Our September, October and November issues featured dozens of magnificent stops, and we conclude with our final must-see set.
39. Hurry to Scurry County
That’s right! Don’t walk! Run as fast as you can and spend a day or even several in Snyder, the county seat of Scurry County. There’s so much to do!
Snyder is a very much “on-the-move” type of city as evidenced by the electricity-generating wind turbines to the east. It is also home of the state-of-the-art Codgell Memorial Hospital, Western Texas College, and a splendid park and downtown area teeming with great eateries and specialty shops.
While there you must visit the cutting-edge Scurry County Museum and stroll through the Heritage Park Village where surely you will hear about the legendary white buffalo and no doubt get an authentic taste of how the West was really won.
Before leaving, give yourself a special treat by staying at the Windmill Ranch Preserve outside of Snyder, truly a uniquely relaxing place to gather your thoughts and recharge your batteries. You’ll be glad you did!
40. Dance Your Way to Dumas
Dance? You bet! With a song in your heart, head to Dumas in Moore County, which has long experienced national notoriety due primarily to the song, “Ding Dong Daddy From Dumas.” This song was made popular by Phil Harris, band leader for the Jack Benny Radio Show, but more prominently known as long-time golfing pal to the immortal Bing Crosby.
While the song has drawn lots of attention to this West Texas town, Dumas has more than the catchy song to recommend it. Probably its biggest draw is its amazing Window on the Plains Museum and Art Center showcasing the works of nationally known Channing artist and bronze sculptor Don Ray.
No doubt you’ll be doing a little jig as you wander through Dumas’s downtown area…lots to see, lots to buy!
41. Wade In the River Where Bonnie and Clyde Took a Dive
Bonnie and Clyde missed Wellington’s Ritz Theater, but not the river. True! They raced past Wellington and plunged into the Prairie Dog Fork of the Red River about seven miles north of town. There’s certainly no reason for you to get in such a hurry. Slow down and visit the Collingsworth County Historical Museum replete with old-time memorabilia as well as items scavenged from the Bonnie and Clyde crash site.
And whatever you do, take a tour of the restored Ritz Theater, a top 100 finalist in the “This Place Matters” competition sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Finished in 1928 at a “jaw-dropping” cost of $125,000 – approximately $2 million in today’s economy – it has been beautifully restored to its original magnificence when it was a showcase for cutting-edge technology ushering in the Age of “talkies.” It is an absolute must-see.
42. Arrange a Day To Aim at Alibates Flint Quarry
Hard to imagine a state the size of Texas having only one national monument within its borders, but here it is, right smack dab in the middle of the Panhandle overlooking Lake Meredith and just five miles southwest of Fritch.
For 13,000 years up until the 1870s when Indians were displaced, this had been a site for the gathering and quarrying of flint, a resource as valuable to the Indians for trade and the making of weapons and tools as iron has been to modern man.
So make an appointment, take adventure by the hand, lace up your boots, and experience the two-hour, one-mile hike through antiquity. You will visit prehistoric Indian homes, workshops, campsites, and some of the 700-plus flint quarries concentrated mainly in the 60 acres atop a mesa in the heart of the 1,000-acre national monument.
Don’t hurry off after the hike. You will most definitely want to stick around and watch one of the Rangers craft an authentic, razor-sharp Indian arrowhead from raw flint stock. Seeing the finished product will make a believer of anyone skeptical of the lethal nature of Indian arrows and the utility of the tools they used to carve out a life in this inhospitable environment.
43. Bee Bop to Borden County
As you descend the steep Caprock Escarpment into Borden County, enjoy the vast, unsurpassed beauty of the rolling, broken Plains. It won’t be long until you arrive in Gail, the only town and county seat of this sparsely populated area. Other than daily ranching activities, what goes on in Borden County goes on in Gail. So stop and experience this quaint little town seemingly not very far removed from its Old West past.
You might enjoy stepping back into that past with a visit to the old county jail and historic cemetery or taking a peek at the Centennial Quilt in the Borden County Courthouse, or visiting the Borden County Museum, (ask the county judge for the key), or better yet, do all three!
Fast forward to the present…Borden County is very proud of its celebrated high school and six-man football teams, so maybe some “Friday night lights” might be a fun adventure. At certain times of the year visitors can also enjoy a rodeo or “fat stock” show, or how about helping the citizenry kick off the holiday season with the lighting of the star on nearby Gail Mountain. And, if you have a camper, all the better; bring it and camp out for a few relaxing days in Gail’s Texas Plains Trail RV Park.
