Texas Travel

City Spotlight: Route 66

By Chet Garner 8.31.18

Route 66 is more than just a road. It’s the great mother road of America — a pilgrimage that Americans and people all over the world want to make.

As it swoops down on its trail from Chicago to LA, it cuts right through the middle of the Texas Panhandle, through Amarillo, and westward through New Mexico. It should be on every Texan’s bucket list.

One of the great things about Route 66 is that you’ll still find lots of the great roadside attractions that made the roadway famous and some amazing American iconography. Here’s your route through Texas.

U-Drop Inn, Shamrock

After setting out from the Oklahoma border, the first town you’ll reach is Shamrock. Don’t miss the U-Drop Inn. It was once a 24-hour gas station and is now the town visitor center. While there is no longer a restaurant here, you can still pay homage to Elvis at the booth where he once ate.

Devil’s Rope Museum, McLean

You may not think you could have a whole museum dedicated to barbed wire. But this place is proof that you can. You’ll find all kinds of 19th-century Texas history here, including hundreds of different types of barbed wire and barbed wire sculptures.

Groom Cross, Groom

Don’t miss the giant cross that stands 190 feet high in a roadside park. It’s a great place to stretch your legs and admire the sculptures.

Golden Light Café and Cantina, Amarillo

There’s plenty to do once you get to Amarillo. Take some time to cruise through the old historic district, and stop and eat at the Golden Light Café. It’s the oldest continually run restaurant in town (since 1946!). I’ve had a lot of cheeseburgers in my life — and this was one of the best cheeseburgers I’ve ever had.

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo

On the west side of town lie the 10 graffitied Cadillacs half-buried in a cow pasture that have become an iconic image of Texas road culture. Bring a can of spray paint to contribute to Texas’ ever-changing outdoor sculptures. (On the east side of Amarillo, in the town of Conway, don’t miss Cadillac Ranch’s little brother, the VW Slug Bug Ranch.)

Dot’s Mini Museum, Vega

As you head farther west, you’ve got to stop in Vega to see Dot’s Mini Museum. Dot was an older lady who began a museum of junk. Amazing junk. She became so iconic that she is now immortalized in the movie Cars as the character Tin Lizzie. Among her junk is the famous boot tree that’s full of spray-painted footwear.

MidPoint Cafe, Adrian

At the midpoint of Route 66 is Adrian’s Midpoint Cafe. It’s famous for its “ugly pies,” which got their name because the crust is never uniform. That means you know they were made by hand. And you can taste the love in every bite.

Ghost Town, Glenrio

Then you get to Glenrio, the last stop on the Texas side of Route 66. It’s one remaining example of a town that got left behind by the highway. All that’s left is an abandoned motor inn and a boarded-up gas station. Sadly, it’s a very familiar sight on this old roadway.

On Route 66, you get a glimpse of what Texas used to be.

There’s a famous quote that I love: “Now, thanks to the interstate highway system, it’s possible to travel coast to coast without seeing anything.” Since the old Route 66 was replaced by the giant Interstate 40, most people travel across Texas that way and never see any of these small towns, and never stop and explore.

Do yourself a favor and take the exit to see the small towns that truly make Texas what it is today.

Fun Fact

Everything in the Pixar movie Cars was based off Route 66. So tell the kids when you’re driving down Route 66 that you’re actually driving through Radiator Springs.

  • The lowrider Ramone’s body shop is actually U-Drop Inn in Shamrock.
  • The diner owner in Cars is based on the owner of Midpoint Cafe in Adrian.
  • Tin Lizzie, the Model T, was based on Dot of Dot’s Mini Museum.

Find more of Chet’s daytrips around Texas here.

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