Not much of the original Route 66 still exists between Seligman, CA to Oklahoma City, OK, just snippets of the roadway alongside the new interstate. For the purists, I’m sure they would want to ride all portions of the remaining original road. I’m not a purist. If I can see the original road from the interstate, I’m just as happy cruising along the interstate at 75 miles per hour versus 45 on the original road. I do, however, enjoy getting off the interstate and driving through the towns, both large and small, that Route 66 still calls home.
It’s both disturbing and fascinating to see how the interstate has devastated these towns. It’s sort of like an auto accident. You are both horrified and drawn in at the same time. We’ll take Tucumcari, NM as an example: Businesses flourish on the east and west ends of the town where Route 66 intersects with Highway 40. Between those two intersections is a town of decay and shuttered motor lodges, gas stations, restaurants and businesses followed by more shuttered motor lodges, gas stations, restaurants and businesses. I guess it’s a sign of progress. Travelers prefer the convenience of easy on and off access to the interstate and chain businesses that they recognize and are familiar with. We all like what is familiar to us. It is, however, sad to see the crumbing of a bygone era that was once so vibrant.
The Bro and I were also reminiscing about the (former) sprawling Stuckey’s empire: A venerable roadside oasis and highway heaven of souvenirs, cold drinks, hot snacks, and pecan candy; marked by the pitched roof and teal blue shingles. Now seemingly gone and forgotten. We were surprised when we first spied a Stuckey’s billboard just east of Albuquerque, NM. Fueled by fond memories of childhood road trips, we pulled in only to find the location boarded up. East of Santa Rosa, NM we saw another billboard. We pulled in to find “Closed” scrawled in big letters across the storefront. The third time was the charm. We found a location and pulled in to find it open and operating. We purchased a couple of their “World Famous” pecan log roll: A mouth-watering miracle of fluffy white sweetness covered in its own deep coating of crushed select pecans. It was the soul and spirit of the store and the number one reason for families to stop. World famous may, however, be a stretch. Do children in, say, Mozambique clamber for this world famous pecan log roll? Is there a black market of this confection in the Turkish markets of Istanbul? It was good, but admittedly, I tossed half of my log in the trash.
The three big stops today were to visit to the Cadillac Ranch just west of Amarillo, TX; The Big Texan restaurant in Amarillo and the Oklahoma City National Memorial in Oklahoma City, OK: All amazing in their own rights, just on completely different levels.
Cadillac Ranch is a plot of 10 old Cadillac cars half buried in the TX ranch land. Over the years they have been completely covered in graffiti. The graffiti continues today and cans of paint are lying around so you can add your own artistic touch.
The Big Texan restaurant touts that if you can finish their 72 oz steak dinner within 1 hour of starting, you get the meal for free. 4 ½ pounds of meat along with all the fixen’s in 1 hour? Great. Your estate just got a free meal off of you. I get acid reflux just thinking about it. I’ll just have a small side salad thank you.
The Oklahoma City National Monument was created to remember those who died in the domestic terrorist bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building on 19 April 1995. The memorial is extremely well done and awe inspiring. 168 chairs represent the lives taken by the attack. They stand in nine rows to represent each floor of the building, and each chair bears the name of someone killed on that floor. Nineteen smaller chairs stand for the children. The field is located on the footprint of the Murrah Building. It is a definite must visit when in Oklahoma City.