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Traveling Route 66

September 5, 2009
by Steve Weisman - Outdoor Editor

One of the aspects I really like about my job working with schools is that I get to travel to other parts of the country. Hence the opportunity to experience what other areas have to offer. A recent trip to Paducah, Texas, gave me the chance to spend three extra days exploring the panhandle and the greater Amarillo area.

Since the Lone Star state is 790 miles long and 660 miles wide, Texas has over 268,000 square miles and lots of historic areas. Flying in to Amarillo, it took a little while to get my bearings, but I-40, the main thoroughfare, is well marked with exits easy on and easy off. Along I-40, you will find all kinds of lodging and food opportunities.

Our lodging choice was the Ashmore Inn and Suites at Exit 72-A just off of I-40. Easy on and easy off, plus great accommodations. With free high-speed wireless, an extended continental breakfast and even a hospitality hour, along with indoor heated pool, Jacuzzi and fitness center, the Ashmore offers a great place to relax after a day of travel.

Amarillo and the panhandle offer several interesting historical areas. Amarillo itself, a city of around 200,000 residents, is home to one of the most famous roads in the history of our country: Route 66. Better known as Historic Route 66 and the Mother Road, it meanders its way across the heart of the country from Chicago to Los Angeles. Of the 178 miles of Old Route 66 in Texas, 150 miles remain accessible for exploration, enjoyment and the chance for a little nostalgia.

In Amarillo, the Historic Route 66 District is on Sixth Avenue between Georgia and Western streets. Here you will find those little out-of-the-way shops and eateries that capture the essence of an area gone by.

Then there's the Cadillac Ranch just a few miles west of Amarillo. There they sit: 10 Cadillacs buried front end down in a field on the south side of I-40. It's one of those attractions that draws people to look at 10 Cadillacs in a line, tail in the air. Oh, and all 10 spray painted every color imaginable people are even encouraged to bring their can of spray paint and decorate away!

Travel fun doesn't have to be big and fancy. Sometimes, the best of an area can be out in the middle of nowhere. That certainly describes the MidPoint Cafe and Gift Shop west of Amarillo at Adrian. Why Midpoint? Well, it's the midpoint between Los Angeles and Chicago: 1,139 miles. Vintage antiques adorn the cafe and take visitors back to the time when Route 66, the Mother Road, was THE road! Built in the late 30s and billed as the cafe with the best burgers around, today's MidPoint Cafe carries on the tradition. Plus, their Ugly Crust Pies (sound incredibly terrible, don't they) are the best and far from Ugly!

While we were there for lunch, a group of Harley riders showed up for fresh cinnamon rolls and a chance to take some pictures and pick up some memorabilia at the gift shop. Ready for this? As they talked, I noted a wide variety of accents. The 30 bikers were all from Europe: Spain, France, Holland and Sweden. Their leader told the owner of the cafe when they left, "I'll be back in 30 days with 40 in the next group."

As I later learned, people come from all over the world to travel the Mother Road. They'll rent their mode of transportation, corvettes, cadillacs and motorcycles and hit the road. Is it any wonder we had a 1960s television show named Route 66 with a story line that included a pair of young drifters running the road in their Corvette looking for a place to settle down?

Next week we'll take a trip south of Amarillo to an incredible land formation and a tremendous pageant.



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