Detour – Instead of heading straight down Interstate 35 fromOklahoma City toward Texas, we decided to take a nostalgic trip West alongInterstate 44. I say Nostalgic because 44 traces the old Route 66. In fact, asyou exit I44 at towns like El Reno, Clinton and Elk City it is possible tostill travel on original stretches of the Historic Route 66 – and we did.
The trip along I44 is not just about Historic Route 66 sights. There are also some key American history sites here as well.
Our fist stop after leaving Oklahoma City was Historic FortReno just outside of the town of El Reno. Established as a military post in1876 to help preserve the peace and direct the transition from reservation toindividual farm and ranches and supervised the great Land Run of 1889. The fortalso served as a quartermaster remount depot from 1908 – 1948. That is, it wasa center of specialized horse breeding and training for all branches of themilitary. Black Jack the riderless horse in President Kennedy’s funeralprocession was born here.
But what was the most interesting to us was the fact thatthis fort served as a German POW Camp during World War II. Over 1300 Germans who were captured in North Africa were imprisoned here.
Needless to say – the cemetery was a very interestingchronicle of the fort history.
Our next stop in Clinton and the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum was all about Historic Route 66. JoAnne had traveled from Chicago to LA manytimes on the original Route 66. While I had not traveled to any great extent onRoute 66, it still brought back memories of our family car trips from Chicagoto Montana and Colorado. SEE PHOTOS HERE
Our final stop was the Washita Battlefield outside of ElkCity. (Yes, Elk City is home to the National Route 66 Museum but it was closedduring the time we where there on Sunday.) The Washita Battlefield is the siteof what history as recorded as one of the darker moments in U.S. and Indianrelations.
On November 27, 1868 Lt. Col. George Custer attacked what heassumed was a hostile Cheyenne encampment. In fact, it was a village of mostlywomen and children that was under the leadership of the peace chief BlackKettle, Black Kettle had survived the Sand Creek massacre and had trieddiligently to avoid conflict.
When the “battle” ended approximately 30 - 60 mostlyCheyenne women and children had been killed. Chief Black Kettle and his wifehad also been killed. Custer also ordered the slaughter of over 800 horses andmules.
So, indeed what price do we pay for progress? It was theRailroad and the white expansion West that lead to the Indian Wars. While itwas fun to look back and reminisce about trips across America on Route 66 itwas also a reminder that Interstate system spelled “death” of many small towns and marked the end of an Era. SEE PHOTOS HERE
I get that there we as a society need to evolve and moveforward. Of course there were great benefits to the transcontinental railroadand the settlement of the West. Yes, there are huge benefits derived from ouramazing Interstate system. Yet, advancement regardless of its form has a cost –we pay a price.