44. Pick a Pumpkin in Floydada
Floydada, which raises more than 1 million pumpkins a year and ships them to 17 states, began in 1982 to have an annual “Punkin Day” extravaganza during the second week of October. So why not make early plans to join the good folks of Floydada for some punkin pickin’ good times. There is some kind of contest for everyone! You can guess a punkin’s weight, bake a punkin pie, roll them, bowl them, decorate them, or spit their seeds, among other things.
Hey, why not just come early and stay late. Take the family to visit the Floyd County Historical Museum, find a shady spot in the park and relax. There are plenty of RV hook-ups, motel rooms, and some great home-cooking restaurants. Sounds like a great getaway. Why not go?
45. Dance with the Kwahadis in Amarillo
The Kwahadi Indian Museum and Event Center is located along 1-40 in Amarillo. The center, which glows pink at sunset, is truly a marvel of architectural engineering mimicking the design of an Indian pueblo. The museum portion of this remarkable structure allows you to explore the culture of Native American people via fine painting, topical displays, and various other artifacts. There is also a “trading post” where a person might purchase some memorabilia as a reminder of the visit. Perhaps most intriguing are the dance performances offered virtually year-round. They are a spellbinding, “sure fire” kid pleaser, a “can’t miss” for family or group outings.
46. Pose For a Pic with Hoss Cartwright in O’Donnell
Dan Blocker is affectionately known as big Hoss Cartwright of “Bonanza” TV and now rerun fame, but nowhere is he more loved than in his boyhood home of O’Donnell, Texas. He is memorialized there in Heritage Plaza with a life-size bust, and within that same block, (pun intended) a visitor can’t help but notice a closed-up business labeled BLOCKER with a hand-painted big “HOSS” hat on the plywood-covered entrance.
Just across the from this old family grocery business is the O’Donnell Museum full of interesting 19th or 20th century artifacts and exhibits. The most popular is the one dedicated to Dan Blocker. The exhibit boasts a brochure about Blocker and is completed with a display of, among other items, his boxing gloves, a Bonanza lunch box, 4th grade class picture, and his over-sized Boy Scout pants. Even though Dan was born and buried in East Texas, he and “Big Hoss” are still very much alive in West Texas’ O’ Donnell.
47. Drive Downhill All the Way To Clarendon
You gotta go downhill to get to Clarendon, but after you arrive, everything will be looking up! This is a town that has something for just about everyone. There are, for example, special events throughout the year. In July it’s the Saint’s Roost Celebration complete with parade, rodeo, craft fair, and Shriner’s BBQ. Then in September, it’s the Charles Goodnight Chuck wagon cook-off. During the holiday season, you can get your fill of late-night shopping and join in the fun at the Saint’s Roost Museum Christmas celebration, or take in a few ballgames during the Greenbelt Classic out at the Clarendon Junior College Campus.
If history is your thing, you absolutely must tour the Donley County Courthouse and revel in the $4 million restoration that has returned the temple of justice to its original splendor. You will also want to visit the Saint’s Roost Museum filled with all kinds of Native American and early pioneer artifacts given life by outstanding explanatory information. Be sure to ask someone why their town is referred to as “Saint’s Roost.”
However, you may just want to have some “fun in the sun,” and Greenbelt Lake is perfect for that. Oh, and don’t forget about the Clarendon Country Club golf course overlooking the lake. It’s a really fun and challenging 18-hole course that will delight the golfers.
48. Mosey Over To Levelland For the Mosaics
These sensational displays of cubed-glass patterns are found throughout town on such structures as the Student Services, Fine Arts, and Agriculture buildings on the South Plains College campus. Additionally, these intricate constructions adorn the Methodist Hospital, Levelland Clinic, Art Learning Center, Hockley County Library, and the Levelland Area Chamber of Commerce.
And what could be better than being able to enjoy something so rare, simply by taking the opportunity to go by and look around in Levelland!
49. Beat it Over to Mobeetie
Mobeetie was once called “Hide Town,” a Buffalo hunter’s camp and trading post described by cattleman Charles Goodnight as “the hardest place I ever saw on the frontier except for Cheyenne, Wyoming.” It is, however, considered the Panhandle’s mother town, and as is the case with all frontier towns, has evolved into a very respectable little place with a uniquely historic past.
Mobeetie annually hosts several “step back into a simpler time” events that prospective visitors might want to put on their calendars. The first is the Music Festival in July, and later the Old Settler’s Labor Day Celebration.
The Old Mobeetie Association welcomes you to experience the restored buildings and other historic places associated with the Panhandle’s first town. Begin your visit at the site of Old Fort Elliot, one of the last forts established to protect early settlers from the Indians. Be sure to stop by the Old Wheeler County Jail complete with a state-required hangman’s device and the original 50-foot Fort Elliot Flagpole made out of two strapped-together trees. Finally, enjoy the Old Mobeetie town site just a few miles south of present-day Mobeetie. Perhaps you might even feel the “ghosts” of days gone by.
