Prohibition – that is what I am talking about. Gin tasted sweeter, drunk was more drunken, and hang-overs didn’t hurt.
Outlaws were admired, cops were Keystone, and gambling was found behind hidden doors – fun!
Roads were being built and tourism became an economy.
Tourist camps, hotels and motels supplied the needed respite for souls journeying toward the God given right of Manifest Destiny.
Ah – the 1920’s – the decade that Texarkana, Texas, aspired to raise a grand hotel along the Texas and Arkansas state line.
The Hotel Grim would be spectacular and a spectacle.
The architectural firm of Mann and Stern, while borrowing heavily from the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas, designed an impressive structure, grand in a subtle way. A variety of building material inside and out created, somehow, a seamless, and elegant structure loaded with 90-degree angles – final cost 700,000 – yes, in 1925 dollars.
Guest could dine on the roof top – a dining room and garden, eight stories high, towering above the debauchery below.
The Grim, or so the legend goes, was a haven for illegal gambling. There are also rumors of an elaborate tunnel system below the town – allowing for a convenient transport of women and whisky – and the tunnels terminus, always the Grim.
Her sins aside, the Grim lasted until 1990, better that what can be said for other hotels of the day – hopefully Texarkana found around 11,000 dollars a year worth of use from the hotel.
For thirty years the hotel was vandalized by mother nature and vagrants, teenagers and time. Ceilings collapsed and floors caved, as the once grand hotel became an eyesore.
Today – revitalization of downtown Texarkana is bringing the Grim back – well kind-of. Texarkana is not planning a luxury hotel but affordable apartment.
Never-the-less, Grim will be operating again and that is more that I can say about other hotels of the day.
Piles of your yesterdays are growing higher as I walk this road alone. I kick through what we both don’t understand but to what we relate. Piles of successes, suffocating god. I exist within the most significant day ever – my day. Piles of you exist around me – some blocking my path. If you are the present, can you be the past? I trample you, not out of malice – I have nowhere else to step- I exist during the most congested time ever – Piles of you exist all around me – Through denouncement, you have become the rule. You are what you never wanted to be – hats are removed to you. You are a burden to the soil and soul – reexamination to the meter and rhyme. You impede my travel. Piles of you, tangible and spiritual, bring praise and despise. I gently scape you from my boot – I leave you to the soil – I teach you. Piles of you will continue to build, In future generation minds, Along the pathways of tomorrow. Piles of romance – of your written day, Piles that bury the beauty of candor.
The thatch hung low just inches over Jean’s fiery red curls while she rinsed the few dirties, it was a slow Tuesday night.
Outside night, inside perpetual dusk throughout Polynesian ambiance of the themed lounge.
The theme was Henry’s idea, well his and his ex business partner and fellow service man, Raymond.
The son of a bitch that left Jean and Henry holding the bag.
With burning shoulders she arches toward the low sink. Her hand coarse from overuse. Her nails once brilliant with color, hang chipped and dull. Her hands now tools, working to maintain what is left of her past.
Draining the final highballs, she straitens her back, breaths deep, expanding her chest pushes her bosom tight against her sheer blouse, creating gaps between the opal buttons.
For a moment her soft flesh is exposed. Her body longs for his touch and embrace.
Her mind longs for his conversation.
Her curls piled and pinned high allowing delicate beads of sweat to trail down her soft neck.
Removing one of Henry’s hankerchiefs from her apron’s pocket, she gently pats the moisture from her neck, folding the silk rectangle into sixths and returns to the aprons pocket.
Jean’s cigarette burns in the ashtray she wipes her palms on the apron, his apron. With the back of her hands still wet she reaches for the smoke as the front door opens.
She draws a long and slow inhale as he enters.
Light from the night, a lunar reflection, invades the near pitch of the room exciting the pupils of the few patrons.
For a brief moment, the slice of light, reveals his silhouette, chiseled chin, long forehead, commanding stance. Dominant.
Could it be?
She knew it could not be him.
He was thousands of miles away.
He was gone.
She had shared her man with his country since they met in 1942.
Their first meeting, late night in a bar on 73rd and Rochester, where she worked slinging ale and shots to the lost and lonely sitting along side the youth dedicated to the liberation of Europe.
That night years ago when a chiseled chin man, with those eyes, entered into her life.
He was hard to define.
Mysterious, innocent a proud, humble and arrogant, an anomaly.
His inconsistancies excited her.
But it was his eyes that drew her in.
His eyes alive and exciting.
That night in 1942 was an evening of discovery, physical and emotional. Two individuals fighting to learn as much as one could in a limited amount of time.
A night of exploration.
The door closes, darkness returns, he enters.
For a moment she is blind.
Slow dilation of her pupils allow visual discovery of her new patron.
So familiar, so similar, the demeanor, stance, and gate. He moves with confidence toward the bar.
Reflecting in the brilliant reds and blue hues saturate the room as individual bright white light emphasize the flotsam and jetsam hanging throughout the space.
“Hello” the stranger states as he sits with confidence at the bar.
Jean produces a shallow “welcome” but quickly regains composer asking, “what can I get you?”.
The eyes stair back at her.
The eyes that in 1942 left in the early dawn bound for Fort Riley, Kansas.
The eyes that were to assist in the war effort with field kitchens in war zones.
The eyes that came home but only temporarily.
The stranger, nodding his head, extending his hand, cordially stating “My name is Edward, nice to meet you”.
“Hi, I’m Jean”.
Edward, heals locked in the bar’s lower railing, pushing back he interlocks his fingers behind his head.
She gazed upon his presents, uncanny, surreal.
Feeling guilty at her thoughts, she turns her eyes away.
“This place is great”, he said, admiring the atmosphere.
Edwards idea, his attempt at producing an escape. An ambiance that lulled the stoned mind’s imagination into a lush and lavish paradise.
It was Edward’s only decent idea, The son of a bitch.
Jean accepts the complement, “Thanks”.
“No, passing through on my way to Korea.”
“I ship out tomorrow.”
Her heart pauses at his response.
Her mind flashes back to Henry’s last letter.
She held it without opening it for days. Running her finger over the pen strokes forming the letters and numbers of the address. The pen strokes made by his hands. Henry’s pen strokes. She embraced the letter. Not wanting to open and read, know that the one sided conversation would then be over. The conversation would be complete. She wanted to hold the words new.
She kept it sealed for four days. On the fourth day, a Friday, she receive a letter in the mail.
Her attention returns to the stranger.
“What can I get for you?”
Those eyes survey her as he pulls a cigarette from his breast pocket.
Returning with beer he notices her ring.
“Where is your husband?”
Jean’s soft green eyes return to his as her lips quietly produce the words “Korea”.
“Army?”, the stranger states with proud confidence.
“No.”, Jean comments, giving her attention to the exiting of the only other patrons.
Henry was a cook, a T/4, Tech 4th grade. He was a Sergeant. He wore the chevrons. He fed the troops that liberated Europe.
That is were he met Edward, a droopy idealist, a cook, a bloated con artist that felt a superiority over all.
Why Henry enjoyed his company, Jean never understood.
In 1948 he came home, dragging with him the wares of war and Edward, who needed a temporary place to stay.
Soon Jean understood the twos kinship. Both suffered from an agonizing pain and horrific memories of the visual elements that the troops, even the cooks, witnessed and suffered throughout the European Theatre.
As days past the trio, formed a bond, a trinity that created one of the most celebrated and successful drinking stables on the Eastside.
