Route 66 - Tucumcari Tonight!

Leaving Glenrio, we decided to get back on I-40 for a few miles rather than travel 19 miles of dirt road to San Jon, New Mexico. The dirt road is the early Route 66 while the newer route runs beside I-40. The adventurous me wanted to take the dirt, but being a cautious daddy with a young daughter along, I chose not to travel through the remote no-man's land.

Hello New Mexico!
We returned to I-40 at exit 0 and soon were saying hello to New Mexico. The state of New Mexico offers extremes from wonderful peaceful isolation to busy cities. Traveling along the Mother Road, you will see craggy cliffs, distant peaks, multi-colored mesas and tree covered mountains. The ghost towns you will come across are also some of the oldest along Route 66, but these ghosts of Route 66 are often much younger than  the next community which will have stores and churches dating back to the early 1800's and earlier. Some of these places were prosperous, thriving towns even before America arose from the original 13 colonies. This is a state where you definitely want to slow down, learn the history, and enjoy the natural beauty within its borders.


Zia
The sun symbol found on the New Mexico flag, signs and products come from the Tsiya Indians. When Spanish explorers first encountered them in 1583, they inhabited the largest pueblos and communities. Not being able to easily pronounce the tribal name, the Spanish called them Zia.

Spanish settlers and religious leaders took control of the area and outlawed traditional Zia religious ceremonies. Tensions between the groups grew until in 1680, the Zia rose up and fought the Spanish. The revolt was successful and the surviving Spanish were forced to flee. Nine years later though, the Spanish returned with many soldiers. They attacked Zia Pueblo and of the estimated 700 men, women, and children living there, they killed 600 and took 70 captive. Three years later, they were firmly in control of the region. The fighting and disease had taken a heavy toll and by the latter 1800's, only 120 Zia remained alive.

To the Zia, the sun and the number 4 were sacred. Their symbol, a circle with groups of rays radiating out in 4 directions, is representative of:
  • the 4 points of the compass (north, south, east, west)
  • the 4 seasons of the year (spring, summer, autumn, winter)
  • the 4 periods of each day (morning, noon, evening, night)
  • the 4 seasons of life (childhood, youth, middle years, old age)
  • the 4 sacred obligations one must develop (strong body, clear mind, pure spirit, devotion to the welfare of others.
If you visit any of the pueblos, please remember, these are NOT tourist attractions; they are people's homes and churches and you should act appropriately. 

Passing through the town of San Jon, we soon arrived at Tucumcari which used to be advertised as the City of 2,000 Rooms. This place feels more like a small city than a town, but the population is less than 5,400 and while there are no longer 2,000 rooms to rent for the night, there are still numerous vestiges of the town's Route 66 heyday. One of these is the historic Blue Swallow Motel, a surviving business still open and serving travelers since 1941.

The Blue Swallow Motel
Located at 815 East Route 66 and originally called the Blue Swallow Courts, the building was constructed and operated by W. A. Huggins. With 14 rooms and adjoining garages for each room, plus a cafe on the premises, the Blue Swallow was successful from the start. Huggins sold the business to Ted Jones, a prominent rancher, by the mid-1940's and Ted and his wife operated the business until they both passed away in the 1950's.

Lillian Redman and her husband purchased the property from the Jones estate and began renovating and modernizing it while keeping the doors open. One of the first things they did was to purchase a larger neon sign and change the name from Blue Swallow Courts to the Blue Swallow Motel. Lillian became a legend along Route 66 as she always put her customers ahead of making a profit. If someone came along who didn't have enough money to pay for a room, she accepted personal items in trade for the balance, but more often than not, she provided a room for free to those who were in dire financial straits. She was quoted as saying, "I end up traveling the highway in my heart with whoever stops here for the night." Miz Lillian was getting on up there in age so after owning and operating the business for 40 years, she sold it in the late 1990's.

Mural on the side of a wall of the
Blue Swallow Motel
The current owners, Kevin and Nancy Mueller, have continued to update the buildings while managing to keep the ambiance and tradition of hospitality. Miz Lillian had a benediction for the guests of the Blue Swallow and today, a copy of it is in each of the rooms.

