Clinton, OK to Tucumcari, NM
A beautiful, sunny day. Load up on the sunscreen and put the top down.
Up early, not because of an alarm clock but because apparently America has saved enough daylight.
Today we covered a lot of miles and a lot of history.
Cinton OK has a great Route 66 museum; we’ve been told its the best on the Route. BUT it doesn’t open until 1 PM on Sundays and we don’t want to wait around.
Heading west, there is a monument at Canute OK remembering the Great Cattle Drives that came out of Texas and through Oklahoma. Previously unknown facts (to me):
Average herd was 3,000 head of cattle, with about 10 men to take care of them. Each man needed 7 horses. Looking over the land, the idea of moving 3,000 cattle is intimidating. Certainly you couldn’t move them very fast.
Went through Canute OK, which thrived during the heyday of Route 66 but was bypassed by the Interstate in the 1970s. It is down to a population of 541 (as of 2010). There in the middle of the prairie, in the local cemetery, is a beautiful statue. Art in the middle of the prairie.
Finally we made it to the Texas state line. From there our first stop was Shamrock, which has the famous U Drop In, a building
famous for its Art Deco design. It also sold gas for 39 cents a gallon, but it was closed. In fact, there have been several stations along Route 66 that had gas marked down to prices that I haven’t seen since I was a child. But they were ALL closed.
Route 66 cuts across the Texas panhandle. We made very good time on the Interstate and on the newer sections of Route 66 that run alongside the freeway. (In fact, with Marian driving, we make much better time than when I drive.)
Getting off the Interstate, here is a photo of one of the dirt (sand) sections of an old Route 66 roadbed near Mclean. I’m sure it looked the same in the 1920s and 1930s. In those times the travelers were driving, at best, 25 mph at best over the paved roads, and no more than 10-15 mph in dry weather, and not moving at all in wet.
Further on we came to the famous Jericho Gap outside of Alanreed. Another unpaved section of Route 66, it was notorious for being muddy when wet. Local residents made money pulling travelers out of the mud. (Somehow that section always remained muddy even when it didn’t rain.) We drove down a short stretch of the Gap, and took photos of the road and of an abandoned tourist court from that era.
We pulled over in Groom to marvel at how the leaning water tower stayed up. Story is that the town build it that way to attract attention. If true, it worked. Also in Groom is the largest Christian Cross in the western hemisphere. it is about 170 feet tall and can be seen for several miles.
One of the guidebooks we read says that in Conway there is a “Bug Ranch.” It is an art installation using Volkswagen Beetles as a take-off of the Cadillac Ranch. The book said it was north of Route 66. We didn’t find it and drove south. We didn’t find it there either. We decided to stop wasting time looking for bugs and move on.
We wanted to make Tucumcari tonight so we didn’t spent a lot of time in Amarillo. We apologize to all the Amarillo fans. We saw the famous Big Tex Steakhouse and the famous sign, but you’ve seen it too so we didn’t take a photo.
We drove by Wildorado. That is the one part of the trip I regretted having the top down. There is a large feed lot there and the smell was truly bad. (And remember I was raised on a ranch.) We drove faster.
We went through Vega (not much to see). I’ve often joked of the time I spent a month in Vega in one week. When I practiced law in West Texas I had a lawsuit arising out of a bad truck accident. The case required me to observe a companion trial–in Vega–growing out of the same accident. Nothing much has changed.
We got to Adrian, which is the halfway spot of Route 66. Nice signs (see photos). However, for days we’ve read ads about eating pie at a famous eatery in Adrian. The place was closed on Sunday. Marian is NOT happy.
We crossed the border into New Mexico and into Tucumcari. We are staying at the Blue Swallow Motel, which is a famous vintage motel on Route 66. It advertises “100 % Refrigerated Air.” (See photo at top.) The room is not large, but it is fastidiously clean and the bed is great and the owners of the place are wonderful. We highly recommend it for the experience of “Route 66 the old way.”
The room is eqipped with a rotary telephone, along with instructions about how to use it. For once I am technologically superior to the Millenial generation. I just wish there was a Millenial nearby to notice my superiority.
Being able to have the top down most of the time has really added to the trip. After dinner we drove the Car down an unlit country road outside of Tucumcari, turned off the engine and all the lights, and just enjoyed the stars. The Milky Way was wonderful. So was our day.
Don’t forget to click on the photos for more information.