Touring old historic Route 66 can be done any season of the year and a visitor can choose to follow any section of the Mother Road from Chicago all the way to Santa Monica. The classic directional choice is to go east to west, because the Mother Road was the primary travel corridor for those who wanted to spend their vacation in the Southwest. The western theme of Route 66 begins in Missouri and the “cactus cowboy” businesses become more frequent as a tourist approaches Texas. By the time that a Route 66 tourist gets to New Mexico and Arizona, the world back east where they came from becomes just a distant memory.
The epitome of western culture on Route 66 can be found in Amarillo, Texas. Amarillo is one of the few prosperous cities that still remain on this long stretch of Route 66 through Texas and the local businesses never abandoned the classic western theme. The economic disparity caused by Route 66 being bypassed back in the 1960s is commemorated in the form of apocalyptic outdoor art displays in the Amarillo area, which adds to the charm of touring this city, while reminding folks about the sad reality of the Mother Road.
From Amarillo going west through the remainder of the Texas panhandle, the cold reality of Route 66 starts to sink in. In this flat expanse of barren plains, it is as if Amarillo is a mountain and going east or west on Route 66 will be a downhill slide from an economic standpoint. The further that one goes from Amarillo in either direction, the worse the state of economic affairs become in the small forgotten Route 66 towns along the way.
Vega, Texas is one of the first old historic Route 66 towns that a tourist will experience going west from Amarillo. The difference between Vega and Amarillo is like comparing night and day. One town is booming with prosperity, while the other has been forced to hang on by the skin of the teeth. The other two remaining towns on Route 66 going west through the panhandle are in an even worse economic position, with Adrian floundering and the old town of Glenrio being a completely abandoned ghost town.
In Vega, abandoned business buildings, rusty old motel signs and dried up gas stations stand along side of businesses that never gave up on the economic potential of Route 66 tourism. The “never give up trying to save Route 66” theme runs thick as community pride in Vega, just like in so many other towns that were given the cold shoulder by the Federal Government long ago. In Vega, the classic Route 66 theme still shines bright with hope for a better future and this is what keeps this small town on the map.
The small forgotten towns like Vega really do appreciate tourists that take interest in following the Mother Road. The nickels and dimes do add up over the course of time and the locals graciously appreciate the monetary exchange. Route 66 tourism was relied upon in the past and this source of income is what keeps the memories of the Mother Road alive in the present time.
Just like with most of the bypassed Route 66 towns, a tourist will see plenty of rusty old antique cars, collectible signage and buildings that have historical significance when passing through Vega. There are not a lot of Route 66 attractions that remain open in Vega, but the few that have survived are well worth checking out. The Magnolia Gas Station was built in the 1020s and it has been fully restored as a historic landmark. The Magnolia also is a local Route 66 museum that has plenty of Mother Road memorabilia on display. A few feet down the road is Dot’s Mini Museum, which looks like a classic old school tourist trap with rusty Mother Road art displays in the front yard. The historic Roosters Restaurant has been a landmark for hungry travelers for many years and this little hot spot still serves up some of the best Tex-Mex cuisine in the entire west. When looking around downtown, a visitor will see murals and business signage that still have a romantic Route 66 western theme that beckons tourists to stop and take a second look.
It only takes about 15 minutes to do a complete tour of Vega when in a hurry, but the level of old fashioned nostalgic comfort that this town has retained does have a way of making visitors forget about keeping track of time. Vega is one of those old fashioned western towns where peace of mind is easy to find in its timeless nature. When standing at the old Magnolia Gas Station, it is all too easy to see the potential for a rebound of prosperity as the modern Route 66 tourism trend evolves. Vega is definitely a town that is well worth checking out while touring the road less traveled!
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