Greetings Traveler:
In ancient times, there was a prayer for “The Stranger Within our Gates.” Because this motel is a human institution to serve people, and not solely a money-making organization, we hope that God will grant you peace and rest while you are under our roof.
May this room and motel be your “second” home. May those you love be near you in thoughts and dreams. Even though we may not get to know you, we hope that you will be as comfortable and happy as if you were in your own house.
May the business that brought you this way prosper. May every call you make and every message you receive add to your joy. When you leave, may your journey be safe.
We are all travelers. From “birth till death,” we travel between the eternities. May these days be pleasant for you, profitable for society, helpful for those you meet, and a joy to those you know and love best.
Youngest-daughter and I debated spending the night in this historic place, but it was still early afternoon and we had miles to go and lots of places to see, so we decided to travel on down the road before calling it a night somewhere further west.

The Apache Motel, another Route 66 business
that survived until 2006, but is now closed
and abandoned.



On the edge of town, the former Ranch House Cafe,
another casualty of I-40.
 
Go to the first Route 66 entry here.
Or go to the first entry of each state:


Route 66 - Goodbye Texas

A failed Route 66 business in Vega
Leaving Amarillo, it was just a short 36 miles to the town of Vega. Vega (Spanish for "meadow") was established in 1903 and is now where more than 1/3 of all residents of Oldham County reside. That's not saying a lot since there are less than 900 people who make their homes there, but it is the center of government for the county and there were a number of folks going hither and yon in town. For the men, there is one rather interesting statistic about Vega - for every 100 females over the age of 18, there are fewer than 84 men. If you are single and can't seem to find a date, maybe you should try moving to Vega!

The Hickory Inn Cafe. For huge portions of
good grub at reasonable prices,
just follow the pickups!
There are a few abandoned vestiges of failed Route 66 business's in Vega as well as a few survivors such as the Vega Motel, opened in 1947 and the Hickory Inn Cafe located across the street from the motel. Ervin Pancoast constructed the Vega Court when leisure and travel first became a booming industry. There were 2 wings which contained 12 units and each had an open-front garage. Pancoast also built a small house in the center courtyard which served as an office and personal living quarters. He married the next year and he and his wife lived there running the business. Business was so good, the couple built 8 more units in 1953, each with a garage. Eventually, I-40 bypassed them and when business started to slow, after operating the motel for over 30 years, they sold the place in 1976. The current owners renamed it the Vega Motel and it continues to offer Mother Road travelers clean, comfortable rooms at reasonable prices.

The Vega Motel - 65 years and still
serving travelers.
Just 17 short miles down the road west from Vega lies the little town of Adrian, home to less than 200 residents. There's not really a lot to say about Adrian since there didn't seem to be anything at all happening while we were there. Even the wind had calmed and with only the occasional auto passing through on Route 66, it was eerily quiet. Adrian just happens to be mid-way between the start of Route 66 in Chicago and the end in Santa Monica and the Midpoint Cafe lies exactly 1,139 miles from both ends ( a sign in town proclaims, "If you are here, you are half-way there!"). Stopping for an afternoon feed at the Midpoint Cafe was the reason we spent time half-way there.


BFT (our Big Ford Truck) parked in front
of the  Midpoint Cafe & gift shop in
Adrian, Texas.
Originally built and opened in 1928 under the name of Zella's with one room and a dirt floor, the Midpoint Cafe has been serving guests since the day it opened. Even though it has changed owners a number of times and been known as different names through the years, the menu and the food have remained virtually the same. I can personally attest that the cheeseburger, while not the absolute best I've ever had, was still pretty darn good. However, for many years, it has been most famous for its pies. Each and every pie was hand-made by Gwen Snyder until arthritis forced her to quit baking several years ago. Joann H. had a pie recipe handed down to her by her grandmother which everyone simply raved about. She loved baking so when the owners asked if she would be interested, she agreed to take over the pie making duties.

Youngest-daughter at the Midpoint Café.
Joann used her handed down recipes, including one which her grandmother had called "no-fail pie crust." It was no-fail alright with many folks claiming it was the best pie crust in the world. The only problem was that Joann couldn't get the hang of making her crusts as beautiful as her grandmother did. Her crusts invariably turned out lumpy, misshapen and just plain ugly. Instead of taking the time to learn how to make her crusts a thing of beauty, she simply started calling her pies "ugly crust pies." After years of making pies, the crusts are a little less ugly, but they are still not pretty. When a pie tastes as good as these though, who really cares what it looks like?


