There are places that allow us to feel most like ourselves — where the longitudes and latitudes lace effortlessly together, and the connection we feel to our home state becomes most apparent.
Where Catoosa and Claremore straddle the Verdigris River is that spot for me. The next time you're in need of a total “Okie immersion,” see if this area doesn't fulfill you, too.
To prepare for the journey, you'll need first to stock your road-trip pantry, and The Nut House is your munchies headquarters. Shouldering a grove of pecan trees west of Claremore on Route 66, this 30-year-old destination offers more than just our native nut. There is crunchy, snacky, hot and spicy, alongside chocolate-covered everything. If you need something more substantial, The Nut House also features Hot Mama's Deli, which serves up yummy lunch fare. Finish with Gooey Butter Cake or Knock Ya Naked Brownies.
Once you have your glove box supplied, swerve across the highway to catch up with the Blue Whale of Catoosa. (If you want “Blue” to talk back, “friend” her on Facebook. She's hilarious!) With more miles of Route 66 than any other state, and perhaps the most recognizable icon of the Mother Road, the Blue Whale should be a part of any sincere Okie soak-up.
Greeting travelers on the historic highway since the 1970s, after Hugh Davis built her as an anniversary gift for his wife, the grinning whale graces every legitimate Route 66 guidebook and is high on Time Magazine's roster of Top 50 Roadside Attractions.
As you coast into Claremore, you'll notice streets named for legendary folks who have called this town home, and meanwhile shaped our state's persona: Celebrities like singin' rage Patti Page, whose outrageously successful musical career in the 1950s is the subject of a new play: “Flipside: The Patti Page Story” making its Oklahoma premiere at the Robson Performing Arts Center early next month.
You may have heard of another stage production rooted in Claremore? Lynn Riggs' musical “Green Grow the Lilacs” was tweaked ever-so-slightly to become Rogers and Hammerstein's production “Oklahoma!”, which not only introduced our state to the world, but set new standards for American theater and broke box office records.