The Forgotten Highway

Ozark Trail is a stretch of the original Route 66 that Sapulpa Times highlighted a couple of weeks ago. Part of an organized interstate highway system before the federal highway system was even created, Ozark Trail actually predates The Mother Road by at least ten or twelve years. 

Thanks in part to the recent purchase of the nearby TeePee Drive-In and the plans that are underway to extend Taft Ave past Hwy 66 and connect it to Ozark Trail on the backside of the TeePee, the often-forgotten section of Route 66 is starting to get more attention.

And attention is what the historic roadway sorely needs.

Janis Tucker and her family have lived on Ozark Trail for more than a decade, and they say that the deterioration of the street has caused some of the Route 66 purists—those who prefer to drive the original route as much as possible—to stay on the main highway, bypassing Ozark Trail altogether.

“We used to have motorcycles coming down this road when they were traveling the route,” she told Sapulpa Times in an interview this week. “We don’t see them, anymore.”

It’s not hard to see why. If you travel the three-and-a-half miles or so of Ozark Trail, from where it starts on the east side of Rock Creek to where it reconnects with Hwy 66 near the Hwy 33 junction, you’ll feel your suspension get a good workout from the potholes, crevices and uneven patches of asphalt over Portland concrete that makes up the original roadway. The Tuckers aren’t just passive critics, either.

“We have two classic cars and we have to worry about getting them off our own road,” Tuckers says, laughing.

Tucker says that she would love to show more people what the experience is like when you place some of Sapulpa’s most iconic landmarks—like the Rock Creek Bridge or the TeePee Drive-In—on a street that doesn’t live up to the appeal of Route 66 nostalgia.

“I thought it would be a cool idea to start at the (Heart of Route 66) car museum, and just like, go down that tower and do a cool video … of the (Rock Creek) bridge, the VFW, the TeePee Drive-In, and then just come up the road…and then just stop with something that says ‘restore historic Route 66.'”

It’s a great vision, and could spur a repaving project to put the ‘Trail back into good shape; but who would do it? Tucker says even she’s not sure. The area was annexed into the City of Sapulpa in 2017, but the Tuckers have seen no benefit from that change. “I don’t know if I was just being naive, or thinking that city living was better than country living or county living or whatever, but we thought we would get some sort of benefit, but we haven’t really seen anything.”

The Tuckers say they are still on county consolidated water, they don’t get trash services, and even the response time for things like animal control is “non-existent.” Janis Tucker says even the City and County departments aren’t sure about where their jurisdiction is.

“We had a stray dog that was being aggressive out here last year,” she said. “I called the animal shelter and they said ‘we can’t help you because you’re county,’ and I tried to tell them we’d been annexed into the City and they said ‘you’ll need to call the assessor’s office and find out who’s jurisdiction you’re in.’ We wound up calling them back and I got the run around all day, when I have a dog I don’t like tormenting my family and I need help … we wound up getting him to calm down and he got adopted, but yeah, even something as simple as getting animal control—it’s just hard. We’re tired of getting treated like the step-family, off to the side, you know what I mean?”

Tucker says that they were originally told by members of the city council that Ozark Trail would be repaved, but later found out from Sapulpa Public Works Director Steve Hardt that only the extension from Taft Ave/Hwy 117 was being added.

“The more people we talk to, the more questions are opened, because no one is saying the same thing,” Tucker says. “No one has the same objective, which in my opinion, should be, let’s restore our historic parts of our town. Downtown is great, it’s beautiful; the TeePee Drive-In is great, it’s beautiful; but whenever people get off the highway from Bristow to come to the drive-in, they’re going to hit these potholes, and that’s going to make our road even worse with more traffic.”

Hopefully, the Ozark Trail will begin to get the attention it deserves to keep this historic roadway from literally falling through the cracks.

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Micah Choquette

Micah Choquette

Micah is the Owner and Publisher of Sapulpa Times.