The wonderful blue-haired young lady we
met in the  Midpoint cafe. We wish
you safe travels! 
After finishing off my cheeseburger (the small salad I had for lunch back in Amarillo wasn't enough to hold me over), Youngest-daughter and I were browsing the cafe's gift shop when a young lady and her male traveling companion came through the door, shrugged off their rather large back-packs and asked about a restroom so they could wash up before eating. This in itself would not have been out of the ordinary. What really drew my attention though, in addition to her beaming smile and sparkling eyes, was her hair - a bright blue! I'm usually not so sure about people who make themselves stand out so blatantly like this, but somehow it just seemed natural for her.

When she came back out, I struck up a conversation and showed her the troll who goes with me on all of my trips - a blue-haired little guy I call Lil Dude. This brought out her thousand-watt smile and she reached for Lil Dude and held him up to her own hair. She readily agreed I could snap a picture and post it in my blog, so here it is. She was a wonderful, fun person, I enjoyed meeting her, and I wish her all the best. In case you are interested, here's the link to our sister site where pictures of our troll family's travels are posted -Wheremytrollgoes.

The former post office in Glenrio.
Only one more stop remained before we left the Great State of Texas on our westward journey - Glenrio, a ghost town that straddles the Texas/New Mexico border. There once was a time when Glenrio was a quiet, but busy community with a hotel, a land office, a hardware store, a grocery store, several cafe's, a couple of service stations and it's own newspaper, the Glenrio Tribune. What it did not have though, at least on the Texas side, were bars or liquor stores. Residing in Deaf Smith County, these were illegal since the county was dry. This wasn't much of a problem though as the New Mexico side of town was wet and had more than its share of places to acquire adult beverages. A good amount of business was conducted in New Mexico by the Texas residents with the New Mexicans reciprocating with purchases of gasoline on the Texas side. With the higher gasoline taxes in New Mexico, all of the service stations were located on the Texas side of town. It was a perfectly fine arrangement which worked for years. Unfortunately, when I-40 was completed and bypassed Glenrio, traffic totally dried up and the busy little town was quickly abandoned.

On a side note, when the Grapes of Wrath movie was being filmed, back when the town was still alive and busy, the crew spent 3 weeks in Glenrio filming important scenes in and around the town.
 
I think this may have been the office of a
motel or tourist court. If you know,

please let me know!
Today, you can have a picnic on the wind-blown original Route 66 roadway through town and not worry about moving out of the way for a car. Walking around the ruins was strange with a feeling of unease somehow. There was not a sound except for the wind blowing in the trees. No birds flew overhead or chirped from the rafters of the broken-glassed buildings; no dogs barked, not even a lizard scurried away into the bushes as I made my way along the road taking a few pictures. The whole place had a weird, forgotten feel about it. We didn't stay long.



The former Longhorn Motel & Cafe. It once was
promoted with a sign that read "First stop in Texas"
on one side and "Last stop in Texas" on the other.


"The land rolled like great stationary ground swells. Wildorado and Vega and Boise and Glenrio.
That's the end of Texas."
- John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

Go to the first Route 66 entry here.
Or go to the first entry of each state:
 

Route 66 - Amarillo by Morning

Arriving back in Amarillo, the weather was a bit crazy – heavily overcast for a few minutes and then clear skies for a while and back to overcast. It certainly added truth to the old statement, “If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes.” After a bit of extra driving, we found a Chick-fil-a for Youngest-daughter to get her fix. In her opinion, it was one of the best meals we had on the whole trip!

The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas
Of course, we couldn’t go through Amarillo without stopping to see the Big Texan Steak Ranch restaurant, home of the free 72-oz steak dinner – free that is if you can eat it all within 1 hour! Back when the Big Texan was first opened by Bob Lee, cowboys still worked the area ranches and came into town for good food and fun. One day, one of those cowboys came through the door saying he was so hungry he could eat the whole darned cow. Bob cooked up a 1-pound slab of meat and the cowboy finished it off saying that was just a start. Bob kept bringing out steaks until the cowboy finally called “uncle.” When all was said and done, he had eaten 4 1/2 pounds of meat plus a baked potato, a salad, a dinner roll and a shrimp cocktail. From that day on, Bob declared that if anyone could eat the same amount of grub in 1 hour, the meal would be free. Since then, thousands of people from all around the world have tried and most have failed. A few though, have made history.

