“When the day is dawnin’ “*
The hotel manager mentioned yesterday that Pedro’s now served breakfast. Late afternoon yesterday after arriving, I went in to view the breakfast menu. It was diner-style with a Mexican twist so I thought why not. But I changed my mind after having dinner there last night. So at 8.45 am I get in the car and drive up the street to the United supermarket I saw yesterday, just opposite the Museum. I buy some juice and a berry yoghurt parfait that includes granola as well.
It was very nice when I got back to my room. I pack, manage a quick page or two of diary, check-out and drive back up the street to O’Reilly Auto Parts. Now why is he going there, you ask? To buy a can of white car paint spray, I reply.
I’m on the road proper at 10.10 am, destination Amarillo. It’s very warm already, although overcast. There is little traffic on the road. Within 10 minutes I’m routed ‘off-piste’ again and over Tiger Creek Bridge. As I drive out of Oklahoma and towards Texas the road widens to 4 lanes and becomes divided.
Route 66 west of Erick, OK just before the Texas state line
Crossing the state line takes me back to two lanes of road but approaching Shamrock it’s a wide 4 lane highway that takes me into town. There are some really cool buildings in Shamrock. Such as the Conoco Tower Station, U-Drop Inn and a Magnolia service station too, all beautifully restored.
Further on, McLean and Alanreed has restored gas station relics as well. Rt 66 is tracking I-40 as frontage road for a lot of the time today, but the towns are where I divert off and leave I-40 behind for a while.
“Give ‘Em Enough Rope” **
McLean, a small town, also has two museums, co-located: the Devil’s Rope Museum and the Texas Route 66 Museum. The latter is just a single, large-ish room stuffed with old Rt 66 artefacts such as road signs, photos and other varied stuff. It was quite interesting. There are also 5 wooden bound large format volumes of newspaper clippings related to all things Rt 66. It seemed to be mostly Texas related but if you tried to read all of them you’d be there all day. I skim a few pages then move on.
The Devil’s Rope Museum is dedicated to barbed wire. Yes, I know, really. Again I wasn’t going to stop, having read of its existence pre-trip, but all the guide books mention it so I thought I’d see what all the fuss is about.
The key fact I learnt is that the Western USA would not have been colonised without barbed wire. Seriously. The wire allowed settlers to put up fences that de-lineated farms and land ownership, plus crucially kept cattle rounded-up and secure. There are over 450 types of wire on display plus all associated tools, machinery and other items needed to erect and maintain barbed wire fences. It’s actually very well done and quite interesting. I’m glad I did stop in the end.
After a cloudy start the skies have cleared. Outside of Groom I pass The Leaning Tower of Texas. Moving on again, by the time I stop at the VW Slug Bug Ranch the clouds have almost all gone. It’s damned hot again at 92º F.
The Slug Bug Ranch
As a precursor to tomorrow’s (hopefully) roadside highlight, the VWs are good. But I think the artist could have planted more of them and chosen a less ‘busy’ backdrop or background to where he located the Ranch. Whatever, I get my can of spray paint out and spray a few random symbols and squiggles on a selection of panels, adding my touch to the abstract doodling that adorns the cars.
The Ranch was a slight side-trip, about half a mile off Rt 66, but I was aware of that from my reading last night. Setting off again, it’s not long before Amarillo comes into view. In that 2 lanes becomes 4, commerce replaces fields lining the road and I see people again.
There is another app navigation screw-up on the outskirts of Amarillo. Thankfully nothing major nor something that wastes time this time, but it’s clear this app is not bulletproof. I’m early arriving into Amarillo and have time to spare. Which is also testament to the planning, so far, on the trip this year. Late starts where appropriate, generally early finishes, and no stress. Hope it continues.
Keeping the miles per day down as I used to do on the early road trips has definitely paid dividends so far. But of course the Coast to Coast trip last year always was going to be an anomaly. Even though a few days in the first week were long time-wise, they weren’t tiring because the driving distances were manageable.
Amarillo is a big city. I hadn’t thought it was going to be as huge and sprawling as it is. There’s loads of traffic and commerce on the route into the city.
I know the hotel is not on Rt 66 so I drive around Amarillo a bit to see if I can see where Rt 66 runs through the city, just to make sure I don’t miss anything. EZ 66 had highlighted a Historic Rt 66 District so I drive up SE 6th St to see where it starts. I work out that I’ll pass through it tomorrow morning on the way out of Amarillo.
