Saturday, October 3, 2009

Stroud, Midway and the Rock Cafe

Long before there was a Hard Rock Cafe- heck, long before there was hard rock, there was the Rock Cafe.

This popular roadside eatery in Stroud, Oklahoma has become sort of a local legend. The name describes the stone walls, made of local sandstone dug up during construction of Route 66. The brown stone walls have stood the test of time- and more recently fire.

This popular stop along Route 66 enjoyed a steady business from locals and travelers since opening its doors in 1936. Situated at the halfway point between Oklahoma City and Tulsa, the restaurant's location was a perfect stop for weary drivers.

Vintage postcard from Midway on the Turner Turnpike.
Stroud was, and still is, known as Midway to many Oklahomans. That's also a reference to the Howard Johnson's that once stood on the Turner Turnpike near here. In 1955 a sleek modern bridge over the Interstate opened that allowed drivers going either direction on the Turner Turnpike to stop and have a HoJo. This was a companion novelty to the Glass House on the Will Rogers Turnpike.

Several years ago an outlet mall opened also hoping to seize on Stroud's central location. It might have worked if it weren't for that darn tornado. Today on the turnpike there's just the Pike Pass toll plaza and a McDonalds between the highway lanes. But back on the Old Road, the Rock Cafe is still going strong.

Rock Cafe after a devastating fire.
A fire in 2008 nearly closed the Rock Cafe for good. Most owners would have walked away. It reopened one year later.
It wasn't always. The brown stone eatery declined through the Seventies and Eighties until a resourceful girl from Yukon decided to give it a go. Dawn Welch set to work restoring the Rock Cafe, and listing it on the National Register of Historic Places. The original idea was to spend a year to get it up and running, then sell the business to finance a trip to Costa Rica. That was sixteen years ago.

Today the Rock Cafe is frequented by travelers from around the world, discovering America via the Old Road. But the greatest claim to fame came in 2006 when Disney execs working on the movie “Cars” visited the Rock Cafe looking for inspiration. They stopped looking for a burger, but left with a good deal more. Welch inspired the character Sally Carrera, otherwise known as the blue Porsche voiced by Bonny Hunt.

Two Wheel Oklahoma

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It's a Travel Show

Two Wheel Oklahoma is a television travel show featuring the motorcycle rides of Brad Mathison and Rex Brown along the scenic highways and backroads of Oklahoma.

Each episode highlights a stretch of road or historic route and explores unique destinations along the way. Tune in three times a week on the Cox Channel.

We hope you'll come ride along.

Brad and Rex: co-hosts of Two Wheel Oklahoma