Route 66 Backseat Driver: Harley and Annabelle

The Sand Hills Curiosity Shop, once known as the City Meat Market, is the oldest surviving brick building in Erick, Oklahoma and has been the home of "The Mediocre Music Makers" ,Harley and Annabelle Russell, for over 20 years. Outrageously good times, fun and healthy portions of hometown hospitality are served here annually to thousands of international and domestic Route 66 tourists.

Harley Russell, a guitarist of exceptional ability coupled with his wife Annabelle, a musician, an artist and poet, have created an internationally known tourist attraction in a town who's only other claim to fame is that it was the home and birth place of musician Roger Miller.

This Route 66 location would best be described as a living history roadside attraction. A museum of sorts that houses one of the best collections of period signs around and also has plenty of vintage furniture, artwork, guitars, harmonicas and assorted other types of memorabilia with everything prolifically covering every square inch of the walls, ceiling, table-tops, bookcases, shelves, sills  and pretty much most of the floor space. Be prepared for complete sensory overload when entering. Viewing everything takes multiple visits thus making it easy to understand why more and more Route 66 travelers the world over are now flocking to this Erick, OK roadside attraction. The Sand Hills Curiosity Shop was made an "Official Route 66 Roadside Attraction" by the Route 66 Caravan in 2003.

After parking and piling out of our vehicles we were individually greeted and invited inside by two long-haired, enthusiastic to say the least, hippy sorts for what was soon to be a spontaneously captivating live two person vaudevillian show that included refreshments, music, plenty of hugs, kisses and photo-ops. These two self proclaimed "Rednecks" put on such a good show that Bruce and the band had to join in on the fun. A large group of European tourist stopped in while we were there and they were also invited in for a dose of Harley and Annabelle's infectious type of fun and merriment.

A few years back a couple of film makers looking for inspiration and ideas for a future film, you might have seen or heard of, stopped by and ultimately liked Harley so much that they based a principal character in their upcoming movie after him. The well viewed movie was "Cars" and the tow-truck driver "Mater" was based primarily on Harley. Currently a documentary is being planned based on the lives of Harley and Annabelle and Disney Studios is also looking into the idea of basing a theme park ride on their characters.

Later that day, Harley and Annabelle closed up shop and invited us into their home for a down-home home-cooked meal. During the conversations that followed the true sharpness of these folks was slowly revealed. Don't let their antics and clothes fool you, these folks are perceptive, sharp as tacks and proudly embrace the freedoms and attitudes of the 60's. Attitudes that still play an important part in their everyday lives.

Their attitudes, non-conformist ways and a gentle kindness shown to any joe-stranger to enter their place is exactly what makes entering their environment so inviting. Albeit these same attitudes make Harley and Annabelle targets at the hands of some locals. Locals sometimes described as having "the typical small town mindset, jealous people always resentful of another's success". The only thing our heroes have ever actually been found to be guilty of is the ability and savvy to single-handily boost the local economy and the tourist trade when countless previous attempts by local officials had failed.

Staying true to themselves, the Russells have been blessed with the year 2007 being their busiest year ever with sometimes as many as four separate tour groups a day stopping by their Erick location.

As conversations wained and the sun began its steady recline in the west, it was time to load up and ease on down the road. I can see why Bruce had this stop pegged as a "must see visit." Amarillo was our destination by dusk. So after many hugs and kisses, we said our final "Via Condios's," loaded up, took our final photos and headed out chasing the sun.

We were able to get some great shots of Oklahoma before leaving.....

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