Into Amarillo and to The Hotel
I used Maps to navigate once I got into the city and figured out my way around. Now I revert to the app and it soon directs me to the Courtyard by Marriott Amarillo Downtown. When I check-in, the receptionist says I can put my bags in my room before moving my car from the ‘10 minute’ bay by the hotel entrance and into the car park proper.
In the room I check out Lyft for prices to The Big Texan Steak Ranch & Brewery, where I’m going for dinner later. $15 one way seems a bit steep to me but I think the place is about 5 miles away, so maybe not a surprise. Again, a reminder that Amarillo is not a small town! But it does give me second thoughts on going.
When I go back down to move the car, after explaining I want to go The Big Texan, I ask the receptionist if there are any local taxi companies that might be cheaper than Lyft. He then tells me that the Steak Ranch provides a free limo service, there and back! He produces one of their cards that has the phone number to call to arrange a pick-up time. What a result!
Back in the room after parking the car, I call the limo service. They are busy at 7 pm with a “big party all over town” to pick up, and they can’t get to me until 8 pm. I am sceptical about this timing but they reassure that “we’ll be there for you at 8 pm, no worries.” Hmmm, we’ll see.
I need breakfast for tomorrow. Googling ‘convenience stores’ brings up Toot’n Totum, which I’ve never heard of before, but it’s only a 10 minute walk away. I decide to get some exercise and take a chance on the store, also not wanting to move the car again. Outside I wonder at the wisdom of my decision as it’s still really hot. Probably too hot to walk but I manage OK by finding shade from the tall buildings that line the streets I walk on, crossing the road multiple times to keep out of the sun. I do avoid direct sun for most of the time.
Toot’n Totum is a gas station with a large shop and food mart attached. Lots of choice in fact but I stick to my staple of juice and a blueberry yoghurt partfait, plus an apple pie like McDs serve.
The Big Texan
Back at the hotel I chill out for a couple of hours and catch up on some diary. I go downstairs just before 8 pm and, naturally, the limo is nowhere to be seen. I wait until 8.15 pm before calling them, but just as I am about to do so, they call me. “We’re busy” I’m told, but no apology. No shit Sherlock, so then don’t ‘promise’ a time you can’t keep. Another call 5 minutes later – “He’s in the lobby. Where are you?” I’m in the lobby I reply and there is no driver here. This carries on for two or three times before the dickhead driver realises he’s at the wrong Courtyard by Marriot. There are apparently two in the city and he’s at the wrong one. “He’ll be there in 5 minutes.” You’ve said that twice in the past 10 minutes, but here’s hoping.
He does arrive and it’s a proper big multi-seat limo, with just me in it and no other pick-ups thankfully. It’s also a long drive to the steak house. We pull into the parking lot and Bob the driver is so pre-occupied with turning his head towards me in the back to give me the sales pitch about the gift shop, that he doesn’t notice he’s about to knock down a woman standing in front of the entrance…
I’m just about to shout at him to stop when the woman sees the car coming at her just in time and barely manages to jump out of the way. Bob then stops the car and gets out, then comes around and opens my door to allow me out. He’s completely oblivious to the fact he’s just nearly killed someone! Idiot.
Well, The Big Texan is great. I have a 10 oz Prime Rib, perfectly cooked to my instructions. And really, it was the best steak I have EVER had in my life. My waitress Sarah was attentive, helpful, non-intrusive and also took time to talk to me. Nice lady. Sure, the restaurant is a tourist attraction but it also serves great food and beer – they brew their own – with excellent service.
It’s also a big place and to serve such good fare on such a scale is impressive. And with a free ride there and back! It’s a good operation, go visit! By the time I leave approaching 11 pm the Ranch is nearly empty. There is however, as I expected, a queue for a limo ride. There are no reservations for the ride home, you just wait in line.
It wasn’t too long a wait though. I share the trip back with a lady in the travel business who organises the sort of trips that I do on my own. We have a good chat whilst we travel to her hotel first. Back into downtown for my drop-off and the limo driver takes me to a hotel I’m not staying at. Er… what is it with these guys? He takes me to the other Courtyard hotel. He tries to make a lame excuse but the bottom line is that he heard where I was staying but didn’t concentrate and took me to the wrong Courtyard. I guess I’m lucky to be alive given he wasn’t not paying attention to the road…
I get back upstairs in the correct hotel at 11.45 pm. A great day on Rt 66. Tomorrow, New Mexico beckons.
* (Is This The Way To) Amarillo – Various Artists (ditto the page title)
** Give ‘Em Enough Rope – The Clash (album)