A sanctuary for escape, expelling existence, a respite from reality.
The success was temporary.
Edward moved to Kansas City with a brunette that he met one Saturday night. Due to Henry’s status as an active reservist, left for Korea, leaving Jean, again, alone, now running the bar.
Jean and the stranger encapsulated in the overbearing paradise.
Jean and the stranger, alone, parted by worn oak and dulled brass railing. Ideals and morals. Restraints that limited their involvement to only emotionally and conversationally.
The letter, the damned letter that took her life away. The war that should have never been. The reservist that should have stayed home. The man that was only a cook.
Jean grabs the strangers hand and pulls him towards her, “You be safe, you hear me.”
Taken aback with her forwardness he withdrawals, takes a pull of his drink, “yes, ma’am.”
She looks into his eyes, fighting to stay in control of her responses to the overwhelming emotions this chance meeting is producing.
“Next one’s on the house.”
She returns with a beer.
She twist at the waist reaching her arm up to a top shelf bottle. The movement temporarily creates a riff between her blouse and skirt. She feels those eyes on her. Exaggerating her movements to extend the moment. Allowing his mind to find fascination in those familiar eyes, she returns the bottle to the bar along with two low-balls.
She pours two, sliding one toward the stranger.
In silence they drink.
One soon to be lost in a foreign land, the other in a paradise lost.
She pours another.
How many days the letters sat?
She could not recall.
One casual, sealed with Henry’s pen-strokes.
The other, formal.
Official, cold font, ink ribbon faded from overuse.
They sat, for days, news and words suspended in time.
“Navy?”, the stranger asked.
Tears produced in the corner of Jean’s eyes, as her elbows straighten stiffening her arms. A heave in her chest raising her breast higher. She pulls in her emotions cutting her green eyes to the left as her head pulls to the right.
The Stranger’s palm cups her left hand firmly, embracing her heart.
She returns her eyes to him and for a moment, she sees Henry.
“It’s okay”, he states, as she looses herself in a deluge of emotion.
The stranger rises from the stool temporarily suspending Jean in her state as he makes his way behind the bar.
Feeling an emotional obligation, he embraces Jean.
He pulls her tight against him. His hands firm on the small of her back. He supports her. She is lost in what was and what will never be.
Stirring forever in the tangled mess of over bloated dreamers and accidental casualties of war, she loses herself.
With an arch of her neck, a pause of her heart, and a quick breath, she looks up into those eyes.
He pulls at her.
Her shoulders drop.
She lays her left ear on the strangers chest and listens for his beating heart. Listens for the signs of life.
His arms firmly secure her.
His hands finding Jean a willing participant, he explores her.
She responds with weakness, a frame in need of support.
Her head tilts back, as the memories of the words, the lies, fall away.
The lips meet, naive and experienced, foreign and familiar, an anomaly.
“Henry”, her soft voice produced between kisses.
The stranger, overtaken in the moment, disregards her words, fumbling at the fasteners securing her garments.
Her apron falls to the floor. Shuffled beneath the couples feet trampling Henry’s handkerchief.
Breaking apart from the oral embrace, she pulls he ear toward her lips the strangers ear.
“Why did you go?”
The stranger, excited by this casual encounter, deaf to her words and works to free Jean from her clothing.
He pushes against her. Her mind and body not resistant to the aggression accept the stranger the force. All is lost in the moment. All is right. He is here. Henry is here.
Memories melt, truths fade, as the stranger tears through her.
Her hair falls, two opal buttons fly from her blouse, as he works at her skirt, Jean’s breath shallow, through her parted lips. Two lost in the moment of change both working to free the other from the constraints limiting their motives.
Jean screams, as embrace turns into poisonous passion. Raw aggression. Jean’s anger at her lot in life.
She pushes way.
“Damn you!, why did you leave?”
Jean’s eyes mad with tears, her lips quiver, she falls to the floor. Trembling and disheveled, she gazes up toward the stranger.
“Why did you come back?”
The stranger terrified at the situation, turns his face away.
Sticks and stones might break our bones, but words, in particular antonyms, will certainly destroy us.
A war is breaking out, a conflict of opposing opinions centered around the acceptance of the division created by the antonym. While one side sees a necessity in the antonym, the opposing faction sees the words as destructive.
The latter identifies the antonym as a device that divides cultures, societies, and families due to the words’ decisive differences.
A recent event held in East Dover, Vermont, the free-thinking organization better known as The Liberation of Thoughtless Minds Coalition or (LTMC) presented the argument against the antonym.
Antonyms, in the LTMC’s opinion, create difference and an extreme divide among the population.
“This part (the anonym) of the English language is tearing us apart,” exclaimed Neil Burgess, an original member of the LTMC.
His sentiments were shared with the vast majority of the attendees, evident by the group’s t-shirts promoting anti-antonym.
“The antonyms are out of control!” the group chanted between speakers.
LTMC does not have an issue with all anonyms.
“We are fine with Complementary and Graded anonyms,” exclaimed David Delany, the acting president of the LTMC, “we only have an issue with the relational antonyms.”
According to the LTMC website’s FAQ page, the group does believe that opposites can exist, but the group is opposed to opposites being a necessity.
“If we eradicate relational anonyms from our language, we will eradicate prejudice and racial inequality from our lives,” Delany announced to an exuberant response from those in attendance.
“Relational antonyms lead to war and social injustice.”
“Without a master, there will be no servant; without borrow, there will be no lend, no slavery to man or money.”
Delany extended his rhetoric by proclaiming, “Anonyms have created the institutions that have led to destruction, the pathway to misery is pathed with anonyms.”, he shouted under the deafening roar of the crowd.
The LTMC acknowledges that the mission of exiting misery and division from society by removing relational antonyms will not be an easy task.
During a short break-out session, I sat down with Mr. Delany to discover more about the LTMC’s mission and the struggles to get more people on board.
“Our biggest struggle is pre-fixes,” Delany confesses.
“Any English speaker has the ability to create his or her own antonyms simply by adding a prefix to over one million words.
“A simple in-, un-, non-, etc. upfront will create opposition – Will create division.” “We attempt to stay ahead of the antonym, but we find they (the antonyms) are growing each day exponentially.
The LTMC has, they believe, found a way to stay ahead of the antonym.
Delany explains, “We have created software that continually monitors social and political issues globally. An algorithm combines the identified issues with all possible combinations of antonyms and produces a report of future oppositions.”
“We can see the future.”
“We are continually adding antonyms to our list (found on the LTMC’s website) of the most detrimental words to the advancement of a peaceful society.”
Delany does admit that, if the LTMC is successful, peace with come with a price.
“To rid our lives of hate, we must lose love,” Delany expresses with a grim but confident tone and adds, “within a few generations, without the words, the emotions will come to pass.”
Redwater, Texas, the first town a Bankhead Highway traveler will pass through heading east out of Texarkana.
Redwater, Texas, is located in Bowie County with a population of sub-one thousand residents, small yet still more prominent than it was when founded in the mid -1870’s.
Redwater was initially named after the great oratorial expert, friend to the rich and powerful, and the “OG” Agnostic, Robert Green Ingersoll, reported by the Washington Post in 2012 as, “the most famous American you never heard of”.
Riding the Old Redwater Road – out of Texarkana.
Ingersoll’s legacy was short-lived in the town that would eventually become Redwater, Texas. A revival was held one night in Ingersoll, and the Spirit was in attendance. The evening resulted in over 100 people finding the Lord.