50. Blow On Over to Spearman
Spearman may not be the Windmill Capital of the World, but it probably should be. This distinction is the direct result of the passion J.B. Buchanan, longtime Spearman resident, had for them, and it blossomed into perhaps the most extensive collection anywhere.
Buchanan’s collection of “59” has become such a thing that with the help of city officials and some generous residents, windmills have become the most obvious sight on the Spearman horizon. There now is even a lighted walking trail devoted to this 19th century marvel of American ingenuity.
It is praiseworthy that a community has given due reverence to this somewhat ungainly looking piece of equipment that played an enormously important role before widespread electrification in giving life to and promoting economic activity in this area of Texas.
51. Capture the Spirit of Crowell
Crowell lives the adage that “small towns don’t have to die.” This little town with a Texas-sized heart just a few miles south of historic Copper Break State Park hosts a Cowboy Christmas Ball each year and is home to Comanche Spring Astronomy Campus.
Perhaps, however, Crowell’s greatest legacy is a commitment to local history boasting two museums of its own. The Fire Hall Museum is notable for its one-of-a-kind, to-scale depiction of Crowell, and its diorama style display of the most important businesses in town through its history.
Just across the street is the Farm Implement Museum with all kinds of machinery used over the past century to bring the often-stubborn land into profitable production. In addition, it is the owner of a huge stump purported to be from the tree Cynthia Ann Parker was found under when she was “rescued,” or as she preferred “recaptured,” after a quarter century living as a Comanche and giving birth to the last great Comanche war chief, Quanah Parker.
And by the way, speaking of history before leaving town, you just “gotta” stop in at Gentry’s Grocery and Hardware Store. A treasure trove indeed!
52. Kick Around on Our Stretch of Route 66
Today would be a great day to take a trip through the Texas Panhandle’s portion of Route 66. It’ll be a fun ride to enjoy the 14 towns, ghost towns, museums, markers, monuments, icons, and relics scattered profusely along its 178 miles which follows I-40 very closely. In some places there are a number of original pieces of concrete of the road that still exist and can be seen from the interstate.
The Texas Route 66 journey begins in Shamrock where you can catch the unusual Tower Conoco Service Station that was used in the movie “Cars.” In the summer, weekly concerts are held under the neon sign. Be sure to ride through town to see other reminders of those days gone by.
The next main stop is in McLean where a traveler can visit the Devil’s Rope Barbed Wire/Route 66 Museum, a very worthwhile stop. There is also a P.O.W. camp marker which provides some insight into an aspect of our history that many know very little about – the interment of captured German soldiers in the continental United States during WWII.
You’ll also get a kick out of seeing Panhandle’s 1st Phillips 66 Station in McLean.
On the road to Conway, you will find the Bugg Ranch, a spoof on the enormously popular Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo. The Longhorn Trading Post is close by and is piled high with Route 66 souvenirs. Conway has a vintage motor court and filling station.
Amarillo is by far the largest city along the road. Sixth Street showcases Route 66 with its quaint shops and eateries.
As mentioned earlier, the Cadillac Ranch, just west of Hope Road outside of Amarillo is a tourist favorite. Ten Cadillacs are embedded hood-down in the windy, West Texas prairie, just waiting for someone to spray their initials on one of them.
About 35 miles west, you’ll get to Vega, a small town that Route 66 went directly through. Check out the restored Magnolia Service Station where you can enjoy a picnic and photo or two. Immediately north is the Oldham County Courthouse, a fixture since 1915 which still serves the residents. Other Route 66 places of interest include:
- Roark’s Hardware, the oldest hardware store on the route;
- Many downtown stores that have been repurposed boasting unique offerings; and
- Dot’s Mini-Museum owned by Dot Leavitt who passed away a few years ago. The museum is still maintained by family members and is filled to the gills with Quirky Route 66 items. Dot’s famous “Boot Tree” still stands outside the “museum.”
After all this, be sure and grab something to eat at one of several locally owned establishments such as Lucy’s Kitchen, the infamous Hickory Inn, Roosters in a restored Route 66 Building, or the newest restaurant in town, Boot Hill Saloon & Grill, a sure-fire step back into the Old West.
You won’t be through with the Texas Route 66 cruise until you head to Adrian. For those die-hard 66’ers, keep your eyes open, for on the north frontage road a few miles outside of Vega, you can still get a glimpse of an original concrete bridge that sits lonely in a field. And then as you breeze on to Adrian, the official mid-point of Route 66, you’ll have to stop at the famous Mid-Point Cafe and take a picture by the sign.
Whew, I’m tired and haven’t even started. Just promise you’ll go for a retro experience you won’t soon forget! H