Really big bull outside the
Big Texan Steak Ranch.
The oldest person to eat the whole meal within the 1-hour limit was a 69-year old grandmother. The youngest was an 11-year old boy. Klondike Bill, a very large, famous professional wrestler ate 2 meals in one hour! Frank Pastore, a professional pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds, ate the dinner in 9 and 1/2 minutes on May 3, 1987. His record fastest time lasted for almost 21 years until Joey Chestnut, a competitive eating world champion arrived to try his luck the evening of March 24, 2008. He finished the entire meal in a mere 8 minutes and 52 seconds, a record which still stands.

Really big boot outside the Big Texan Steak
Ranch. It's true - everything is bigger in Texas!
One time, Ripley’s Believe It or Not brought in 6 pre-qualified competitive eaters. Only 1 finished within the time limit, but a 120-pound female reporter from the Wall Street Journal who was along covering the event managed to successfully complete the challenge. The unofficial fastest time was by a Bengal tiger in a cage in front of the restaurant. His meal was limited to the steak only and his technique was simple – sniff, lick, gulp! He finished in less than 90 seconds!

If you want to try, you should know the price of the meal is now $72.00 and you have to pay before you are served. If you are successful, they will refund your money plus give you a t-shirt, a souvenir mug and a certificate and your name goes on the wall of fame in the lobby. If you fail, you waddle away after a good meal, but lighter in your wallet.

Cowboy Muffler Man
Youngest-daughter became enamored by the “giants” we had been seeing along the way so when she found out about the Cowboy Muffler Man, we had to stop. He is in front of the Country Barn Steakhouse along I-40 between exits 64 & 65.

After Cowboy Muffler Man Giant, it was time to bid adieu to Amarillo and continue our journey west. More Route 66 sites were calling, including Adrian, which would mark the half-way point of our journey between Chicago and Santa Monica. Knowing we would be half-way done later in the day left both of us somewhere between excited and sad. It had been a great trip so far and we were certainly looking forward to seeing more sites and being able to say we traveled Route 66 from beginning to end.

Youngest-daughter and I had formed an even deeper bond than before, something I would never have thought possible, and I was having to admit, my baby girl had somehow, seemingly overnight, turned into this young lady with her own thoughts, her own views, a wonderful sense of humor and had even gone from being an “are we there yet? Are we there yet?” pain-in-the-neck into a delightful travel companion.  After a week on the road, I was starting to look forward to us getting back home to Mama-woman, our own beds, and the familiar surroundings of home, but still, I wasn’t thrilled it would soon be half over. We decided since we still had half the trip in front of us, the cup was half full and so, with smiles in our hearts, we concentrated on the road ahead.
Go to the first Route 66 entry here.
Or go to the first entry of each state:

Texas Route 66 - Bug Farm & Cadillac Ranch

With another day done (see previous entry), we jumped on I-40 and drove into Amarillo where we got a room at the Hampton Inn on I-40 East. We would have to drive a few miles back east in the morning to rejoin Route 66 where we left it in Conway. Our room was OK, the standard, decent, clean Hampton Inn room we've come to expect. Youngest-daughter was disappointed they had already ran out of cookies when we arrived and wouldn't be making more. As far as she is concerned, this place was not customer friendly and they will never get our business again. That's pretty much my opinion too, but mine was formed when I found the cheap, cheap toilet paper in the room and then later that night when we discovered the A/C was governed to not cool the room below about 72. Sorry, but I don't sleep very well when I have just a bed sheet covering me to my waist, the A/C turned down and I'm still sweating. Nope, we won't be staying here again.

The next morning after the "free" hotel breakfast, we were heading back to Conway when she spied a billboard advertising Chick-fil-a. Youngest-daughter is a Chick-fil-a fanatic and she hasn't had a Chick-fil-a fix in almost a week and there may not be another one until we get to California for all I know. How can any father turned down his baby girl when she looks at him with big, pleading eyes and says, "Please, Daddy, please?" We would be coming back to Amarillo for lunch at you know where.

Slug Bug Ranch in Conway, Texas
Covering the 18 miles from Amarillo to Conway didn't take long and we jumped off I-40 on exit 96 to stop at the Slug Bug Ranch. This is a quirky version of the more well known Cadillac Ranch, but is its own interesting roadside attraction. Five stripped down VW "Bugs" are buried nose down in the dirt next to an abandoned wooden building. There is also a 1930's car sitting next to the Bugs. Personal art work is encouraged so be sure to bring a spray can of paint to leave your mark!


