Sunday, March 27, 2016

Dust Bowl Half Marathon Series trip : Texas in my rear-view mirror

Happy to be home from my trip to "Tornado Alley"... the races were fun, if harder than they should have been (ummm, guess that's because I haven't been running???). And I saw some beautifully bleak sights ... land, lots of land, under sunny skies above, and all that.

The last day of the trip w0as an "insurance" day -- I didn't want to risk missing a flight from Amarillo because the drive from Kansas took longer than expected. Hence the swing east to Shamrock (via Clinton, OK...).

Got up on the "late" side, not leaving the hotel till 8:30 or so, then making my way west to Amarillo via historic Route 66 and its modern-day rival, I-40. Apparently some 90% of Texas's stretch of historic 66 is still drivable today ... it seems like most of the time it's a frontage road with some pretty terrifying right-of-way and "yield" set-ups. But every so often, there's an I-40 Business Loop that runs through a town that is clearly the old alignment of Route 66.

This amazingly adorable little Phillips 66 gas station, built in the 1920s, is in the town of McLean, TX.

A little farther along, near Groom, is this leaning water tower, built to attract visitors. Still works.

Then on to Conway, where there is a nicely restored stretch of old 66 where you can zoom along with a 75 MPH speed limit. (Terrifying on a narrow road!)

But before you leave Conway, you must visit the VW Bug Ranch ... a little homage to the Cadillac Ranch on the west side of Amarillo.

Loved this old dear most of all ... he was around the other side of the graffiti-covered house.

that's no bug...
Sorta nice to have this place by myself... and yet, sorta creepy.

A few times I was driving on historic 66 when there would suddenly be a sign that said "dead end - no outlet" or "pavement ends". Now, why this sign wasn't posted by, I dunno, a place where I could turn off the road, I'm not sure. Let's just say I have now perfected my 3-point turns on narrow country lanes.

Then on to Amarillo ... through it, really, because I was headed to Cadillac Ranch.

It was a little weird to find -- at least, the GPS directions were a little hard to follow. But there it was, in a field next to a frontage road. It was also VERY, VERY BUSY, as a bus of Italian tourists had arrived, every person carrying a can or two of spray paint. Whee.

 I had considered stopping somewhere to pick up paint ... but then decided that I would wait to do it until Wil and I could both be there. So I just walked around the cars, watching the people painting and trying to avoid picking up overspray in the brisk wind.

lots of layers of paint
It's nice that the cars are in a field -- you don't get power lines or billboards or anything in the view. And, if you time your shot right, you can also get some photos without people...

Cadillac Ranch, 2016
I then decided I would drive to the stretch of historic 66 in Amarillo, the idea being I would get out, stretch my legs a little, find a bite to eat. But I wasn't super interested by what was on offer ... and, despite driving up and down the "busy" stretch 2 times in each direction, I decided I didn't need to stop. 

And then, while pulled over and looking for somewhere to eat, I discovered that Amarillo is home to a Torchy's Tacos. Well worth the 20-minute drive across town, I promise you. 

Fried Avocado and a Mr. Pink
Then... what to do? It was time, of course, to visit the Big Texan Steak Ranch...

It goes without saying that I didn't care to attempt the free* 72-ounce steak dinner (*if eaten in under one hour). But I did have a little wander around the complex.

There is, of course, the Big Texan himself, moved from his original place on Route 66 to the new location on Interstate 40.

howdy, partner
And this massive steer, which is apparently towed on a trailer in parades and such. Giddy Up.

lots of bull
Inside there's a big restaurant, a gift shop (of course!), a weird "shootin' gallery" (you know, with targets that trigger a piano player and such), a bar, and an area that looked to be closed but would have been a nice place to have a beer. Heck, maybe if it wasn't 1:30 on a Saturday afternoon it might have even been open. Big signs over the bar said "rated one of the top 10 places to drink a beer" by Draft Magazine. Really? Huh. It was okay.... They do brew their own beer, however, so I decided to have the Pecan Porter. Pretty tasty... but I'm no beer connoisseur...

I poked around outside as well ... they have a cute motel on site that's been painted to look like a western town, and a cute Texas-shaped pool. ("Swim across Texas!"). Noted that the pool was closed ... which made me extra happy I had stayed in Shamrock rather than pressing on to Amarillo!

Then, well, there was nothing else in the world that I wanted to do, other than just go home. So I filled up the gas tank, drove to the airport, dropped off the car and just went through security. Not much to do in tiny Amarillo airport (7 gates!), but I sat in the one shop/restaurant/bar and killed the two hours before my flight left.

A plane change in DFW, then an uneventful flight to Seattle, then home...

This was, overall, a successful 2-state trip. Heck, I even had some time in Texas and visited some classic Route 66 locations. But the key was picking up two big states: Oklahoma and Kansas. It would have been much more fun with Wil joining me (he had his own adventures seeing Smashing Pumpkins and Bruce Springsteen), but happy to have gone on this mini-trip.

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