End of the Road

What a long and wonderful trip it has been!  I logged over 3,000 miles behind the wheel and burned nearly 100 gallons of gas through six states in the last nine days.  I saw mountains, valleys, rivers, flats, canyons, deserts, cities, and much more.  It was the most successful road trip I think I’ve ever taken.  Sunday, the final day, took me from Amarillo back home to Tulsa.  But it wasn’t a straight shot; I had a few stops to make.

First came the ‘Slug Bug Ranch’, a tongue-in-cheek display of classic Volkswagen Beetles mimicking the Cadillac Ranch on the other side of town.  It was fun to see these vehicles, designed to cater to the opposite side of the automobile buyer, dealt with in a similar artistic manner.  Like Cadillac, all the cars were spray-painted a multitude of colors.  After seeing this and The Big Texan (a restaurant in Amarillo famous for advertising a free 72 oz steak if you can eat it all; no I didn’t try it!) I took Highway 207 north to Borger, TX.

Back in the 1960s, my Mom lived in a couple of small oil towns in the panhandle of Texas.  When I told Mom about my trip, she reminded me of that time in her life and I made a note to at least drive through these places to get a feel for them.  Borger was bigger than I expected, boasting 13k people as the oil industry there was still active.  It was a far cry from the small towns in Oklahoma I’d been used to seeing die slowly over the years.  It didn’t take long for me to find the house Mom lived in, and I took a photo for her.  I sent it to her, pleased to be able to stand in the same place she did when she was in elementary school.  She told me she could see her daddy’s pickup truck in the driveway and thanked me for seeking it out.  She hadn’t seen it for about fifty years.

After Borger, we drove to Pampa, TX.  Although Mom couldn’t recall the houses she lived in specifically, she knew the street.  After a little searching, I found the street and the school she attended.  I took a few more photos for her and basked in the solitude that is small-town Sunday morning.  The business districts of both towns were shut tight and the only parking lots that were filled belonged to the churches.  The faint smell of oil lingered from the fields that were active 24/7.  Additionally, on the horizon you could see the giant windmills that worked to supply power to the area.  It’s strange to see what doesn’t change in the face of emerging technology.  Seeing cattle graze at the bottom of those giant constructions was a little surreal.

The final stops on this road trip through the American West were places along Old Route 66.  McLean, TX housed the first Phillips 66 Gas Station in Texas, now painted a lovely orange color and sitting on an otherwise derelict corner of the tiny town.  In addition to that station, I found another old theatre (though it was in pretty poor shape compared to the others I’d visited) and a few old gas pumps scattered about town.  The last town was Shamrock, which has a restored gas station called the Conoco Tower.  It was built in 1936 and is a fine example of art deco architecture, something unusually ornate for gas stations at the time.  It was also used as the basis for one of the buildings in Pixar’s ‘Cars’ film.

DeeDee and I made it into town, returned the rental car, and parted ways after our long, excellent trip.  I sat in my house at about 5:00 PM on Sunday, happy about the things I’d seen and the experiences that occupied my memory.  It was a busy time, but in a good way.  It’s back to work and the normal day-to-day business that is life.  I’m excited to start thinking about the next trip I want to take and what sights I want to see.  It’s been too long since my passport has had any stamps in it…

About rhysfunk

Rhys Martin was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1981. In 2009, he sold everything he owned and left the country, living out of a backpack for ten months. He discovered a passion for photography while traveling throughout Southeast Asia and Europe. After returning home, he looked at his home town and Oklahoma heritage with fresh eyes. When he began to explore his home state, Rhys turned his attention to historic Route 66. As he became familiar with the iconic highway, he began to truly appreciate Oklahoma’s place along the Mother Road. He has traveled all 2,400 miles of Route 66, from Chicago to Los Angeles. He has also driven many miles on rural Oklahoma highways to explore the fading Main Streets of our small towns. Rhys has a desire to find and share the unique qualities of the Sooner State with the rest of the world. Cloudless Lens Photography has been featured in several publications including This Land, Route 66 Magazine, Nimrod Journal, Inbound Asia Magazine, The Oklahoman, and the Tulsa World. In 2018 he published his first book, Lost Restaurants of Tulsa. Rhys loves to connect with people and share his experiences; ask him about enjoyable day trips from Tulsa, locations along Route 66, and good diners or burger joints along the way.
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