1930's car in front of the heavily "tourist painted" 
abandoned building at Slug Bug Ranch

Bright multi-colored VW Bugs

The famous Cadillac Ranch outside
Amarillo, Texas
Getting back on Route 66, we headed west to Amarillo again to catch the famous Cadillac Ranch. Created in 1974 by members of an art group who called themselves The Ant Farm, Stanley Marsh 3 (a "unique" Texas millionaire if there ever was one) contracted with them to place the public art work on his property. The piece consists of what were, at the time of installation, 10 older, running used Cadillac automobiles representing a number of evolutions of the car line from 1949 to 1963. The cars are buried nose down at an angle corresponding to that of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. Located in a large open field (N35 11 20.9 W101 59 15.1), they are hard to miss and one of the most unique roadside attractions in the world.

There is gravel on the side of the service road wide enough for a number of cars to be parked and an open gate through the property fence for easy entrance. The cars are located about 100 yards from the road and the path is dirt with no grass so don't even think about trudging out there if it has recently rained. Fortunately for us the ground was dry as Satan's mouth so we grabbed our camera's and headed across the field. The wind was blowing so hard we had to lean against it as we made our way toward the graffiti covered autos. There were several people already out there with spray cans of paint spraying their names or funny designs on the car carcasses. We didn't have any so we were going to just take a few "hey look at me here at the Cadillac Ranch" pictures and be on our way. However, a young couple was finishing up as we arrived and the girl asked Youngest-daughter if she needed some paint. It turned out to be a quart can of bright pink and they even gave her the brush they had used. I started taking my pictures and when Youngest-daughter took a break, I looked at her artwork and then painted my name on one of the cars.

A kaleidoscope of colors!
A while later I finished taking pictures and started to look around for Youngest-daughter when she came running up to me with tears in her eyes and panic on her face. I quickly saw the problem; her brand new Canon SLR camera, the one I had bought for her for this special trip, was covered in pink paint splashes! Fortunately, the lens cover was on so the lens was OK, but the camera body was a kaleidoscope of pink and black. She had forgotten a cardinal rule - when the wind is blowing hard, don't paint into it! I felt a flash of anger, but she was obviously extremely upset about it already so harsh words from me couldn't have made her feel worse. "OK," I said, "Let's go to the car and let me see what I can do to fix it."

Youngest-daughter making art.
"God Bless Us all"
I thought we could go into town and get some fingernail polish remover or a can of paint remover and maybe it wouldn't damage the finish of the camera. I had a pack of wet wipes in the truck and decided to use one to wipe off any paint which hadn't already dried. Much to my surprise, with a bit of elbow grease and concentrated rubbing, even the dried spots were coming off! So for the next 30 minutes, we sat in the truck, me scrubbing and watching my daughter's face transform from pure agony to guarded hopefulness, to cautious smile, to outright joy when I handed her camera back to her with not a pink mark on it and looking just like it did when she first took it out of the box. She almost jumped across the seat to give me a firm hug around the neck as she said, "You're the best daddy in the world and I love you so much! You are my hero!" Now that's going to bring a smile to my heart for a long, long time.

We left for town to find that Chick-fil-a, Youngest-daughter with a life lesson firmly learned, a big happy smile on her face, her camera cradled securely in her hands and her hero daddy, happy, contented, proud and firmly wrapped around her little finger. I'm glad she didn't ask me for a Corvette right then.

Go to the first Route 66 entry here.
Or go to the first entry of each state:

Route 66 - McLean to Groom

McLean, the last town on Route 66 to be bypassed by I-40, used to be known as "Uplift City" for the large Sears brassiere factory which used to employ a good percentage of the area residents. The factory is long gone now, but the building was renovated to now house the Devil's Rope Museum. After leaving the former bra factory/Devil's Rope Museum, we drove around McLean a little bit to see more of this small town filled with so many remains of its former glory days. It was time well spent.

I believe this is the former Texas Motel &
Restaurant, but we didn't see "Texas" on any
of the signs. If buildings could tell their stories...





On the east side of McLean. Quiet, haunting -
no sounds except the breeze gently
rustling the weeds.
West of McLean, the land becomes even more arid, with pointy plants and prairie grass growing on the rolling hills eroded by the occasional gully. Seven miles away lies the almost ghost town of Alanreed. Along the stage line from Mobeetie to Clarendon in the early 1880's, a contingent of farmers decided it would be a good site for a town. In 1884, the company they formed began to sell lots. The resulting town went by several different names over the years - Springtown, Spring Tank, Prairie Dog Town, Rusty Shanks and Gouge Eye. Gouge Eye? This particular name arose after a cowboy got into a bar fight and his eye was gouged. A few days later, two of the cowboy's friends were eating in a local restaurant and they persuaded a passing traveler that fallen grapes from the buffet were actually eyes that had been gouged out during the brawl.