Quickly enough, the citizens felt that their highly spiritual town should not be named after “The Great Agnostic” and began searching for a new name. They settled on Redwater a homage to the tint of the water in the wells and springs.
Spring is quickly approaching, and Texas public schools are gearing up for the STAAR. The anxiety-building state assessment, loved by students, parents, administrators, and teachers, well, maybe not. The STAAR does not need to be feared or hated; it is a playable exam that any student can pass only knowing the correct response to five questions.
Keep reading if you would like to understand how.
The following “plan to pass” was developed with the collaboration of a group of my cohorts. I want to communicate what we found while compiling released STAAR data from the state of Texas. This plan is designed to improve the scores of students and have a 100 percent passing rate. This plan was devised for 5th-grade math students in a Texas public school. Please do your research and do what is best for your students.
Fifth-grade math success plan and how to get 100 percent passing.
Historically, a student must answer seventeen questions correctly on the STAAR fifth grade math test to pass. Except for the grid questions, the majority of problems are multiple-choice. I will refer to these as A, B, C, or D, to keep confusion to a minimum for non-educator readers. Each year the correct answers are distributed among A, B, C, or D, consistently.
We found that “A” is the right choice 12 to 14 times, “B” is correct 12 to 14 times, with “C” and “D” following suit. So, if a student were to answer only “A,” he or she would have 12 to 14 answers correct.
Teachers are aware that this could show a vast improvement for some students who historically are sub-ten correct answers. This improvement would be celebrated but would fall short of the goal of having 100 percent passing being 17 correct is the magic passing number. Teachers know what is assessed on the STAAR test and what the questions look like. We can use this knowledge to help “play” the test to get to 100 percent passing.
It is all about the TEKS’ verbs.
The STAAR will assess TEKS with the “simple” verbs. These TEKS require the student to perform simple one-step tasks like identifying. These quick questions, coupled with the consistent distribution of correct answers among “A,” “B,” “C,” “D,” are the key to 100 percent student success. All students, I believe, through rote memory and conditioning, can find success on these questions that consist of concrete knowledge and recall.
We found five to seven questions we considered “easy verb” questions each year while examining the released tests.
Playing the STAAR.
When a student receives the STAAR assessment, he or she will answer the easy verb questions first. The student will be able to identify these due to the conditioning and the familiarity of working with released questions focused on the same TEK during class. The student will only answer the questions he is 100% confident of the answer. There must not be any guessing. Once at the end of the exam, the student should have at least five to eight questions answered. Again, these concrete knowledge questions are the keys to passing. With these questions answered, the student will close the test booklet. The student will now examine the bubble sheet, aka answer document. Once the student determines where the majority of his or her correct answer are on the bubble sheet, he or she is ready for the last step to passing the STAAR.
Last step to success.
Let us imagine that the student is 100 percent sure of six of his answers. Let us assume that these correct answers fell on the “B,” “C,” and “D” column of the answer document. With our knowledge that historically “A” is the right answer twelve to fourteen times, if the student bubbles straight down “A,” excluding his right answers, he will pass the STAAR with 18 to 20 correct. Does it work? With lots of focus on those few TEKS and having students understand the plan, it can succeed.
Ted Stiger, by accident, created an iconic roadside oasis in the desert. The Buckhorn Baths in Mesa, Arizona, a mecca that denounced segregation, lured Hollywood stars, played host to the political elite, and arguably developed the Cactus League. Ted’s relationship with baseball ushered in the spring training of Americans favorite pastime to the East Valley – and all he did was dig a well.
Arizona was a no-mans-land for centuries, an arid desert, a harsh environment that few called home until the Granite Reef Dam’s construction. Completed in 1908, this early 20th-century engineering marvel on the Salt River diverted water via irrigation canals to Phoenix, allowing growth and development. Soon after, in 1911, the Roosevelt Dam was constructed, providing the valley with affordable electricity.
While Phoenix thrived with its new wealth of utilities, America was on the move. The pursuit of mapping all-season and all-weather roads was in full swing. Routes such as the Bankhead Highway, Dixie Overland Highway, Old Spanish Trail, and U.S. Highway 80 trudged west, each claiming the title coast-to-coast.
Soon travelers filled the roadways. Cars needed gas, passengers needed groceries, resulting in mom and pop shops popping up all along the newly formed transcontinental routes. In 1936, Ted and Alice Sliger purchased a parcel of property just east of Phoenix in Mesa, Arizona, a purchase that would set in motion a series of events that would culminate into the development of the Buckhorn Baths. Initially, the couple’s space was occupied by a store, a gas station; in addition to these, Ted found space to display his extensive taxidermy collection.
By 1938 business was good, but there was a problem. Ted had to have water delivered, and with an increase in traffic and patrons, this was becoming impractical. Ted set out to dig a well to find some water beneath his feet. Ted did find water, but not water worth drinking; Ted opened a 120 degrees mineral-rich water well. Water that, at the time, was believed to have healing powers. Understanding the unique opportunity flowing under their feet, the two built a 27 stone tub bathhouse that could serve 75 guests per day, added cottages, and ultimately employed a staff of 25.
The Cactus League Bill Veeck, who owned a ranch in Arizona, purchased the Cleveland Indians in 1946. Veeck also intended to introduce African American players to his roster. This would be problematic during spring training in Florida, where Jim Crow Laws still subjected African Americans to sever discrimination; he chose to move spring training to Arizona. The big issue with this move was that there would be no other teams to play during spring training; Cleveland needed another Arizona team during the spring. Horace Stoneham, the hands-on owner of the New York Giants, also wintered in Arizona. And as legend has it moved the Giants spring training to Arizona the day he discovered the Buckhorn Baths and the healing waters. The Giants would call the Buckhorn Baths home each spring for the next 25 years. Legends such as Ty Cobb and Willie Mays would soak in the mineral baths, wander the grounds, and enjoy the mild desert winters.
During a time of racial inequality, The Buckhorn welcomed all players of all colors, allowing the team to stay together on site, something that was not allowed in Florida.
Today, fifteen professional baseball teams call the Phoenix area home during the Cactus League’s season.
Ted passed away in 1984; although it had been decades since the Buckhorn was the Giants’ home base, the baths were still opened and operated along with the motel and the museum, by his wife, Alice.
With Alice at the helm, she drew the last bath in 1999. The motel and museum shuttered around 2005. On November 10, 2010, Alice passed away at 103 years of age.
Today the Buckhorn Baths stand abandoned but well preserved. The mineral-rich still flows through the pipes. A roadside gem. A collection of Americana history.
A hint of smoke fills the cabin of the Douglas DC-3, 6,000 feet above East Texas.
Two crew and seven passengers, en route to the next show, be-bopping and energetic from previous engagements, three sold-out nights, a recently signed record contract, and the resurgence of the lead singer’s career, are unaware of the horror that lays ahead.
The plane’s owner and band’s leader is a rockabilly icon, teenage idol, television star, and a victim of his successes.
His rise and fall led him through many struggles, but the future was bright. New opportunities were certain, and at only forty-five, his life was beginning.
The passengers, concerned but not overly alarmed with N711Y’s situation, living was on their minds. Renewal and resurgence on the horizon.
Pilot and co-pilot bumble in their actions, every decision they make, as smoke drifts through the 14 seat aircraft, errors in their duties.
With the band’s future renewed, confidence is rebuilding, and his assurance of being a sober, respected, musician not just an aging teen idol.
