The facade of the Pal’s Sudden Service chain has to be one of the best around. Normally I wouldn’t say such things in polite company but, look at that huge wiener!
Back in 2012, when Kenny and I were heading towards the Shady Valley Country Store on TN 421 (The Snake) we happened to zip past a Pal’s. As you might imagine, I couldn’t resist stopping.
At the time, I had no idea that it was a chain. In fact, there are 29 different Pal’s locations. There’s a Pal’s in Johnson City, Tennessee. That joke writes itself.
The Pal’s in Kingsport, Tennessee does not have a huge wiener but we won’t hold that against them. What is does have is a hamburger-holding mufflerman on the roof. I’d say that makes up for it. He’s a bit on the pale side, don’t you think? Even so, he was good company as I enjoyed my burger and “frenchie fries” outside on the patio.
Route 66 holds sway over my imagination. I know, it’s just a road. And yet, for me something about it transcends that. I can’t be alone in this thinking because it has evolved in to a cultural icon. Maybe it has something to do with being built on ideas, hope and possibility.
Though I’ve traveled parts of 66 in Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma – in many ways I am more sure than ever that so much was unseen. There is a feeling of a secret beyond the veil and a need to look closer, look longer. Coming home from those stretches of road, I am more curious about what I saw than when I left. Now I know there is a story to be told about what I saw versus going in search of answers about a story that I’d already known. It may seem semantic, but to me there is a difference.
A few months ago, I bought a book called The Route 66 Encyclopedia by Jim Hinckley. The book does a great job of intertwining history, photographs, references to old travel guides and materials. It is.. encyclopedic, really. Peppered all throughout the pages are delicious bites of history for the 66-curious.
When I first got the book, I thought it might inspire me to seek out the things in its pages. But when it arrived and I gave it a cursory look-over, I put it aside and there it stayed for a month or so. For some reason, I didn’t want to know about what I was going to be looking at prior to my trip out to Oklahoma.
When I returned home from my road trip, it was only then that I’ve been able to turn my attention back to the book. Now I want to know about what I’ve seen. What was that crumbling facade? What was in that blank space? How did that town spring up in the middle of nowhere? Now those blank spaces have shape, line and form and I can learn about them. If I did it in reverse the ideas would have been too abstract to appreciate. Or maybe too overwhelming. There is so much to feel in a couple thousand miles. Maybe pre-programming myself was subconsciously too much? I dunno. I’m just riding the wave.
The Airplane Filling Station née Barber Shop has been on my bucket list for a few years. I got the opportunity to visit when I left Fredericksburg, Virginia following the Void Rally 11 and headed towards Catoosa, Oklahoma to see the blue whale. It was on the way. 🙂
During the time in which I’ve been aware of the station, it went from a crumbling shadow of its former self to the glimmering sheet metal beauty that it is today. That happened thanks to the efforts of some very dedicated people.
For some, it’s hard to justify or to allocate the funds to spend money on saving Americana landmarks. I bet a lot of people are interested in helping but hope or assume someone else will do it. That makes me all the more appreciative that people are able to pool their resource and give the time and dedication to make it happen.
“Airplane Filling Station [ca. 1931] taken by Robin Thompson. The Airplane Filling Station was built in 1929 by Henry and Elmer Nickle, located on Clinton Highway (near Callahan Road), Knox County, TN. Texaco gasoline.”
“The Airplane Filling Station was built in 1929 by Henry and Elmer Nickle (pictured), located on Clinton Highway (near Callahan Road), Knox County, TN. Texaco gasoline.”
More Info On The Airplane Filling Station
Airplane Filling Station
6829 Clinton Hwy
Knoxville, TN 37921
In my last post where I rambled on about daydreams, I did have a specific daydream that was the catalyst. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Blue Whale of Catoosa, Oklahoma. Whale? Meet these fine people.
I’d been trying to remember how I first became aware of the Blue Whale. If my memory serves me, it was in a hotel elevator in Leeds, Alabama across from the Barber Museum. My hubs Kenny was just finishing up the Kevin Schwantz school at the track and I flew down to visit the museum. Inside the elevator was a poster that featured the whale and some information about the Hampton Hotel’s Save-a-Landmark program. That was 2010. If I had to guess, that is when the seed was planted.
“Kenny, did you know that the blue whale was an anniv…”
“No. You can’t have a blue whale.”
Route 66 is an important experience for many people.
As I said previously, maybe the “thing” that pulls you out to the far flung edges of the universe doesn’t make sense to anyone else. As a matter of fact, I’m certain that some people will read this post and say “you rode all the way to Oklahoma to look at some dumb whale?” And the answer would be, yes. But of course that is the most simplified truth. The bigger story is that I rode to Oklahoma to live my life.
On the most direct route, there are 1,400 miles between my house and that whale. When you think of all of the sights, smells, experiences, interactions with the world, the thoughts that float through like clouds between here and there? It makes perfect sense to go all that way.
Earlier in 2016, I was Daydreaming of Route 66 and Blue Whales. In 2015, I included the whale on my Roadside Stop Wishlist for the year. Did I really think I would ride halfway across the country to achieve that goal? Did I really think I wouldn’t?
Live your life.