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America's Byways

Author: Pj Little (More Trip Reviews by Pj Little)
Date of Trip: April 2012



If you do not like leisurely driving or small towns this is not for you. I much prefer large bodies of water, less traveled routes, foliage, clean parks, and no need to hurry.

Byways offer rolling hills, scenic landscapes, and the opportunity to explore for no reason. This how I came to: see a bird called a Roadrunner, watch two Budweiser parade horses get a bath, and sleep to the wolf lullaby. This was neither during one trip nor in one state. It was an unexpected bonus of traveling on America's secondary roads.

I stopped for gas in Northeast Oklahoma at Tomcat Corner on US 59 northwest of Grove and found wonderful barbecue sandwiches inside the small convenience store. As I talked to the owners and looked around the store I learned I was not far from Grand Lake.and a Best Western motel. My partner and I decided to stay for the night which quickly became six. Grove has a surprising wide range of restaurants. My favorite was Drakes's at 500 S. Main Street for the breakfast buffet on weekends. I also liked Braum's Ice Cream, and Catfish John's on 59N not far from Grove. Many of the obligatory national restaurants are found here too.

Built in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains the natural beauty belies the 1200 miles of Grand Lake shoreline. Langley, Oklahoma and the longest multiple arch dam in the world is found about half-way through the self-guided driving tour around the lake. There were other surprises too.

Honey Creek State Park, located just outside of Grove on the banks of Grand Lake is a full service facility that offers RV and primitive camping, showers, covered picnic areas, boat launch and more. Access is west of S. Main Street (US 59) on Lake Road 2

Two other Grove attractions are also located west of Main Street on 13th Street. The first is LenDonwood Gardens. The six acre Japanese botanical features over 1500 plants, ponds, waterfall, koi, wooden foot bridge, and tea house. LenDonwood Gardens, one of twelve botanical gardens in Oklahoma, is a Natural Display Garden for the American Hemerocallis Society.

Har-Ber Village is the second attraction. The recreated small 19th century town, located on Grand Lake shoreline, is scattered among 112 museum quality buildings. It is a slice of American life from the doll and china collections to the church and antique farming equipment. Open March thru November, it is handicap and wheelchair accessible. Follow 13th Street and signs west to the entrance.

Grand Lake is located in what was once Cherokee Nation territory. The creation of the lake was driven by a tribe member who wanted to bring electricity to the Cherokee Nation at Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and gathered the support to make it a reality.

Northeast of Grand Lake and Grove on Oklahoma Route 10, is a historical building with a most unusual history. Erected before Oklahoma statehood, the hand hewn limestone and imported wood Splitlog Church was was built by Tribal Chief Mathies Splitlog for his wife. The Belgian struck bell peeled the first time in her memory as she died before the church was completed. It is perhaps the only church in America that was built by a Native American using his own funds. Non-Denominational services are held every Sunday

Some twenty miles from Grove is the City of Venita, Oklahoma and where the Cowboy Church is found at Cowboy Junction. It is an informal setting where all are welcome. Spurs, hats, ropes, and horses are optional.

Nearby attractions:
National Rod & Custom Car Hall of Fame Museum on OK 85-A. Take US 59 North to OK 125 and follow it to the museum. It is located between US 59 and Monkey Island.
Cory House/Hotel located at Main and 2nd Street in Grove
Five Tribes Museum inside the main entrance to beautiful Honor Park in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

Carthage Missouri Civil War Battlefield is where the first inland shot of the Civil War was fired. Wilson's Creek National Civil War Battlefield is located about 70 miles east on 1-44 at the Republic, Missouri exit.

Pea Ridge National Civil War Battlefield. Located just south of the Missouri/Arkansas border at Pea Ridge, Arkansas and I-71.
Eureka Springs and the War Eagle Mill are also accessed from I-71.

An interesting day trip from Grove will take travelers through three mountain ranges and into Hot Springs. Here one finds mineral baths, boutique shopping, horse races, and a city park where water flows down the side of a mountain. This is the largest mountain range between the Rocky Mountains to the west and the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee. Take US 59 South from Grove to I-471 East into Arkansas and thence I-71 South to Hot Springs.

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