Interstate Highway 40 parallels Route 66 from Oklahoma City all the way to Santa Monica, so there are plenty of opportunities to get out of the fast lane to get your kicks! In fact, there are several long historic Route 66 alignments that still exist, so you can shift into overdrive, tilt the seat back and eat up big chunks of mileage on the old two lane highway while cruising in style, just like back in the old days when automobile touring was number one. When driving an open road section of historic Route 66, it does not take long to get that nostalgic feeling and to get in tune with the rhythm of the Mother Road culture. The big wheels keep on rolling, the beat goes on and and the old Mother Road still provides plenty nostalgic entertainment along the way.
I toured a long stretch of Route 66 from St Louis to Tucumcari during the spring season and the entire trip took five days, which is about three days longer than driving straight through on the interstate freeway with no touring involved. From sunrise to sundown each day, I was sightseeing and photographing the old Mother Road, then the fatigue started setting in by the time I got close to Texas. After booking a motel room in western Oklahoma I got a good meal, then I settled in for some rest and caught up on the news. It was a good thing that I turned on the “boob tube” in that motel room, because according to the weather report, all hell was about to break loose in western Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle the next day.
According to the weather report, high winds, severe dust storms and fast moving wildfire danger was in the mix for the next leg of the Route 66 tour through Texas, so I had to be ready to change plans if necessary. As the sunlight warmed things up the following morning, the winds from the south started picking up in a big way. By the time I got to Texola, Oklahoma on the Texas border, it was pretty much like being in a hurricane with steady winds over 60 miles per hour. The dust coming off of the barren farm fields was blinding and a few wildfires broke out, so the high winds definitely took their toll.
The visibility definitely was limited and in some places it got so bad that it was best to pull off the road till the air cleared. As far as changing the travel plans was concerned, there was no reason to delay the Route 66 trip through Texas. On the flip-side, the plans for camping at the Palo Duro Canyon State Park were definitely off, because of the extreme wildfire danger, so I decided to do the entire Texas Panhandle trip in one day, then hunker down in Tucumcari, New Mexico, which is a great Route 66 destination in itself.
Texas can be a big intimidating place when the weather is foul. As can be seen in the photo slideshow, the pictures of the Texas State Line in old Route 66 look like they were taken in a war zone. The bullet hole riddled road signs and the dust storm combined to create quite an intimidating effect. It was as if some kind of angry Route 66 spirit wanted to show just how harsh things can be in this abandoned neck of the woods.
Harsh, barren and desolate is what the environment is like when crossing the Texas border on the Mother Road. Throw in some leftover depression era hard times along with the lingering economic disparity from the Route 66 bypass and what you have is a place on earth that absolutely looks like there is no hope left in the bottom of the wishing well. There are abandoned businesses and homes everywhere along the Mother Road in these parts. Dilapidated buildings and rusty old cars from a bygone era just sit there, waiting for the next tourist with a camera to pass through. Not much has changed here since the interstate freeway bypassed Route 66, so this section of the Mother Road between the Texas State Line and Shamrock is like driving through a living nostalgic time capsule that was sealed long ago.
When approaching the town of Shamrock on Route 66, a few signs of life do start to appear. Roadside billboard ads for businesses that are actually open and the buildings that look like they have been recently refreshed help to confirm this notion. Upon entering downtown Shamrock, it does not take long to figure out that this is a thriving Route 66 community, which is a stark contrast to the abandoned town of Texola back at the state line.
Just like many communities along the historic Mother Road, the town of Shamrock certainly has embraced its Route 66 heritage. Historic buildings and Route 66 information markers can be seen everywhere downtown. Most of the modern city parks, memorials and newly opened businesses in Shamrock have all carried on the classic Route 66 theme along with the marquis local leprechaun charm. In Shamrock, Route 66 Irish heritage is not just some kind of novelty, because it has always been a way of life.
Interesting Mother Road landmarks to look for in Shamrock include the art deco era Conoco Tower Station, the historic main street area and the Route 66 Veterans Memorial. The Conoco Tower Station has always been a symbol of Route 66 in these parts and the old art deco architectural design is one of a kind. The Conoco Tower is lit up with neon lights, so it can be seen by travelers from miles away, just like a beacon at night. By day or by night, the Conoco Tower Station is a good place to start a foot tour of downtown Shamrock.
Shamrock is a haven for antique gas station buildings from the 1920s through the 1960s. Most of the old fueling stations have been restored to their original splendor as modern day shops, while a few have been converted into museum displays. The charming old nostalgic Route 66 era motels are all still open in Shamrock and there are some good places to get a bite to eat. Beef is the king of the dinner table in Texas, so it is best to just go with the notion. Big Vern’s Route 66 Steakhouse is about as traditional as a classic Texas steakhouse can be and the signs for this hearty dining destination are easy to spot. In fact, Route 66 style business signage can be seen all over the place in Shamrock and many of the buildings have Route 66 murals painted on the sides. This makes a walking tour of Shamrock all the better, especially when a few leprechauns are added to the mix!
Speaking of leprechauns, there is another reason to go to Shamrock that has nothing to do with the Mother Road. Evidently at some time in the past, a sizable chunk of the original Blarney Stone was carted all the way from Ireland to Shamrock, Texas, just so it could be used as a tourist attraction. Since kissing the Blarney Stone is a St Patrick’s Day tradition, a lot of miles can be shaved off the trip to Ireland if the piece of Blarney Stone in Shamrock is kissed instead. This dubious idea was marginal at best, yet Shamrock is still lauded as being home to a piece of the original Blarney Stone. For those in love or in need of luck, kissing the Blarney Stone while in Shamrock just might be your cup of tea!
Touring the old original Route 66 alignment between Texola and Shamrock certainly is a must for any true fan of the Mother Road to do. By day or by night, the art deco style Conoco Tower still serves as a beacon for weary Route 66 travelers and Shamrock stands out as a place for dog tired visitors to get some rest. Just the thought of the historic Route 66 nostalgia, four leaf clovers and leprechauns is reason enough to tour this unique stretch of old Route 66!
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