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: