Peter Nicholson

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Route 66: Halfway There

The dust cloud followed me all the way from Oklahoma.<p>Red-brown, like a storm on the ground, the dust rolled over my car in endless tidal waves, pushing me outside the lines on the road.<p>Ahead of me, a pair of red brake lights glowed in the miasma, like a pair of snake eyes, warning me to back …

Route 66: Six Significant Stops in Oklahoma

I spent nearly a week traveling Route 66 in Oklahoma and I was forever amazed by all the strange and curious things I found (like a round red barn?). Though the Sooner State is only one of eight on Route 66, its attractions are plenty. These are just a few of my personal highlights:<p>1. Blue Whale, …

Route 66: The Center of the Universe

The fur coat in my hands costs $185,000.<p>The price tag states it clearly—the coat costs the same as a three-bedroom house in this town.<p>But then the lady with heavy pink lipstick whispers at me, her cupped hand hushing the secret that only the two of us know, “I could probably get you half-off for …

Route 66: Johnnie’s Onion Burgers

In Oklahoma, you can measure a restaurant by the number of cowboy hats in the room.<p>Sunday noon at Johnnie’s Grill I only counted four, each one a foot taller than anybody’s head. The families walked in after church and everyone bowed over their food, barely talking. The police were there, too—also …

Route 66: Willy, Woody, Mickey & Brad

I’m not sure what’s in the water in Oklahoma, but it sure makes you sing.<p>And dance, and act, and swing a bat. It makes you witty and dashing and beloved by all—and it makes you famous.<p>A few minutes after crossing into “Native America” on Route 66, I veered into the small town of Commerce, …

Route 66: Meeting Mater

If you drive the speed limit and don’t catch any lights, you can be out of Kansas in under fifteen minutes.<p>Only 13.2 miles of Historic Route 66 cuts through the Sunflower State, like a hyphen between Missouri and Oklahoma. In fact, most travelers take I-40 and skip the state altogether—but that’s …

Route 66: Coffee with Clark Gable

“I’m gonna put you in the Clark Gable room,” she said, then handed me a single key on a plastic keychain.<p>“You mean Clark Gable slept in there?”<p>“Yes, he did,” answered the woman behind the desk. “He had an old war friend here in Carthage, and this is where he stayed when he came to visit.”<p>Inside, …

Route 66: Gary’s Gay Parita

“The food gets better as you go west—you’ll see.” Gary nods knowingly with both hands on his knees, then leans back ever so slowly into his chair, as if he’s just revealed the theory of special relativity. His metal chair squeaks and the moppy grey dog in my lap raises her head. “Just make sure you …

Route 66: Shootouts & Snakes

In Missouri, a garden hoe is the best tool for killing cobras. In the summer of 1953, Roland Parrish was working in his front yard, when a long black snake raised its head and spread its hood. One swift swipe with the hoe and the snake was dead. A week later, Roland’s neighbor Wesley saw his …

Road Trip: Route 66

Get your kicks on Route 66 and experience the ultimate all-American road trip from Illinois to California.<p>They say driving Route 66, the iconic 2,400-mile road connecting Chicago with Santa Monica, sneaks us into a bygone America, an era of neon signs and mom-and-pop diners. This waits for us, just …

RVs

Route 66: Steiny’s

“Oh, I remember the ambulance sirens!”<p>The white-haired man shook his head and looked down at the floor, while I imagined the haunting wail and whirling red lights on the dark roadway up here in the hills of Missouri.<p>“Oh, it was a terrible highway,” Bob continued. His wife Kathy stood next to him, …

Route 66: Saint Louis

The Sainte-Chapelle may be my favorite church in the world, and staring at the heavy tulips in Forest Park reminds me of those amazing stained-glass windows back in Paris, brilliant with color and the gold-trimmed spectacle of the 13th century.<p>And yet Easter Sunday at the Cathedral Basilica of St. …

Route 66: Bent Bridge

The Illinois road ends on an island in the stream—a sandy, almond-shaped isle covered with tall and unbending trees. The first bridge is just one lane, so I wait for the light to change green, then rumble up and over the water onto the island. The second bridge is now closed to auto traffic, so I …

Route 66: Lincoln’s Nose

The Lincolns are having ham for dinner, which makes sense, because tomorrow is Easter.<p>The pink plastic pork sits on an antique platter, surrounded by a dozen buttery biscuits fashioned from polyvinyl chloride. They look delicious.<p>Seventy-five percent of the home is original, but the black silk top …

Route 66: Pit-Stop in Pontiac

“So, what do you remember about the road?” I ask.<p>“Traffic!” laughs Jim, and the rest of the table echoes the word.<p>“Traffic and more traffic! Real busy,” they add.<p>“Narrow as hell,” says Harv, and his eyes stop, thinking back to that time in his life traveling down a road that no longer exists.<p>“Lots …

Route 66: Leaving Chicago

I wanted a convertible—<p>—a red vintage convertible with shiny chrome rims and white leather seats. But the Enterprise at O’Hare didn’t have any of those.<p>“You wanna Impala?” The guy asked, but it was white—and I’m allergic to renting white cars. One day on the road and white cars start looking like …

Route 66: The Mother Road

There’s a piece of the road in the museum—square slabs of aged asphalt excised from west of Oklahoma City.<p>I’ve never seen such a thing in a museum. I have seen shrunken human heads and Tyrannosaurus teeth, polished suits of armor and a queen’s underpants, but never before have I seen a chunk of …