In our travels across the Southwest, it has been impossible to ignore the many attractions that cater to those who are exploring The Mother Road, old Route 66. It stretched from Chicago to Santa Monica until the new Interstate System began to replace it, and this part of the country has remained especially loyal to it. However, there are museums devoted to it in every state it passed through except Kansas. My favorite is in Clinton, Oklahoma.
This coming November is Route 66’s 90th anniversary, and there is some resurgence of interest along its 2,400 miles. For the first time, this summer I met young Americans traveling along it and devoted to learning about it. There is even some revivalism going on, like the restoration of Boots Court in Carthage, Missouri. The National Park Service maintains a Route 66 Corridor Restoration Program that has recently been extended until 2019. Tour companies in places like Australia and Germany offer popular excursions. A couple of years ago Ruth and I shared The Original Route 66 Gift Shop in Seligman, Arizona, with a busload of Asian tourists who were buying everything in sight. It was early winter.
This summer Ruth & I weren’t especially looking for but found unanticipated Route 66 attractions in New Mexico and Texas. My personal favorite was the Conoco Tower in Shamrock, Texas. The original building built in 1936 had art deco details and offered bright neon. Recently restored with an expanded visitor center and gift shop, a Tesla Supercharger Station, a continued art deco look, and a tribute to Bill Mack, the still active Midnight Cowboy/radio personality who grew up in Shamrock, this is a must-see attraction for those passing through Shamrock. The Disney animated film Cars featured Ramon’s, a body art garage. The U-Drop Inn in Shamrock was its inspiration.
About 20 miles west of Shamrock in McLean, Texas, is the unique, seasonal Devil’s Rope Museum devoted mostly to barbed wire. However, it also showcases Route 66 in a middling tribute. Also in McLean is the 1st Phillips 66 Station in Texas. It has been restored to its circa 1929 glory. It was a service station for over 50 years before becoming just a small town Route 66 landmark.
Albuquerque, New Mexico, has to be the city on Route 66 with the most surviving structures. Route 66 followed Albuquerque’s Central Avenue through this city, passing Old Town. It continued through downtown and eastward toward Tucumcari, which has 2 or 3 minor route-related attractions. By 1955 Albuquerque had 99 motels along Route 66. Few remain. However, we saw a 66-era diner, some signs that celebrated The Mother Road like the one at the top of this blog, etc.
And now there’s The Singing Road on old Route 66 south of the Sandia Mountains just east of Albuquerque. A sign announces its presence near Tijeras. If a driver slows to exactly 45 mph and steers atop the rumble strip with the car windows slightly down, all in the vehicle will hear “America the Beautiful”. It’s fun. You have the National Geographic to thank for this almost unique attraction. There’s another singing road in Lancaster, California. There you have to drive 55 mph to hear the “William Tell Overture”, also known as the Lone Ranger’s theme song, I have not been to Lancaster. I expect to hear about a singing road franchise operation soon.