I'm sad to learn this morning that the historic Rock Cafe, the beloved Stroud (OK) diner built in 1939, was gutted by flames last night. Only the stone walls and a collapsed roof remain of the central structure. The sign and an adjacent souvenir shop were untouched. Locals suspect a grease fire, but the fire marshal is checking to be sure.
I'd heard of the Rock Cafe for years, but I didn't visit until this March [here's the web entry]. I was lucky enough to meet Dawn Welch, the literal inspiration for Sally the Porsche from the movie Cars. She grilled up a burger so juicy and so tasty that I knew at once why the Rock had been so beloved by Route 66 road-trippers. I can't believe I only had one.
Ron Warnick from Route 66 News, the site where I first learned about the fire, tells a sad story of a fellow who missed visiting the Rock by just a day - and for a pretty pathetic reason: "I ran into an older gentleman who was traveling Route 66. He expressed regret that he didn’t eat at the Rock Cafe the day before. He had decided to watch 'American Idol' in his motel room instead." I'd feel pretty awful if I'd decided to pass the Rock by that day in March.
No one knows yet whether Dawn will try to rebuild [Update: she now plans to give it a go]. The structure seems basically sound; it's the inside that was ruined. That's a lot of photos and paintings and signatures and knickknacks, not to mention thousands of dollars of kitchen equipment, but something tells me that if she tried to reopen, the entire Route 66 community would help fill that place up once more. Here's hoping that this genuine highway treasure isn't lost to the ashes.
Learn More: Route 66 News, UPDATED: Rock Cafe destroyed by fire