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Along Route 66–Central Oklahoma

Last fall I returned to eastern Oklahoma for the first time in a dozen years. Back in the eighties and nineties, when I was cruising Route 66 for two books, Along Route 66 and Route 66, I was concentrating on the architecture of the roadside businesses and the people inside them. I hardly noticed the landscape, until a last trip in the mid-eighties. And I was working in black and white, not in color. I was cued into form, not color.

Last fall, the landscape along Route 66 blew me away.

Edna Prokupt's Bus Stop, Luther, Oklahoma

I passed through Luther, hoping to see Edna Prokupt’s tiny gas station and bus stop, a giraffe stone building in red rock. It was gone. So was the bridge across Wildhorse Creek, replaced by a low modern bridge, the kind that doesn’t allow the driver to see the stream.

Wildhorse Creek at Luther

The creek cut through green fields of winter wheat, its banks pink, but not deep red.

South Canadian River near Geary

West of Oklahoma City the South Canadian River is redder, but the winter wheat, now in the spring twenty years ago is just as green. The South Canadian has been eroding the bank and moving closer and closer to old Route 66.

North of 66 at Okeene

North of 66 at Okeene, an anvil cloud rises over the more winter wheat in the fertile agricultural belt that is central Oklahoma.

Erosion channel near Elk City

At Elk City, the sandstone hills are startling red. The red dirt comes from the underlying Permian formation, filled with iron oxide, which extends from the Kansas border to the Red River.

So when you drive Route 66, pay attention to the landscape from the  Illinois prairies, to the Ozark forests and streams, to the red hills and streams of Oklahoma.

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