Route 66 Museum
He calls it John's OK County 66, and it's John Hargrove's tribute to the historic highway that's been the subject of so much myth and imagination over the years. All in all, his work signifies nearly a decade devoted to bringing scaled-down versions of Route 66 icons to one place, where curious passers-by can enjoy them all for free.
"Everything here on this property I did myself," Hargrove said, which includes the outdoor attractions, his home, a personal car wash, the pond and his two-story shop which doubles as a mini-museum.
For thirty years he held a lot on a housing development airport a mile from Edmond, where he kept three airplanes. When he sold everything and bought the acreage on Route 66 in the summer of 1998, he had no idea the tourist destination it would turn into.
Since he placed his first exhibit in 2004, Hargrove has had visitors from all over the world stop by, including a man driving around the world on a bicycle, a man walking from California to New York and a woman crossing the nation on a Harley.
"It was quite a surprise when a pretty young lady emerged out of that helmet," he said.
Hargrove does custom auto upholstering to pay the bills, and judging from the coal black '56 Chevy seat cover, which is his latest project, and the array of classic automobiles scattered throughout his shop, there's no doubt where his passions lie.
"I can do everything on an automobile except the chrome," Hargove said. "I do not do body work or paint work for anyone but me."
A baby blue Volkswagen bus, complete with peace signs and flowers, was just a rusted-out heap when he bought it last December from under the tree where it had sat since 1981. It's now a near-perfect replica of Fillmore, one of the characters from "Cars," the 2006 Pixar love letter to Route 66.
Not too far from "Fillmore" sits a 1932 Ford, black with orange flames, which Hargrove rescued from a trip to the junk yard in 1976 after its racing days were over.
"Most people would have junked it, but it's a '32 Ford. It's the ultimate hot rod," he said.
At the time, it was just a shell, gutted to make it light, and the engine sat in the middle of the car. Hargrove rebuilt it to street car status and has been driving it for thirty-one years.
In the last few years, Hargrove has taken a break from weekend car shows to focus on his health.
"I exercise now more that I do anything else. I do foot races," he said.
In fact, Hargrove does one every weekend, the shortest is 3.1 miles and the longest is 139 miles. He's done more than twenty 100-mile races in his lifetime and five of those since he turned sixty.
He also hosts parties on his land, which makes for great family get-togethers, birthday parties and wedding receptions, but he refuses to do bachelor parties.
"No wild parties," he said.
Hargrove gets most of his ideas for his projects from books, and he uses a grid to scale them down. He listens to classic rock on the radio when he's working, and it's not uncommon to hear Pink Floyd or Supertramp putting a soundtrack to his creations.
On a venture to John Hargrove's land, east of Arcadia, one might see many strange sights: a steel and Styrofoam whale beached on the shore of his man-made pond, a car sticking out of the earth, an old-fashioned Texaco stationbuilt into the wall of his shop with Herbie the Lovebug jutting from the second story and a rock formation that looks suspiciously like a dinosaur, just to name a few.
He shows movies on an indoor screen modeled after the old Lakeside Drive-In in Bethany, complete with an authentic speaker tower. The theater room, which includes a kitchen and old-fashioned booths for party-goers, features several other replicated Route 66 icons, just a few of which are a teepee from the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona, an establishment famous for its individual teepee rooms; a Jackrabbit Trading Post billboard and a half-scale version of Myrtle, the famous Indian kachina doll from the Queen Ann Trading Post in Elk City.
With all the hard work Hargrove has put into his tribute to the great American highway, he's still far from finished. He wants something to signify each state Route 66 passes through. Kansas will be next, and Illinois is still down the road. John's OK County 66 is located just east of Arcadia on the north side of Route 66.