Twenty miles northeast of Tulsa, Claremore (pop. 19,069) is a bigger-than-average Route 66 town, one that will be forever connected with its favorite son, Will Rogers (1879-1935). Rogers was born nearby in a rough log cabin “halfway between Claremore and Oologah before there was a town at either place.” He rose from a vaudeville career as a sideshow rope-tricks artist to become one of the most popular figures in America, thanks to his folksy humor.
Will Rogers starred on Broadway for 10 years in the Ziegfield Follies, wrote an immensely popular national newspaper column, and acted in more than 70 Hollywood movies. Sadly, before he could retire back home to Claremore, Rogers was killed in a plane crash in 1935; his land here was later turned into the Will Rogers Memorial (918/341-0719, daily, $7), a mile northwest of downtown Claremore on a hill overlooking the town. A statue of Rogers greets visitors at the front door, and his tomb is here, along with a small archive and museum that recounts his life story, showing off his collections of saddles, lariats, and other cowboy gear.
Another popular Claremore stop is the J. M. Davis Arms and Historical Museum (330 N. J.M. Davis Blvd., 918/341-5707, Tues.-Sat., donation), right off Route 66. Besides housing one of the largest and most comprehensive gun collections anywhere in the world (just under 12,000 firearms!), the museum has antique musical instruments, hundreds of posters dating back to World War I, and 1,200 German beer steins.
For good food and out-of-this-world pies (over a dozen different kinds), stop by the Hammett House Restaurant (1616 W. Will Rogers, 918/341-7333), west of downtown next to the Rogers Memorial.