More OK 66 Icons & East Texas Panhandle

October 2, 2012 — Tuesday

Our last day on oh-so-good OK 66 started in Clinton at the outstanding official Oklahoma Route 66 Museum.  The building, designed by the same architect of the crazy fun POPS soda stop, did this museum.  I should point out that each of the eight states on 66 has its own state 66 association building or museum.  So far, little Clinton has the best.  The 66 theme is everywhere, starting with the building in a classic streamline diner design, with black and white checkered tile walls and floors–and a big white Cadillac sets the stage.  You can hop behind the wheel, floor it, hear its motor purr and roar, and watch road scenery flash by on the windshield/screen.  The place gets better every few feet or new room with a wall button that starts theme music or road stories from 66 heydays.  The rooms include a classic diner with 1950’s prices, a bright red 40’s fire engine, a typical 66 motel with stylized flashing neon sign, wonderful vintage photos, and just the right amount of stuff to read.  This museum covers the history of OK 66 and its total state length of 432 miles–the most still standing and driveable miles of the eight states–and it does the same for the whole route end to end.  An hour stop here would give you every important morsel of 66 info and a topnotch national overview, and it’s presented with a wink and smile so it’s like learning while playing.  Adjacent to the museum is the tiny blue Valentine Diner which used to serve Texas travelers.

Right across the highway from the museum sits the Tradewinds Motel, where Elvis loved to stay in #215.  It looks nice, with a forerunner rooftop pool.  On Clinton’s east side, there’s Mohawk Lodge Indian Store & Trading Post established in 1892.  Current owners are Pat and Charlie.  He says the shop is all her, “I just do what she says and keep my mouth shut.”  Pat, 82, grew up in the trading post since her mother ran it for 30 years. Pat has owned it for 20 years and their daughter will take the reins next.  The store is the front room of their home, and it’s as much museum as it is store…turn-of-the-century pottery, baskets, kachinas, incredible vintage photos of natives, chiefs, tribes and events…most not for sale.  Oh, there’s plenty to buy, and the owners are lovely people with great stories.

Farther west is Elk City’s National Route 66 Museum.  Its national 66 information is minimal.  If it were up to us, we would change the national 66 museum to Clinton, just saying.

Our last Oklahoma stop was an odd mishmash of farm and mechanical stuff arranged in the round, on farmland near freeway exit 67, which we dubbed “Farmhenge”.

HERE COMES THE LONE STAR STATE, TEXAS

It’s ironic that the state which revels in all things big has the second least 66 miles.  The Mother Road passes through east Texas and its panhandle.

We pulled over for Shamrock’s impressive U Drop Inn neon sign, an Art Deco masterwork dating from 1936, with two steeple wings at the top.

McLean is home to the Texas Route 66 Museum, one large room of 66 stuff that took all of 10 minutes to see, but if you’re interested in barbed wire, this is THE place, known here as Devil’s Rope Museum.  They consider it one of the finest barbed wire collections worldwide, and indeedy it has every kind of wire old and new, as well as weird/wacko/functional wire creations.  Leaving McLean is a tiny, cottage type Phillips 66 Station, cute as can be and a popular photo stop.

In Groom, we photographed its leaning water tower, a visual illusion since all four legs are identical; the lean is due to an improperly installed water pipe.  Down the road is a mammoth white cross, said to be the largest in the Western Hemisphere at 190′ tall.  The cross is visible for miles and must be a real beacon at night.  Up close, it’s an interesting stone complex with unique stations of the cross, Calvary, and wonderful sculpture.

In Amarillo we did a 180 experience after the cross to the famed Big Texan Steak House. Its long tradition has tried the stomachs of multitudes who have tried to eat a 72-ounce steak and fixins in an hour for a free meal.  The place is Texas big ranch, waitstaff in cowboy gear, two stories of tables, a really long wood bar, totally happy in hoaky.  A blast!  We had Texas brewskis at the bar, and the menu looked good, so we joined the dining throngs (crowded on an ordinary Tuesday evening).  We wound up at a primo table in front of the eating competition platform and open kitchen grilling beef in unfathomable quantity and speed.  A countdown timer sat above one lone eating contender, a leanish guy who downed about 48 ounces when his hour was up. As he ate, diners came up to cheer or commiserate, and BBC TV was filming him and all aspects of the restaurant in and out.  My ribs were great, and Steve pronounced his prime rib perfect.  Then we were crazy enough to order carrot cake, a humongous piece that could have fed 4-5 people, yummy for a few bites, and the rest left with us in a to-go box.

Texas knows how to do big.

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