Thursday, October 18, 2012

Route 66 - Day 22 - Groom, TX to Amarillo, TX

Route 66 - Part 1
Day 22 Groom to Amarillo
41.0  Actual Mileage /495 Actual Elevation

The riders all made it safely to the Big Texan Steakhouse and Motel in Amarillo, TX bringing to a close, the inaugural ride of "Get Your Kicks on Route 66 - Part 1.

Bug Ranch - A spoof of the more well-known Cadillac Ranch several miles to the west. Whereas Cadillac Ranch consists of a line of several Cadillac automobiles partially buried in the ground, Bug Ranch substitutes Volkswagen Beetles. Open-air display.


Cadillac Ranch - Best known project completed in 1974 by 'The Ant Farm' an art collective originally founded by a pair of architecture graduates in the late 1960s. The collective, which was active for about 10 years, was comprised of several individuals, notably Doug Michels and Chip Lord (founders), Curtis Schroeder, Hudson Marquez, and Douglas Hurr. Open-air display. It is an outdoor art installation dating from 1974 and comprised of a row of 10 partially buried Cadillac automobiles with their tail fins angling skyward; the tailfins trace design changes from 1949 to 1964. The artwork is visible from I-40 in a field on the western outskirts of town. It has become the norm that pilgrims to the site bring cans of spray paint and add graffiti to the cars; periodically the cars are all repainted in a solid color so that the process can begin anew. Popularly considered one of the most distinctive and important features on Route 66, in truth Cadillac Ranch dates well after US 66 had lost its importance, and so was actually installed in proximity to the Mother Road's successor in the area, I-40. Surprisingly, the whole installation was picked up and moved several years ago in response to encroaching development at its original location, which had been a short distance to the east. The original artwork was commissioned by local tycoon Stanly Marsh 3 and created by a group of collaborators calling themselves the Ant Farm.
Big Texan Steak Ranch - World-famous steakhouse, started in 1960, known for its offer of a free 72-ounce steak dinner to anyone who can eat all of it in one hour; officially Big Texan Ranch. Once a Route 66 fixture, the Big Texan moved to the side of I-40 circa 1968 in response to changing American travel patterns. The Big Texan's attached gift shop includes a display of live rattlesnakes, a throwback to the heyday of Route 66 when reptile farms were popular roadside attractions.
            Dynamite Museum - Not a museum per se, but the name given collectively to the group of mock-road-sign "artwork" scattered throughout Amarillo, TX, and several nearby panhandle town; the brainchild of local arts patron Stanley Marsh 3.
            Sixth Avenue - Part of Route 66's early alignment through Amarillo passed along Sixth Avenue. This portion of the Route has since been the scene of significant redevelopment, with a number of active businesses both new and old. Sixth Avenue also was the scene of a major Mother Road festival in 1998.
            Triangle Motel – is a 1040s-era motel on Amarillo's east side on a relatively obscure section of old 66 (Triangle Drive). In 2007, a preservation effort was launched to preserve the motel.
            Golden Light Café - 2908 W. 6th Avenue [806-374-9237] This place dates from 1946 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. A fairly funky roadhouse famed for burgers, homemade hot sauce, green-chili stew, and Frito pies.
            The Amarillo Natatorium – 2705 6th Street – The Nat looked like an architectural Appaloosa horse – with a gray stone Moorish-Camelot front half—joined to a porthole-dotted steamship. It became an outstanding attraction as a ballroom. Reopening in 1926, it hosted the top bands of the 30s and 40s—Paul Whiteman, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, and Harry James.

 The trip was culminated with a group dinner at the Big Texan Steakhouse and even the Mayor of Amarillo showed up to wish us well. Rich and I were asked to come down to KTII-TV studios and did an interview about our trip. I tink it went very well. The group presented Rich with a signed Route 66 T-shirt and gave me a beautifuul carry-on bag made in Route 66 motif. It is awesome. Even has a waist purse!
Charlie G., Rich G., the Mayor of Amarillo, TX and me at our final group dinner at the Big Texan Steakhouse.

Now that the trip is over, it is time to start thinking about Part 2. I am off to New Mexico in the morning to begin the recon of Route 66 - Part 2! I am so excited.

Route 66 - Day 21 - Shamrock, TX to Groom, TX

Route 66 - Part 1
Day 21 Shamrock to Groom
--- Actual Mileage / --- Actual Elevation

The ride today started a little cooler and the winds were not quite as strong as yesterday only 10-20 mph headwinds....