His mind is on the future while appreciating his celebrated past of music and entertainment, millions of albums sold and memories of gold records, and starting a band as a teenager with an 18-year-old guitarist named James Burton.
N711Y, a moody machine.
Earlier that day, December 31, 1985, the passengers and crew loitered around the airport during a lengthy delay.
N711Y was having issues.
N711Y was always having issues, no cause for alarm.
These usual troubles were not accepted by all band members, who regularly voiced concern about traveling on the vintage plane.
December 31, and the air was cold.
The onboard heater, indiscriminately, blowing cold, blowing hot, overheating, a nuisance to both crew and the cold passengers in the magnesium tube.
New Years was only hours away, and a music starved crowd awaits the band to help ring in 1986.
For five decades, he entertained on radio, television, movies, and live. He was born with a pedigree for music and entertainment, a musician whose soul was tuned to Rockabilly and country roots, whose success veiled his loves and promoted Pop music and good looks.
He rose and fell but came out with a fresh look on life.
N711Y has issues but also a fascinating history.
She is a Douglas DC-3, vintage 1944. An aircraft whose history is rich as her current owners. Initially, Richard Dupont’s property and once Jerry Lee Lewis’s possession, this aircraft had taxied the rock-n-roll royalty along with the rich and famous.
Today the forty-five-year-old owner is only thirty minutes away from Love Field, in Dallas, Texas. His band and fiancé fill the plane with exuberance and merriment of the good life.
Last night his final words to the crowd were, “Rave on for me!” as he finished the band’s final song. Rave On, a Buddy Holly cover that, only posthumously, would weave irony into the story of this musician’s life.
Smoke becomes thick throughout the plane as the pilot and co-pilot radio for radar vectors to available landing strips.
As smoke fills the cockpit, radio communication becomes difficult, as the distressed pilots struggled for their words.
Choking for air, the pilot ditches the plane in a haphazard landing. Smoke turns to fire, and soon, N711Y’s fuselage is engulfed in flames.
The pilots, severely burned, escape through a window, and stumble about while the N711Y lays consumed in a fire in an East Texas farmer’s field.
Once the flames subsided, recoverers found all nine passengers’ lifeless and burnt bodies huddled around the plane’s door, a futile attempt to escape the inferno.
Today the tail of N711Y is on display in the community museum, next to Dollar General, in Del Kalb, Texas.
N711Y’s rudder was last seen at Air Salvage of Dallas.
My pupils, the size of a pinhead, take in the hustle of the valet attendants whose hurried motions cause nausea in my belly and pain in my head. Early morning in Las Vegas.
Some coming. Others are going. Many are looking to find Thompson’s American Dream.
Each day and night in this city becomes a bender, what starts as innocent toe-dipping in the pond of debauchery, can easily become a full dunk baptism in this city of sin.
“Where you headed?”, asks the perky young man, who can hail a cab, open a door, and complement one’s attire with a condescending tone that makes one feel obligated to tip. An individual whose rank on the ladder of success could never be aligned with his status of mind. An individual who can balance position, responsibility, and obligatory compliments with a suave and arrogant certainty of self.
“1712 W Charleston Blvd”, a state with certainty and pass my door attendant a well-deserved fiver for being a better man than me.
Rays of the morning sun, now well over the surrounding Mojave mountains, are quickly warming the dry desert air. Our cab turns to the west. The glitz and glamour of the Las Vegas Strip fall behind. We are entering into the area of the Las Vegas locals.
Neighborhood bars and casinos cater to the everyday man. Transient individuals and down on their luck groups live their days here. In the shadow of wealth is want. Caught in the undertow of the ebb and flow of the powers that be. People wander, damned to serve a life sentence in a world they were born into without council, insertion without representation.
A quick lefthand turn and we have arrived.
Nestled between strip malls and gas stations, hospitals and homeless shelters is our destination. Frankies Tiki Room.
Exiting the car we make our way towards the door. The sun right above our heads. Blistering rays. Blinding light. We open the door.
Darkness. Pitch black. Like someone has placed a shroud over our eyes.
Our other senses heighten. Cool air and sound of conversation, unfamiliar music pulsates pleasantly within our ears.
We stand still, mesmerized by our surroundings. Naive and innocent. Expecting the worse but willing to experience any trauma and terror we have wandered into.
Our pupils dilate. We begin to see. Warm reds and cool blues shine like celestial bodies across the ceiling. The flaming cherries of cigarettes hung in the darkness, aloft, seeming to float.
Each ember intensifies and brightens with the inhale of the darkened individual escaping the realities of the outside world.
With a new sense of sight, we find our way to the bar and soon discover a world unlike none other.
The world of Tiki.
A variety of textures begin to grab the attention of our senses. Our eyes strained to view deep into the dark corners, where the glow of tobacco fire pulsated like beacons in the dark night. Our tounges confused by the multi ingredients of the drinks strained to find a hint of liquor, carefully disguised in the cocktails. Thick dark woods, burnt and scarred all around, nothing soft or smooth, but all inviting.
Then confusion set in. A product of the pours. Then numbness and peace. In this strange new wonderful world. We allowed ourselves to be enveloped into the embrace of the out of the way establishment on Charleston Blvd.
We did not want to leave.
So we decided to bring Tiki to our home.
There was a room in our home that really did not have a purpose. A computer and a couple of guitars called it home. The room felt cold and uninviting just wasted floor space. Today, it is our paradise. Our portal to ultimate escapism deep in the heart of Texas.
We had a lot of Tiki – ish items around the house. Our bar is actually an old workbench that my daughter and I made years ago. New top, some stain, little bit of carving, some light, and wallah.
The room really started taking shape once we got the bamboo in.
Scouring the local resale shops for vintage or new. Some homemade like this lamp thing.
The obligatory netted ceiling with random flotsam and jetsam was a must.
Thatch made a huge difference.
Mixing Frankies drinks right at home.
If the thought of creating a space like this has ever entered the mind – do it.
Your source for Bankhead Highway news and information – Texas’ section.
What is inside this month…
TabacrossTexas just completed the entire Texas’ Bankhead Highway Route. In eight days, we covered over 900 miles slow and easy, taking in as much as we could, while we stayed as true to the original century-old alignment as we could.
This month’s newsletter is dedicated to some of the unique stops and individuals we discovered while we Crossed the State in Eight.
Bankhead Highway People.
Rosenda – Sierra Blanca, Texas.
An opened door in a dead town.
Sierra Blanca is, less of a town, more of a collection of decay.
Random relicts, soon to be rubble, front the old Bankhead town’s Mainstreet.
The Sister Gift Shop and Rocks sit between long abandoned and forgotten theatres and gas stations.
Wistful Warm West Wind carries tumbleweeds through forgotten streets. Dry air has mummified the stone and steel, prolonging the deterioration process. Terracotta colored streets flow into warm stucco-covered buildings whose facade is cracked, exposing the masonry beneath.
Inside the opened narrow entry, I meet Rosenda.
We talk like long lost friends.
Two individuals in a lonely place. Removed, temporarily, from time.
Two individuals exchanging personal information. Sharing as if we were the last two souls on earth.
We could be the last to souls in Sierra Blanca, Texas.
The shop is full of random rocks and jewelry, trinkets and novelties, dusty odds and broken ends.
We chat about where we are going and where we have been. In only minutes I learn about her life, children, challenges, and successes. We ponder the changes that are inevitable and what lies ahead.
