There was the faintest hint of dawn in the sky when I rolled from bed on day three of our grand adventure on Route 66. The morning was deceptively calm but we were prepared for another day of strong winds as we rolled east onto the plains of Texas thanks to the Weather Channel.
As we planning a day of backroad adventure in spite of the winds I had topped the tank off the night before ($.2.87). Now all that was needed before taking to the road again was topping off our tank and loading the Jeep.
I used the coffee maker to heat water for some instant oatmeal to go with the muffins purchased in Holbrook and then made coffee. This was followed with some fresh fruit and yogurt at the complimentary continental breakfast.
As it rained for most of the night we decided that discretion was the better part of valor, even with the Jeep, and skipped the Cuervo cut off. Instead we followed I-4- to exit 291 and began the days adventure with the exploration of Cuervo.
Route 66 and the trappings from that highways glory days are found on the north side of the interstate. However, the most fascinating remnants, those that predate the highway by decades, are found on the south side of I-40.
Long before we had satisfied our curiosity the winds were again howling and we were on the road again. The old highway between exit 291 and 321 is a stunning string of abandoned businesses, ruins, and lonely old homes that stand in mute testimony to more than a century of history.
In Tucumcari we stopped at the legendary Blue Swallow to pay a visit to Bill who once was the used car manager for the parent company that I work for in Kingman! After a pleasant visit and some photos I gave him a few of the large 11×14 inch prints of scenes in Hackberry and Route 66 on the eastern slope of the Black Mountains and saddled up for San Jon, another orphan of the double six that clings to life with its busy service centers at exit 356.
The drive was a pleasant one but I must confess my patience with the incessant wind was wearing quite thin. This was our third day on the road and we had yet had the opportunity for a leisurely picnic or long stroll without a face filled with sand.
As my wife derives a great deal of pleasure from cruising the back roads in the Jeep we changed seats on the east end of San Jon where the pavement gives way to rutted gravel and headed east in search of the tattered remnants of Endee. What a delightful drive!
Prairie dogs raced us across the old bridges, the views were wonderful, and vestiges from the railroad that gave rise to the town in 1902 begged us to explore. Our complaint was but one, we fond an ideal place for a picnic under a grove of trees across the road from the ghostly remnants of Endee but the winds had increased in velocity!
Undaunted, we pressed on and soon the rutted gravel track gave way to four lanes of cracked, empty pavement and we rolled into the eerily quiet village of Glenrio. I can’ be sure but in the back of my mind there is a shadowy memory of a stop here (1963?) for gas, a cold soda, and a flat repair.
We climbed from the Jeep, took a few photos, and watched sand blow down the old highway that was once served as a stream bed for an endless flotilla of Buicks, Edsels, Fords, Hudsons, and Studebakers. Jack Rittenhouse, in his now classic A Guide Book To Highway 66 published in 1946 noted, Endee had a population of 110 and a “business district” that included a gas station, small garage, grocery and a handful of cabins as well as a school. Glenrio had a store and gas station and was the smaller of the two communities.
Our return to I-40 and the modern era was a rude awakening after miles of savoring the solitude, the empty places, and the land of shattered dreams. As solace we set our sights on the legendary Midpoint Cafe in Adrian.
I never tire of this wonderful time capsule from the pregeneric world. We basked in the atmosphere of small town friendliness as we enjoyed coffee, a grill cheese sandwich, and a piece of peanut butter/chocolate pie.
We drew our visit out for more than an hour before resigning ourselves to the need to bid adios to this little corner of heaven for the weary road warrior. The disappointment of knowing that soon we would again be returning to the sterile world of the interstate highway was tempered with a stop in Vega.
The wide array of treasures and hidden gems found here belies the towns size. To be counted among these are the refurbished Magnolia Station that dates to the 1920s on an older alignment of the highway near the courthouse.
Our on again off again trip had made it difficult to coordinate a number of stops. On more than one occasion this led to missed opportunities.
In Amarillo the casualty was Bob Lile. I have been corresponding with Bob for some time and his gallery at the Sunset Gallery is the official point of sale for our limited edition prints.
Still, we have never met and I was eagerly anticipating a visit. We also missed Becky Ransom at the Big Texan. So, I stopped at a couple of book stores to sign inventory and then we took to the road again.
We found Conway to be rather pleasant, what there was of it, and in Groom, near the old station at the intersection, we discussed a trip to Jericho. The decision was made for us when the sky opened and buckets of rain poured upon us from ominous black clouds.
With Jericho scratched from our list until the return trip we turned to Alanreed and McClean. The rain had stopped but the sky was still grey when we parked in Alanreed and the air was heavy with the smell of fresh mowed grass.
In our very loose game plan day three was to end at the Cactus Motel in McLean. As we also planned on stocking up at a supermarket we shelved those plans and instead toured the empty streets and decided to call it a day in Shamrock.
I have fond memories of McLean and as a result its current state that gives the impression it is the set for a post apocalyptic movie thriller made me feel rather uneasy. In 1969 when we stopped here to discuss the purchase of a windmill from a shop east of town that sold and repaired them, this town had a healthy pulse and a charm that is difficult to describe. Now …
Day four of our adventure actually began with the end of day three. But that is a story for another day.