The afternoon air in Oklahoma City on New Year’s Day, 2008, was still crisp and cool, but with the sun shining brightly overhead it promised to warm up more as the day passed. After spending the morning at the Oklahoma City National Memorial, I was ready for some lighter hearted entertainment in the afternoon before heading out of Oklahoma and into Arkansas.
Continuing along the famed Route 66 into Arcadia, Oklahoma, there were two places I was very excited to visit. The first was a roadside restaurant, gas and convenience store called Pops, and it was anything but ordinary. The first thing that came into sight was the 66 foot tall, 4 ton white metal spiral structure of a pop bottle, complete with a straw sticking out the top. The store and restaurant was no less impressive, built with steel beams and glass, with a long stretching “canopy” that ran over the gas pumps outside, providing a shelter from inclement weather. Inside, the glass walls were lined with shelves from floor to ceiling, featuring rows and rows of different types of colorful sodas in glass bottles.
The sight of all those colors and the promise of countless interesting fizzy sodas to be had provided some serious fun. After fueling up the U-Haul and checking out the huge soda bottle landmark, I headed inside where there were all sorts of Pops souvenirs, clothing items and of course, bottles of soda. With over 500 different varieties to choose from, it took a while to settle on three mix-and-match six packs filled with all sorts of sodas. The pop was sorted by colors, red being represented by cranberry, black cherry, raspberry and fruit punch flavors to name a few. In the orange group were orange, mango, peach and tangerine. On and on it went. Choosing root beer was a feat unto itself, as the selection boasted over 100 varieties, including some with funny names, like Zuberfizz Root Beer, Jackson Hole Snake River Sarsaparilla and Judge Wapner’s Root Beer.
Choosing sodas to fill my six packs was a blast, though it was a challenge narrowing down which ones to just marvel at and which ones to actually take home. For more information on Pops, visit http://www.route66.com.
Just up the road from Pops was the Round Red Barn, another popular landmark on Route 66. Built in 1898, the barn was used for livestock as well as a place for the local townspeople to hold dances and events. It is the only true round barn in the country, and was designed this way to supposedly help withstand Oklahoma’s tornadoes. No one knows if the design actually helps ward off the twisters, but as the barn is still standing, the signs are good!
In 1988 the barn’s 60 foot diameter roof collapsed after 90 years of wear, and it took a group of local volunteers and $65,000 raised through various donations and fundraisers to rebuild the immense roof and restore the barn. As a result of these efforts, Arcadia’s Historical Society Members were given the National Preservation and Honor Award which recognized their accomplishment in preserving the barn.
The Round Red Barn is a unique centerpiece in the small town of Arcadia and is still used for various local events. It is open to the public to visit anytime and donations are welcome. For more information, you can visit www.arcadiaroundbarn.org .
Winding my way back to I-40 from the old Route 66, I was struck again at how beautiful Oklahoma was with the lush green foliage present in January and the red roads prevalent in the countryside. Crossing a bridge over Lake Eufaula heading east, I found myself laughing out loud at an exit for Lotawatah Rd. I wondered who in the world named that road and marveled at the originality and humor in the name.
Oklahoma gave way to Arkansas as I pulled into the town of Van Buren for the night, just as the sun went down on the evening. I felt truly blessed after the New Year’s Day I spent paying my respects to the memory of sad events, and then having a little fun picking 18 kinds of soda pop out of 500 offered. I was thrilled at having visited and photographed the only round red barn in the country and was happy I could officially call myself a Route 66 traveler after three full days along the old route.