Route 66 Through Tulsa, Oklahoma


After passing through dozens of small towns with two-block-long main streets, Tulsa felt downright huge.  It is, after all, the biggest city I’d seen since I left St. Louis the previous morning.

Route 66 is fairly simple to follow across eastern Tulsa: just find 11th St. and head west. (The earliest alignment follows Admiral Place and 2nd Street, instead of 11th, however, I chose the post-1932 route.) Once you get downtown, the Mother Road hops over to 10th St. briefly.  As soon as you’ve passed the immediate downtown area, the route turns south, running parallel to (and almost underneath) I-244/US 75 on Southwest Blvd. A good guide book will help you get through this area without too many headaches.

You’ll have to endure a lot of stop-and-go driving, traffic lights, and urban sprawl as you follow Route 66 through the eastern side of Tulsa.  One reward is the well-maintained neon sign in front of the Desert Hills Motel.  The Desert Hills was built in 1953, and appears to still be in good condition.

I was determined not to spend much time in downtown Tulsa, so I decided on a quick drive-through.  It turns out, there is no such thing as quick, when it comes to driving Tulsa’s downtown streets.  I don’t believe I’ve ever been caught at more red lights than I was here.  None of them seem to be timed properly, so you must stop at every intersection.  An amazing amount of road construction also added to the frustration — I swear, every third intersection was being completely rebuilt!

I tried to find a good place to take a picture, but couldn’t, so I just held my camera out the window (during one of those long waits at a red light) and captured this crooked picture.  Tulsa has a lot of big buildings and some beautiful architecture, but I didn’t have the time to appreciate it all.

One of Tulsa’s many impressive churches is the Holy Family Cathedral, at the corner of 8th Street and Boulder Avenue.  The church caught my attention, when I noticed roofing material missing from the top of its largest steeple, revealing the wood-frame skeleton inside.  Thankfully, the church is in the middle of restoration, and according to its blog, my visit occurred just before workers started installing a new copper roof to the spires.

Another church worth seeing is the Boston Avenue Methodist Church, about 5 blocks south of Holy Family, and just two blocks south of Route 66.  The church’s art deco tower is a local landmark.

From the parking area across the street from Holy Family, I found a fairly decent view of downtown Tulsa.  I would have tried for a better shot, but I had already wasted too much time, slowly circling the downtown streets.

Note: This trip was first published in 2008.

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