The View From the Top

Alex Szewlow

The road leading down from the hill just north of Line Ave is graced with an unassuming label. As far as naming convention goes, it’s about as generic as they come, as unremarkable as countless other paved ribbons crisscrossing our state. 

 It’s a transitional road. At the base of it, Highway 97 meets its end, and Highway 75A picks up where it’s southward flow abruptly halts. Going east and west, Route 66 bids it welcome into the heart of our fair little burg. But it’s what the stretch of Highway 97 between the Turner Turnpike gate and Line Avenue offers the observant traveler that sets it apart from Sapulpa’s other roads, and makes it a strong contender for the title of Sapulpa’s second-most iconic motorway.

Southeast Oklahoma has the Talimena Drive with the Ouachita Mountains and its fall foliage. Eastern Oklahoma has Highway 412 and its gentle segue into the Ozarks. The drive west out of Oklahoma City opens, at times, into something out of a John Ford movie.

But here in Sapulpa, we have Highway 97. To be sure, the well-traveled road that connects Sapulpa to Sand Springs and gives its name to the Chieftain-Sandite football rivalry is nowhere near as long as Talimina or 412. It lacks the expansiveness of western Oklahoma. That’s what makes it unique. That’s what makes it special. And that’s what makes it ours. It is a fleeting point on an overlooked road. And it deserves some love.

Just south of where the former Garfield Elementary School once stood is an abrupt drop off from the edge of the hill that dominates the area’s topography. It is a place custom made for a legitimate lookout point, and the panorama spreading below that abrupt drop begs the development and installation of all of the bells and whistles that any modern scenic overlook offers. It is not a stretch to envision a broad observation deck complete with coin-operated view finders, seating appropriate for the setup, and maybe even a food truck or two for those who choose to make the visit last more than a few minutes.

From that unassuming and overlooked point, the past, present, and future of Sapulpa and its surrounding environs are on display for the whole world to see. The visible landmarks are abundant and easily identifiable. Sapulpa’s skyline offers a feast for the eyes to rival that of any Appalachian village, with the suggestion of Oklahoma’s southeastern ranges offering a glimpse their first foothills just to the south. Buildings that have stood for over a century, and Sapulpa’s newest structures seem to blend into a mosaic that involuntarily draws a sigh of serene breath, and prompts if only a faint smile on world-wise lips. 

It’s a good first view of our little burg for anyone who has never experienced it. At the same time, it’s a good view of our Sapulpa for those who have seen it too many times to count, but may have missed it at the same time. Familiarity too often leads to complacency. And Sapulpa is not immune to that unfortunate plague.

So it behooves us fortunate enough call this little piece of Northeast Oklahoma home to look for the unexpected beauty and surprising serenity the place offers, and to appreciate it wherever it is found. It may be indulging in celebrations commemorating a milestone anniversary for our town. It may be a simple stroll down Dewey on a Saturday morning. It may be a fleeting glance at an oft-overlooked panorama from an incline on a busy road. But the few seconds that such a sight captivates our minds and enthralls our eyes transform mundane existence into true living. With Sapulpa celebrating its 125th birthday this weekend, the view from Highway 97 is but another in a long line of gifts our wonderful little home offers us now, and for countless years to come.