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.

 

 

A True Route 66 Road Trip Spotify Playlist (Please do not Shuffle)

Great road trips require great playlist. Many times road trip playlists are full of tired songs heard at least one million times. How about a playlist that played the songs of the region, state, city, or town the traveler was currently passing trough. Cruising and listen to the music that was born in the local area.

I wanted to create a great playlist like this.

A playlist that would mirror the travelers surroundings. A playlist that would sound like the towns, cities, and people along the road. An All-American playlist. A playlist born from the emotions of those who have experienced the highs and lows of life. A playlist that has witnessed history and would help the listener become even more amerced  in the road.

The road is the iconic Route 66. The playlist will take the listener from Chicago to Los Angeles. The music is the creation of the cities along the road, East to West. That is the songs are from the regions the traveler is passing trough. The songs run the gamut but still stay true to the local American culture of their birth.

A playlist that would play something like this.

Pinetop Smith will get the engine warmed up with some Chicago boogie Woogie. Curtis Mayfield will continue with the Windy City party taking the listener into the classic Kind of a Drag by the Buckinghams. Before the road opens up into Illinois the playlist will catch the listener up with more current Chicago sounds such as Styx and Fall Out Boy.

As the road continues and the traveler motors west into the low lands of the Mississippi River the music will roll with the changes and offer up the appropriate tunes. Ella Fitgerald and Count Basie will allow one to Dream A Little Dream and Scott Joplin will reintroduce the traveler to some Ragtime. Uncle Tupelo will set the mood with Moonshiner.

As middle America comes into sight and the Arch fades in the rear view Tulsa, Oklahoma will offer up the next selection. Leon Russel will keep a Tight Rope while J.J. Cale will remind Eric Clapton who really discovered Cocaine.

The playlist will remind the traveler that this is cowboy country with selections from Roy Clark and Bob Wills. Tulsa Time is about to run out as the Route continues west across Oklahoma and Texas to Roger Millers dismay.

Flying across the panhandle Joe Elly will remind us all of  what to do When The Nights are Cold and Terry Stafford will sing Amarillo by Morning – by noon New Mexico or mid-morning.

New Mexico songs will get the adrenaline pumping. Femme Fatale and The Eyeliners will bring some Power Pop and Hair Metal into the mix. Demi Lovato, that has a New Mexico connection, will find some Stone Cold in the desert.

Flagstaff will allow a respite from the road and will offer up some mellow sounds. As the desert turns to forest Flagstaff’s own Four Cornered Room will sweeten up the trip with some Honey. Tiny Bird will add some Watercolors to the lower elevation and landscape changes on the way to Kingman.

Ah – California. Music, so much music. The playlist will stay close to Barstow, San Bernadito, and Los Angeles. Black Flag and X will help  the traveler get past the frustration of traffic. Ratt, Roses, and the Crue will keep the 80’s spirit alive and the Beach Boys encourage the traveler to Don’t Worry Baby. It will be alright.

Please check out the Spotify playlist “Route 66 – Music for and from each city and region along the route…”

 

 

 

2019 – The summer of KOAs

In the mid-seventies while the nation was in a gas shortage and energy crisis my family was pulling a Terry bumper-pull travel trailer around the USA. In my mind we were always traveling somewhere, in hindsight I realize my blue-collar dad only had off a couple of weeks per year making this memory of constant transcontinental travel impossible.

Today, I know many memories were the product of photo albums and stories that saturated my mind.  It really does not matter to me how these reflections of family vacations  got in my head, they are there and that is what is important.

Oh – most of my memories are at KOAs

So In the summer of 2019 Tab across Texas hit the road and to check out a few KOAs to determine if they still held the power to create memories.

Spoiler alert, to our surprise, they did.

Our summer journey began in Oklahoma and we would ultimately stay in four Oklahoma KOAs.

Each KOA offered a different experience with similar vibe, a friendly vibe. No matter if we just showed up to get a spot or called ahead, the KOA staff seemed authentic in manner and customer service.

As for the experience – right on the mark for memory making. From fishing ponds to  game rooms, on-site horse tracks to casinos, not to mention the swimming pools and wonderful restroom and shower facilities Oklahoma’s KOAs are A OK.

Our KOA experiences continued on into Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada.

The KOAs in places such as Abilene, Texas and Grants, New Mexico we used for quick overnight spots. Even for these stays of less than twelve hours the KOA offered easy setup, attentive staff, and quite neighbors.

The Las Cruces, New Mexico KOA was an experience that will not be forgotten. A pleasant staff greeted us on arrival and we settled into a spot with a great view of the Organ Mountains. A wonderful sunset and a brilliant night sky made for a wonderful experience.

Our KOA experience in Mesa, Arizona was just as pleasant as New Mexico. Our site had a great view of Superstition Mountain and was surrounded by Saguaro cactus. The busy season in Arizona is definitely winter, while during summer reservations would not be required for an RV site, many attractions and restaurants are closed for the season.

Tab across Texas made it all the way to Las Vegas during the summer of 2019. We found a KOA at Sam’s Town Hotel and Casino and set up for a couple of nights. At first we were a bit leery about a KOA on Bolder Highway in Las Vegas but our concerns quickly dissipated as we entered into this desert oasis. While the RV sites are nothing to write home about the pool and facilities are great. With the Tab only a few yards from these amenities we would spend the day by the pool before venturing over, easy walk, to Sam’s Town for and evening of entertainment.