Maintained by the Texas Historic Route 66
Association is the restored Bradley Kiser 66
Super Service Station from 1930. This is the
crown jewel of Alanreed.
In 1900 when the railroad was built a few miles south of Gouge Eye, the town decided to up and move to where the railroad was. A surveying firm, Alan and Reed, was hired to lay out the new town and in late 1900, a real estate company began selling land for $2.25 per acre.  The town was given the name of Alanreed in honor of the surveyor partners.

In almost no time the town took off. The first school was opened just 1 year later and a post office was opened soon after. By 1903, Alanreed had become a major shipping point for cattle and was the largest town in the county. With the arrival of Route 66, the town's glory days had arrived with numerous businesses and over 500 residents. After several unsuccessful bids to become the county seat though, the population began to decline. It wasn't long before the bank and hotel had closed and the school was consolidated with 3 other nearby districts. The post office closed in 1955 and today, the population is listed as 48, but it certainly appeared to be fewer than that as we passed through.
 
The 1904 Baptist church in Alanreed - the oldest
surviving church on Route 66 in Texas
Just west of Alanreed lies a famous 18-mile long stretch of Route 66. Known as the Jericho Gap, this was the last section of The Mother Road to be paved in Texas. After a rain, the black gumbo dirt road became a slippery, gooey car-trapping mud-bath. Car tires spun, mud balled up under the fenders and if your car fell into the deep ruts, you were stuck there until someone pulled you out. Farmers made a few extra bucks pulling the cars out of the quagmire with their tractors or a team of mules. For years, stories were told about  enterprising farmers all along the Jericho Gap who in the middle of the night would bring mule-drawn water tanks on wheels to fill up the ruts with water and ensure continued income from the next day's travelers. It was never proven, but it was noted that almost every single farmer along the Gap owned one of those water tanks on wheels and the road was often inexplicably muddy in sections even during the hot dry days of summer. After the road was re-located and paved, there also seemed to be a glut of water tanks for sale!

Along the roadway near the infamous Jericho Gap.
The actual muddy road sections are now 
inaccessible or located on private property.
Continuing our westward journey, Youngest-daughter and I arrived in Groom as the sun was sinking below the horizon. It made for some wonderful picture taking opportunities, but I can't take any credit for planning it as the whole trip we were just driving and stopping to see whatever we wanted for as long as we wanted and stopping for the night when it got dark. If you ever get to take a Route 66 Road Trip, I strongly suggest you follow this method. People who drive as fast as they can, stopping only long enough to take a few pictures out of the car window, are not true travelers and they really can't say they've "seen" anything. Doing anything other than taking your time along the Mother Road is a waste of time.

Platted in 1902, Groom, located 42 miles east of Amarillo, was named for Colonel B.B. Groom, an English-born cattleman who imported shorthorn and Angus cattle into the area. It became a railroad shipping point for area ranching and agriculture. The population slowly grew until the early 1970's when there were over 800 residents. The town began to decline and the population began to slowly move west to Amarillo for better business opportunities until now there are a little over 500 people who call it home.

Leaning water tower along Route 66 in the
plains of the Texas Panhandle
It's almost impossible to miss the famous leaning water tower coming into town. Originally, it was a functioning water tower, but it was slated for demolition. Ralph Britten purchased it and moved it close to his truck stop as an advertising gimmick. Many stories have been told about this water tower - a tornado almost blew it over; a sink hole opened up under one of the legs; some high school kids hooked up their cars one night and tried to pull it over as a prank - but none of those are true I'm kind of sad to say. The truth is Ralph installed it leaning to the side like it is simply to attract attention to his business located behind the tower. Tons of concrete buried underground offsets the weight distribution to keep it steady. The tower has now outlasted the truck stop which suffered a fire years ago and has been boarded up and vacant ever since. Every year at Christmas, the town tops the leaning water tower with a lit up star.

The 190-ft cross in Groom, Texas
Also in Groom is a 19-story tall cross which can be seen for 20 miles. Surrounding the base of the 190-ft free-standing cross are life-sized statues of the "Stations of the Cross." We pulled in here just as the sun was finally setting. It was a perfect way to end the day.
 
