Route 66

The last—or first, depending on your direction—sizable town east of the Texas border is Elk City (pop. 11,523), “Home of Susan Powell, Miss America 1981,” and also childhood home of songwriter Jimmy Webb, who penned such all-time classics as “Galveston,” “Wichita Lineman,” “MacArthur Park,” and “Up, Up and Away.” Elk City was a popular stopover on Route 66, as evidenced by the many old motels along the various alignments of the old highway through town.

route 66 shield sign at the national route 66 museum in elk city
National Route 66 Museum. Photo © StockPhotoAstur/Dreamstime (editorial use).

Long before Elk City had its Route 66 heyday, it was a wild frontier town along the cattle trails from Texas to Dodge City, Kansas. The area’s cowboy and pioneer history is recounted in the Old Town Museum (2717 W. 3rd St., 580/225-2207, daily May-Dec., Mon.-Sat. Jan.-Apr., $5), on the far west side of town, where there’s a recreated Wild West town, complete with a doctor’s office, a schoolhouse, a tepee, and a rodeo museum. A newer addition to Old Town Museum is the official National Route 66 Museum, which has a huge Route 66 shield outside; inside there’s an old pickup truck decorated to look like the one from The Grapes of Wrath and lots of other old-road memorabilia.

During the 1940s, oil and gas were discovered underground in the Anadarko Basin, and the town experienced another short boom, a time remembered by the towering “Rig 114,” a record-breaking, 180-ft-tall (55-m) drilling rig, installed after its retirement in the park next to the closed Casa Grande Hotel. Though fossil fuels have had their ups and downs, in recent years the industry has been on the upswing, leading city fathers to proclaim Elk City the “Natural Gas Capital of the World.”

Elk City has one more surefire Route 66 attraction: the delectable French Silk pie (butter, sugar, and vanilla served in a graham cracker crust) baked at the Country Dove Tea Room (610 W. 3rd St., 580/225-7028).

Travel Map of Oklahoma

Map of Route 66 through Oklahoma.
Map of Route 66 through Oklahoma.

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