At the end of the summer, I decided to break up a long solo drive by going on vacation. I was driving from Dallas, TX to Effingham, IL and back, alone, in a weekend (its about 11-12 hours). I had taken the Oklahoma route because I didn’t think I could stand the Arkansas route again. On the way back, to preserve sanity, I decided to be on vacation. I randomly chose Miami, (which I’m told is pronounced something like My-uh-muh) Oklahoma as my destination.
When I was a kid growing up at the crux of I57 and 70, I would sit in the shadow of the interstates that string through Edgewood, Effingham and Montrose, and watch the headlights fly by. I always wanted to be the lights – free and going somewhere. Anytime I’m faced with a drive or a strange place, I remember that longing by choosing to have an adventure. I picked Miami because it was nearby when I made the decision that I was not on a mission to get back to Dallas, but was rather on an exploratory excursion
Miami is named for the Myaamia people, and is the seat of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma, Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma, Peoria Tribe of Indians, Seneca-Cayuga Tribe, and the Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. I didn’t know this at the time, but it was also the hometown of brother and sister Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines, guitar player and backup singer for Lynyrd Skynyrd. (They both died in the famous plane crash in 1977.) Signs on the road advertised a casino and a historic downtown. I was more interested in the historic downtown. I paid my toll to enter town and followed the signs.
I had forgotten it was Sunday, until I saw the desolateness of downtown. It was a hot dry day, and no one else was around. It felt like walking through the world after humans have left it. I was initially disappointed that I couldn’t go into the shops, but I found the emptiness and the sun surreal and peaceful.
I found the Coleman Theatre, which is on the National Register of Historical Places. I have read that it still has a mostly original interior, but obviously I could not really confirm this. From the outside, it looked like a grand ivory fortress with its ornate fingers reaching to the sky.
I blocked the sun from my eyes to look into the dark windows of shops. Their contents were unexpectedly quirky. Honk Quack Bang specialized in jewelry made using duck leg bands. There were a few clothing boutiques and sweet shops as well.
In the back alleys behind the main street I talked to the only other walking human I saw, a drifter who told me about coming to Miami to work in the casino. I hunted for interesting photos among the back doors of the shops.
After my tour of downtown, I drove a little further, just to see what else was there before I put my sights on Dallas. A cuckoo bird announced that I had arrived at the highlight of my tour – “Waylan’s Hamburgers – the Ku-Ku”. Its a very cuckoo themed little place off of Route 66. I wasn’t hungry enough for a burger, but really wanted to go in, so I had fried pickles and a limeade. The fried pickles were spears not slices, and the limeade tasted more real than flavored. The service was also friendly.