Not far to the west of Oklahoma City, Route 66 becomes something of a challenge to find just on the other side of the Greary area. Originally a junction section, it still is but where the new highways and interstate run through they reduced her to little more than county roads over the years as expansions and black top were laid for the new junction. Some slight leapfrogging between the new roads is required to find all of her remaining. It is worth it though as one of the most impressive bridges on the entire length is hidden in that old section, a thirty eight truss pony bridge you will have seen in its heyday if you’ve seen the 1939 film adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath. Hearing thirty eight trusses sounds impressive enough, but the full scope is unreal as you ride across it, the steel beams and rivets racing by, a marvel of its day now rusting in the bypassed countryside.
South of the bridge at Hinton Junction, Route 66 rolls west again unbroken for many miles, beginning just past the junction with the slowly dying embers of a once bustling small 66 town, Bridgeport. The old main street turns north off the highway, back to a handful of houses, the church, a cemetery, an abandoned post office, and the shell of a former bus depot. Most of what remains is comprised by long abandoned lots with slowly rotting houses being overgrown by nature. As we arrived so too did a rolling bleak gray sky, giving the town a particularly forlorn look. Although we were saddened as we had expected to see more remaining, we stopped anyway and as I was photographing the post office out of stillness sudden movement in my periphery caught my attention; three very large dogs were coming our way, quickly.
Fortunately their owner was walking with them and they were mostly well trained to his commands, although one with a stately St Bernard look and curious personality only listened briefly before coming up to see what I was doing. By the time my new friend and I were done photographing the postal remnants, his owner and Josh had struck up conversation and we soon found ourselves immersed in the history of Bridgeport as told by a native to the area. As it turned out, it was he who had bought the property the walls of the old depot stood on. Because they were beyond repair but could remain standing in their current state with some maintenance, he chose to protect them as they are and moved a trailer into the part of them that would have been the actual bus garage, within which he now lives. The building’s sentimental value for him was obvious as he retold the story his grandmother had told him many times over of meeting Bonnie and Clyde at that same gas station before it became a 66 bus depot and being given candy by Bonnie. As he told that family story, stories of Bridgeport’s once important role as a depot and river crossing, the notorious town feud, and others from the town’s golden years his face was lit up and proud, but grew dim again when he reached the more recent decades of the town’s history, years plagued with floods of the Canadian river and the decommissioning of sixty-six, the construction of the other surrounding highways and consequential rerouting, the closure of the remaining businesses and depots, of the lights going out with exodus.
The sky had grown darker during our conversation and as Josh and I left after our goodbyes, having heard stories of such personal attachment to the area, I couldn’t help but shoot my remaining photos with slightly more than the usual delicacy and respect due to a monument or cemetery, the quiet austerity that takes over when appreciating something at once both sacred and historic.
*As an aside, I mentioned three dogs, but they are not the only large dogs in the area and many of the others are free roaming. In particular, just to the west of the junction is a mastiff mix that is particularly good at sneaking up on passing vehicles. If you are riding, keep this in mind as you ride through. Also, still a flood prone area, the old highway is rough in the many areas where she dips down in low spots and at her old bridges. Even experienced riders will need to be cautious through this stretch.
It looks like a really lovely place!