A Quick Trip Down Route 66
I have been down parts of Route 66 many times, but never for the expressed purpose of experiencing the history of this once great road, known as “The Mother Road.” I knew that we could only be away for a short time and had to make the most of what little time we had. My research revealed that Tucumcari, New Mexico was the Mother Load of all things vintage Route 66. Also, the stretch from Tucumcari east to Shamrock, Texas was loaded with some big stops for any Route 66 enthusiast.
The objectives were clear,Houston to Tucumcari, back across to Shamrock, and make our way back home to Houston.
Day One, Friday October 19, 2018
The plan was to bring back as many photos of Vintage Route 66 Roadside as possible to be used as backgrounds for my digital photography. It was 1:49 am. We loaded up Debbie’s new Toyota Corolla and headed down I-10 east, up I-45 to Dallas, across on I-20 to Ft. Worth, and caught 287 towards the Panhandle.
Our first stop was Decatur, Texas just north of Ft. Worth, off 287. We pulled up into the parking lot of the Petrified Wood Texaco at 5:30 am and it was dark and raining. We decided to wait for sunrise, but when it came an hour or so later it was still too dark for acceptable shots. I decided that we better get back on the road, since we wanted to make Tucumcari, New Mexico by days end.
At 10 am we were passing by Electra, Texas and the rain finally quit. Oil pump jacks were everywhere. We soon noticed giant propellers on the horizon, slowly turning and cutting through the low hanging clouds. Debbie had never seen them before and was totally fascinated by them, so we turned off the highway at Harrold, Texas and took a closer look. The mast for the propellers must have been 100 feet tall. It was a bit like walking through a set for "War of The World's." They were so huge and alien looking!
As we were rolling through Quanah, Texas, we came upon hundreds of huge brightly painted metal roosters on the right side of the road. Debbie had to see what it was all about, so I turned the car around and pulled up to Rustic Relics. It was indeed a sight to behold. I thought to myself what a hoot it would be to buy a dozen or so of the largest ones they had and plant them in the front yard just to see what the homeowner’s association would do. After getting some photos, we got ourselves back on track and heading up Hwy 287 towards Route 66.
Hwy 287 took us through Childress, Goodnight and on to Amarillo, arriving about 1 pm. In Amarillo, we stopped at The Big Texan Steak Ranch and Brewery just off I-40 on the east side of town. This is the place where if you can completely devour a 72 oz steak within the required time limit, its FREE! We took the usual tourist photographs in front of the giant steer, the huge lizard, and the Big Texan sign out front. That complete, it was time to seek out The Cadillac Ranch on the west side of town.
As we pulled off the feeder road to park, we noticed many others were also here to inspect the presentation before us in the adjacent field. In the distance we could see ten old Cadillacs stuck in the ground nose first as if theycrashed into the pasture from high in th e sky. All of them were spray painted with graffiti of every color, heralding and documenting the visits of those that made the journey before us. I had picked up two cans of spray paint before our trip just for this special occasion and was excited to get my chance to make my mark on this great monument. But it would not come to be, without stepping knee deep into the mud and water surrounding the great automotive pillars before me. So, as a last resort, I took the cap off the white paint can, shook it, and sprayed the wet dirt beside my feet. The wind had picked up and it was hard to get the paint to stick to the wet earth. The ground sucked the paint in and the letters I wrote on it were disappearing as quickly as I sprayed. Finally, we had enough to barely make out what I wrote in the earth and we took the photo anyway. We also took other photos to use as backgrounds for my automotive portrait work. We were now ready to venture on west to the next town, Vega.
On Facebook, I had seen a photo of a billboard someone put up telling Liberals to keep driving on I-40 until they were across the state line. Since it was such a controversial sign, I felt it my duty to take a photo of it. There were reports that the sign had been taken down, but I wanted to be sure. As we watched both sides of the road and the miles rolled by, it was evident that the rumor was correct, ... no sign.
In just a few minutes we found ourselves in Adrian, Texas. This is where a white line is painted across the Old Route 66 pavement marking the Midpoint of the journey between Chicago and Los Angeles. On the north side of the road at the line is a sign welcoming visitors, acknowledging the midpoint, and details the 1139 miles to Chicago or Los Angeles from this point. Adrian is also the home of the Bent Door Cafe which used to be a Phillips 66 gas station and the Midpoint Cafe. Both were closed during our visit, but we were able to visit the Sunflower Station and purchase some souvenirs. It was now almost 4:00 pm Central Time and time to hit the road again, bound for New Mexico.
