For the whole journey so far, the landscape has been familiar. Something you could see in the UK-green, hills, trees, fields. This changed when we hit western Oklahoma. It became drier and flatter. The earth is orange and you can see for miles. The sky became a paler blue to that we witnessed in Tulsa and it went on forever.
A good introduction to the area was the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum at Clinton. It is still popular to drive the whole route from Chicago to California but much of it has been replaced by interstate highway, taking with it the romance of the 30s 40s and 50s. So many things connected with the Mother Road are iconic-the road signs, the petrol pumps, the motels with their neon and the diners. You spend a lot of time on a road trip looking for these things. They hardly exist today but when you see them it gives you a warm feeling.
The museum had all of the icons in bucket loads. I also learned a lot about the road. It’s funny that people associate it with a simpler time as it was always commercial. Roadside diners and motels were invented to service consumers along the way. The parking meter was also invented here. I guess for me, it is the spirit of freedom and adventure that the open road represents that makes it so attractive. The USA is a massive country and for the first time, people could drive across it in a car. There is the spirit of the pioneer, going into the unknown.
The most interesting part of the display was some old black and white images of the dust bowl times in the 1930s, immortalised by John Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath. This is when thousands left the centre of the country for California, forced off their land by a terrible drought. There was an unexpected warmth to the pictures, with families sitting at the roadside eating simple picnics and posing on the bonnets of their trucks. It is not what I remember from the harrowing account of the era in the book.
Just outside the museum we were able to see the original Route 66 as it runs parallel with the interstate highway for a few miles. It was very narrow. We stopped for a cool photo opportunity. We hope to pick the route up later in Arizona.