Westward ho!

Michael Bushnell
Northeast News

Leaving My-yam-uh (the proper pronunciation as you wouldn’t want to be called out by locals), we head west on the old route through the barren plains of Oklahoma.

Oklahoma claims the longest drivable stretch of the old Route 66, with over 400 miles of improved road surface winding through towns and past roadside attractions along the way.

Dubbed The Will Rogers Expressway these days, Interstate 44 still loosely follows the route of Route 66 from the state line to our destination today, beautiful Arcadia, Oklahoma, and the most photographed icon along the entire 2200-plus miles of the old route, the Arcadia Round Barn.

Now recognized as a National Historic Landmark, the barn was the brainchild of local farmer and rancher William H. Odor in 1898.

Odor built a saw mill on his land and cut native burr oak trees into lumber for the project. The green lumber was then soaked and placed in special jigs to bend them into the circular shape.

Townspeople and neighbors told Odor the project couldn’t be completed as planned. Odor, stubborn as he was, proved them all wrong and the result stands today as a testament to his  legacy.

When U.S. 66 was mapped in the late 1920s, planners routed the new highway through Arcadia and the barn soon became one of the more popular roadside attractions along the entirety of Route 66.

With the advent of the Interstate Highway system, however, traffic along the old route waned and the barn soon fell into disrepair with the roof collapsing on the structure in 1988.

A crew of local volunteers, however, saved the day. In 1992, the barn received a national preservation honor recognizing the volunteer effort to save the historically significant structure through donated equipment and labor.

The Arcadia Round Barn is 60 feet in diameter, stands 45 feet high and is the only truly round barn along Route 66.

It is said that its roundness has saved it from Oklahoma’s active tornado season on many occasions.

Next week, we’ll head farther west in Oklahoma and visit more kitchy roadside attractions along America’s Mother Road.

Stick with us, we’ve only begun to “get our kicks” on Route 66!


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