We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family in Pampa Texas and enjoyed another day of down time before heading out on Friday to make our way home. Most of the time when we come see them, we travel I-40, but knowing we weren't going to make the full way home in one day this trip, we decided to spend some quality time in North Central Oklahoma on roads less traveled.
About 20 miles east of the Texas border, and 30 miles north of I-40 near Cheyenne Oklahoma, we found The Washita Battlefield National Historic Site. This is where Lt. Col. George Custer led the 7th US Calvary on a surprise attack at dawn against a Southern Cheyenne village and the tragic slaughter of it's people. The attack was just a day after their leader, Chief Black Kettle, had returned from peace talks with the US. The Peace Chief was killed in the battle, and to this day the area is a reminder of the tragic clash of cultures that took so many lives.
Moving on down highway 283, we found our way to Highway 33 and boogied across Central Oklahoma with not much else on the agenda for that Friday, other than seeing some of the towns we usually miss traveling more major thoroughfares through the state. Like Kingfisher, situated on the Chisholm Trail and founded during the Federal Governments "Land Rush" in the late 1880's. If you make it there, be sure to check out the Chisholm Trail Museum and Governor Seay Mansion.
Eastward still on Highway 33 we pass through Guthrie, home of Oklahoma's first capitol, and across I-35 until finally meeting up with I-44 just outside of Tulsa. Doing this area quite a bit on our Route 66 travels, we decide to push on without stopping to our final destination of the day, Grand Lakes, where good friends await to put us up for the night [Thanks Susy, Jerry and Lou! We had a blast!!..oh, and Randy too for the great suggestions on places to go in South West Missouri :) ]
Saturday we said goodbye to our friends and began our trek to far Southwest Missouri, winding around Grand Lake, then onto highway 59 through Copeland, eventually meeting up with highway 90 into Noel Missouri. This is one of the few "Christmas" cities in the US, where people send letters to have postmarked for the holiday, and is in McDonald county, which has a strong history of Civil War skirmishes and later became a very popular vacation destination. There were many resorts throughout the county, and touring Caves as well, including the still active Bluff Dwellers Cave near Noel.
Our bonus on this part of the trip though was finding Truitt's Cave on Highway 59 north of Noel in Lanagan Missouri. This once thriving tourist stop still has a billboard on the highway, but is abandoned after traffic found faster ways through the area on the expanded 71 highway nearby. Almost like a Route 66 relic, it fascinated both of us how something that once housed a Cave restaurant, underground wedding chapel and even a trout reservoir could be pushed aside and forgotten. A little research shows that the closing was actually pretty recent in 2004. What made our stop even more special was finding the grand children of one of the previous owners there, walking the grounds with us, reminiscing about their childhoods and just how "neat" the place really was.
Still pushing north, we made our way to Carthage, site of the Battle of Carthage, another one of the notable fights in the Civil War. Carthage has a beautiful downtown and several mansions along an historic drive through the city. It's also historic for it's role on Route 66, and of course Kathy and I could no longer resist the call of the Mother Road and just had to head east toward Springfield to at least take in a small part of it.
Along the route we made a stops at Spencer and at Paris Springs Junction, home of the Gay Parita Sinclair Station. The original building is gone, but Gary Turner and his son Steve rebuilt the 1930's era icon in 2006, and it's a great stop for all Route 66 enthusiasts. Kathy of course was in hog heaven taking pictures of long forgotten stops along the route all the way to Springfield where we finally ran out of daylight, and headed north on 65 to our home base in Warsaw.
It was a 2,200 mile round trip through Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas, and a memorable one for sure. Thanks for following along. We have no idea where we will go next, but in the meantime we'll continue to write about the incredible stories of the American West with dreams of the road on our horizon. Be watching the "What's New" page for articles born out of our adventure.