Back on the road heading for Amarillo and a
place to lay our heads for the night,
Youngest-daughter took one last picture of the
gorgeous Texas sunset.
 
 
Go to the first Route 66 entry here.
Or go to the first entry of each state:

Route 66 - Devil's Rope

The entrance to the Devil's Rope & Route 66
Museums in McLean, Texas
With the sun verging on hanging low to let us know the day was almost done, we pulled into the town of McLean and easily found our destination - The Devil's Rope Museum.

In 1901, Alfred Rowe, an English Rancher, donated land near a railroad cattle loading stop for the establishment of a town. The railroad dug a water well and built a section house there and the town began to grow. Within a couple of years, the citizens had chosen the name of McLean for their town in honor of Judge William McLean who served in the Texas Legislature and on the Railroad Commission. By 1912 when Rowe died in the sinking of the Titanic, the town had been incorporated and had become home to over 1,000 people. By 1927 when Route 66 was built through town, there were about 1,200 citizens. McLean's population temporarily tripled from 1942 until 1945 when the Army built a POW camp for 3,000 German prisoners. In 1984, the town was bypassed by the newly constructed I-40 and with the prominence of Amarillo and Pampa surpassing McLean, the population began to decline from 1,600 to the current 800.

In early 1990, barbed wire collectors attending a show in Dodge City, Kansas discussed establishing a museum for barbed wire. People took the discussion seriously and by August of that same year, an old building in McLean, Texas was selected. A contract was signed and building renovation work began. The Historical Museum of Barbed Wire and Fencing Tools Organization was chartered as a tax-exempt, non-profit organization and it drew many barbed wire collectors from around the country and even the world as its members.

The Texas Route 66 Museum in the same building
as the Devil's Rope Museum in McLean, Texas
In January, 1991, the Old Route 66 Association of Texas received its tax-exempt, non-profit charter from the state and the 2 organizations soon began to work together to establish 2 museums in the same building. Members of both organizations provided all of the financing, labor, and artifact donations to set up the museums after the building had been renovated. The Devil's Rope Museum and the Texas Route 66 Museum both opened to the public on March 23, 1991. Today, the Devil's Rope Museum is known as the largest collection of barbed wire and fencing tools in the world and the Texas Route 66 Museum is billed as the first Route 66 museum actually on Old Route 66.

Inside the Devil's Rope Museum. This is
a LARGE building!
OK, so now you ask, "How was it? Should I stop there?" Well, if you are really interested in barbed wire or if you are hitting every Route 66 museum along your road trip, then yes, you definitely should stop. The building is very large and the admission is free so the price is right. While we were there, a really nice elderly lady was at the front counter - a nicer, friendlier person you could not find. We stopped to chat after touring the museums and she seemed to have a permanent smile on her face. I dropped a few bucks into the donation jar and she was very appreciative. Such a sweet lady. But hundreds of samples of barbed wire - really? There are people out there who collect all kinds of things and far be it from me to make light of anything harmless that gives somebody happiness in their life - more power to them. Let's just say that for me, strictly my opinion here, even as well as the museum of barbed wire was laid out and with the astounding amount of artifacts collected there, I mean, it was still barbed wire! Pretty exciting stuff only if compared to watching paint dry or grass grow. I kept wondering, "Why?" However, according to that sweet little old lady, almost 100,000 visitors from all over the world each year come to see this place. I gotta be missing something. If you are a barbed wire enthusiast, please let me know so I can quite thinking about this and get some sleep!
Barbed Wire Bunny
Barbed wire cowboys.



Is there anything more useless than a barbed wire
cowboy hat? I pondered this for a while and couldn't
come up with anything.

 

Go to the first Route 66 entry here.
Or go to the first entry of each state:
 

Route 66 - Texas!

Entering the great state of Texas on Route 66.
On the other side of this sign is the
Texas Panhandle.
Just a few miles beyond the town center of Texola, Youngest-daughter and I crossed over into the Lone Star State. Texans claim the pearly gates of heaven are locked not to keep bad people from getting in, but to keep Texans from sneaking out to go back home! We agree with that statement and the fact that we are 4th & 5th generation Native Texans is pure coincidence!

