The Coleman Theatre in Miami was built in 1929 as a vaudeville palace. The “Mighty Wurlitzer” pipe organ played along to silent films inside while people marveled at the Spanish Revival-style architecture outside. Although the theater fell into disrepair in the 1980s, it has been fully restored and tours are now regularly available. When you stand on the stage and look out over the auditorium, you can almost hear the applause given to famous entertainers who performed there like Tom Mix, Sally Rand, Bing Crosby and Will Rogers. Music acts, dramatic productions and silent movie festivals still happen throughout the year.
On the other side of Miami, near Narcissa, a bypassed segment of the old road stretches beyond a granite historic marker. This is the Sidewalk Highway, also known as Ribbon Road. The single lane is only 9 feet wide. Legend has it that the narrow width was a cost-saving measure; should two cars happen to encounter one another, one was expected to pull off to the side and let the other pass.
Back when Route 66 was in its heyday, the heavy traffic made it hazardous to cross on foot. To solve this problem, some towns built underground tunnels to allow pedestrians to cross in safety. Most of them are gone now, but one in Chelsea was recently restored. One wall contains a mural featuring several historic sites from the town, while the opposite wall is home to hundreds of signatures left by travelers from across the globe. Bring a Sharpie and add your own name.
The city of Tulsa holds a distinctive place on the highway. Not only does the rich Oil Capital heritage show itself through downtown architecture and the giant Golden Driller statue, but the spot where Route 66 crosses the Arkansas River is marked by a statue of Cyrus Avery.
He was the known as the “Father of Route 66” due to his influence in establishing the road and creating the U.S. Highway 66 Association. Without Avery, Route 66 might’ve never existed. The same area also is slated to be the home of the Route 66 Experience in 2019.
Stroud is home to the Rock Cafe. Dawn Welch, the current owner of the restaurant, previously owned a restaurant in Costa Rica before she came to town to look at an old grill. She fell in love with the place and has been operating “The Rock” ever since. Her story inspired the character of Sally Carrera in Pixar’s 2006 film “Cars,” which is represented by multiple cutout characters from the film in front of the building.
Oklahoma City’s sprawling metropolis has seen many alternate alignments of Route 66 over the years. From the driver’s seat, one can see the state capitol building, the neon of the Tower Theater, the giant Braum’s milk bottle on Classen Boulevard and more. In the western suburb of Bethany, the steel spans of the Lake Overholser Bridge bring to mind the days of tail-fin Cadillacs and station wagon vacations.
The landscape begins to flatten as you make your way to the Texas border. The winding lanes are occasionally dotted with small communities that are little more than ghost towns today, though they hold evidence of what once was.
Canute still has a few old neon signs along the roadside, though their days of buzzing brightly in the night are long past.