Across the State in Eight (part 7- Loraine to Pecos) – A Bankhead Highway motorcycle adventure.

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“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.”

-Edward Abbey

Solo motorcycle touring in vast unpopulated areas can seem daunting. The what-ifs, and what then, circulate in my mind.

Constantly.

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.

Coloradocity

This one next to a cemetery on the route into Colorado city.

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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.

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The biggest mic in the world?

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.

KVMC radio station is known as  the “Voice of Mitchell County”

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The old Bankhead Alignment headed west into Big Springs, Texas.

Keep in mind, if you are on the interstate, you are not on the right road.

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A true 5-star hotel. 

 

The Hotel Settles underwent a 60 million dollar renovation recently, repositioning its status as the greatest hotel between El Paso and Fort Worth.

More about the hotel here.

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.

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Not the largest Harley Davidson in Texas, but the oldest.

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.

 

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A Quanah Parker Arrow. 

 

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.

 

 

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A little W. rode his bike around here. 

 

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.

 

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What else would one need?

 

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.

 

 

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Well marked routes. 

 

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.

Check out the link to learn more.

Next to my route is a water tank for the old Texas and Pacific Railroad.

 

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When a train needs a drink?

 

I stay on the service road, the original alignment. Away from the motorists who are in a hurry.

From Pyote, Texas, I take a detour to Wink, Texas, to check out a museum.

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Wink, Texas, is the hometown of Roy Orbison.

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The small town celebrates its Rock-n-Roll legend with a museum right on Mainstreet.

Visitors can actually try on a pair of Orbison’s own glasses.

Back on the Bankhead, I find the Rattlesnake Bomber Base. 

The second airbase we have visited out in west Texas that was utilized to train pilots and crew during World War II.

Rattlesnake Bomber Base was the B-17 Flying Fortress crew training base. After the war, the base became home for unused aircraft including the Enola Gay.

 

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A lonely forgotten historical marker – A place that helped secure world freedom. 

 

On December 2, 1953, the Enola Gay was flown out of Pyote, Texas’, Rattlesnake Bomber Base to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C., the last time it was in the air.

On to Pecos, Texas, home of the first rodeo.

Yes, the first rodeo ever.

 

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Was the Bankhead, BH, an afterthought?

 

Big Boots in Pecos outside the museum with a little BH on them.

It is disheartening to find things turned to rubble. Sometimes it is Mother Nature reclaiming what is hers. Other times it is Man clearing the way for progress or to remove an eyesore.

 

 

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The little that is left of the Boulder Courts 

All that is left of the Boulder Courts in Pecos is the sign and arch entry.

Why couldn’t they just have torn it all down?

 

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Back in the day. 

 

I will end Across the State in Eight (part 7) – A Bankhead Highway motorcycle adventure with the final pour from Cisco’s own, Red Gap Brewing “Gunsight Hefeweizen”.

 

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Stay tuned for part 8, and the end to the Bankhead Highway Adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

Quanah Parker Arrows of Route 66

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The Quanah Parker Arrows of Route 66

Greetings from Tucumcari, New Mexico. A very pleasant morning in New Mexico, the cool dry air echoing nothing, as this Route 66 town has not yet awakened. The calm and cool air will be missed later this afternoon as the summer sun of the Texas Panhandle and the ambient heat of the v-twin will create an uncomfortable yet rewarding ride east across the top of Texas.

This ride is a quest. This ride has a purpose. That purpose is to search for a lesser-known Route 66 roadside attraction, the Quanah Parker Arrows.

Who’s Quanah Parker?

Quanah Parker was the last Comanche Chief. The son of a Comanche father and Anglo mother. Quanah’s life would develop into a saga of struggle and survival.  Quanah would become an ambassador for his People, he would negotiate and mediate written and verbal agreements between the Native Americans and Anglos that would be of greater benefit than any before.

