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.
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