As we bid adieu to Oklahoma City, we realize the adventurer in us is ready to get back on the road. Just outside Oklahoma City, we make a quick stop at the Route 66 Park where we find a walkable map of the entire historic highway. We reminisce about the places we’ve been and get excited about the ones to come.
Next we pass through El Reno a town we could tell once held promises of a healthy community and a lifeline for its people. Left behind is a shell of a town that we are seeing all too often on Route 66.
About 30 minutes later, we slowly drive by Lucille’s filling station, which was built in 1927 but is now closed. In 1999, the Oklahoma Route 66 Association inducted Lucille, the owner, into the Hall of Fame. She was synonymous with 66; serving travelers for 59 years until her death in 2000. What a life. Even with the decline of traffic she remained devoted to the road.
We stopped at the retro diner named in her honor for lunch a few miles further down. The Grill, with a black and white checkered floor and blue and white décor, pays homage to the road that has dazzled so many throughout the years.
The highlight of lunch was the Fried Jalapeno Burger, a burger topped with a hefty amount of fried jalapenos, cheese, and jalapeno-infused bacon. We decide it will be time to diet after this trip! We are finding it way too hard to pass up the recommended greasy items on the menu.
Our last stop in Oklahoma is the Route 66 Museum in Clinton. We didn’t want to spend the extra money or have the time to go all the way in and explore so we used the bathrooms, checked out the store and the free portion before getting back in the car.
We cross over the Texas border into the fifth state of the trip. We slow pace it through more ghostly towns and notice the landscape in the Panhandle is flat and quite boring. Well, except for the electrifying stop at the leaning water tower in Groom. Who needs to go to Italy when Texas has its very own leaning tower?
It has been raining off and on all day so we check in at the Amarillo KOA for an early night. We stayed at a tent site with no electric or water. I don’t have any pictures since it rained during our two-night stay. Since the tent sites became muddy overnight the office let us sleep on the concrete near the bathrooms the last night. You would think it would be bothersome but once we put in our shades and close up the van, we don’t get outside light or much noise.
The next morning we visit the highlight of our Route 66 stint in Texas, the Palo Duro State Park. It’s about forty minutes off the main road, but absolutely worth the detour. It is the second largest canyon in the country at 120 miles long, 6 to 20 miles wide and more than 800 feet deep. Grand Canyon’s dimensions are 277 miles long, 8 to 18 miles wide and a mile deep so a big difference but impressive nonetheless.
It was raining in the morning with flash flood warnings when we visited so we went back an hour or so before sunset and we lucked out. The sun was shining and it was like a whole different park. We are so glad we made the drive back.
It’s our last night in the area so we decide to hit the oh-so-popular Big Texan Steak Ranch for dinner. The billboards for this place smacked us in the face the last 25 miles or so into Amarillo. It’s a hard spot to miss!
The Big Texan made an appearance on many of the must-stop lists I read while researching our trip. We were ready for a big meal and a big craft beer selection. Everything is bigger in Texas, right? Unfortunately, the food was overpriced and underwhelming. We tried almost every beer on tap and only found one, the Pecan Porter, that we would order a full pint of. The place itself is as kitschy as they come so it is worth a stop for sure. However, I would not recommend the restaurant for dinner, maybe for a drink or appetizer.
On the way back to the campground, a beautiful sunset made us feel better about the seventy-three dollar mediocre meal we just consumed.
We woke up to another gloomy and wet morning. The first stop on the agenda being the notorious Cadillac Ranch, a public art installation and sculpture minutes outside of Amarillo. It is a Route 66 roadside attraction that has been glorified throughout the years as a representation of America and is a right of passage for any traveler on the Mother Road. No one misses the famed pit stop. As we stomp through mud and grass after we cross the street where we parked on the side of the road, I can see the cars off in the distance. It looks like garbage surrounds them and I’m thinking, really this is it? As we get closer, I realize it’s not just trash but mostly cans of spray paint. I guess some of the allure is the ability to leave your mark? I’m happy we stopped, because if we didn’t I would feel like we missed something but I simply didn’t feel the magnetism.
The last stop in Texas is a MOMENTOUS one, the Route 66 midway point! 1,139 miles to Los Angeles and 1,139 miles to Chicago. California here we come!
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