Welcome to Texas
The road itself became less desirable as we made our way from the Oklahoma state line to Shamrock, Texas on our “Eastern Texas Panhandle Route 66 Tour”. Here, the route runs next to I-40, which isn’t very exciting because there is nothing unique about driving this part of the route. We stayed true to our plans though and made the 20-minute drive while watching the I-40 traffic whiz by us in the opposite direction.
For those who have seen the movie “Cars” the highlight of Shamrock will be reminiscent of Ramone’s Auto Body and Paint Shop in the movie. Tower Station, also known as the U-Drop Inn and the Tower Cafe were built in 1936. The gorgeous Art Deco style building passed through several owners until it was foreclosed on in the mid-1990s. Shamrock’s First National Bank gave the building to the city in 1999. The city procured a $1.7 million-dollar federal grant to refurbish its beloved landmark, and restorations were completed in 2006. The property was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.
We are particularly enamored with the Tower Station because we watched it transform over the course of several years during its renovations while traveling I-40 to Oklahoma City.
The Tower Station isn’t the only refurbished filling station in Shamrock, we also found this nostalgic Magnolia Station. The station originally opened in 1929.
In addition to the sites we’ve highlighted here, Shamrock’s stretch of Route 66 features several vintage hotel properties and other gas stations that are either closed or are being used for other purposes. We spent over an hour checking out the town before grabbing a bite at the U-Drop Inn cafe. Then we were on our way to our next stop, McLean.
The tiny town of McLean has an interesting history. An English cattle rancher by the name of Alfred Rowe, who sadly died in the sinking of the Titanic, donated the land for the town in 1901. Prior to that time, there was nothing on the future townsite except for a railroad stop used for loading cattle for transport. The railroad built a water well and the town began to grow when a post office opened in 1902. By 1903, the town claimed two banks, two cafes, and a newspaper, among other thriving businesses. Route 66 came through the town in 1927, and by that time, McLean had established itself as an oil, gas, and agricultural hub. In 1929, McLean became the home of the first Phillips 66 Service Station in Texas.
Trivia: Barbed wire is also known as devil’s rope. McLean is home to the Devil’s Rope Museum which a contains a large collection of information and examples of different types of barbed wire. The museum is housed in a former brassiere factory and also features some Route 66 memorabilia.
Alanreed’s townsite was selected because it was on a stagecoach route between two of the Texas Panhandle’s first two towns. Before Alanreed had been formally established, the community had been called Springtown, Spring Tank, Gouge Eye, and Prairie Dog Town. The official name came from the railroad surveying company, Alan and Reed, which laid out the townsite. In 1901, the first school was built, and a post office was moved to Alanreed from six miles away in 1902. At its height in 1927, the town’s population reached 500. Over the next four decades, Alanreed’s population rose and fell but never again surpassed 350 residents. By 2001 there were reportedly only 52 people and a couple of businesses left. We saw no signs of commerce or inhabitants when we visited in 2022.
Groom is still a thriving little town with a population of 547 residents. As with many of its neighboring towns, Groom was established on ranchland and grew because of the railroad. Today, the town’s claim to fame is the 190-foot Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the second largest cross in the Western Hemisphere.
Around the base of the cross are thirteen stations of the cross, depicting Jesus’ walk to Calvary on the day of his crucifixion, plus the tomb and resurrection site. Other features include a replica of the Shroud of Turin and a gift shop.
The leaning Britten USA water tower is on the I-40 access road (old Route 66) on the east side of Groom. Once an advertisement for a truck stop that burned down in the 1980s, the purposely tilted water tower is a favorite Route 66 landmark.
Sixteen miles to our next stop…
Conway is a ghost town with little left standing to indicate that a town ever existed. A closed hotel and cafe, an old school that has been closed for years, and a couple of grain elevators are pretty much all that’s left. However, where old Route 66 intersects with I-40, there is one landmark that is a popular stop for Mother Road travelers – Bug Ranch!
Bug Ranch was created as a takeoff on the iconic Cadillac Ranch (located 35 miles away in Amarillo, Texas) to attract travelers to a gas station, trading post, and rattlesnake ranch at Conway. As with Cadillac Ranch, the five Volkswagen Beetles buried nose down have become a place for visitors to express their creativity with spray paint. The spray paint doesn’t stop with the cars though. The surrounding buildings have also become “works of art”, one of which is our featured photo.
