A few weeks ago, it was a Friday night and my fiancee and I were still wondering what we wanted to do the next day. We are, mostly, introverted and love days in but we both pretty much wanted to get out and do something that weekend.
It was one of those fortuitous nights as, near the end of the night with just a short while before she and the boy left to go home for the night, she saw Modern Marvels on Amazon Prime and said she liked the show. I flipped through the available episodes and picked one on Gas Stations.
The episode was OK but it ended with a story about a quirky little place on Route 66 not terribly far from where we live called Pops.
If you’ve read much of the recent posts about my youth you know that my grandmother was likely to say she wanted to go for a drive on the weekends. I haven’t been with someone who really loved just getting and the car and going as much as my current fiancee who, to my chagrin, turned to me and said, “We should go there tomorrow.” My heart fluttered and the excitement grew.
Pops was built in 2007 on Route 66 in Arcadia, Oklahoma and, despite being relatively new, they embraced the spirit of 66 and out front built a 66 foot tall steel structure in the shape of a soda bottle.
Inside, over 12,000 glass soda bottles line the floor to ceiling glass walls and, even better, they sell over 3000 different types of soda. This isn’t just Pepsi and Coke and some forms of Cherry and Vanilla, but also Bacon soda and Cookie Dough Ice Cream Soda. This is a fun place.
The first thing I was sure of, the night before, was that I wanted to take as much of 66 as possible.
Soon I stated that I didn’t want to take a highway there at all. Halfway there I declared I was going to avoid highways entirely and we would take other ‘back roads’ home.
Nana was channeled through me and I loved hitting every speed limit in every small town. I started hitting garage sales in the small towns and hit jackpots finding a USB phone charger for 50 cents and a bread maker for 5 dollars.
We talked and laughed the entire way especially when we saw a sign for a business that was Carnegie Pre-Cast in ground Strom Shelters and Septic Tanks. “Forget that crap Mertle, I’ll take my chances with the twister!”
Pops itself was great and I have a set of glass bottles lining my computer desk but the real gem was in the trip, as usual. On the way home my fiancee was tired and cat-napped most of the way back while the boy played games in the back.
And while I was indeed getting tired I had also found a few windy roads that started getting my driving juices flowing. And while I don’t have the greatest car, the fastest car, or the most unique car (In fact, considering how many people have MY EXACT CAR I would say I have the least unique car.) it can still be a zippy little fun car to drive.
I leaned the seat back and tilted the steering wheel down. Gripping the wheel tighter I sank into the seat and zipped around the corners with a sly smile creeping across my face. I fell in love with my car and all the places it could take me all over again and more memories of Nana flooded back.
My grandmother had a habit of naming her cars Susie, at least all the ones I had ever been in. And I’m sure she told me why she named them Susie at one point but that is lost in the annuls of growing up and losing kid memories but she did and she would talk to her cars. If a car was having trouble getting over a mountain she would rub the dashboard and start a pep talk, “Come on girl, you can do it Susie. Just a little farther.”
She had a connection with her cars because they held her passion and that Saturday that passion came rushing back to me. Coming out of the curves and getting back on a ‘main’ highway (not an interstate, not even 4 lane) I instinctively reached my hand forward and rubbed the dashboard and, with a tear in my eye, dubbed my car Susie.
My car won’t be around forever. Indeed if things worked out well I would hope to have a nicer car in the next year or two. But family trips, spending time with the love of my life, exploring America and (fingers crossed) beyond, and the memories of my nana will live on and, yes, SUSIE, Susie will live on.