I wander out into the afternoon heat and stand in the middle of the road. Overwhelmed with the insignificance of things thought as important, realizing those things that are precious. Things miles away but still as close as a thought.
Bob Stogsdill – Strawn, Texas.
Bob Stogsdill repainted Strawn’s Bankhead Hotel sign. His time and patience brought the old hotel back to its former glory. Well, at least the hotel’s sign. One can find Bob in the Strawn community museum.
Bob is a great guy that will enjoy discussing the history of Strawn and the Bankhead with any ear that will listen.
Eastland Texas – Keeping the Bankhead Highway alive.
Eastland, Texas, has taken the initiative to support the Bankhead Highway by placing BH banners around the courthouse square.
I, for one, hope the signage and discourse about the Bankhead Highway push more heritage tourists, and adventurers, out of their homes and onto the old road.
Within the walls of that Eastland County courthouse, one will find Old Rip. A resurrection story of a Phrynosoma.
Epicurian Exelence in Brashear, Texas
No menu – just tell Betty what you like.
Located only a couple of miles beyond Sulphur Springs city limits is Brashear, Texas. Brashear was founded in 1868 and its population has declined ever since.
Recently, a California transplant has opened shop in the old Brashear Country Store. Betty is the chief chef and pot scrubber of the most relaxed restaurant in all of Texas.
Betty is not shy in her presentation of self or food. She creates larger than life plates that impress.
What does Rockwall, Texas, offer a Bankhead Highway tourist?
Some great old submerged bridges and an incredible 1922 railroad bridge and a great microbrewery on Mainstreet.
Mineral Wells, Texas.
The Laumdronat – Washing Machine Museum.
How fun is this. Wash clothes and learn about the history of washing clothes.
It is not just antique washers on display, cases line the walls with trinkets and wonders of the washateria, including this hanger dispenser.
Next month we will highlight more places we discovered on our Across the State in Eight trip.
Thanks for following along.
Want to learn more about the Bankhead Highway in Texas?
If you are interested in learning more about the Bankhead Highway in Texas, be sure to get a copy of Dan SMith’s book
Next month we will continue to focus on the people and places that make a Bankhead journey special.
We also are working on a trip itinerary for the Bankhead Highway. Our intention is to create a guide that will help the traveler discover some incredible people, places, and things along the Bankhead route.Please follow tabacrosstexas.com to stay up on Bankhead Highway News. Links below.
“It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
-Ursula K. Le Guin
Over a century ago, The Bankhead Highway brought together communities, political figures, and economic forces to make Manifest Destiny possible for every person in America. It created the first all-weather, all-season route from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Days ago, the Machine and I set out to find what was left of the Bankhead Highway in Texas.
A forgotten road.
A lost road.
A dead road?
Past Pecos, The Bankhead is now the service road for Interstate 20. We glide along the side of the big road and less than highway speeds. We are in no hurry.
Toyah, Texas, a haunting ghost town. Remembered for acts of violence, an expressively spooky abandoned schoolhouse, and the temporary home of Amelia Earhart.
Toyah is also where the original Bankhead Highway bridge that crossed the Pecos River currently resides.
Today the bridge is located on private land but can be seen from the road.
Soon the Davis Mountains will appear. First soft, with a purple hue, against the southern horizon. Gradually the flat land begins to roll. Foothills introduce me to a change in elevation and the Mountains grow taller with each passing mile.
Decay exist all along the road, such as The Joker Coffee Shop.
The Joker harkens back to the day of classic midcentury America.
A time when colorful comradery would cumulate between patrons and waitresses. Inappropriate comments would linger in the air, mixing with the blue smoke of Marlboros and Winstons.
Vinyl booth cushions – thick with dirt and grime. Broken springs. Thick duct tape repairing the rips and tears.
A place of curious locals. Investigating out of state license plates with due suspicions.
Depraved ethos and morals from America’s greatest generation – I love it!
Below, an abandoned stretch of the road – slowing being reclaimed by Mother Nature in this harsh and arid climate.
Van Horn, Texas, at the crossroads of multiple National Parks.
A town who owes its life to the Texas and Pacific Railroad, my traveling buddy.
Van Horn is full of friendly folks, vintage lodging, and Chuy’s Restaurant home of the John Madden “Haul” of Fame.
The Historic El Capitan Hotel is located in Van Horn. The El Capitan’s sister property, The Hotel Paisano in Marfa, hosted the stars of the Hollywood production of Giant. The guests included Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean.
Lindsey’s Cafe was also in a movie.
The location was used in the 2005 film, “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada,” starring Tommy Lee Jones. The iconic Sands sign has since been removed, but some memorabilia still exists inside.
Van Horn is a bit of an artsy town. Random sculptures and quirky art can be found all along Broadway, the Bankhead’s original route.
The Taylor Motel is one of several early 20th century courts. Serving the traveler with budget-friendly clean rooms with an attached garage.
West of Van Horn segments of the road appear – headed west on private property.
I take a moment to park and walk the road.
The dry morning air fills my lungs, easy to breathe. A cool north breeze creates a comfortable balance with the warm summer sun.
Desert grasses and yucca surround me, a world away from the pine trees, wild ferns, and assorted deciduous trees of East Texas.
Long stretches of pavement abandoned for decades, curving around the landscape, rising and falling with the topography of the earth.
Soon my path will drop into the Rio Grande Valley. Fertile lands where orchards thrive and produce an abundance of fruits.
I stop at the modern rest area. I view vast vistas of Texas, a view that has not changed in hundreds of years.
I pause to appreciate the determination of my forefathers.
In a time before service stations, cell phones, or bottled water, they would venture out into hostile and dangerous environments. Exploring, pathfinding, and creating, what would become one of the greatest system of roads the world has ever seen.
The Mountain Time Zone adds an hour to my life, I stop to spend it in Sierra Blanca, Texas.
The town is a collection of decay.
Random relicts, soon to be rubble, front the old Bankhead town’s Mainstreet.
The town is not Pop Star friendly.
Snoop Dogg, Willie Nelson, Nelly, and Fiona Apple have all been arrested in the town of fewer than 600 residents.
Their crime, drug possession.
The “Sister Gift Shop and Rocks” is open and I decide to pay the store a visit. Inside I find a collection of random rocks and jewelry, trinkets and novelties, dusty odds, and broken ends.
I meet the shop’s owner, Rosenda.
We talk like long lost friends.
Two individuals in a lonely place, removed from time and existing within something greater. Something not of our making. Something we respond to. A world that we must respect. An entity we must exist in humbly, for it is too large and powerful to respond, or bow to us.
We chat about where we are going and where we have been. In only minutes I learn about her life, children, challenges, and successes. We ponder the changes that are inevitable and what lies ahead.
I wander out into the afternoon heat and she continues her business within her shop.
Sierra Blanca is a romantic West Texas ghost town.
Allamoore, Texas, in the 1988-89 school year had a total of three students – the smallest enrollment in Texas.
Below is a photo of the remnants of the Allamoore public school.
As close as I can get to the old road without being on private property is the service road. This allows me to adjust my pace and scan the roadside for the old road. I make frequent stops to enjoy the big sky and gorgeous views of the mountains that surround the huge valleys.
The services are few and far between. Many stops have limited services such as non-working gas pumps, empty shelves, and refrigerators void of beverages.
I turn south at Fort Hancock and head toward the border.
I will be on Texas Highway 20 all the way into El Paso. Within an arms reach of Mexican dirt and traveling through the most beautiful orchards in Texas, I meander in and out of Mexican culture and Texas agriculture, a balance that has existed for years.