Next stop: Amarillo…
Trivia: Pantex, located 17 miles northeast of Amarillo, is the nation’s only assembly and disassembly facility for nuclear weapons. The plant is Amarillo’s largest non-school district employer with over 4,000 full-time employees.
Amarillo was established in 1887 as a cattle shipping center and soon became the largest “cow town” in the world. At times there were 50,000 head of cattle in pens around Amarillo just waiting to be shipped. By 1910, the city was home to almost 10,000 residents, and today’s population tops 200,000. Amarillo means yellow in Spanish.
There are several old hotels, gas stations, and other businesses on the old Route 66 through Amarillo, but nothing that really grabbed our attention. The historic 6th Street area boasts of its Mother Road roots, but it is mostly bars, restaurants, a couple of galleries and an antique shop or two. Amarillo does have some great attractions, but most of them are actually on I-40. Cadillac Ranch and the Big Texan Steak Ranch are probably the most iconic. Speaking of icons, the beautiful and talented Tula Ellice Finklea was born in Amarillo.
To see the best things to do in Amarillo, check out our post Amarillo, Texas. We have come to the end of our Route 66 adventure – at least for now. Illinois, and the entire western half of the route are on our list to do at some point. Stay tuned for those posts in the future. Thank you so much for joining us on the Mother Road.
Need more American road trip inspiration? Check out these great destinations:
Rocky Mountain National Park
Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park
Safe travels, y’all. We will see you on the road!
Mike and Kellye
As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.
59 thoughts on “Texas Panhandle – Route 66”
Hurrah for all those restored gas stations! What a fun area.
I love all those old filling stations, especially the Tower, and of course Bug Ranch and Cadillac Ranch 😯 We really must do this trip one day!
Thank you, Sarah!
This is all so fascinating … the gas stations and the bug ranch etc. So different to anything I’ve seen here
Thank you Brenda!
Thank you, Brenda!
These definitely caught there Route 66.
This post is so full of interest . The grass landscape , the bug and cadillac ranch and “devils rope ” museum. I think my favourite station was the cottage gas station but then I liked the idea of good food too.
Thank you, Sandy!
Last travelled Rt 66 in 1968. I imagine it has changed little.
I would bet it has. In 1968, the route was still being used as a major highway. It wasn’t completely decommissioned until 1985. Thanks for checking out the post!
So much nostalgia for a bygone era and highway. Glad you are keeping the memories alive. I think your opening shot shows that the graffiti has a small building problem. Love the Tower Station. Truly a gem. Thanks for sharing Kellye. Allan
Thank you, Allan.
The Tower Station was a forerunner of modern gas station complexes. The leaning tower in Britten is a sight I’d like to see. I drove through this part of the country in the 70s from LA to Indy. I wasn’t on old Rt 66 unfortunately. My Chevy Vega broke down on I-40 just east of Amarillo.😄
LA to Indy was a long trip, but I’m sure I-40 made it faster than Route 66 would have. It’s probably a blessing that your car broke down where it did. There’s not much between Amarillo and the Oklahoma state line. Thanks for check out our post, John!
I loved this post, guys. Fabulous images that really make me want to go and check it all out. I thought I might share this with you re a mural on a local dam: https://youtu.be/b14dvPnSYhw
Wow, Sean! The mural is amazing. Guido van Helten is an incredibly talented artist. Though what I got from the video is that the local people are so grateful for the water. Thanks so much for sharing this with us. Maybe someday we will get to see it in person.
Okay, this may be my favorite of Route 66 so far! I love those old gas stations- especially the cottage gas station. The colorful bugs and Cadillac’s are fantastic. And Amarillo of course always brings to mind George Strait so you can’t go wrong there 🙂 Really fantastic tour of all of Route 66!
Thanks so much, Meg!
i love those little gas stations! It’s amazing how much history you found along this section of Route 66. I hope you can do the rest of it soon.
Thank you! It was a fun road trip.
You are an excellent tour guide. Thank you for pointing out interesting things about each place. I’ve never been around that part of Texas. Those little towns sounds pretty cool.
Such quirky, charming sights along this stretch of the route Kellye. Everything about the Shamrock stops appeal, it’s wonderful that those structures still stand and that the history has not been altogether forgotten. I’m with you on cottage gas stations, incredible endearing, I’m surprised they haven’t been repurposed into little Airbnb suites. I had never heard of Alfred Rowe and have been keenly reading about his life and unfortunate demise. Bug Ranch and Cadillac Ranch are brilliant… so photogenic and the height of Route 66 quirk. Ah, one day….
