Eric Standridge is a freelance writer with an interest in history. His main focus is writing about Oklahoma.
Pops, Route 66
Route 66 is alive and well in Oklahoma. Even though the famed highway is no longer in regular use, new attractions keep popping up. Most recently, Tulsa has completed a large project on the 11th Street Bridge dedicated to Route 66. Other attractions appear throughout the state, with most being highlighted by Oklahoma’s Route 66 Association.
Route 66 was one of the most traveled highways in the nation. It stretched just over 2,400 miles, running from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California. The famous author John Steinbeck dubbed it the “Mother Road,” a name which it has kept long since the roads were abandoned. Established on November 11, 1926, it quickly became the most well-traveled road during the great Dust Bowl of the 1930s. With the advancement of the Interstate Highway System, the old route began to lose its appeal. Because of this, many towns along the Mother Road saw virtual abandonment as the newer interstates bypassed them. In 1985, Route 66 ceased to exist.
Still, the legends and lore of the old highway continue to inspire. This was the age when the automobile really took off. Grand adventures waited just over the next hill, and Route 66 made that possible. Businessmen capitalized on this and built strange and bizarre attractions. These attractions drew people in by the hundreds, such as Catoosa’s Blue Whale and the World’s Largest Totem Pole.
A strong sense of nostalgia has had a substantial impact in bringing the old Route 66 back to life. While it is no longer a major destination route, it still draws thousands of tourists to its destination points each year. One of the youngest and most striking additions to Route 66 is Pops Restaurant.
The World’s Tallest Soda Bottle
Pops is one of the strangest restaurants to be found on Route 66. In addition to being one of the strangest, it is also one of the newest. At night, this is a startling spectacle. Traveling towards Arcadia on old Route 66, visitors are greeted by a 66-foot illuminated soda bottle sculpture. Its red rock and steel trusses are covered in hundreds of multi-colored LED lights that can be seen from miles away.
This unusual site was established by the late Aubrey McClendon, former CEO of the Chesapeake Energy Corporation. Pops opened in 2007 and served as a convenience store, restaurant, and souvenir shop. It is perhaps best known for its 66-foot-tall soda bottle. While many believe that the attraction was named “Pops” because of this, it was actually named after McClendon’s father, whom he affectionately called “Pops."
The attraction was designed by architect Rand Elliott based on consultations with Route 66 author and historian Michael Wallis. Although a new addition to Route 66, both McClendon and Elliott wanted to ensure that it fit with the aesthetics of other iconic Mother Road attractions.
A soft opening was held in the late spring of 2007, in which hundreds of people showed up. At the time of its completion and grand opening, the massive Pops Soda Bottle was considered to be the tallest soda bottle in the world, weighing in at over four tons. It was constructed by WW Steel in Oklahoma City at their fabrication plant there. Once completed, it was delivered in one piece and took an entire day to move to its new home.
While impressive, this giant soda bottle doesn’t hold even a single can of soda pop.
A Pop Lover’s Paradise: The Soda Ranch
While the massive soda bottle can’t hold any liquid, visitors will be delighted at what they find inside. The convenience store offers over 700 different flavors of soda, from classic flavors to berry sodas. “Dublin Dr Pepper” is one of their best-selling brands, while the old-fashioned root beer is the main flavor sold. In fact, they have over 80 varieties of root beer.
While these are fairly well-known flavors, Pops also has some off-the-wall varieties, such as bacon-flavored soda and ranch-dressing soda. They offer a supply that comes from all over the world, even from as far away as Australia. Currently, they import from 13 different countries, including many European countries, Brazil, Canada, Jamaica, Mexico, and Lebanon. Some of the varieties can be found closer to home. A good selection of house blends can also be found, many of which are only sold locally. While Pops has a flair for the foreign and bizarre, for those seeking a bit of childhood comfort, there are also many older varieties that can no longer be found anywhere else.
A soda kiosk is available for those who want to sample one of the more than 700 varieties that Pops has to offer. The touch screen display also allows visitors to have soda bottles shipped to their homes.
When first entering, all of these hundreds of bottles create a striking appearance. Separated by color, they create a wonderful rainbow of colors against the walls. Don’t worry; the sodas on the wall are just for display. Visitors can enjoy ice-cold drinks from the refrigerators without spending hours hunting for that special soda. They are all sorted by flavor so they can be easily found.
For Your Convenience
Because Pops was designed as primarily a convenience store, it also features a diner and gas station.
Inside the diner, visitors can order their sodas from an old-fashioned soda fountain, while at the same time ordering a mouth-watering burger and homemade milkshake. Visitors can get anything from salads to chicken fried steaks. For those with a sweet tooth, malts or floats can also be ordered, but the hand-dipped milkshake is most recommended. Both lunch and dinner are served daily, with breakfast served on weekends. Food is served at the counter or in one of the many booths or tables. There is also a large patio area for those who wish to eat outside.
The gas station was modeled after others found on the historic Route 66 Mother Road. A large framed overhang protects people from the elements. Created with the styles of the 1960s in mind, it serves as an airy focal point behind the massive Pops Soda Bottle.
Pops can be found in Arcadia, Oklahoma at 660 W. Highway 66. They are open daily from 6 am until 10 pm.
(405) 928-POPS (7677)