Saturday, 8 September 2012

Day 10 - The Way to Amarillo

We said yesterday that the scenery in Oklahoma was a bit dull (read: similar to England), so it's only fair to mention that it got a lot prettier to the west, and also a lot drier. We even saw our first dust storm!

Pretty bridges seem to be a feature of Route 66

The open road in western Oklahoma

However, the signage west of Oklahoma City was even worse than it was yesterday, and wasn't aided by the fact that there was more than one error in our directions. Typing "left" when you mean "right" is quite a big mistake when giving directions, and it led us into quite an interesting situation involving an unpaved road many miles from anywhere. Getting lost is all part of the fun in Oklahoma!

Despite the lack of signage, Oklahoma is obviously quite keen to promote Route 66, so there were two museums on our route today. The first was in Clinton, and was extremely well organised with lots of very cool and informative displays, themed music in each room, and a movie that was so engaging we ended up sitting through the entire thing. And as if you need another reason to visit, they also sell sparkly t-shirts. Win!

Home of the sparkly t-shirts. And also some educational stuff.

She's behind you!
The second museum was the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, where there was more shopping for unnecessary tourist tat, and we met two adorable Route 66 beanie babies.

One of the few signs we saw all day, but at least it's large enough to fit every single Illinois sign inside it.
This wouldn't be a Brits Abroad blog if we didn't talk about the weather, so I'll mention that as we were leaving Oklahoma an almighty storm hit. The winds were so strong that we were watching traffic lights and signs sway, and at times it felt as though the air was trying to drag our car into a ditch. We were really hoping we'd get to see a tornado; sadly that didn't happen, but we were treated to a spectacular lightning storm while out on the road. Nature is cool.

Some people put a lot of effort into making their hair look as though they've been dragged through a hedge backwards.
By the time we reached Erick, Oklahoma, it was well and truly pissing it down. At least three separate people had told us we absolutely had to stop by and meet Harley and Annabelle, who bill themselves as the "Mediocre Musicians" and are said to be part of the inspiration for the character of Mater in Cars as well as Tin Lizzie's curiosity shop. The recommendations were so enthusiastic that we ventured out of the car into near-solid rain and gale force winds, but alas Harley and Annabelle were nowhere to be found. That makes this paragraph probably one of the most pointless in any travel blog ever, but there you go.
The sign reads: "See rednecks work and play in their natural environment!"
Alas, the only rednecks around today were our sunburn.

A little while later, the sun came out just in time for us to cross the border into Texas.

My right leg is in George W Bush territory, but my left leg is still in a Rodgers & Hammerstein musical

The U-Drop Inn in Shamrock, Texas was the inspiration for Ramone's body art place in Cars

Can anyone explain to me why the bit we're driving across is called the Panhandle? The rest of the state looks nothing like a pan.

Yes, this really is a museum dedicated to barbed wire. Next time you holiday in the Seychelles, just think about what you're missing.

The leaning tower of Groom, TX

Apparently the largest cross in the western hemisphere. Now I really want to see the one in the eastern hemisphere, because this thing is bloody huge.

Our final stop before heading into Amarillo was at the Bug Ranch in Conway, Texas. This art installation is basically a copycat of the very similar Cadillac Ranch that we'll come to tomorrow, only with Volkwagen Beetles buried nose-first in a line and covered in graffiti.

Incidentally, pro tip for any Hypothetical Future People: none of our guides mentioned that this isn't actually on Route 66: you have to turn right when you get to Conway as though you're heading to the Interstate, and it's maybe a mile or so down the road next to the dilapidated motel. But then you're from the future and have sat nav in the chip embedded in your brain so you already knew that.

What, are you saying this isn't how everyone keeps their cars? 

We learned today that spray painting in high winds is really hard. Or perhaps there's a knack to it: this is my first foray into juvenile delinquency so I have a lot to learn.

Bug spraying
The high winds give our artwork an unintended but quite effective sinister appearance.

Fly, my pretty! Fly!

Driving in America is harder than it looks
We acquired the spray paint this morning in an Auto Parts store as we left Oklahoma City, and managed to thoroughly bemuse the guy who served us by picking out the shiniest metallic paints and telling him we were going to use them to decorate cars sticking out of the ground. It's almost as if he didn't think this was an entirely normal thing to travel thousands of miles to do. Go figure.

Also! While stopping at a gas station we saw our very first unironic wearing of a cowboy hat! That's one item off the list.

You're right to frown at us, Texan cows: we're on our way to eat one of your cousins 

One thing that didn't occur to me when we were planning this trip was that we'd be driving into the sunset every evening. This is always fun (albeit a tad dangerous as there is a period every evening that we're effectively blinded), but tonight in combination with the storm, it led to an awesome Texas sky.

Not what I thought Texas would look like

By the time the sun had set, we'd found the way to Amarillo and to the Big Texan, famous for its free 72oz steak meal (if you can eat the whole thing within one hour). Alas, no one was attempting the challenge while we were there, but we did learn that the record is about eight and a half minutes!!! This place is an extreme tacky tourist trap, so I wasn't sure the actual steaks would be anything to write home about. As it happens, they were simply amazing, so this place gets a whole-hearted recommendation.

Frowny Cow sees you eating its friends

Tomorrow is a very exciting day, because we hit the midway point of Route 66 before heading into New Mexico, and we're on the lookout for cactus and tumbleweed. Bonus points if the tumbleweed is in a ghost town.


  1. When the weather looks like that in this country, it's usually quite chilly with it, but I imagine it's still very warm there. The bug museum looks brilliant! Loving all the photos. :)

    I remember you wondering whether to do the Santa Fe loop, so I'm curious to see if you do it. :)

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  3. Oklahoma does look like a pot with the part above Texas being a handle. So it became a generic term for a rectangular protrusion in a political region. The NW part of Montgomery County (south of Springfield IL) named its district the Panhandle school district.