My wife, her sister, and my mother-in-law left Tulsa for home (Texas) Sunday, May 5, and with a little begging on my part, they agreed to let me go a little out of the way, taking old Route 66 from Tulsa to Oklahoma City. The trip was exactly what I had always envisioned if I ever got to travel the Mother Road -- stopping, taking pics of scenic highway sights, and especially old abandoned road beds. By the time we arrived in Stroud, Okla. about 2:30 p.m. -- starved -- and noticed a few people entering an old iron-ore rock building with some images out front from the popular "Cars" movie. We walked in and were smitten by the aroma of burgers that were obviously done the way I remembered as a small boy.
The wait staff, Lane, Lesleigh and Cody were super-attentive to us, giving us the greatest service, and seeming anxious to answer all our questions about the historic cafe.
Lane, our main waiter told us the establishment dated back to 1939, and around it's 70th year, a devastating fire almost took the place out, but they were able to salvage the historic red rock exterior -- and as Lane pointed out, the old grill which dated back to the establishment of the place, was still in service. I asked Lane if he and our other two waiters were a part of the family that owned Rock Cafe.
"No, we're not related to the owner and her family -- but we all work together so closely, we feel like family around here," he said.
We all ordered the large cheeseburgers with fries and regular coke. The flavor took me back to boyhood days and my earliest memories of burgers the way they were cooked in simpler times --- no hint of any mass-produced, franchised, additive-riddled burgers. These were the real McCoy -- all meat -- thick and juicy.
To add to the personal touch, they ask customers to write comments in a guest ledger, and the restroom walls, and walls in the hallway leading to the restrooms, were paneled in white marker board, and bore the signatures and well-wishes from thousands of visitors that were cruising America's Main Street.
While the visit was "icing on the cake" to a wonderful road trip on the Mother Road, the real surprise came when I returned home and Googled the Cafe. It turns out that owner, Dawn Welch, was named Oklahoma's Woman of the Year in 2009 -- even beating out world famous Carrie Underwood. Not only that, one of the characters in the "Cars" movie, Sally the Porsche, was inspired by Welch.
On my bucket list is to service out my 1967 Ford Falcon, take three or four weeks, and Carolyn and I will cruise the famous road from Chicago to Needles, Calif. -- and be sure we will plan a stop at the Rock Cafe in Stroud, Okla.