Quanah personified the Native American image that media and pop culture has embedded in the American psyche. Stoic with masculinity in demeanor and physique that transcends time and place.  Quanah would learn to navigate the political waters of the Anglo culture, befriending old enemies and creating new alliances in his pursuit to preserve the Comanche Culture heritage.

Kickstand up.

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.

Eager to get rolling, I top off with fuel and accel rapidly down Interstate 40 letting the flat-topped Tucumcari Mountain fade in my mirrors. Condensation begins to form in the speedometer of the bike. A sure sign of a changing of temperature and humidity.

The morning sun’s blinding rays directed right in my eyes as the sun rises on the rail that is interstate 30 running east. This requires me to gaze to the left and right, allowing my thoughts to be carried to the far horizon. Some are left on the horizon while others return to mind to be discarded at another time.

A bit of sadness overtakes me as I approach the Texas Stateline, 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. I extend my time in New Mexico with a pitstop at Russel’s Travel Center to take advantage of the free car museum and air conditioning.

 

Where did these giant arrows come from?

The arrows were created by Charles Smith a Lubbock, Texas native. Charles never set out to create what would become, some argue, the largest art installation in the world. Charles did not intend to be honored and adopted into Quanah Parker’s family and given the name Paaka-Hani-Eti, meaning “Arrow Maker.” Charles was a welder who built metal palm trees at his home, an hour south of Lubbock, in the heart of the Texas Plains.

Charles Smith stumbled into this honor by doing a favor for a friend.

These 22-foot-tall tributes tower over Texas as token reminders of the impact of Quanah Parker.   Piercing the Earth in over 80 spots across the Texas Panhandle, these arrows give perspective of the extensive and enormous size of what was once Comancheria, the area the Comanches called home.

Before Charles’ passing, he created and placed over eighty arrows in more than fifty counties in the Panhandle-Plains Region of Texas. These arrows became The Quanah Parker Trail.

Today I will be visiting three along the Texas section of Route 66.

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.

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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 – 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.

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Texas towns, like Adrian, dot the Texas map and are more numerous than the stars in an urban sky.  Small towns whose arrested development and progress stall is apparent in not only infrastructure and development but in the citizens’ attitude. An attitude of the community that embodies the posture, perspective, and position that epitomizes the idea of small-town Texas.

Charles Smith was from New Home, Texas, south of my current location in the panhandle. Miles away on a map, but as close as my nose, when it comes to similarity of community.

Community is easy to define in New Home, Texas. With a population of around four-hundred Texas Tech Red Raiders alumni, family, and fans that know each other by name and neighbors who still look to help each other out.

This sense of community would ultimately create what is known as the Quanah Parker Trail Arrows. Over eighty-eight arrows pierce the Texas Plains. Each denotes a particular site of Comanche and Quanah Parker’s history.

It all began in The Spot Cafe in New Home.

Gid Moore, New Home’s local insurance agent, was looking to create an area for local school children to learn more about literature. He imagined a yard full of art that allowed the children to experience words through a large three-dimensional permanent art display.

He shared with Charles his idea to materialize Longfellow’s, The Arrow and The Song and Inspired 88 with a large arrow. Charles, a welder and metal worker, loved the idea and got to work. This was 2003.

Charles Smith’s one-off piece would stand in New Home, Texas, for many years before being discovered by a group of individuals looking for that particular piece that would become the monuments on the Quanah Parker Trail.

In 2010, his creation would become the model and inspiration that would become the Quanah Parker Trail markers.

The hunt for arrow number one

A couple of miles of interstate later, I am in Vega. Excited to find my first Quanah Arrow, I make a right toward the courthouse. Still early in the day and the rumble of the bike’s exhaust vibrates the small-town square. 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 courthouse and there it stands. Proudly protruding from the ground and seeming somewhat out of place. While not hidden, the arrow is placed behind a renovated Magnolia Gas Station, a currently utilized tourist information center.

I park the bike and take my photo.

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One down, two to go.

