Road Trip Across Route 66
Route 66 is iconic and nostalgically travels from the Midwest, starting in the windy city of Chicago, to the palm trees of Santa Monica on the West Coast. There are so many small towns, big cities, plains and vistas to see along the way! Interstate 40 follows most of the original 2,448 miles of Route 66 and actually replaced much of what’s known as the Mother Road. It’s hard to see and talk about it all, but as you plan your trip, consider these highlights.
The major cities along the route are destinations in themselves: Chicago, IL; Springfield, IL; St. Louis, MO, Tulsa, OK; Oklahoma City, OK; Amarillo, TX, Santa Fe, NM; Albuquerque,, NM; Flagstaff, AZ; Los Angles, CA; and Santa Monica, CA. Since these destinations have so much to see and experience, we are going to focus on the stretch of road that forms the half-way point of Route 66. Across the Texas panhandle, Route 66 spans 189 miles from the eastern border with Oklahoma and the western border with New Mexico. It is along this stretch that several ghost towns exists, numerous Americana sights and the half way point for all of the route.
The famous Midpoint Cafe is located in the town of Adrian, TX on the western side of the panhandle and marks the halfway point from Chicago to Santa Monica. The cafe is not only a great photo opportunity, but a great pit stop for their famous “ugly crust” pies. This unassuming cafe became the inspiration for Flo's V8 Cafe in the Pixar animated movie Cars.
Another sight that was inspiration for the movie Cars is on the eastern side of the panhandle in the town of Shamrock, Texas. The U-Drop Inn is a beautiful example of Art Deco architecture and is so unexpected in the flat plains of the panhandle, that it is a must-see along the route. Originally a gas station and cafe, today it has been carefully restored as a history museum and is open as a cafe and soda fountain once again.
In the middle of the panhandle is the town of Amarillo, and there are several fun stops to enjoy here. The Big Texan Steak Ranch is famous for it’s 72-ounce steak, which is free if you can actually finish it in less than an hour. The Cadillac Ranch art car display is also located in Amarillo just off Route 66 and is quirky and iconic in itself. Amarillo retains its kitschy charm and time can be spent at any one of its numerous attractions including: the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum, Wonderland Amusement Park, Kwahadi Museum of the American Indian, and the American Quarterhorse Hall of Fame.
If you’re look for a change of scenery from the beauty of the plains, 25 miles south of Amarillo is the Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Known as the Grand Canyon of Texas, it is a rugged and beautiful change in landscape. The canyon was originally formed by a fork of the Red River and is 120 miles in length. The area has beautiful red rock and steep mesa walls that make for an interesting area to hike through, camp in, or drive the 16 mile scenic route through.
As diverse as the entire Route 66 is across America, the heartland can be experienced along the midpoint of the route in the panhandle of Texas. Enjoy a nostalgic step back in time along Route 66!