Friday, May 5th, 2006 – Distance Travelled 372 miles
Once again, by my personal standards, I slept in a bit. When I did emerge it was at least into sunshine although it was still not very warm. I was certainly not hungry, but I did wander back to Lucille’s for a coffee which was actually palatable enough for me to accept the proffered refill.
Outside, the sun came out and it is amazing how this one little thing can change everything. The road instantly looked altogether more appetising and I practically trotted back to the motel to check out and collect the Harley.
I set off again westward on the I-40 which seemed to double as Route 66. When I came to the turn off for Elk City, the brown signs pointed off of the highway and led me rather unhelpfully through the city centre. Still following the posted signs kept me sometimes parallel to and sometimes some distance away from, the I-40 all the way to the town of Texola which was right on the border with Texas. As soon as I got to the border, Route 66 seemed to end and it was back onto the main I-40. It really can be a bit confusing and was not particularly well signed in this area.
Only around a dozen miles into Texas, I came to the interchange for the town of Shamrock. I have mentioned, all too often, my woeful lack of research, but I did know that one of the “sights” of the Route was to be found in Shamrock. This is the U Drop Inn and Tower Gas Station (111 U.S. Rte 66, Shamrock, TX 79079). This building, constructed in the art-deco style, sometime in the nineteen thirties is extremely eye catching and thanks to the taller of its two towers (which is supposed to represent a nail stuck into the ground), it is easily located.
Job done, box ticked, back onto the road.
It was actually really quite warm by then. It was about this point, I think, that the road seemed to morph gently into the Route 66 of my imagination, even though, ironically, I was riding on the I-40 which had replaced it. The landscape became less green, the vistas lengthened and the increasing heat made the air shimmer. I did not speed along, I just cruised and was overtaken by a long stream of huge semi-trucks most of which had the legendary names of their makers, “Mack”, “Kenworth” ,“Peterbilt” and so on picked out in large chrome-plated letters on their front grill. There was no mistaking which manufacturer’s “bow wave” was inducing a gentle weaving as they roared past. I was enjoying myself now, so much so that, as I entered the outskirts of the town of Groom, I almost missed another site. This is a water tower, canted at quite a few degrees from the vertical, which has been dubbed the “Leaning Tower of Groom”. It is nothing, compared to its namesake in Pisa, but it was noticeable enough to snap me out of my reverie.
My renewed attention was just as well because, almost immediately, another sight appeared on the opposite side of the highway. This is the huge “Cross of Our Lord”. Ok, it IS just a cross, but it certainly is a big one.
Two more boxes ticked in as many minutes.
A few miles later, one of the little brown signs indicated another divergence to the “old” Route. This was a short stretch indeed and I had only a couple of bumpy miles on the narrow and badly surfaced original, watching the cars speeding along the Interstate about half a mile away, before I rejoined them for the short ride to Amarillo. This, pleasingly, involved leaving the I-40 again and taking Route 40 as that was the one with the brown signs. The signage for Amarillo was quite clear and I remember wondering why Tony Christie had such difficulty finding the town in the mid 1970s. (You need to be my age to know what I am talking about !). Getting through Amarillo itself took quite a while. I was trying hard to be faithful to the “original” Route wherever possible, but it would have been a lot quicker on the Interstate.
Just past what I suppose are Amarillo’s “city limits” the way put me back on the I-40 again, just in time for my fourth “sight” of the day. To my left, quite close to the highway, but still silhouetted against the sky because of the endless, empty backdrop, was a line of cars set nose-down and almost vertical into the soil. This was the weird “Cadillac Ranch”. This artwork was constructed by some hippie artists from San Francisco in the early 1970s at the behest of an eccentric local millionaire called Stanley Marsh.
Visitors are actively encouraged to graffiti this strange collection but, unfortunately, I had no spray can. Unable to leave my “tag”, I took a quick picture and rolled on !
I rode on in the sunshine and around an hour and fifty miles alter, I came to the town of Adrian and the Mid-Point cafe which marked the halfway point between Chicago and the pier in Santa Monica where the Route officially ends. A large sign proclaims that both ends are 1139 miles away.
At this point, I had done 1276 miles – oops ! Both the cafe itself and the staff were very welcoming, I think it is safe to say they know exactly what they have got ! It had somehow become mid-afternoon and I discovered I was hungry. The menu was typical “diner”, so I helped myself to a bacon and eggs with a side of bacon (that is another portion of bacon, not half a pig !) It was predictably yummy !
I set off again, using the I-40, but at Glenrio, on the border between Texas and New Mexico, I was again directed onto the “old” Route and was able to follow it all the way to Tucumcari before rejoining the Interstate. Although it did have a tendency to be directly alongside the Interstate at times, parts of this section were so far from the interstate that the latter was not even visible.
About an hour after leaving Tucumcari, I came to the Town of Santa Rosa. Progress on the parts of the original Route 66 is inevitably slower as it is narrower and the surface is often not that good, so the day was, by then, heading towards evening. When I spotted a sign for a Motel 8 (2075 U.S. Rte 66, Santa Rosa, NM 88435,), I stopped and checked in. Despite not really being hungry, I could see a sign for Annie’s restaurant (2963, I-40BL, Santa Rosa, NM 88435),in the near distance, so I toddled off there for some steak I did not really need to eat. How American ! It was delicious, I was beginning to think that all the food in United States was good.
Of course, just across from Annie’s was the Route 66 Inn (1818 U.S. Rte 66, Santa Rosa, NM 88435), where I would have stayed if I had seen it first, but there you are !
As ever, once back in the Motel 8, I slept well.