So we started the day in Meeker, seeking the spirit of King Carl Hubbell. First stop was the Meeker News (“Weekly in the Home of Carl Hubbell”) and at 8 a.m. publisher Ken Friskup, a character a Sooner Dickens might have invented, was glad to oblige.
“He’s buried out at the cemetery, I can show you where. Lots of his relatives still here, one of them works up at How Sweet It Is. Be sure to stop by the museum in the Town Hall.”
He gave us the last of his supply of postcards detailing Hubbell’s records. We gave him our outline of 62, the length of which he did not know though it ran right by his front door. “El Paso?,” he said. “Why would anyone want to go to El Paso?’
The one-floor town hall lobby displayed icons, pictures and souvenirs, and then it was on to How Sweet It Is, “Home of The Dinosaur Doughnut,” which by 10 a.m. is extinct. The air was thick with cowboy talk, the croissants as feathery as the sky.
One of the breakfast club finally turned to us and softly twanged his welcome: “You aren’t from around here, are you?”
Then the chef came out to autograph Doug’s scorebook (“With my Hubbell name, if you’d like”) and the proprietor gave us a jar of salsa she had just made. We hated to leave Meeker, where pride in Carl Hubbell had rubbed off on itself.
Heading west toward Oklahoma City, we thought back on how many memorable times had sprung from disappointment, starting with the commercialism of Berlin and Wilmot, OH, leading up to the Mount Hope Summit.
Kurtz’s, Kessler’s, the Rose Hill Porch, Maker’s Mark (now running low), all were desperation alternatives, and if the Valentine of Shawnee had not gotten religion, we’d have had but a moment for Meeker. Route 62 was giving us a lesson in flexibility.
Oklahoma City is the only common ground of the Mother Road and the Other Road. Route 66 went through northeast to west; Route 62 passes from east to southwest. They may have even have shared a few blocks through the government district, including the fatally bombed Murragh Building, but 66 is gone while 62 passes harmlessly and charmlessly around the city and its Will Rogers Airport on a series of Interstates, speed limit 70.
Now, with 62 back in its own two-lane shoes, the land changes color to red. Blanchard shows us a fine Veterans’ Memorial. One of the largest grain elevators we have ever seen looms over Chickasha, where seven numbered highways intersect.
Polly, navigating on this shift, cries “halt!” She has sighted the J&W Grill, a cinderblock diner breathtaking in its lack of pretension.
It had 15 stools, 20 customers and still, time to be nice. Some clients wore suits, some dungarees. One slim little counter gal obliged them all, even forgiving our hesitation over an unfamiliar menu.
We settled on a corn dog, which was fine, but still a mistake. This was, we learned a moment too late, “The home of the fried onion hamburger,” its aroma imbedded in the walls. We were the only ones there who didn’t have one.
The J&W Grill’s sanitary facilities provided another unique adventure, requiring first a tour of the kitchen with informal introductions to all the help. It was a tight squeeze. One cook pleaded “Please don’t go to El Paso. You won’t like it.”
As Route 62 heads west, then south, oil pumps bow like donkeys. In Andarko, home of the National Hall of Fame for Famous American Indians, it’s known as Peetree Road.
Apache has a crossroads plateau almost as large as the village itself, with a well-detailed, untended museum in a former hank.
Everything is on the honor system, including attractive postcards. We send seven with the Apache postmark.
Route 62 dodges the military city of Lawton and turns right toward Texas as the Duanah Parker Trailway, the setting sun dead ahead. We wonder again, would we have been wiser to drive west to east? Altus is too soon to quit and Hollis too small, even with its photo-op at the Motley Gin Company, named for a county and the invention that spins cotton into gold.
Six miles later we’re in Texas (70 day, 65 night) and a southerly turn sidelines the sun. It’s as dry as desert, especially the Red River, spanned by a half-mile of redundant bridge.
There’s a junction at Childress with Route 83, with a dozen motels and Morgan’s House of Catfish. Doug demolishes a plateful of bitelets called “Cat Nip.” Polly, who rejects as nourishment all forms of underwater life, orders a small cut of beef and when the waitress says “your stack will be right out,” fears that her order has gone in instead as pancakes, but “stack” is what they call steak around Childress, and this close to the source, steak stacks up pretty well.