Route 66 tourism is seasonal in states that have freezing cold winter temperatures, but where the weather is warm in the Southwest, cruising down good old Route 66 happens year round. The long stretch of Route 66 from Oklahoma City to Santa Monica has always been a traditional Southwestern Sun Belt vacation travel corridor, especially during the peak of winter when folks up north desperately want to escape from the cold. Because Route 66 was bypassed by Interstate Highway 40 back in the 1960s, winter vacation travelers now tend to hug the fast lane when heading west, so Route 66 only has a fraction of the number of visitors that it used to see.
During its hey-day, there was never a dull moment on Route 66. Every mile traveled on this old highway presented a new adventure. Every kind of tourist attraction imaginable could be found along the Mother Road and every business had a classic Route 66 theme. This was because back in those days, Route 66 was the cool scene and everybody wanted to be part of this trend! The Route 66 culture was part of the American dream back then and there was easy money to be made.
Ever since the bypass was completed, Route 66 has been locked in the past like a time capsule and a great American tradition quietly faded away. Many old Route 66 communities turned into ghost towns and thousands of businesses were abandoned, just like some kind of an apocalypse occurred. For a long time after the bypass there seemed like no hope for recovery, but in recent years the Route 66 nostalgia trend has put the old Mother Road back on the map. Much of this is due to travelers becoming weary of the monotonous high speed interstate freeway routine, where every offramp is the same and the cooky cutter national chain businesses are as exciting as watching paint dry. By drifting back onto the old Mother Road, the touring experience returns to being a timeless fun adventure, instead of being a stress filled high speed trip on a boring modern freeway.
A traveler can start a tour of Route 66 at any point between Chicago and the west coast that they choose. When the boring hours spent monitoring the cruise control on the freeway become too much to endure, that is the time to make an escape to the old Mother Road. Just driving a section of old Route 66 can be enough to reinvigorate the journey and add some much needed panache. In fact, just touring short sections of Route 66 really is the way to go, since it would take nearly two weeks to thoroughly explore the entire length of the Mother Road. All it takes is doing a little bit of Route 66 travel guide research to find a an old section of Route 66 that will best suit the fancy!
The section of historic Route 66 that runs through McLean, Texas does have a way of captivating those who seek nostalgic memories. Many Route 66 towns in Texas were hit particularly hard when they were bypassed and some of these towns are still abandoned to this day. The Route 66 towns in Texas that were left behind by the modern world simply hung on through the worst of times and did the best with what they had to work with. Since many of the steadfast locals realized that good old Route 66 would eventually become a nostalgic tourist attraction at some point in the future, many of the old businesses were preserved. McLean, Texas is a prime example of a Route 66 community that never threw in the towel and the old nostalgic Route 66 memories are still very much alive in this modern age.
Upon entering McLean when traveling westbound, a few junkyards and abandoned buildings will be seen, then a couple of classic Route 66 oddities come to life. The old Route 66 business signage in McLean is unique, to say the least. After setting eyes on the big Rattlesnake sign near the old Burma Shave riddle banners, all that one can do is conjure up images of the campy fun tourist traps from the good old days. In this area, a complete series of rare Burma Shave signs appear one by one and the final riddle caption makes a pun about the Mother Road. The old fashioned tourist trap style signage does make for some good selfie photo opportunities and it definitely sets the tone for experiencing what else lies in store in McLean!
In downtown McLean, visitors will find many nostalgic Route landmarks and some have been there for almost one hundred years. The fully restored 1929 Phillip’s 66 Gas Station truly is a sight to behold! This attraction is straight out of the past, from a time when the fuel no longer had to be pumped by hand, which was something new.
There are a few classic Route 66 museums in McLean and there is a famous campy attraction in this old town as well. The McLean Alanreed Museum details the history of the Mother Road and a lot can be learned at this place, while the Devil’s Rope Barbed Wire Museum appeals to those who are fans of the old wild west. Ranching and barbed wire played a principle part in settling the west and the Devil’s Rope Museum certainly will inspire memories to ponder over for a lifetime.
Other Route 66 attractions in McLean include a few classic motor inns from the golden age of automobile travel. The Cactus Inn neon sign is a like a dream from the past and it still shines bright in the night. There is an old traditional Route 66 Steakhouse in this town and when considering that beef is the only word that is traditionally spoken at dinner time in Texas, an old fashioned steakhouse is a safe bet for a good place to pound down a hearty meal.
On the downside, the old neon motel marquis signs in McLean may look inviting, but the business actually may be just an unrestored remnant of the past. McLean was hit particularly hard by the I-40 bypass, so there are still many old abandoned buildings between the few businesses that have made an economic rebound. Old dried up gas stations, crumbling abandoned motels, sun faded signage and rusty old junk cars from the golden age of Route 66 can be seen throughout this area. The businesses that are open are easy to recognize in McLean, but the old abandoned Route 66 buildings are in high numbers, so this town is fighting to keep from becoming just another forgotten relic of the past.
Good old fashioned Route 66 hospitality still exists in McLean in between the abandoned business buildings on either edge of town. The neon lights still glow and the nostalgic memories still flow from the days when Route 66 was America’s number one tourism road. When staring at the cruise control becomes unbearably boring on the high speed freeway in this end of the Texas Panhandle, that is the time to take a break from the monotonous stress filled routine and jump back into the real world of just having fun on the Mother Road!
Leave no trace!
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