Good morning from the Motel Safari on Main Street USA. A very pleasant April morning in New Mexico. The cool dry air makes the walk to Kix on 66 a refreshing experience. Tucumcari is not yet awake, and I easily slid into the booth of the reworked Denny’s. Kix on 66 is a staple for breakfast during any Route 66 road trip. The owner is greeting each individual as they walk in adding the personal touch to the service. Three cups of coffee and a two-egg breakfast later I am making my way back to the motel to pack up the bike and travel east across the Texas Panhandle. My quest is to search for a lesser known Route 66 road side attraction, the Quanah Parker Arrows.
Quanah Parker was the last Comanche Chief. His history is largely forgotten today but evidence of his influence can still be seen across the Plains Region of the United States. The Quanah Parker Arrows began to appear across Texas around the year 2011. These 22-foot-tall reminders of Parker pierce the Earth in over 80 spots across the Texas Panhandle. A few of these arrows exist on Route 66. And those are my destination today.
I did not get off to an early start due to a conversation that started up with my motel neighbor as he packed his car. We exchanged our pleasantries and then went down the rabbit hole of Route 66 itineraries. He and his wife were four days into a run to Los Angeles and they would soon turn north to Las Vegas, New Mexico, following the old route up the Santa Fe Trail. I always get a bit envious when I meet people heading west. He inquired about my journey; I mention the name Quanah Parker and an unaware look overtakes his face and our conversation ends. This chance encounter is more evidence that my journey has purpose. I must inform the Route 66 travelers of the other roadside arrows. The Quanah Parker Arrows.
I top off with fuel and accel rapidly down Interstate 40 letting the Tucumcari Mountains fade in my mirrors. I feel a sense of sadness as I approach the Texas Panhandle knowing that soon I will pull up and out of the scarred and colorful land of New Mexico and find myself sitting on top of the cotton fields and windmills, the Texas Plains. Before this happens, I stop into Russel’s Travel Center to take advantage of the free car museum and air conditioning.
Vega, Texas is my first stop, but before I get there, I will make a stop in Adrian and the Midpoint Café. It is about 10:45 am and I am one of two tables in the café. I have a cup of coffee and the Elvis pie, a peanut butter, chocolate, and banana slice of pure bliss. The Midpoint Café sits on a lonely strip of Route 66, but it does have a certain warmth and comfort about it. I watch out the window and cars stop, photos are taken, faces peer into the window, and then return to the road. I should go outside and tell them to come in and have a piece of pie.
A couple of miles later I am in Vega. Excited to find my first Quanah Arrow, I make a right toward the court house. Looking right and then left I travel a block or two past the town square and began to feel a bit uneasy about how successful I will be on this arrow hunt. I make a loop around the court house and there it is. Proudly protruding from the ground and seaming somewhat out of place. While not hidden the arrow is place behind the closed tourist information center. I park and take my photo, one arrow down two to go.
Crossing the panhandle of Texas on a motorcycle can be exhausting when the southern wind blows hot and hard. I tilt the bike into the wind and let the speedometer increase to inappropriate numbers to get to my next destination, McLean, Texas.
McLean is full of Route 66 stops and photo opportunities. The Phillips 66 station and the Devils Rope Museum along with several shut down and decrepit relics and road signs of yesterday. I am looking for one thing in McLean and that is the arrow. I am so excited to find that this one is not hidden behind a building. It is set out in a field at the crossroad of Ranch Road 2695 and “Route 66”. The quickness of this find was a bit bittersweet. I only had one arrow left to find. The last arrow was somewhere in Shamrock, Texas.
I exit off the interstate with the wind still hot and gusts that have me wanting to turn north. The long grey stretch of business 40 depresses me with it falling down buildings overtaken by mother nature, but like an oasis in the desert, I see it the U Drop In. The iconic U Drop Inn and the work that the community has put into developing and maintaining this incredible art deco masterpiece is appreciated by this Route 66 traveler. I circle around the station and drive up and down the streets of Shamrock. No arrow to be found. I finally stop to ask a local. It does exist. I follow main street south and there it is thirty yards off the road in a freshly mowed field. This arrow was it rough shape, but I can only assume that the winds and sun that have battered and baked me take a toll on this roadside arrow.
While the historical significance of the Quanah Parker Arrows might not be known or understood by all the Route 66 travelers, they are still a fun roadside attraction to keep an eye out for. The arrows allow the traveler to recognize that the plains area of America that Route 66 runs has a history that predates mid-century motels and the dust bowl. Even with the wind and heat today was an excellent adventure and I hope others make the Quanah Parker Arrows part of their Route 66 journey.