Lela – Founded in 1902 as a rail station.

            Once known as the “Uplift City” for the ladies undergarment factory which now houses the Devil’s Rope/Old Route 66 Museum..
            Founded around the turn of the 20th Century by an English rancher, Alfred Rowe, who later lost his life on the Titanic in 1912, McLean is now perhaps the most evocative town along the Texas stretch of Route 66.
           McLean is headquarters of the State’s Historic Route 66 Association, and efforts are being made to preserve the town in prime condition.
Phillips 66 Station - Cottage-Style--a type of gas-station that proliferated in the 1920's and 1930's in response to popular tastes. Prior to the development of the cottage-style station, many fuel vendors were housed in little more than shacks, and they were considered undesirable as neighbors. The larger oil companies--notably Pure Oil Company and architect C.A. Peterson--responded with a design that attempted to blend into a neighborhood by mimicking residential construction. There is a former Phillips 66 station in McLean, TX, that exemplifies the breed.
Devil's Rope Museum - 100 S. Kingsley Street [806-779-2225] A nickname for barbed wire, the invention of which was a true milestone in the history of the American West, as it allowed for fencing inspire of the lack of plentiful timber required for more conventional fence construction. There is a museum dedicated to Devil's Rope in McLean, TX, which shares a building with a Route 66 exhibit that is most entertaining and educational. The Route 66 Exhibit houses a Giant Cobra and a big Bull.

Marie Foundations - Undergarment company that used to operate in the building now occupied by twin museums celebrating Devil's Rope and Route 66.
"Rattlesnakes Exit Now" - Well-known sign displayed high above I-40 exhorting travelers to use the next exit in order to experience a reptile display. The aging sign was partially downed by a storm in 2006, and is being repaired for display in nearby McLean, TX.  
Cactus Inn – Refurbished
            McLean-Alanreed Area Museum - 117 N. Main – houses panhandle history exhibits as well as artifacts relating to the prisoner-of-war camp here during the war years.


            Eldridge - An early name for the town of Alanreed, TX. The original townsite is north of the current Alanreed. By going a few miles north on highway 291, and then west on County Road X, you can find the old Eldridge cemetery.

Gouge-Eye - A former name for the community of Alanreed, TX, said to have originated with an ugly brawl.
Regal Reptile Ranch - Long gone, this tourist stop was located on a bypass section of Route 66 on the north edge of town. A large, crudely made snake's head, which formerly advertised the place, is now part of the collection at the Route 66 Museum in McLean, TX.


            66 Courts - A now-demolished motel court with an adjacent gasoline station designed with subtle Art Deco influence and clad in stucco. The 66 Courts were an inspiration in the design of one of the new rest areas on nearby I-40.
Britten Truck Stop (Leaning Water Tower) - Long closed, what remains to be seen is a water tower that was placed at the site as an advertising ploy (marked "Britten") during the time the truck stop was in business. The water tower was never properly installed in the ground, causing it to lean markedly, and thereby adding to the visual spectacle. It is marketing in the best roadside tradition and also made its way into Cars.
            Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ” Stainless Steel Cross - 19-stories tall and weighing nearly three tons, this cross was erected by a religious group in 1995 and is just shy of 200 feet tall. This was the largest cross in the Western hemisphere until a copycat erected a slightly taller one along I-70 in Effingham, Illinois. The complex also includes statues of the “Stations of the Cross.”
  Route 66 Steakhouse (old Golden Spread Grill) - 407 East Front Street

Tomorrow is our last day of riding as we will arrive in Amarillo,TX at the Big Texan Steakhouse and Motel. Tomorrow will complete our ride of Part 1 of Route 66 (Chicago, IL to Amarillo, TX). 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Route 66 - Day 20 - Elk City, OK to Shamrock, TX

Route 66 - Part 1
Day 20 Elk City to Shamrock, TX
58.88 Actual Mileage / 1,372 Actual Elevation

The winds today were almost straight headwinds all day 20-30 mph... It was a tough day in the saddle for all of the riders. Several riders called it quits and jumped into the truck...not that I blame them...the winds were buffetting the truck and pushing it around a lot.