I pass the Cadillacs that are digging their way to China. My peripheral vision picks up the trail of tourists marching like ants toting cans of spray paint to leave their mark while building layers of paint. Paint like a sarcophagus or possibly a chrysalis, surrounding and protecting the Caddies for a possible new life. Maybe someday I will pass by and see the iconic American iron breaking open and exposing a morphed, magnificent, modern, machine.

Traffic is light and I can maintain a constant speed until some construction gets in the way on the east side of town. The Big Texan Steak Ranch is calling, but I avoid the trap and take a break at the Texas travel information center. The sun is high in the sky and my oil temp is holding steady.

What lies ahead is pure Texas plains, some serious heat, a relentless dance with semi-trucks and two more arrows. I lean 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 Devil’s 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 crossroads 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.

One arrow to go.

I exit off the interstate. The long grey stretch of business 40 depresses me with decay and dilapidated buildings overtaken by mother nature.  An icon soon appears ahead, The U Drop-In.

The 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.  I follow the main street south and there it is thirty yards off the road in a freshly mowed field. I pull into a parking lot and walk over to the arrow.

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Looking up at the faded arrow I become overwhelmed with the vastness of Texas and time but satisfied with the ability to celebrate the freedom of our American highways, the past cultures, and diversity that has created the state I call home.

Or it could just be the heat.

 

 

Cynthia Ann and Quanah Parker – A Poem Story Thing

She was taken from her family,

When she was just a child.

Lost her name and language,

Living in the wild,

Open spaces of Comancheria,

Was to become her home.

Never settled in one place,

Constantly did they roam.

One could ask.

One could wonder.

Was this good or bad?

Will the changes in Cynthia Ann’s life,

Forever make her sad?

 

 

She grew up and had a family.

Her children numbered three.

The events of her childhood,

Faded in her memory.

One day her boys were playing,

While dad hunted buffalo.

Mom and daughter worked in camp.

Little did they know,

People from mother’s past,

Were close by,

Waiting to attack.

After many lives were lost,

These people took her back.

To the life she had forgotten,

And to those who were her kin.

Once again, a new life,

Cynthia Ann would begin.

One might ask,

One might wonder,

Is this good or bad?

Will the changes in Cynthia Ann’s life,

Forever make her sad?

 

Her boys were now,

Without their parents,

On the vast plains all alone.

Looking for other Comanche Bands,

To adopt them as their own.

Their situation was difficult,

But soon they would find their way.

And Quanah’s life, would change drastically,

In his upcoming days.

One might ask,

one might wonder,

Is this good or bad?

Should the brothers’ situation,

Forever make them sad?

 

Quanah became a leader.

A warrior brave and strong.

But life in Comancheria would,

Not last for very long.

Buffalo Hunters,

Soldiers,

And Ranchers,

Drove the Comanche from their homes.

Moved the Comanches to reservation land,

Where buffalo did not roam.

One might ask,

One might wonder,

Is this good or bad?

Will the comanche’s situation,

Forever make them sad?

 

Quanah learned to live a life,

Much different than he knew.

And when he thought about his mother,

He knew what she went through.

Having to assimilate,

In a new world,

And hold onto his culture too.

Would be difficult,

But this was what,

Quanah had to do.

One might ask,

One might wonder,

Is this good or bad.

Will Quanah’s forced new life,

Forever make him sad?

On the reservation,

Quanah could have felt much bitterness.

Instead he looked to find new ways to live,

And not allow regress,

Of the Comanche Nation,

He would not allow to fall.

He made friends of his enemies,

For the good of them all.

One might ask,

One might wonder,

Was this good or bad?

Should Quanah’s compromise,

Forever make him sad?

 

In the end Quanah would find,

Success in many ways.

He would be loved,

Respected by many,

For the remainder of his days.

So, one might ask,

One might wonder,

Was all this good or bad?

Should the situations,

in one’s life,

Forever make him sad?