|Ben-Gil the tiger in Oklahoma City. Judy Hinckley
Once again our homeward journey from Edwardsville kicked off under cloudy skies that hinted strongly of a pending storm. That, however, did not deter us from a bit of exciting sunrise exploration in architecturally stunning historic district in Guthrie. This a bit north of Route 66, but not by much, and the old city is well worth the detour.
A short time later we rolled through heavy morning traffic and into Oklahoma City. The first destination was the state capital grounds. Photography for two new projects required the gathering of suitable images come rain or shine.
One of these was the gathering of “selfies”, not of us but of the Ben-Gil tiger that is the mascot of the Ben-Gil Elementary School in Gillespie, Illinois. As part of their “Read for Kicks on Route 66” project, we had been asked to photograph the mascot at locations along Route 66, and to send the class notes from the tiger.
It was a fun project that we were delighted to assist with. It will continue when we make a trip to Los Angeles in January.
|The historic Lake Overholser Bridge.
Once again we got caught up in our urban explorations that included frustrations with road construction and it was late morning before we crossed the beautiful old Lake Overholser Bridge, and stopped for the gathering of some photographs. As the days final destination was the Roadrunner Lodge in distant Tucumcari, New Mexico it was becoming increasingly apparent that we needed to pick up the pace just a bit.
So, we reversed the pattern of the east bound trip and used the interstate highway to access portions of Route 66 previously skipped. Lucille’s Roadhouse in Weatherford beckoned around lunch time, and we crossed into the Panhandle by late afternoon.
It was there we slowed the pace rather dramatically. So much so that we ended up spending more than a hour cruising the streets of McLean.
|A colorful mural in McLean, Texas.
Personally I find this forlorn old Texas Panhandle town with a very colorful history to be quite interesting. Even to the casual eye it is painfully obvious that the town has seen better times.
Still, scattered throughout town, there is clear evidence that it is still alive. There are still people living here who love the old town. They add colorful murals and other touches that stand in dramatic contrast to the empty store fronts, the weeds growing through the pavement, and the ruins. I know of far more prosperous communities that show less resolve and spunk.
Of course spending time in McLean meant that we have to forgo Glenrio, and cut our time short in Amarillo. So, we ended up missing Bob Lile and seeing what was new at his gallery, as well as an opportunity for having a snack at the Golden Light.
We topped off the tank at Russell’s just west of the New Mexico state line, played phone tag with Kevin Mueller at the Blue Swallow Motel as a result of poor reception, and hit the neon lit main drag of Tucumcari well past dark. As it turned out, the Mueller’s were delayed and so there was still an opportunity for dinner at the Pow Wow.
First, however, we checked into the Roadrunner Lodge. This was something we had been looking forward to since hearing of the Brenner’s transformation of the property. When we last had spent the night in Tucumcari this motel was a forlorn old wreck of a place.
What a delight! As with the Motel Safari, it cannot be compared to the Blue Swallow Motel. That, however, is merely an apples and oranges sort of comparison.
The Roadrunner Lodge is an absolute delight, a 1960’s time capsule. From the moment you enter the lobby there is awareness that this is a very special place and that the owners have a passion for this endeavor.
With a bit of leadership and vision displayed by the city manager, mayor, and other officials, and an expansion of the cooperative spirit displayed by most business owners, Tucumcari could very well become a major destination, especially for Route 66 enthusiasts. That is a transformation I am eager to see.
Dinner at the Pow Wow Restaurant and Lizard Lounge was was rather enjoyable even though we were mere minutes or miles from exhaustion. Of course, as with Route 66 itself, it is the people that make such mundane things memorable.