Is Route 66 Bigger in Texas? #TrippinWithFamily

Texas is the second largest state in the United States of America. I’ve known this for quite some time, but still don’t ever really appreciate it until I’m driving through the state in some form. The first time I drove through was to attend the wedding of a friend in 2011. The drive was…long. I’ll leave it at that. However this time, for our #TrippinWithFamily adventure, we were only going through the panhandle, and at 186 miles, it’s a LOT of miles packed into a small area. Out of the eight states, it’s the second shortest stretch of Route 66 and definitely one of the most colorful. Between neon lights seen from I-40 and the brightly painted cars, you’re in for a treat of sights, sounds, and even…smells. Texas owes us nothing.

McLean, Texas

Route 66 was established in Texas in 1926 until its decommission in 1985. Traveling west, you enter from Oklahoma and one of the first stops you can make is McLean, Texas. A ghost town, seemingly, with the first Phillips 66 Station in the state and The Devil’s Rope Museum. We stopped there on a Sunday, and the three churches that they had in the city were packed full. I enjoyed seeing all of the folks dressed in their Sunday best with cowboy boots to finish out the look.

Devil’s Rope Museum – tribute to barbed wire which helped change the face of ranching in the state.
The first Phillips 66 station in the state of Texas.

Speaking of gas stations, there are a LOT of wonderful ones along the route. By wonderful I mean, abandoned, but still beautiful in their own right. It’s just something to behold. The kids made up stories of the people who worked there, and the types of people that came through on their way to California or back home to Illinois. It’s kind of hard not to when you do manage to come upon a gas station that is still kept up so that you can see it as it was. Fun fact – Mr. Houseful’s first job was at a Phillips. Complete with the little house. Mr. Houseful is only 38 – as of the writing of this article. The kids had FUN with that one.

Groom, Texas

Our stop to Groom Texas led us to the Leaning Tower of Texas which is a leaning water tower. It was purposely leaned by the owner of a local truck stop so that it could catch the eye of passersby. It’s lean is 10 degrees and it’s definitely worth hopping out of the car to take a gander.

A much newer attraction is the Cross of Our Lord, and it can be seen for MILES. While we were driving westbound in the DARK everyone noticed the 190 foot cross from the highway, and while we didn’t stop that night, we did get an up close and personal view during our return trip. The cross is surrounded with life size bronzed statues that show the Passion of Christ – or as I learned – the stations of the cross. While the grounds are open 24-7, I’d venture to say that attending in the middle of the night can get a bit intense.

Panhandle, Texas

Look at that, a city actually named after the physical portion of Texas we were actually in! The panhandle! This part of the state had an attraction that was an ode to another attraction further west. We’re talking about the Slug Bug Ranch – an art installment of VW Bugs that was supposed to be an imitation of the more famous Cadillac Ranch art installment several miles to the west.

Amarillo, Texas

Amarillo houses probably the most famous attraction on Route 66 for the state of Texas. The Cadillac Ranch – and several of its spinoffs. The funny thing is, the ranch is contemporary as far as the Mother Road goes, only coming about after the decommissioning of it. It’s hard to argue about the fact that it is a great spot to stop and take photos. This is an instance where you can publicly spray paint and not be tried for it. If you get into town and it’s dark out, you can always stop by one of the local art stores, pick up your paint and then head out once the sun comes up. It’s likely that your wonderful art will be covered up by end of the day, so make sure to get a photo of it before you leave. Or don’t. It’s up to you. There’s also a huge steakhouse called The Big Texan right up the road in which you can try your hand (or stomach) at consuming a 72 oz steak. If you can do it in an hour, it’s free. We did not try it. We would lose. We’re okay with that.

During this stop, the ladybug got some great photos of the Cadillac Ranch. I let her use my old D3100 for the trip, and she learned a bit about ISO, aperture and exposure. She’s still learning as am I, but she was intent on capturing the cars as shadows because she thought it looked super cool. I’ll have to share all of our outakes in a roundup post.

Adrian, Texas

I’m going to be honest, the only reason we stopped in Adrian was because the godfather of the twins happens to share this moniker, and we wanted a cool photo opp to send to him and his wife. Little did we know it’s the halfway point of Route 66 and full of great photo opps and good people! It’s also a place where the animators from Pixar stopped and interviewed the locals and even gave them cameos in the Cars franchise. We were able to find a few cars gussied up like characters from the movies, and even talk to some of the locals about what it was like to have Pixar animators in the area for a bit.

We had lunch at the Midpoint cafe, and while it’s not boasting anything extraordinary, it is full of great people to chat with while refueling yourself for the rest of the trip either way. The cafe is eclectic in a way that I love about most of these off the highway spots. License plates adorn the walls, and there are historical tokens laid out throughout. A souvenir shop is connected as well. Get there early in the day, because they do close for business before dinnertime. We were able to talk to a couple who signed in before us with the last name Nichols and it gave some good insight on how last names morph and all that jazz.

One of the best things about this trip, and I’ll probably say it in each post until we get to California, is the fact that we were able to chat with so many different people. That’s the point of road trips like this. To interact with fellow travelers. Learn a little bit about the part of the world they come from. Leave a little piece of your world with them.

Did I already let you know that Route 66 is full of old abandoned fueling stations? Well, it is. And they are still beautiful in their own right. We caught a photo in one in Adrian, and I just really liked the feel of it. It definitely reminded me of the old pump stations from road trips of my youth.

Traveling with the houseful of littles is a study in wonder. They can find the smallest things amazing, and while portions of this trip really tested my patience, I was always able to look at them and take in the sights the way that they did. To find the joy in the mundane, and to remember why I was trippin with family in the first place.

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