Today green and white border patrol vehicles are perched along the road. Keeping an eye out of ner-do-wells.
El Paso. An international Texas city. An independent. Wild. Claimed by only those who live within its boundaries.
So here I am at Rosa Cantina. Over 900 hundred miles I have traveled. Changes in culture and climate, scenery and society, economics, and the environment.
An eclectic mix of people and places that all exist in Texas.
That cool morning days ago outside of Texarkana, Texas has brought me to this warm afternoon in El Paso.
Emotion hits me that my journey is over and I recall the first quote I borrowed from Henri Frederic Amiel – “The best path through life is the highway”. I asked if the best path through Texas the Bankhead?
Today, I declare that if you are not in a hurry to end your journey. If life is too short to rush through. If you think you could find a friend in an unfamiliar place.Iif there are things hidden in the trees that you would like to see. If the world is a large place that still has things to discover. Then yes, The Bankhead is the best path.
Thank you to all who experienced this journey with me. I hope that this will encourage you to set out on your own adventure to experience something new.
“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.”
Solo motorcycle touring in vast unpopulated areas can seem daunting. The what-ifs, and what then, circulate in my mind.
The Machine’s sounds have become so familiar to my ear.
I find a rhythm in the ticks and bings. While chugging in the jugs and pops in the pipes, fill out the rest of the melody.
A mile at a time we take it, me and the Machine. Neither expecting any more from each other than what we are.
To hell with the what-ifs, westward.
Bankhead signs aplenty.
This one next to a cemetery on the route into Colorado city.
The Colorado Hotel, aka The Baker. While not as grandiose as the other Baker properties she still has an attraction, at least to me.
Read more about the Colorado City, Baker, Hotel here.
Outside of Colorado City, Texas, the KVMC radio, larger than life mic is partnered up with a Bankhead Highway sign. Follow the link below to learn more about this history of this station and its owner.
Big Spring, Texas, is a nightlife town. Great restaurants and bars sit below the Hotel Settles.
I still claim that Lumbre has the best fish tacos on the planet.
A stop at the oldest Harley Davidson dealership in Texas, that just happens to be right on the Bankhead Highway.
Keep an eye out for Quanah Parker Arrows along the route.
This area of Texas was known as Comancheria. The Comanche occupied this land for 100s of years.
Anglo settlers began to tame the wild west by relocating the Native Americans to reservation lands. This was a time of change for the Kiowa and Comanche.
Quanah Parker became a great leader of the Comanches during this time of transition. Quanah assimilated while maintaining his Comanche culture. He bipartisanly negotiated with Anglos and Native Americans to develop mutually beneficial understandings.
Several of these arrows, celebrating Quanah Parker, can be found in Bankhead Highway towns.
Right off the Bankhead Highway route is the childhood home of President George W. Bush, in Midland. I guess it would have also been President Bush’s, President Bush’s dad’s, home as well.
I find a great one-stop-shop on the route in Odessa, Texas.
Midland and Odessa are full of great sights. Vintage motels line the route as well as museums and shops.
I continue on down the Bankhead.
Just west of Odessa, the Machine and I fall off the Caprock. A dramatic difference in landscape and flora.
Now it seems like a desert.
There is my sign. Right next to my tried and true railroad track.
The Monahans Sand Dunes collect just north of my path. The sand dunes are home to the world’s largest, smallest, oak tree forest.
The forest is over 40,000 acres and the trees are not more than three feet tall.
“Don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens – The Main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.”
West Texas is big!
Wind turbines are everywhere. Their uniformity is eerie. I wish they would paint them like pinwheels, giant pinwheels planted by Goliath in the Big Sky Country.
Or it could be that I suffer from Megalophobia.
Since Texarkana, the railroad tracks have been a constant companion. I can’t tell if I am chasing the engines or if they are chasing me. A game of cat and mouse across Texas.
Those rails witnessed the birth of the Bankhead nearly 100 years ago. At that time the tracks were operated by the Texas and Pacific Railroad.
Abilene, Texas, owes its existence to the Texas and Pacific Railroad.
In 1881 cattlemen began using the location to stockpile cattle awaiting shipment to market via the T and P. They name the town Abilene after Abilene, Kansas, the terminus of the Chisholm Trail.
My traveling companion is the reason Abilene exists.
Following my partner’s tracks into downtown I discover the historic Hotel Grace.
The Grace was built in 1909 and served the needs of travelers riding on the Texas and Pacific Line. The Grace was renamed The Drake in 1946.
As passenger-train travel waned the hotel began to decline and in 1973 it shuttered for good.
Today the building has been brought back to life and houses a downtown museum.
Abilene’s downtown has been restored with preservation in mind. Theaters and museums all conditioned to the standards of today, while utilizing the character of design and construction to make them interesting.
I head west down the Bankhead and pull in to Burro Alley for some lunch.
Sitting right on, what was, the Bankhead the Burro Alley’s courtyard is a hidden gem only a few feet off the road.
The path to the restaurant, shops, and courtyard is very Santa Fe -ish.
Surrounded by a collection of stores and a restaurant this oasis in Abilene is a must stop.
The food is great.
I find little history on Burro Alley but an old postcard shows that La Posada, as opposed to El Fenix, was the original restaurant.
Comparing the Ponca today to early 20th-century linen postcards, little has changed. Still operational and welcoming guests along the Bankhead Highway.
Several other Bankhead era properties can be found in Abilene, including the Abilene Courts.
The town deserves more time than I can give. I push on.
Merkel, Texas. My favorite town on the Bankhead Highway.
The Merkel Restaurant’s fabulous roof.
Abandoned with everything left inside, the restaurant has become a roost for pigeons. Hundreds of these feathered squatters are gathered in the cafe. Giving a real Alfred Hitchcock feel to the place.
While in Merkel, be sure to check out the Merkel Museum and learn about the Hollywood movie shot in Merkel titled “Independence Day”.
Yes, Independence Day was filmed in Merkel, Texas.
On to Sweetwater.
Again, the West Texas Music Hall of Fame is closed. I peer through the window and see a collection of music memorabilia. Maybe someday I will get to go inside, until then I will have to just look at the website.
The Sweetwater Municipal Auditorium has hosted performances from Fred Astaire, Roy Acuff, Eddie Arnold, and the King himself, Elvis. Elvis visited Sweetwater in June and December of 1955 to put on a show.
A pendulum hangs motionless, without purpose, over the old Bankhead route in Sweetwater.
During World War II the majority of male pilots were actively engaged in combat overseas. This resulted in a shortage of pilots.
A need arose to shuttle planes to bases across America. With a lack of male pilots, the solution was to train females to fly, thus The Women Airforce Service Pilots (W.A.S.P) was formed.
“For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.”
The Bankhead Highway route out of Mineral Wells is the gateway to the Palo Pinto Mountains – well hills. A beautiful country where springs fed creeks that flow into the Brazos River, supplying life to the balanced collection of arid and semiarid flora throughout the region.
This was Native American land. Kiowa and Comanche roamed this section of Texas for centuries. Many nations tried to tame Comancharia and many failed.
Today the area is calm. Ranchers have staked and claimed the land, posting up the consequences for being on the wrong side of the fence.
Palo Pinto is named after a tree, a tree with spots. It is also the county seat of Palo Pinto County. Aside from the courthouse and other government offices are a few remnants of the old Bankhead Highway such as this Sinclair Station.
