Wednesday September 10, 2014 - Oklahoma City to Amarillo, Texas
When you set out on any adventure, you know by definition there will be many surprises, including the unfolding of the journey itself. This is truly the heart of a good adventure: exploring the unknown - the physical and ultimately the unknown within ourselves. On Day Five, Jen and I seem to be entering new territory as travelers and as friends.
The pace of this ride is fairly non-stop! When I first read that we would see all of Route 66 in 12 days, I thought "nice, this will be such a leisurely pace", but now that we're actually out on the road - I'm beginning to reevaluate that notion. I've been getting up around 6:00 am every day to complete the documenting I've set out for myself. I've been toting three cameras: my cell phone (the easiest and most portable - good for instagram shots to post quick updates to Facebook friends), my trusty Nikon SLR for high quality shots that I'll do more with when I get home, and my new Fuji instant camera to dash off pics for my daily journal.
Each evening I've been organizing my pics with locations and other info from the day into my journal, so at the end of the ride I'll have most of my pictures and commentary arranged chronologically. It takes a while to edit all the photos from the day and decide which ones are the most important to share. So I think I'm at that point in the trip where I'm wondering if I've cut out too much for myself! A moment of self reflection - not uncommon to any creative process in the end!
We arrived in Amarillo around 5:45 after a very long day and noticed the limos from The Big Texan Steak Ranch were already arriving to pick up our group for dinner. So despite how tired I was (and we're just driving a car, can't imagine how the bikers must feel) I jumped in the shower to freshen up, put on my new Route 66 t-shirt purchased at The Route 66 Museum in Clinton, OK) and set off for a real Texas steakhouse dinner.
This place reminds me of the good old-fashioned roadside attractions of yore, as we've been seeing large billboards for some time promoting their free 72 ounce steak if you can eat it and the rest of the meal in one hour! As we were leaving tonight there was a group of four Aussies perched up on a raised platform in the center of the room starting the steak dinner. Their friends were gathered around cheering them on and the large digital clock was ticking down the time in the background. If you don't finish the entire meal you've just purchased a $72 dinner (and most likely would not be feeling too well!) This place is classic American kitsch with huge taxidermy heads of deer, moose, and other game animals adorning the walls, a roving band of country musicians who play requests at each table, and young cow pokes with cowboy hats slinging steaks around an open kitchen who yell out the table numbers when each order is ready. I have to say these were the best baby back ribs I've had in recent memory and the Margaritas were just the ticket after a long day on the hot and dusty road!
Before I share my pics from the day, I want to say that most of the morning we had a blast being part of the pack of riders, the only down side being many desirable images whizzed by that I wasn't able to capture. I'm realizing once again, I could spend much more time traveling very slowly on this great road. (A photo essay on abandoned gas stations alone would be amazing.) And that part of the joy of being on this trip with these fine people is being part of their group. So this is how I've adjusted my expectations of what I "should" be doing, with the reality of what "feels good" right now.
Enjoy my photos from today: we started out in the early morning light from OKC with a full moon to guide us and watched as we moved into Texas and the landscape became flatter and flatter with big big sky as far as the eye could see!
Our first stop was the fabulous Route 66 Museum in Clinton, Oklahoma. They did such a great job documenting the history of the road from its inception to the present day. And of course, as you would expect, they have a wonderful gift shop with a great selection of Route 66 t-shirts!
Before we knew it, we had crossed the state line into Texas and soon thereafter came to the town of Shamrock with its legendary art deco Conoco gas station (beautifully restored and now the Chamber of Commerce offices). The story goes that when they finally paved Route 66 through Shamrock in 1938, the residents were so excited they had a huge party and parade. Everyone thought it was such a great idea that they made it a tradition and now celebrate every St. Patrick's Day. They gave us a copy of the Irish blessing: "May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your fields and, until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand."
The eatery there called "U-Drop Inn" once fed throngs of hungry people traveling across the panhandle. Today it appears to be closed - but the sign sure looks great.
The next town we came to, McLean, had the most tragic feeling of abandonment to it. In doing some brief research I learned why. Two great events occurred in 1927: Route 66 came through the town, and oil was discovered in the surrounding areas. Many years of prosperity helped create a small, but prosperous town with a proper main street and all kinds of stores and restaurants that cater to folks with money. Then the same tragic ending occurred that befell all the other towns that were bypassed when I-40 was constructed: no one stopped here anymore. Driving down the main street, I had a distinctly strong recollection of the movie The Last Picture Show and wondered if it was based on this town.
Enjoy a few more pictures from our ride today as we approached Amarillo. We stopped to take a few pictures of the World's Largest Cross and the Leaning Water Tower (which was built that way) near Groom. And I just loved the grandeur of the giant silos shooting up vertically against the completely horizontal, flat Texas landscape.
We drove into Amarillo on the old Route 66 and witnessed what was becoming a more common sight: some old motels and business establishments with great signs, that now serviced a seedier element of society. This sadly is the fate of much of this genre.
Tomorrow is September 11th, and we will ride into New Mexico with a sense of honoring for all of those who lost their lives in 2001. Thanks for coming along on this glorious Route 66 adventure.