic movie “Grapes Of Wrath” were filmed at the old courthouse.
Traveling west to Erick from Sayre is as easy as jumping back on Interstate Highway 40, although those who wish to travel in style will opt for driving on Business Route 40, which actually is good old historic Route 66. The old business route rolls on through several farms and ranches where a few old roadside Route 66 billboard signs beckon tourists to visit attractions that may or may not be long gone. Modern looking billboards and roadside signs that look like they have been recently refreshed are the best bets for seeking Route 66 tourist attractions that are still alive, while the neglected rusty signs make for good nostalgic photo mementos of the journey.
As I rolled into the town of Erick on old Route 66 during the spring season, there was some kind of a police blockade going on that day. As it turned out, it was only a slight road construction delay which left me parked and waiting at the main street intersection with a good view of the old downtown area. It was as if I was looking at a hundred years of main street history when gazing from the middle of the Route 66 intersection and it was evident that Erick was hit especially hard when the modern high speed freeway bypassed this town.
As I sat waiting in the car at the intersection, a police officer strolled over to strike up some conversation about the 392 Hemi Challenger that I was driving at that time. I mentioned that I was doing a photography tour of historic Route 66 through Oklahoma and a big smile spread all over his face. This officer was a real local kind of guy that took great pride in preserving the heritage of his community, so he pretty much gave me a verbal tour of the town. The places that the officer mentioned were all tourist attractions from the old days that have recently undergone a rebirth in this modern age, so I did the tour.
There was one place in particular that the officer guided me towards with the intent of making sure that this tourist attraction would be mentioned in the travel article that I had proposed to write. Oleta’s Gift Shop is located on a side street it is easy to see why a special mention was needed. This old local trading post certainly represents the charm of this old town, so it is well worth spending an extra five minutes to find this unique Route 66 landmark!
Sitting at the Route 66 main street intersection in Erick would have taken much longer, but the local police officer waved me through, just because I was a Route 66 travel writer. This just goes to show how important the promotion of Route 66 tourism really is in small towns like Erick, Oklahoma! It is the Route 66 nostalgia tourism that keeps this place on the map, so when given freedom to roam, I certainly made the best of the situation. Photographing the old Route 66 attractions in downtown Erick was a breeze, since I was driving the only vehicle that was allowed through the road block. Being a Route 66 enthusiast actually does have its benefits!
As far as it goes, Erick, Oklahoma certainly is Route 66 nostalgia heaven! There are old junkyards that are filled with rusty old cars and trucks from the 1930s through the 1960s, so this old time capsule of a town is a boneyard picker’s dream come true. Most of the buildings have not changed much since the golden age of automobile travel, but they have recently been freshened up with the expectation of more Route 66 tourists passing through. Hundreds of priceless metal signs from the past adorn the curios shops and trading posts in this town. A true nostalgia buff could spend plenty of time gawking over the rusty old eye candy, while dreaming of the old days of when the rebellious Hollywood movie stars cruised down this old road.
Erick, Oklahoma certainly is seeing a Route 66 tourism rebound in modern times and it is the local people that made it happen. By not allowing their community to fade into the past, the town of Erick is poised to lure many more tourists back onto this section of the Mother Road. The Roger Miller Museum is located in Erick too, so this goes to show how far back this little town goes in classic Route 66 history. This also demonstrates how wide ranging the Route 66 tourism age group really is.
Driving the section of Route 66 between Sayre and Erick is kind of like witnessing an old historic time capsule being reopened for the first time since it was sealed by the I-40 bypass. There are plenty of junkyards, faded billboard signs and abandoned buildings from the old days, while at the same time, many of the Route 66 businesses from the golden age are being restored. Modern Route 66 tourism is what is making it all happen, so this is reason enough to chalk this section of the Mother Road high on the list when touring western Oklahoma!
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