It was just 65 miles from Adrian, Texas to Tucumcari, New Mexico. We were anxious to get to the Blue Swallow Motel and get checked-in, so we could get our bearings and start photographing vintage roadside before it got to dark.
As we exited I-40 and dropped off onto Old Route 66 entering Tucumcari, we instantly started rolling by old gas stations, diners, motels, and RV parks. It was incredible, almost as if we just drove back in time. WOW! Tucumcari has so much to offer in Route 66 vintage roadside, I was afraid I would not have time to photograph it all.
At 4:30 pm Mountain Time, we arrived at our destination and checked-in at the Blue Swallow Motel and were escorted to our room by the friendly owner. He related the history of the motel, the amenities offered, and invited us to join him,his wife, and other guests for smores around the fire pit at 8:00 pm. It is a tradition that they share every night and a great opportunity to get to know each other. We unpacked the car and settled in to our room. It was a time capsule, including Route 66 styled pictures on the wall and motel instructional signage from years long forgotten. All but two of the rooms include a garage.
Each garage is muraled with wonderful scenes from the Disney movie “Cars.” The garage doors are left open and a low light is on at night for all to enjoy the wonderful mural art.
Having not eaten a meal all day, just snacks in the car, we were hungry and ready to eat. The historic Del’s Restaurant was in sight just down the street and comes highly recommended by all the locals. We ventured down the street to Del’s and had a great meal. Debbie found some more souvenirs too!
After Del’s, we drove west down the Old Route 66 strip to acquaint ourselves with the town. We drove back to the motel, took some photos, talked with some of the quests, and went to bed. It had been a long day of adventure.
Day Two, Saturday October 20, 2018
Saturday morning with blue sky and no clouds in sight , we began our day with breakfast at Kik On Route 66 diner for some breakfast, before heading to the eastern city limit of Route 66 to begin photographing. The diner was what you would expect to find back in the 50’s or 60’s, with the exception of some modern technology at the cash register. The food was great and the waitress took great care of us during our meal. Debbie found more souvenirs to grab. I told her that many more souvenirs were waiting just down the road, but you know how women are,right? Now, time to get to work.
Our next stop was the Tucumcari Railroad Museum located in Old Town. It is located in the 1926 Union Station depot building on the north side of town. Serious restoration began in April of 2012. The building is a beautiful example of Southwestern architecture. We took a lot of photos of the beautiful train depot and the old, some decaying, buildings located nearby.
From Old Town Tucumcari, we drove south to Route 66 and then to the far west of town to see The Trading Post. It consists of a small old motel, a house,and an old store front with a yard cluttered with all types of remnants of years gone by. There is an old tow truck parked out front next to a couple of gas pumps and a towering windmill,offering another perfect Kodak moment. We took a bunch of photos of the place and posed for each other in front of the signage by the road.
We hopped into the car and drove next door to the New Mexico Route 66 Museum which documents the 604 miles of Historic Route 66 within New Mexico. The museum is FREE to all and has the world’s largest Route 66 photo exhibit, a must see for all Route 66 travelers. We had a great time touring and made a point of getting or own photo in the rockabilly cutout. Out front on the road stands the Route 66 Sculpture, which offers a great backdrop for that Kodak moment.
It was now 1:00 pm as we headed for the east end of Tucumcari’s Old Route 66 strip to begin capturing the vintage roadside working our way west through town. It was amazing to find so many old gas stations still standing, although most were missing the old pumps. Many had been turned into other types of business or left abandoned. Others had been restored out front, fully equipped with vintage pumps. We saw old motels, some just left idlily standing, while others had been restored and open for guests. The Cactus RV Park is still being used for RV camping as well as offering guest rooms in the motel but rumored to soon close.
Betty Boop had her trailer parked along the street, so we dropped in to say hello and get some photos with her.
As we made our way down the strip, Debbie would drop me off and I would walk around each of the vintage sites shooting photos from every angle and elevation. I kept crossing from one side of the street to the other to avoid wasting time. The number of vintage sites was staggering.