Tab across Texas stayed in a total of nine different KOA in five different states over the course of the summer of 2019. The KOAs offered a consistency in operation that allowed us to not worry about what to expect from each overnight.

While the prices ranged from thirty to fifty dollars per night, Tab across Texas believes that quality comes at a price and from our experiences, KOA is quality.

Kiser’s 66 Super Service Station – Route 66

According to the Texas State Historical Association’s website, Alenreed was home to an estimated 52 inhabitants in 2001. This small Texas town is located on Route 66, in the Texas Panhandle, just west of McLean, Texas.  Route 66 travelers know Allenreed as  home to the Kiser’s 66 Super Service Station.

The station is not visible from I-40 but is a visit and photo opportunity  worth the detour. I traveled through Alenreed a few days ago and decided to stop in to see how Kiser’s 66 was holding up.

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Aside from needing some bushes trimmed and grass cut the Kiser’s 66 presented  well. A visitor will notice that many of the surrounding buildings and homes are in similar condition as the station giving the area a certain ghost town feel.

I did notice that the Route 66 badge had been pried off the sign attached to the station. While this type of souvenir collecting is disheartening the station has survived with little to no vandalism or abuse.

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This original Texas canopy station is well worth the stop. I would encourage all Route 66 travelers not to miss out on a semi-hidden Texas roadside treasure.

 

A Presidential Toilet on Route 66

The last time we stayed at the El Rancho in Gallup, New Mexico, we decided to up-our-game and stay in the Presidential Suite. IMG_0780.jpg

We love the El Rancho and Gallup and would never say anything negative. The room was nothing to write home about, but the bathroom…

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Oh my.

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Oh, and if you decided to bring your entire wardrobe…

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The next time your travels take you to Gallup, stay in the Presidential Suite at the El Rancho on Route 66. Oh, I did not post all the photos so there will  be some surprises.

The Right Amount Of Decay – Route 66

It was right around the turn of the last century. The Fort Worth Star Telegram had an article about Route 66, a brief article that sparked our attention. Our family was young, lots of energy with more time than money. With a love for mid-century and Americana, we broke out the map to look for reliable and cheap places to stay on or near the Route,  also known as in-laws and uncles. After a few phone calls to secure our reservations, we plotted our course and headed north towards Tulsa, Oklahoma, from North Texas.

This was our first introduction to Route 66. Traveling pre-internet and iPhones, we relied heavily on the article and a map that was purchased in a Tulsa mall’s bookstore. With our limited reference materials, we located the iconic Blue Whale for the mandatory photo and had lunch at the almost forgotten original Metro Diner near 11th Street and Harvard Ave. in Tulsa. After staying the night with the mother-in-law, we hit the road west, for some reason driving mostly on the interstate.

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I flew across western Oklahoma like I was being chased by a tornado. Again, in our defense, if a stop was not discussed in the article I did not know we were missing it.  We really did not slow down until we crossed over the Texas line. In Shamrock, the Conoco Station was not renovated and still waiting  to become a movie star. Yet it sat at the crossroads with a certain status, a certain character that comes only with age. Today this polished up deco gem is presented with pride, balancing old and new, vintage plumbing and a Tesla charging station.

The rest of that trip was a collection of stops at leaning water towers and steakhouses that have not changed much in the past twenty years. We stopped for lunch in Adrian, Texas, at the Midpoint Cafe. The article mentioned the cafe and again the article was our only itinerary. I remember I had a “blue plate” special, but without camera phones I don’t have a picture of it. Funny, we would not have wasted a roll of film on food. Since our first stop at the Midpoint, the cafe has gone through three owners. Little has changed and it is still a welcoming establishment with great pie. We did get our map stamped with some Midpoint Ink on that first visit.

 

In Tucumcari, New Mexico, The Blue Swallow was taking shape with renewed TLC. The rest of the town would soon follow with a number of motels coming back to life. Tucumcari has always seemed romantic with enough of it’s structures in the perfect state of decay. This decay emits a romance that I want to embrace and possess. Without intervention, soon each will be reduced by nature and vandals into unidentifiable rubble. Each time I take the first I-40 exit from the east and make my way down the long main street passing the questionable hotels and closed Kmart making my way  up into the “revitalized” part of town, I can’t help but smile and feel glad to be here.

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We turned south at Santa Rosa, New Mexico, and made our way towards family and free room and board. We had only skimmed the surface of Route 66 but found a spark that would ignite an obsession for years to come. I was young and in a hurry, scared that life would pass me by and instead I passed by a number of Route 66 icons on that first trip. I have since been back with knowledge and better planning and still miss out on things.  The Route changes, the roadside stops change,  some of the changes are good, some not so good. Cafes and motels are bought and sold. Menus stay the same but somehow change. Buildings will get polished up but this newness can tarnish character, at least in my opinion. We missed a lot on that first trip but we did get to see, what I feel was, the right amount of decay.

The Other Roadside Arrows of Route 66

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.

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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.

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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.