When there is no river or other natural border to mark the changing of a state boundary, you can usually cross from one state to the other without even noticing. Not here though. Almost immediately after entering Texas, the land changes from the rolling, wooded hills of Oklahoma to the open, flat, treeless plains and wide open spaces of the Texas Panhandle. It's as if the state line just naturally belongs right here. Back in the day, this was a dangerous land; not the place for your horse to pull up lame or for your old truck to throw a rod on the way with your wife and little ones to California. This is a land where you either accept it, give in to its stark beauty, openness and dangers and fall in love with it or hurry as quickly as possible across it to an easier region.

Early travelers were so convinced they were in danger of becoming permanently lost that they drove wooden stakes into even the smallest rise to point the way. Riders coming up from the south came upon these markers and named the region Llano Estacado - the Staked Plain.

There were originally 178 miles of Route 66
across Texas, but about 25 of them are dirt
and no longer open for travel. This is right
on the state line.
Of course, crossing this 150+ miles is so much easier and safer now, with reliable transportation and cell phones in every one's hands. I strongly suggest you stay on Route 66 instead of the boring, boring, boring I-40, pull off a time or two in an old, out-of-the-way place, turn off your car and get out for a spell. Walk away from the safety of your auto and the road to whatever spot calls to you. Clear your mind and just listen to the wind, the ever present wind, and soon you will start to feel what the early travelers felt and maybe you'll get to know just a little something about this land. Maybe you will start to like it more than you thought or maybe you will be eerily unnerved and want to quickly scurry along. Either way, I think you will remember it.

A few miles into Texas and the first town you come to is Shamrock. Originally named Wheeler, George Nichols emigrated from Ireland and began a sheep farm. He named his homestead Shamrock to remind himself of his roots. When the railroad constructed a stop here, it took up the name and the town began calling itself Shamrock also. It was officially incorporated under that name in 1911. When the paving of Route 66 was completed in Shamrock on St. Patrick's Day in 1938, the town held a parade. The event has become an annual tradition now, during which, for 1 day, all of the town's citizens become Irish.

Piece of the Blarney Stone in Elmore Park
To cement the Irish ties, a piece of the original Blarney Stone was brought from Blarney Castle in Cork County, Eire and permanently placed on a stand in Elmore Park in March, 1959 (N35 12 51.0 W100 14 43.2). The park is not exactly on Route 66, but nothing in Shamrock is very far from the Mother Road and we found it to be an interesting little side trip. The park is in the middle of a small, blue-collar, but mostly well maintained neighborhood. There were a few children running around the park when we pulled in and adults sitting on several porches were keeping an eye on them and us as we parked. I took several pictures and the bravest little girl of the bunch, I would guess about 6 years old, shyly walked up and asked what I was doing. I told her I was here to take pictures of "that rock over there." I asked her if she knew what it was and she said,  It's the Barney Stone from Eye-land." Trying really hard not to laugh about "the Barney Stone," I asked her if she knew what that means, she turned and as she walked away, said, "It's a special rock that was on TV. Bye!" I liked her description better than the historical one.

Blarney Stone or "Barney Stone?"
Shamrock has numerous old service stations, motels, and cafes - remnants left from the times when shiny new Studebakers rolled out of the factory in Indiana and their owners drove them through here stopping for food, gas, and a night's lodging. One such place you shouldn't miss is the famous U-Drop Inn/Tower Conoco at the junction of Route 66 and Hwy 83. Opened in 1936 to meet the traveler's needs, the facility has changed hands a number of times. It's Art Deco design was conceived by John an original co-owner who sketched the design in sand with a nail for the construction crew to follow. After the restaurant opened, it was described as "the swankiest of the swank eating places."  Both the restaurant and the service station served customers until the mid-1990's. Today, the building has been restored and houses offices of the Chamber of Commerce. If possible, you should stick around after dark to see the dazzling neon which outlines the spires of the building.

U Drop Inn/Tower Conoco in Shamrock, Texas
As we were continuing west out of Shamrock, we came across a "Texas Stop Sign," a Dairy Queen right there in town. If you want some good fast food, you can't go wrong with a DQ Steak Finger Basket - steak fingers, french fries, a cup of white gravy, 2 slices of Texas Toast and a big drink of sweet iced tea. We couldn't pass it up. It may not have been the healthiest food we could have had, but life ain't worth living if you can't splurge every once in a while! We headed on down the road through the wide-open Texas plains to our next destination, McLean, with full, happy tummy's. The Devil's Rope Museum is in McLean and we were going to see it.

Go to the first Route 66 entry here.
Or go to the first entry of each state: