So began another day on the ride back home to Canada. Ahead of me, hundreds of miles riding on I-40 without the luxury of exploring side roads as my vacation time was running out. Moreover, I was anxious to get home and be re-united with my girlfriend and my parrots. I did not know how far I would travel on this day, but I managed to ride just over 370 miles to Oklahoma City. Sure, I could have gone a bit further, but I wanted to enjoy my last leisurely breakfast on the Mother Road and take in a few sites along the way.
Breakfast at “Kix on 66” in Tucumcari, NM
On my last Route 66 road trip, I had a great breakfast at “Kix on 66” and decided to do so again. This great family run diner harkens back to the days of classic diners in the 1950’s and 60’s. It is very much a quintessential Route 66 experience and one that befits the historic spirit of Tucumcari. You notice it right away from the line of stools at the meal counter, to the old decor on the wall and retro vinyl covered booth seats. One instantly feels at home here and the service is excellent. They make no concession to healthy breakfast fads or alternative foods, this is an old school American diner with great tasting food served in generous quantities.
I told myself “to hell with eating healthy”, so I went full bore and ordered a stack of pancakes with bacon, two eggs, juice and a few coffees to jolt me back to the land of the living. I had enough carbs wedged inside me to skip lunch and ride all day.
Before getting back on the Interstate, I captured some photos near the diner, including the now defunct Apache Motel. I really wanted to revisit my favourite spots in Tucumcari, such as the Blue Swallow Motel, Tee-Pee Curios, La Cita Mexican Foods, etc., but such leisurely meanderings will have to wait until my next road trip. Over the years, I’ve accumulated a number of decent images in Tucumcari, so there was little value in taking the same shots again.
Once I got back on I-40, I decided to make two stops en-route: one in the tiny town of Groom, Texas (pop 574) and another, just down the road, in Shamrock. It was a good way to break up the day and the monotony of highway riding. Along the way, I shot some GoPro footage of Tucumcari, I-40, Groom and Shamrock, Texas.
190 Foot Tall Cross, Groom, TX
Erected in 1995 by The Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ Ministries, this 19 story tall cross was claimed to be the tallest in the western hemisphere. Although impressive and can be seen from 20 miles (32 km) in all directions, it is not the tallest. Inspired by this monument, a similar cross was constructed in Effingham, Illinois that is 8 feet (2.4 m) taller. The Groom cross is also 18 feet (5.5 m) shorter than the one at the Mission Nombre de Dios in St. Augustine, Florida.
Surrounding the base of the cross are very realistic life size statues depicting the 14 Stations of the Cross. Unlike stylized medieval representation of biblical events, these figures are historically accurate, right down to the crucifixion of Christ. The Roman nails are driven through the wrists instead of the palms of the hand, which is the correct way to crucify someone.
Even if one is not religious, one is overcome by the depicted suffering of Christ along with the penitent and impenitent thieves who were crucified alongside Jesus. The artists who sculpted the 14 stations of the cross did a remarkable job of telling this terrible and brutal story.
Fortunately, my next stop was one filled with more levity and quirkiness.
Britten Leaning Water Tower, Groom, TX
Arguably, the best known roadside attraction in Groom, is the Britten Leaning Water Tower. No Route 66 book or documentary is complete without making a reference to this odd structure. One may be inclined to think the lean happened naturally and rendered the water tower useless. However, this is not the case and the real story is far more interesting.
It was originally a functioning water tower that was slated for demolition until Ralph Britten purchased it and moved it roadside, with an intentional lean, to advertize his truck stop. It worked like a charm and it stopped motorists dead in their tracks as they were baffled by this oddity. The truck stop is still visible from behind the tower, but is no longer in use since it was destroyed by a fire decades ago. Since then, the tower has become a lure for photographers and Route 66 travelers. The large star on top of the tower is illuminated at Christmas time.
Conoco Tower Station and U Drop Inn, Shamrock, TX
Built in 1936, the Tower Station and U-Drop Inn is a beautiful art-deco style building designed by J.C. Berry who was inspired by the image of a nail stuck in soil. The building features two flared towers with geometric detailing, curvilinear massing, glazed ceramic tile walls, and neon light accents. It has traditionally held two separate business: “Tower Station”, a gas station on the western side, and the “U-Drop Inn”, a café on the eastern side.
The building has been owned by several different people in its history, always housing both a gas station and a restaurant. It operated as such until the late 1990’s when it was forced to close after the decommissioning of Route 66. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1997, after which the building was purchased by the First National Bank of Shamrock, which gave it back to the city. It was restored back to its original condition thanks to a $1.7 million federal grant. Today it serves as a visitor’s center, museum, gift shop and the offices of the Shamrock Chamber of Commerce.
In the 2006 Pixar animated move, Cars, the fictitious village of Radiator Springs was based largely on famous Route 66 landmarks and the U-Drop Inn’s distinctive art-deco architecture appears as “Ramone’s Automotive body and Paint Shop”.
Before leaving Shamrock, I topped off my gas tank, got back on the Interstate, cranked the throttle and traveled practically non-stop to Oklahoma City. The time for touring and exploration was sadly coming to an end. In three days I would be home, traveling another 1472 miles (2370 km) on the Interstate.
This was indeed the last day to take photos on Route 66 and explore any sites. A bittersweet “last kicks on 66” and one that still resonates in the aftermath of my motorcycle accident.