A quick flashback to the dark days of Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath.
            Beckham County Courthouse was prominently featured in the movie version as Henry Fonda and the rest of the Joads rattled down Route 66 toward California.
            Shortgrass Country Museum - 106 E. Poplar Street – housed in the old Rock Island Line railroad depot, with changing displays documenting regional history from Cheyenne times to the arrival of homesteading settlers during the great Land Rush of 1892.
 Western Motel - 315 NE Highway 66 [580-928-3353] which has a fine old neon cactus sign.
Tricia appears to be riding into the mural
Route 66 Bar – Mural
 Owl Drugs – State’s largest antique soda fountain

            Some main streets are named for local musical heros such as Sheb “Purple People Eater” Wooley and Roger “King of the Road” Miller.

            This pleasant town had a speeding problem. In fact, Erick had become known as one of the worst speed traps in the nation. Using a speedy black 1938 Ford with Oklahoma overdrive, Officer Elmer could catch just about anyone he had a mind to. When he once busted Bob Hope, the comedian  quipped on his next radio show that the only way he would go through Erick again was on a donkey.
            100th Meridian Museum - [580-526-3221] Displays inside trace life on what used to be considered the edge of the habitable world—everything west of the 100th Meridian was officially thought to be the “Great American Desert”—and also explain that Erick used to be on the Texas border, until the border was realigned.
Mediocre Music Makers - A two-person performance group comprised of Harley and Annabelle Russell of Erick, OK. They entertain Mother Road travelers in their Sandhills Curiosity Shop with music, singing, and endless humor, and all for no particular fee (though tips are welcome).
Redneck Capital of the World - Self-effacing name given by Harley and Annabelle Russell to their tiny corner of Route 66, the Sandhills Curiosity Shop.
Sandhills Curiosity Shop - Located in a former meat market building in downtown Erick, the Sandhills Curiosity Shop is an unlikely center of entertainment for this small time. The shop is run by Harley and Annabelle Russell, also known as the Mediocre Music Makers.
Roger Miller Museum - [1936-1992] - An American singer, songwriter, and musician, Miller grew up in the small Mother Road town of Erick, OK, where today one can find both a Roger Miller Boulevard and Roger Miller Museum. His most famous song, for which he won a Grammy Award in 1965, is "King of the Road." Established by his widow.

Texola – Borderline Ghost Town
            Old Territorial Jail                                     Will Rogers Marker
Welcome to Texola sign reads:



 Rich poses and Anne and Becky mug for the camera at the Texas State Line
Known as the panhandle because of the way it juts north from the rest of Texas, this part of the route is a nearly 200-mile stretch of pancake-flat plains. Almost devoid of trees and other features, the western half , stretching into New Mexico, is also known as the Llano Estacado or “Staked Plains,” possibly because early travelers marked there route by driving stakes into the earth. The Texas Panhandle was the southern extent of the buffalo-rich grasslands of the Great Plains, populated by roving bands of Kiowa and Comanche Indians. Now oil and gas production, as well as trucking and Route 66 tourism have joined ranching as the region’s economic basis. Old Route 66 has been replaced by I-40 most of the way across Texas, though in many of the ghostly towns like McLean and Shamrock, and the sole city, Amarillo, old US 66 survives as the main business strip, lined by the empty remains of roadside businesses. A select few are still open for a cup of coffee and a sharp taste of the living past.


            CRI and P – Route 66 crosses a concrete bridge over this abandoned railroad.  The former Chicago Rock Island and Pacific Railroad (also known as the “Cry and Pee” for its initials).
Blarney Stone - A particular stone in a castle in County Cork, Ireland. Legend states that the stone will confer skill in flattery or storytelling on anyone who kisses it. Elmore Park in Shamrock, TX contains what is reputed to be a fragment of the true Blarney Stone.

            Nunn’s Cafe - Former name for what is now the U Drop Inn, a cafe-gas station enterprise at the junction of US 66 and US 83 in the Texas Panhandle.
            U Drop Inn - Formerly called Nunn's Cafe, the U Drop Inn is a combination gas station and cafe complex situated on Route 66 where it crosses US 83 in the Texas Panhandle. The building, in the art Deco style, was conceived in the 1920 s by John Nunn's, who is said to have sketched the original design in the Texas soil using a nail. In 2003, the building was beautifully restored and has since become the home of the local chamber of commerce.
            Tower Service Station complex – dating from 1926, is perhaps the finest example of Art Deco architecture on all of old Route 66. Both the former Conoco Station and the adjoining café have been restored—the tower is even outlines by neon. If the building looks familiar, its look-alike appeared in the feature film Cars.
Pioneer West Museum – 204 N. Madden Street

Tomorrow we are off to Groom, TX.