Now it was time for a break and what better way than to drop in at the TeePee Curios shop and let Debbie find some more souvenirs. This shop is a must visit for all travelers and less expensive than the other places we stopped at. Old Jim was minding the store with his two friendly adopted dogs. While Debbie hunted for treasures, I went outside and started shooting the wonderful building, murals, and the crazy skeletal monster perched on the back of the old flatbed truck outside.
Our next stop was the local Lowes. No, we didn’t need lumber or hardware. Up here, Lowes is a grocery store. The only grocery store you are going to find for maybe 100 miles. Think about that a moment. I needed more Mountain Dew,that’s about all I ever drink. We also decided to get some Tequila and Malibu Rum for the smores event back at the Blue Swallow.
Our stomachs were telling us it was time to eat, so we headed back over to the strip and the other side of town. We found a new Sonic Drive-In all lit up and pulled into a slot to order burgers and fries, before heading back to the motel.
Day Three, Sunday October 21, 2018
Heading east down I-40, our next stop would be The Bug Farm in Panhandle, Texas. It is located about twenty miles east of Amarillo, just off I-40. Like the Cadillac Ranch, it is a collection of cars that fell out of the sky nose first and impaled themselves into the Texas dirt. In this case they are Volkswagen Beetles, hence The Bug Farm. This is the site of an abandoned gas station and a couple other derelict buildings next to an old motel along the interstate. It made for a great photo opportunity and I enjoyed it more than the Cadillac Ranch.
At about 2:30 pm we approached Groom, Texas. It is home to The World’s Largest Cross, a couple old gas stations with old gas pumps, some great towering grain elevators, and The Leaning Tower Of Texas. I was able to get some great photos here.
The Conoco Tower Gas Station was built in 1936, the tower standing 100 feet at the corner of Route 66 and Hwy 83. It comprised a gas station and a diner named “U-Drop Inn.” There was also a retail store that eventually became part of the café for extra seating and a ballroom. The original design, traced by the original land owner John Nunn in the sandy ground, was built by James Tindall and R. C. Lewis in exchange for the land. Today, it stands restored in all its glory as if it were built just yesterday.
In town, at 204 N Madden Street, is the restored vintage Magnolia Gas Station. It has three gravity feed gas pumps and is part of the Pioneer Museum.
Day Four, Monday October 22, 2018
We woke up to another beautiful day with clear blue sky, but I did notice that the high-altitude jets where back to work overhead beginning to spray their chem trails over us. Debbie and I went over to see what the motel offered for breakfast. I had scrambled eggs, toast, and bacon, while Debbie had some cereal and a giant Texas shaped waffle with syrup. We both had coffee and were ready to pack up and point the car towards home on the last leg of our journey.
After checking out of the motel, we headed west on Route 66 towards the Conoco Tower, stopping along the way to photograph some of the roadside and finally more shots of the Tower.
The wonderful lady in charge of the visitor’s center at the Conoco Tower came out to greet us and invited us in to have FREE coffee. We accepted her invitation and followed her in. Debbie immediately saw a new souvenir opportunity and quickly took it. I got some photos of the café and visitors center, before our departure.
On the road again, we turned south on Hwy 83 towards Childress, Texas. Just before Childress, we crossed the “Prairie Dog Town Fork River.” Debbie now knows why they call it the RED River. At Childress, we turned east onto Hwy 287 and on to Decatur, Texas for our missed opportunity of photographing the Petrified Wood Texaco and Sinclair Gas Station.
The town square of Decatur offered more photo opportunities.
Well, time to hit the roadand off we went, leaving Decatur heading east down Hwy 180 towards Denton,Texas. Once in Denton, we turned southon Hwy 35E, headed for Dallas, Texasand Gas Monkey Garage.
Debbie had never been to Gas Monkey and thought a visit was in order. While there, we watched as they filmed some donuts in the parking lot by one of the cast members in a Jeep. We visited the new merchandise shop as well.
Next,… time to eat! Wendy’s was just down the street.
After Wendy’s, Google routed us back up on Hwy 35E, off into Downtown Dallas (what amess), and back out and up on I-45 South to Houston and Home Sweet Home.
Our short visit down Route 66 netted us over 3000 digital images, many of which will be used as backgrounds for future automotive portraits. Keep watching to see how they are used in the future.
Get the published version here: https://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/1629688?__r=1824165