Some Old Dirt Road

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Most of my best memories come from some old dirt road”…

Now I didn’t come up with that little phrase, sentence, comment or whatever you choose to call it; in fact it was attached to a picture I saw once of a country road at sunset. But it’s such a true statement for me, and if you are one of the lucky ones who have traveled with me or just ridden in a car with me for more than 30 minutes, you know this to be true, because you see, I love to take that random roadway whenever possible.

I know some of my road trips make no sense to anyone but me. Luckily, I have an understanding husband who “gets” me and loves the randomness of life like I do. Sometimes we just pack a bag and jump into the jeep and head out, not knowing really where we are going until we end up “right there”! Sometimes we flip a coin; we’ve even been known to throw a dart at a map, now sometimes those darts lead us to another state, but that is another story for another column all together.

The road trips that we keep within the 268K+ sq. miles of the great state of Texas aren’t always trips where we end up at a cute B&B or the fanciest hotel, they don’t always include museums, or recognized destinations or involve “have to see’s or do’s”. Sometimes we don’t look for anywhere to sleep until we get tired and there’s been times it took an hour or more to find something we didn’t feel like we would wake up dead in! But to us, that is part of the adventure, don’t worry though, 90% of our trips we have a good idea about where we will be laying our heads.

My point is, that sometimes, the best times, the best trips are the ones that you don’t plan, that you don’t google first. I think one of my top favorite random trips is when we ended up in Amarillo, via “I’m not real sure how we got there”. But because I made it to Amarillo, I saw Palo Duro Canyon and was taken aback by its magnificent beauty and probably ate the best hamburger known to man at the bottom of the canyon in the small state park souvenir shop. I finally saw the Cadillac’s all lined up in a row in the middle of that well-traveled field and we ate at the famous Big Texan, where if you dare to eat a steak about as big as a Volkswagen in an hour you get your meal free!!! We chose not to partake in that challenge. However, I was serenaded by an older heavy-set bearded man who sang a good rendition of “El Paso” and he then told me how he came to be a singer there at that roadside attraction, he also boasted about his famous childhood friend Roy Clark and how they loved to pick the guitar together anytime they were able to visit. I thought about him when I heard Roy passed just a few months after my ears heard that story.

During this “off the cuff” road trip, we saw the Biggest Bowie Knife in Bowie, a Huge Sneaker and Quanah Parker’s Arrow in Quanah. We went through a town named Happy with a population of about 650, it welcomes you with a smile and it won’t let you forget where you are because there are signs that say… Happy Bank, Happy High School, Happy Restaurant, Happy Post office, and Happy Vol Fire Dept. and so on. They did export a famous Rockabilly musician named Buddy Knox, but whether you were born there or just passing through, you are sure to leave Happy. We saw the leaning tower of Britten in the small community of Groom, along with the 19-story cross you can see for at least 20 miles away as you travel along the famous Route 66. It’s made with 2.5 million lbs. of steel, and you’re almost sure its scraping heaven’s door as you shade the sun from your eyes as you look to the top of this holy imperial structure.

Conway, Texas has their own version of the Cadillac ranch, but instead they use “slug bugs” (aka: Volkswagen beetles), I’m serious…slug bugs!!! This trip also gave me the opportunity to see the world’s smallest skyscraper in Wichita Falls, and what a story the locals will tell you about this, of course you may get a few different stories, but they are all interesting. And let me not forget the Tower Service Station and U-drop inn in Shamrock that was built in 1936 to serve travelers along Route 66. Used as a model for Ramone’s Body Art in the movies Cars and Cars II, it now serves as the Shamrock Visitor Information Center.

These few pictures are of some of the things we saw that day, they aren’t fancy by any means…but sometimes the best places aren’t fancy at all. We saw some neat stuff, and most of it was because we turned left or went straight when the map said to turn right, or we took back-road after back-road instead of going 80 mph with everyone else on the interstate. Think of everything we would’ve missed if we’d gone the fastest route instead of the “wonder where that road goes route?” That trip, we pulled over on the side of the road to take pictures of barns, hawks, and crazy art on the side of the road. We saw the weather change in a blink of an eye, we drove thru towns that were barely hanging on and some that seemed to be booming. This trip had no destination, no itinerary, and no ending, it was just a road where we wondered where it would lead. Guess dirt roads or off the beaten paths are like life in a way, you never know where it’s going to lead you, but wow, what you see and learn along the way.

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