A number of Bankhead bridges still can be found in Palo Pinto, many with original glass marbles embedded in the cement. These were used as reflectors in the early 1920s.
On to Strawn, Texas. Home of the “world’s best” chicken-fried steak.
The Bankhead Hotel was built in the early 1920s on the Bankhead Highway in Strawn, Texas.
A 1924 photo can be found at the Strawn community museum of the bricks being hand-laid in front of the hotel.
Bob Stogsdill recently repainted the Bankhead Hotel sign. I found Bob in the museum and we spoke about the history of Strawn.
Many of these Bankhead Highway towns’ histories are kept in the minds of residents. When one of these little museums are open, they are worth a stop. The simple experience of sharing experiences is worth the time spent.
The Machine. Sitting pretty on 96-year-old road.
Now about that, “World’s Best Chicken-fried Steak”.
Mary’s has made that claim and by the number of cars and motorcycles in the parking lot – she might be right.
Ranger, Texas, is coming up next.
I have made a decision to travel about ten miles of interstate and check out a roadside rest area that is also a bit of a Bankhead Highway Museum.
Before I get there I see progress, or more precisely the evolution, of the Bankhead Highway. If you look to the right you see a little road “snaking” to the right side of the hill, which is the original Bankhead Highway.
As we created larger machines to make greater cuts, the four-lane grey road just next to the old route was built. For years this hill of I-20 caused headaches for tractor-trailers as they struggled up the incline.
Today, man and machine have all but flattened the hill. On the left is the new road: quicker, faster, safer.
At the top, I find the roadside rest area I am looking for. A section of original pavement along with the appropriate markers makes an ideal spot to let fido do his business. Watch your step – rattlesnakes and dog dung may be in the area.
Inside the rest area is a great group of exhibits discussing the Bankhead Highway.
On to Ranger, Texas, to ride some vintage brick pavement.
These bricks were laid for a reason. Ranger was an oil boomtown. Fortunes were made overnight and with the wealth came the population.
Ranger was busy with oil field workers running up and down the dirt streets around the clock. Soon Ranger, Texas, was stuck in the mud.
No fear. Thurber, Texas, now a ghost town, and a stones throw from Ranger, had 800 workers producing 80,000 bricks per day. The decision was easy to build those streets with brick.
Today the Machine is riding on some of those brick.
I make my way into Eastland and find that the town is supporting the old highway with some Bankhead Banners around the courthouse square.
Within the walls of that courthouse, one will find Eastland’s claim to fame, Old Rip. The zombie horned toad that visited the White House. Today his body “Lies in State” within the walls of the local government building.
In a more modest and traditional postmortem plot, one will find Josiah Gordon “Doc” Scurlock. A cowboy and gunfighter, he is remembered as a founding member of the Regulators.
Scurlock rode with Billy the Kid during the Lincoln County Wars in New Mexico.
Scurlock died in 1929 at the age of 80 and is buried in the Eastland City Cemetery.
A vintage stop sign on the courthouse square.
Tons of brick roads, I am not tired of them yet.
In downtown Cisco, I pull into the Mobley Hotel. This hotel was Conrad Hilton’s first hotel. Today it serves as the Chamber of Commerce, although there are period correct rooms to view, it does not provide accommodations for today’s travelers.
Santa Clause robbed a bank on Christmas in Cisco. Google it. Very interesting story.
The bank and the historical marker.
West of Cisco, I take FM 2945, not sure if it is the right road. Quickly, I find that it is.
Again, the Bankhead Bridges don’t change.
This viaduct reassured me that I was on the right route. This rise in the road is to allow the train to pass without interference in travel.
Originally it would have the Texas and Pacific Rail Road running beneath the Bankhead route. We will get into more of that in the days to come.
The next town is Baird, Texas.
Crispy Cold Fruits and Vegetables. A vintage grocers’ prized possession, today scrap.
Couldn’t find that discount beer either. Deceptive.
I take Finley Road out of Baird. A mixture of pavement, dirt, and rock. The Machine stays under 20 miles per hour and in second gear.
I begin to wonder if I have made a mistake taking this section of Bankhead’s alignment.
This road pays off big.
We have stumbled upon a worn and weathered, beat and broken, severed and shattered, cracked and crumbling, beautiful bridge.
Rebar rise from the torn towers of the railing like exposed nerves. Hunks of the structure lay below in the shallow creek.
Still firm it stands, serving the purpose it was built to do, take travelers west down the Bankhead Highway.
The all-weather, all-season, all condition road.
I will end Across the State in Eight (part 5) – A Bankhead Highway motorcycle adventure with a pour, again, from Cisco’s own Red Gap Brewing “1878 Lager”.
Stay tuned for part 6 of the Bankhead adventure. Please like and share the Facebook posts.
About halfway there.
Please join us on our ride. Feel free to follow on Instagram and Facebook – links on this page. Thanks.
“There’s something about arriving in new cities, wandering empty streets with no destination. I will never lose the love for the arriving, but I’m born to leave.”
– Charlotte Eriksson
I stay as true to the original route as possible through Dallas, Fort Worth, and all the cities in between. Honestly, this is a tough part of the ride.
Start. Stop. Red light, green light.
Green, Yellow, Stop.
The knuckles of my clutch hand have had enough, the phalanges have become fused together and my thumb is stuck in an action figure pose.
Soon I am on the west side of Fort Worth heading down Camp Bowie Blvd.
A brick road, a wonderful brick road.
Camp Bowie Blvd. takes its name from the Thirty-sixth Infantry Division camp that was located in the area from 1917 to 1919. Camp Bowie was named after James Bowie, the Alamo defender.
Today Camp Bowie Blvd thrives with trendy shops and upscale properties.
Some mid-century motels remain in certain sections. While the signs might seem as fresh as ever, most of the properties provide lodging to long term rentals and a blind eye to shady behaviors.
The historic Ridglea Theater stands on the location where the Cottage City tourist camp once served Bankhead Highway No. 1 travelers. At the time the tourist camp was five miles outside of the city of Fort Worth.
Times have changed. Today, the icon seems to be in the middle of town.
On to Weatherford, Texas.
Miles of great Bankhead exist between Fort Worth and Weatherford. Curving and weaving, dipping and rising, among tilled fields, pastures, and those master-planned communities.
Some like this section seem hidden. Blind curves would have created dangerous travel in the early 20th century.
These Bankhead segments are not abandoned. Still utilized by locals for local business. Again, I am in awe that these roads have held up so well with little to no maintenance.
Weatherford, Texas, is home to the Vintage Car Museum that is right off the town’s square and right on the old Bankhead route.
I get a quick photo of the Machine in front of the pumps before I make my way inside.
The Vintage runs off donations and has several unique and rare rides.
This is a 1939 Alvis, it was manufactured by an English company until the factory was destroyed by a bomb during World War II. Check out the odd “new” induction system – it looks like it has a pre-war turbo.
Ready to find some more of that Bankhead Highway, I bid farewell to Weatherford and search out more forgotten pieces of the old road.
Soon a sign appears. A Bankhead sign.
They seem to be everywhere now. No need for me to get on the interstate when I have this seasoned blacktop headed in the same direction. More character and soul than an interstate could ever have.
Mineral Wells is my next stop. While the Baker Hotel is the big draw to the town, I select someplace a bit different, unique, and honest.
The Laumdronat – Washing Machine Museum.
How fun is this. Wash clothes and learn about the history of washing clothes.
