Texas Travel

Take a Trip Down Route 66

By James Mayfield 1.1.15

Since 1926, that fabled stretch of highway known as Route 66 has drawn thrill-seekers with the promise of freedom and adventure that only an open road can provide. Once the backbone of American culture, the route evacuated displaced farmers during the Depression, shuttled supplies west during World War II, and later saw heartland Americans head out in search of California dreamin’. No matter what they were seeking, the trip itself — with its neon-lit motels, diners, touristy kitsch, and curio — was all part of the plan.

Anchored by Chicago on one end and Los Angeles on the other, Route 66’s glory began to fade once the interstate highway system lured travelers away, but much of the storied route remains intact today. A thick 178-mile swath runs through the Lone Star State, parallel to Interstate 40, running along the top of the Panhandle from the border of Oklahoma, west to the New Mexico state line.

Ready to hit the road?

Begin at the town of Shamrock, at the Tower Conoco Station and U-Drop Inn Cafe. Originally built in 1936, this National Historic Site served as the inspiration for Ramone’s Body Shop in Cars, the beloved Disney/Pixar movie. Children will appreciate the resemblance and adults will appreciate the shining example of Route 66 Art Deco architecture, intricately restored in geometric detail in 2003.

A Museum Near McLean

Moving west, head to The Devil’s Rope and Route 66 Museum in the not-quite-yet-a-ghost-town of McLean, and get hooked on barbed wire history and lore (March through October), plus take in an overview of the route’s major Texas attractions. While in McLean, don’t miss the 1928 cottage-style Phillips 66 Service Station, the first of its kind built in Texas. Keep heading west and keep an eye out for the 19-story white cross in Groom, which can be seen from 20 miles away.

Food for Thought

Check in with the Route 66 experts at the Amarillo Convention & Visitor Council, then for lunch, try a bite of the famed Flagstaff Pie at The GoldenLight Cafe in Amarillo, a Route 66 landmark dating back to 1946. If Frito pie isn’t your thing, there’s always the Half Way to Albuquerque (a giant chili burrito).

Classic Cadillac Ranch

Then it’s on to Cadillac Ranch, the most famous “roadside attraction” along your way, perhaps in the country. Erected in 1974 by California hippies commissioned by Amarillo gazillionaire, Stanley Marsh III, the art installation consists of 10 mid-century spray-painted Cadillacs buried nose-first into the ground of the Texas panhandle.

Geo-Mathematical Midpoint

In 20 miles, you’ll come across Oldham County, which includes Adrian, the “geo-mathematical midpoint” of Route 66. Road markings and flags commemorating this special designation make it a fun pit stop for people traveling from all over the world. In fact, Oldham boasts of having the longest stretch of Route 66 road stencils, placed at every mile marker for nearly the entire length of the county.

Neighboring free attractions include Dot’s Mini-Museum, the Heritage Farm & Ranch Museum with its Dust Bowl era equipment, the 1920s Magnolia service station, and Roark’s Hardware Store in Vega, the oldest hardware store on Route 66 still in operation.

Before heading out of the county line, stop for slice of Texas pecan pie at the MidPoint Cafe and Gift Shop, open from April to early November. Then be sure and snap a selfie across the street under the midpoint welcome sign as you head out for the rest of your adventure.

Looking for more Texas travel guides? Check out Texas’ historic Forts Trail region