Thank you, Leighton! We found it strange for that era that someone from the UK would own such a huge ranch in Texas. The person who owned the ranch land around Conway and Groom was also British, but we were unable to find out much about them.
Thanks for the tour of these Texas Route 66 historic towns. The Tower Station in Shamrock is beautiful – though I haven’t seen “Cars.” We did visit Amarillo once – and saw the RV museum there. Those old gas stations are so charming.
Thank you, Betty! Have a wonderful Sunday.
I adore art deco architecture so would have enjoyed viewing those buildings. Those historic petrol stations are so beautiful too with their old pumps. I have an old photo of my grandmother as a child and her mother stood outside some old petrol pumps similar to this. I often wondered why you would rake a photo at a filling station! Another enjoyable post.
Thank you, Marion. Filling stations are a thing of past here. Now we fill up at convenience and grocery stores. Pretty soon we will be charging rather than filling.
Your photo of a modern Tesla vehicle charging station, together with former gas stations, shows how much our world is a-changing.
Many changes are ahead. Thank you for checking out our post.
A fun road trip outlined here. I went over to check out your earlier Amarillo post and had no idea there were that many interesting areas to check out there. I too thought seeing the Tesla charging stations with the old-time gas stations really illustrated the changing, charging times ahead.
Thank you, Bruce! Yes, times are a changin’.
LOVE IT is about all we can say!
There sure is a lot to see on Route 66! I love all the variety along the way 🙂
Thanks, Lyssy. It’s definitely different.
The gas stations have such interesting architecture. We don’t have anything like that. It’s nice to see history preserved. The Divine Mercy fountain is beautiful. It looks like they dyed the water a bright aqua color. It really stands out against the rocks & makes a great background for the statue. Thanks!
I wondered about the water in that fountain because it is so unusual and beautiful. Thanks so much for checking out the post. If you’re ever bored, Google, gas station architecture. It’s kind of useless information, but interesting all the same.
Thanks for checking out our post!
Times running out but we have to do this route one day, just love the architecture of these old petrol / cafe stops plus the vastness of the country.
There is definitely vastness in Texas! Thanks so much for reading.
I love how each of these small towns have their own history, personality and character. I got a good laugh from the tilted water tower. Thanks for taking us along for the ride. Linda
Thanks so much, Linda!
Thank you for this virtual visit. I have read Texas from James Michener and since then I have been wanting to visit this state. Maybe one day.
So many places to visit and so little time. Thank you, Melodie!
So cool – we sure don’t have petrol stations (being English I can’t quite bring myself to call them gas stations hehe) like that in England – what incredible buildings. Bug Ranch also looks fun – I’d love to see these places one day!
Thanks, Hannah! I hope you can see some the quirky things in the US sometime.
Rt 66 or I-40, I can’t believe you posted this today. I was just telling my husband 2 days ago that I want to travel all of Rt 66. He said maybe we should go I-40? We have never been on Rt 66 and I want to see all the old things there are to see. So, I am asking you, if you had never traveled Rt 66, which way would you go? I don’t care which is faster, just more memorable.
We haven’t done all of Route 66 yet, but we really enjoyed starting in St. Louis and heading west. If we could’ve done it all at once, we probably would have started in Chicago. I hope you get to do it sometime soon. Parts are boring, but looking for the next interesting stop is a lot of fun.
So interesting to see a part of our country that I am likely — as a confirmed bicycle and train rider — never to experience in person. I am glad that folks are preserving the historic, and often quite beautiful, service stations. Also great to see an electric charging station along Route 66! Thank you for creating and sharing this blog post with the rest of us!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read our posts. I look forward to a long friendship as blogger friends!
The Tower Station has a unique design. The U-Drop Inn Café has a homely vibe, and the cottage gas stations are quaint.
Thanks for reading the post, Janhavi!
I have never been to Texas! I really enjoyed hearing about the different cities and seeing all of your great pictures!! I especially love the spray paint art, the colors are beautiful 🙂
Thank you! I hope you get to come to Texas someday.
It would be great!
You are doing an amazing job at documenting this journey. Groom was interesting. And of course the graffiti cars a fun. I agree with you. The cottage gas stations are fantastic. And I am sure it is fun to stumble across the character of each town. Well done. Great photo captures.
Thanks so much for your kind comment!
Your pictures are just incredible.