It is not just antique washers on display, cases line the walls with trinkets and wonders of the washateria, including this hanger dispenser.
A quick stop at the Crazy Well for a drink of water infused with lithium and I am ready to roll.
And a photo with the recreation of the Crazy sign.
Bringing national acts into Greenville, Texas, The Texan is not just a renovated movie palace from the past – it is a world class entertainment venue.
The Bankhead is calling. I stretch my legs with a quick walk and mount the Machine for our next stretch of the Bankhead.
The next section of the Bankhead is now labeled as Texas 66, aka Route 66.
Texas 66, a wonderful section of road. A mishmash of farmland and masterplans.
The road has changed. The environment has changed. Texas has changed.
Only a few miles ago, dense trees and swampy lowlands surrounded me. Today the horizon has opened up. I can see farther than ever before. Heading west to the Big Sky Country. Soon the city.
The beautiful Bankhead town of Rockwall, Texas, respecting the old route with a great sign. The towns of Rockwall, Rowlett, and Garland have all done, due diligence in honoring the Bankhead Highway.
I plan to repay them with a stop at the Bankhead Brewery. Before that, there is one thing I have to see.
Yes, that is an original 1922 Bankhead Highway build. Today Main street east bound terminus is the lake, where the original Bankhead bridge rails peak out of the water, like snorkels. Never die.
This road IS alive.
I break at the Bankhead Brewery only a couple of miles down Main Street. I am pleased that this establishment that has borrowed the name that gives credit to the road.
Unique art embellishes the walls of the Bankhead Brewery like this barbed-wire map of the route.
Continuing on Texas 66 into Garland, I find the historical marker celebrating the old road. I position the Machine for a photo. Take a walk around the square and continue on into the city of Dallas, Texas.
I turn off 66 onto 76 and begin my descent into the city. Grand homes and gardens flank me while the sky line of Dallas presents itself grand against the blue sky. I enter into town beside Fair Park and find that the old Bankhead route travels through Deep Ellum, Dallas’ entertainment district.
I continue through the “Big D” staying true to the Bankhead route. I turn south on Jefferson Ave to find a way across the Trinity River and an original Bankhead bridge.
Before I cross the river, the historical “sixth floor” lingers over my shoulder.
Goodbye to Dallas. The west is ahead of me and the Machine.
I will end, Across the State in Eight (part 3) – A Bankhead Highway motorcycle adventure with a pour from Rowlett’s own Bankhead Brewery’s limited run brew.
Stay tuned for part 4 of the Bankhead adventure that will take us further west – into the Big Sky country of Texas.
“The best path through life is the highway.” – Henri Frederic Amiel
Is the best path through Texas the Bankhead Highway?
Today the journey begins and maybe, when complete, I can answer that question.
A chilly morning in Texarkana, Texas, and I attempt to get some shots of the Machine in downtown.
Texarkana is still asleep and I decide not to wake her.
Texarkana is a town on the brink of rebirth. A resurgence can be felt all around. The discovery of something old and interesting by the heritage tourist and urban explorers.
Effort all around the community excite the aging stone and iron, stirring the soul of the town that produced “The Father of Ragtime”, Scott Joplin.
Revitalization, no longer lip service, as crews, scaffolds, and engineers rework, redesigned, and reward a downtown that had fallen on hard times.
I drop by the Harley Davidson dealer and they are busy jockeying bikes. I discuss my trip’s plans with an interested employee. Before the conversation turns to bike purchasing I decide to get on my way.
Today will be a short day in the mileage sense. The point is not to get from A to B, it is to find a lost highway, The Bankhead Highway.
I have no plans to continue any further than Sulphur Springs, Texas, during today’s ride. This entire journey will be a slow ride, visiting towns, looking, listening, an attempt to find the pulse of the Bankhead Highway.
I know it exists, I know this road is alive.
Quickly outside of Texarkana I pick up “Old Redwater Road”
Old Redwater Road is original Bankhead Highway alignment. The road’s purpose today is to service a handful of homes and shade the motorcycle traveler with a canopy of trees.
As I travel toward Maud, Texas, I begin to see the old original Bankhead hidden in the trees only feet from the current pavement of Hwy 67.
Century old bridges and asphalt partially hidden in plain sight. I scout for a way to access the old road. Soon I find the spot.
The condition of the abandoned roadway is a testament to the longevity of the skilled craftsmen’s construction.
Maud’s main street still carries the name Broadway. An homage to the Bankhead Highway’s nickname, The Broadway of America.
From Maud, I turn south on Texas 8 toward Douglassville.
Deep in the trees of East Texas I pause to appreciate the colors of spring. A mixture of pine and oak crowd but do not overtake the needed space, nutrients, or sunlight from one another, while clusters of wildflower collectively create colorful roadside tussie-mussie.
I roll into Naples, Texas, nestle the Machine up next to a curb and look for a place to grab a cup of coffee. Unsure that I will find success in this small Bankhead town, I am pleased when I stumble upon Chartier’s Wine and Coffee Bar.
Chartier’s proprietors, Dennis and Connie Chartier, have built a comfortable cafe that was an unexpected surprise to find in Athens. While I enjoyed the coffee, I was able to learn more about the Bankhead Highway, a subject in which the Chartiers are well versed.
From Athens I find more original Bankhead Highway. One can tell the Bankhead by the bridges. The same style of bridge was used all the way across Texas. In the upcoming days the Machine and I will cross many original Bankhead bridges.
The old Bankhead route is incredibly, and surprisingly, smooth. A very relaxing ride.
Mount Pleasant and Mount Vernon, come quickly. I make my way to the historical museum in Mount Vernon, Texas.
Mount Vernon was home to Dallas Cowboy’s quarterback Don Meredith. The museum has an excellent exhibit with many personal items from the Dallas Cowboy’s legend.
The museum also has a permanent exhibit of bird eggs. A unique collection that contains eggs from extinct birds.
While picking up some “road” food I found the local convenience store celebrating both Meredith and the Bankhead Highway.
I will end Across the State in Eight (part 2) – A Bankhead Highway motorcycle adventure with a pour for Sulphur Springs own Backstory Brewery’s “Blonde Blood Orange”.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of the Bankhead adventure that will take us into Sulphur Springs, Texas, a dynamic East Texas community. We will visit a micro brewery and unique attractions before continuing on into Greenville and the big cities of Dallas and Fort Worth.
Years ago, darkness filled the space between city limit signs, a void of life and light. These lonely stretches of blacktop created ideal spots for drive-in theaters.
In the middle of the last century, “Midway” drive-ins popped up along those segments of highway. Strategically placed midway between towns, the Drive-ins would benefit from both populations’ patronage. Mid-century summer nights would come to life in these otherwise desolate areas midway between towns.
One such “Midway” Drive-in existed along what was once known as the Bankhead Highway in Sweetwater, Texas.
Sweetwater’s Midway Drive-In opened on May 20, 1948, with a screening of “The Time, the Place and the Girl,” starring Dennis Morgan. Warner Bros’. most successful film during 1946 and 1947, earning $3,461,000 domestically and $1,370,000 foreign. Might this success be the reason the Midway opened with it two years later?
Owned by Jack Wallace. He, Dorothy, his wife, and son J.D. ran the theater. The projectionist was Billy Faught.
Many other outdoor cinemas share the Midway’s demise. Victims of changing culture and fluctuating populations. Today the screen still stands, a mammoth white cement wall, waiting to continue to perform its duty, frozen in time, just off West Broadway, Sweetwater, Texas.