Tonight, as my family was on our way from Tulsa to Oklahoma City down Interstate 44, we were detoured off the turnpike due to an accident. Our detour took us to historic Route 66. A few miles down the Mother Road, we had an opportunity to get back on the newer, faster I-44, but leaving the decision up to the kids, we chose instead to stay on the old highway and have a look at the towns and attractions along the way.
My kids had not been down that section of Route 66 in a long time. They’ve never been further west of Oklahoma City, where some of the original concrete highway is still in use. This year, as part of our study of Oklahoma history, we are determined to see much of the state that is missed if you only travel by way of I-35, I-44 and I-40.
Seeing historic America
Drive along the major interstate highways and much of what your family will see is the same. A McDonald’s here, a convenience store and gas station there; once in a while a chance to exit the main thoroughfare and have a meal at one of the many chain restaurants that make one town hard to distinguish from the next.
But if you take the historic byways with your kids, you will see so much more. You’ll see small towns, many nearly forgotten and some still thriving. You’ll see main streets that look much as they did decades ago, and homey restaurants owned by local folks who care. You will see where history happened.
Follow the brown signs
Brown signs dot the highways marking the way to historic landmarks worth visiting. A while back, my family followed one of these signs on a whim and found ourselves at a Civil War battleground in central Missouri. It was a sign we’d driven past many times, but never followed because we were pressed for time. Now it is a landmark forever etched in our minds, and a piece of history with which we are very familiar.
When we take the time to follow the brown signs, we are seldom disappointed. There’s always something to learn along an old road off the interstate.
Don’t get lost
It’s easy to find your way back and forth to scenic destinations with GPS devices and electronic maps. But be careful. Make sure your maps are updated and use common sense when driving to an unknown destination. If you are low on gas, make sure to fill up as soon as possible when you detour from your normal path. And if you do happen to get lost, don’t hesitate to stop and ask for directions back to the main road. Chances are you’re not the first family to get turned around on a historic detour.
More by Tavia:
Best Caves on Route 66
Make Spring Break a Learning Adventure
Exploring Oklahoma History in 2013