The Mother Road- US 66- Shamrock, Wheeler County, Texas to Glen Rio, Deaf Smith County, Texas
After our first day in Palo Duro Canyon and dinner we decided to explore a section of the Mother Road U.S. Route 66. Ah! See how this trip turned out. Yes 66 also runs through this part of the Texas Panhandle so we did our original trip in miniature so to speak! We left Amarillo in the early evening heading for Shamrock. Well, that was a mistake kind of because it was well after dark when we got there. But we got to see the Shamrock Conoco and U Drop Inn at night which made it better! A little history is in order. The Conoco Tower Station and U drop Inn was built in 1936. It fell into disrepair when Route 66 was decommissioned with the opening of Interstate 40. The building, which is a prime example of Art Deco architecture was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and during the 90’s the site was purchased by the bank in Shamrock. The bank then gave it to the city of Shamrock and with the help of a federal grant it was restored to its original glory and now houses a museum and gift shop. The Conoco tower and U Drop Inn was one of the sites, all on U.S. 66, featured in the Pixar movie Cars. It was Ramone’s body shop. Of course, that was the downside of arriving so late we didn’t get to see the inside. After our Humvee tour and lunch, the second day, we headed out on…. you guessed it U.S. Route 66 going west this time to the ghost town of Glen Rio. More history coming….. Glen Rio is different in that it lies in two states Texas and New Mexico. At the time of Route 66’s heyday the town was set up in this way. All the gas stations were in Texas as the prices of gas were cheaper. But… all the establishments that served alcohol were in New Mexico because Deaf Smith County Texas was still a dry county. Who is Deaf Smith that a county would be named after him. Erastus “Deaf” Smith was an original Texas Ranger and Sam Houston’s chief scout during the “Runaway Scrape”, this happened as Houston’s army and that of Santa Ana were converging on San Jacinto for the final battle of the Texas War of Independence. He had a childhood illness that left him hard of hearing, hence the nickname Deaf (Pronounced at the time “deef”) Deaf Smith joined the Texas Rangers after the war and died at the age of 50 after he returned very ill to his home in Fort Bend County. On the way to Glen Rio, we passed through Adrian Texas which is considered the halfway point from Chicago to Los Angeles. So here, there is the midway café. We pressed on to Glen Rio. While not quite a ghost town as there were a couple residents, Glen Rio no doubt is falling apart. Although it is listed on the National Registry of Historic places not much upkeep is being done….. there is no official town Government. Glen Rio also brought us to the edge of the Llano Estacado. This geological formation is the largest tableland in the US and covers much of the Texas Panhandle. The Llano Estacado roughly translated, “staked plains” starts at about 3000 feet in elevation towards the southeast and tops out at 5000 feet near the New Mexico border as it gently rises. The Spanish explorers of the region actually called it the “palisaded plains” but the name “staked plains” is believed to come from the stakes or markers travelers placed to find their way across the featureless barren area. Once we passed through Glen Rio it was back to Interstate 40 for a trip into New Mexico since neither of us had every been there. We stopped at Endee, New Mexico not too far in and looked for souvenirs of the mother road at a large truck stop there. After the long drive back, we ate and returned to the hotel. Tomorrow it’s time to head home but we will see the canyon one more time as we travel the scenic Texas route 207.