“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.
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Mineral Wells to Abilene