As has been observed, Texas is not just a state, it’s a state of mind. There’s an openness here that you don’t feel elsewhere. And I don’t just mean a flat desert landscape with nothing between you and the horizon but a stray tumbleweed. Granted, part of my opinion is favorably flavored by previous trips to other parts of this grand state. But I’m not wrong – the people are as kind and open as you are to them.
Almost the first place I came to upon entering Texas was the U Drop Inn in Shamrock. When you step out of your car, pause and take a deep breath. Smell that Texas air – it’s faint, but you can pick up the scent of dust and hay and horses and cattle. It’s manure and sweat, but it’s freedom and life. It’s the scent of hard work and an investment in the future. Cattlemen, like farmers, learn to wait on the turning of the seasons.
The U Drop Inn, with its high tower, inspired the maker of “Cars”. The movie is constantly playing inside. It’s a tourist center now, and a portion has been made up like a 50’s diner. The folks there are so nice and have lots of information about things to see along the Route in Texas.
Moving along you’ll come to McLean. So at this point I realized there were fewer biggest/tallest and lots more museums, so I was pleased to stop by the Devils Rope Museum, which includes a section as a Route 66 Museum.
So what is Devil’s Rope? It’s barbed wire – and its history is fascinating! I had no idea there were so many types of barbed wire, nor that people actually collect it. Out front are two giant barbed wire balls.
These things are big! It’s a bit mind blowing to look at these and realize how much wire had to be coiled and twisted and rolled to make these. Inside the museum you’ll see a history of barbed wire, it’s importance and cultural relevance, and many examples of barbed wire art. One particular exhibit of interest to me was a photo history of the Dust Bowl and the Depression when hundreds fled cross country, searching for a better life west.
While you’re there, buy a bottle of “Red Mud” bbq sauce. No, buy two!
Apart from my own, this is about the best bbq sauce I have ever enjoyed –
and I don’t endorse anyone’s bbq sauce!
You already know that I tend to search out those things that are still “alive” – I don’t care for exploring ruins or ghost towns. So I don’t have any pictures of the famous “leaning water tower” outside Groom. Meh. Read about it, stop and look at it – I felt none the lesser for driving by.
But I did stop to see the giant cross.
This monument is a dedication to the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Around the base of the cross are the 14 “stations”, life sized statues that depict the suffering of Christ on His crucifixion day. They are meant to help the faithful reflect on their own spiritual travel. May I suggest that, in my own humble opinion, in addition to reflecting on Christ’s suffering and death, we must ever more greatly celebrate His resurrection and life! Christ’s death paid for my sins. His resurrection gives me eternal life. If Jesus did not rise again, His death meant nothing. Reflect on Friday, but celebrate on Sunday!
Continuing down the Route, you have the opportunity to explore dirt roads and ghost towns. And open plains. Lots of open plains. And you find yourself thinking, wow! This is just a short part of the Texas Panhandle – it’s not even the big part of Texas! Everything in Texas is big – the small part is big!
Amarillo is a big enough city that I was inclined to bypass it, but it was getting on time for lunch and I’d held off grabbing a bite so I could eat at the Big Texan. This is worth veering off the Route – it’s as touristy as it gets. They advertise a free 72 oz steak – that is, if you can eat the entire 72 oz steak (that’s 4 1/2 lbs!) and the fixin’s in one hour, the meal is free. Many have tried and failed. I can’t imagine the food coma if you succeeded. I had a fabulous meal of ribs and onion rings and fries – way too much for me to eat, and that was considered a regular meal. A little on the expensive side, to my way of thinking, but, hey, it’s a tourist joint. Go and enjoy – you’re paying as much for the experience as for the food. They have a great gift shop to explore. (By the way, I never did take any pictures of my food. Eh, that’s just me.)
The Big Texan Steakhouse even has a big dinosaur out front, dressed as a cowboy. Why would they have such a thing? Because they can.
And here I thought I was done seeing big, kitschy statues.
And, of course, you absolutely cannot drive past/through Amarillo, TX without stopping by Cadillac Ranch!
I’m presuming you’ve heard of Cadillac Ranch – and I don’t mean the song by Chris LeDoux. Off the highway in the middle of a field, a line of cars buried nose down. It’s practically a Texas institution. People bring cans of spray paint to leave their mark – or use cans of paint that have been left by others. It’s almost impossible to get photos without all the people around (I did a bit of creative cropping on my photos). But I find it interesting to watch the people. How they explore, taking their photos… A couple was there with their big, long-haired dog. Apparently they have gone on road trips all over the country and take pictures of their dog in front of every landmark they come across. I love it!
Well, I’d had my lunch and seen Cadillac Ranch, so I was ready to get back on the road. It was pretty hot, too. I don’t do well in the heat! I got lost trying to find the Route in Amarillo, but once outside the city I picked it back up fairly easily. Being hot and tired, I was ready to find a place to stay. According to my dining and lodging guide, the Big Texan Motel – next door to the Big Texan Steakhouse – was a little outside my budget, so I decided I would stay in Vega. This would make for a 180 mile day, which is not a bad drive on the Route.
Hmmm, yeah, uh, well… Have you ever been somewhere and you got the oddest feeling that you shouldn’t be there? There’s nothing overt, just a feeling – the hairs on the back of your neck start standing up and that little voice in the back of your mind is telling you, “Move along, folks, nothing to see. Move along!”
That’s the feeling I got driving through Vega. Now keep in mind that at certain times of day small towns are like ghost towns. People here work and if they’re at work then the streets are empty and it’s easy to get a creepy feeling. But I didn’t care for the look of the motel, and I refused to stay in the Best Western (definitely outside the budget). So I drove on.
My plan had been to stay the night in Vega so that I could have breakfast at the Midpoint Cafe. It’s a breakfast/lunch joint with what is supposed to be a great souvenir/gift shop and I really wanted to eat there as part of my Route 66 experience. But since I was passing Vega, I needed to find someplace else to stay, and I wasn’t seeing anything east of Midpoint. I arrived at Midpoint Cafe about half hour after they closed <sigh>. Still, I got a picture!
Okay, well, both Vega, TX and Adrian, TX (Midpoint Cafe) claim to be the middle of Route 66. Either way, the sky was blue, the day was warm, and I still needed to find a place to sleep for the night. In addition, I found myself in a very long stretch where there was no cellular service – emergency only, or so my phone kept telling me. (Yeah, places like that exist.) So no just looking up websites to find a place. This is where the excitement of living wild and free, cruising down the open road with no plans to tie me down, ready for whatever – yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever. It was getting real old real fast. But what do you do? You take a deep breath of freedom and keep driving.
As close as I was to the state border, I decided to head on to Tucumcari, NM. It’s a good 30 miles into NM, but I had wanted to stay at the Blue Swallow Motel – a Route 66 institution – and since I had to pass by Midpoint Cafe, this would make a good ending for the day. It made for a 250 mile day! So I was really tired! At least I wasn’t hungry – I was still full from my lunch at the Bix Texan Steakhouse. (It was big!)
I absolutely loved Tucumcari, NM! Okay, so I realize that this post is about Texas and now I’ve moved into New Mexico… bear with me while I end my day. It was great!
Found this awesome little curio shop coming into town. Something I would like you to notice in this picture: on the right is blue sky, on the left is a storm cloud. I love this kind of weather! You can watch the storm coming – which I did the entire drive west. The storm was heading south (the picture above is facing east) and I managed to get into my room and settle down for the night just as it hit. I love a good thunder storm! It was fabulous!
Although, I didn’t get into the Blue Swallow. While I was perusing the curios in the tee pee, the Blue Swallow was signing out the keys to their last room. (Remember- no plans, open road, yada yada…) But Tucumcari is the penultimate tourist town, the only thing they have more of than gift shops is motels. I drove the length of town twice, which only took 10 minutes, and decided on the Route 66 Motel on the east end of town ($45.29).
I’ll admit, I was a little put off by the sign stating “Genuine American” – after all, if you read my post on Oklahoma, you’ll know that I considered those wonderful folks from India to be just as American as myself. (I found that many innkeepers along the Route were from India.) But that aside, this motel was beautifully kept and very comfortable. There is an espresso bar on the corner of the motel where you can get a great cuppa joe in the morning when you head off.
And this is where I wrap up my tales about Texas! Next up I’ll take you with me through New Mexico and beyond! Hang in there while we keep chugging our way across the US!
I am searching for the other side of the next hill where I am certain I will find new recipes, new sights and new fabric.