A Hotel’s Grim History

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Ah – the 1920’s – those were the days.

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.

Lots of work in downtown Texarkana

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.

Collector Items? Old doors from 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.

A vast improvement.

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Redwater, Texas

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.

Riding into Redwater, Texas, via Redwater, Road.

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.

A bit of the Bankhead Highway near Redwater, Texas

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.

The Bankhead Highway Newsletter

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Vol. 1 Issue 5

The Bankhead Highway Newsletter 

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. 

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Rosenda – The proprietor of “Sister Gift Shop and Rocks” – 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. 

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Bob Stogsdill – Bankhead Highway Hotel sign painter. 

 

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.

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Eastland, Texas. Celebrating the old road. 

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

 

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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.

Rockwall, Texas 

 

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1922 Bankhead Highway

 

 

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.

 

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Yes – That is the way it is speeled.

 

How fun is this. Wash clothes and learn about the history of washing clothes.

 

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A collection of antique washers on display.

 

It is not just antique washers on display, cases line the walls with trinkets and wonders of the washateria, including this hanger dispenser.

 

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50 cents?

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

https://www.amazon.com/Bankhead-Highway-Texas-Dan-Smith/dp/0615916619 

 

Also, check out the following article on Roadtrippers.

https://roadtrippers.com/magazine/bankhead-highway-dan-smith/

More information about the Bankhead can be found at www.tabacrosstexas.com 

What to look for in the next Bankhead newsletter
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.

Stay safe and travel well.

 

Across the State in Eight – The End (part 8 – Pecos to El Paso) – A Bankhead Highway motorcycle adventure.

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“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.

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The Bankhead Highway’s Pecos River Bridge – relocated to an arroyo. 

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.

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The best coffee in West Texas.

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.

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Old Road – Past Pecos.

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.

 

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Lindsey’s, previously the Sands Cafe, a movie star. 

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.

 

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Check your mattress, lots of big bugs and insects in Van Horn. 

The Taylor Motel is one of several early 20th century courts. Serving the traveler with budget-friendly clean rooms with an attached garage.

 

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Your room comes with a garage attached.

West of Van Horn segments of the road appear – headed west on private property.

 

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That is some original Bankhead.

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.

 

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Long abandoned – Easy to spot. 

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.

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A rest stop along the route. 

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.

 

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More deceptive advertisement for beer.

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.

 

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The State Theatre – everything is still inside.

 

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.

 

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Rosenda – Sister Gift Shop and Rocks.

Sierra Blanca is a romantic West Texas ghost town.

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A Trading Post – abandoned in Sierra Blanca.

 

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.

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An old rock school east of Sierra Blanca. 

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.

 

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Just me and The Machine.

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.

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A limited service station. 

I turn south at Fort Hancock and head toward the border.

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Some merchandise is still on the shelf from 1883 – big markdowns on wool underwear.

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.

 

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The End of the Line.

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.

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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.

God Bless.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Across the State in Eight (part 6 – Abilene to Loraine) – A Bankhead Highway motorcycle adventure.

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“Don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens – The Main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.”

-John Steinbeck

 

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.

 

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A collection of Energies on the Bankhead. 

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.

 

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The Grace is located right across the street from the train station. 

 

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.

 

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Grace Museum visitor parking. 

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.

 

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Right on the original Bankhead alignment. 

 

 

Sitting right on, what was, the Bankhead the Burro Alley’s courtyard is a hidden gem only a few feet off the road.

 

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Heading into Burro Alley

 

The path to the restaurant, shops, and courtyard is very Santa Fe -ish.

 

 

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This picture does not do it justice. 

Surrounded by a collection of stores and a restaurant this oasis in Abilene is a must stop.

 

 

 

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Scrabbled Eggs and Pork Chili – Burro Alley 

 

 

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.

Only a few yards east is the Ponca Motel.

 

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Still the same after all these years. 

 

The Ponca Motel was built in the 1930s.

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.

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Texas and Pacific Railroad still representing in Abilene. 

 

Merkel, Texas. My favorite town on the Bankhead Highway.

 

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The birdhouse. 

 

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.

 

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Downtown Merkel – Follow the red brick road. 

 

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.

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Will it ever open?

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.

Across the street is the Sweetwater Municipal Auditorium.

 

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Elvis played the stage twice.

 

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.

 

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Just hanging – waiting for the right time. 

 

A pendulum hangs motionless, without purpose, over the old Bankhead route in Sweetwater.

 

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An excellent museum. 

 

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.

The women of W.A.S.P were stationed in Sweetwater, Texas.

 

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West out of Sweetwater. 

 

 

The Bankhead route will become the south service road of I-20 for a while. I enjoy this lonely stretch while I can.

A Recycled Rex is watching over his cement pillars.

 

 

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Roadside Rex

Outside of Loraine, I find a prize. More glass marbles.

 

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Hidden behind a more modern, and practical, reflection implement, these glass marbles have been embedded here since 1929.

I will end Across the State in Eight (part 6) – A Bankhead Highway motorcycle adventure with a pour from Midland’s own, Tall City Brewing Co.

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Stay tuned for part 7 of the Bankhead adventure.

Across the State in Eight (part 4 – Dallas to Mineral Wells) – A Bankhead Highway motorcycle adventure.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I get a quick photo of the Machine in front of the pumps before I make my way inside.

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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.

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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.

 

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More Bankhead Bridges – I should have kept count.

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.

 

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Yes, that is the name.

How fun is this. Wash clothes and learn about the history of washing clothes.

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It is not just antique washers on display, cases line the walls with trinkets and wonders of the washateria, including this hanger dispenser.

 

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My mom always said, “NO WIRE HANGERS!” 

A quick stop at the Crazy Well for a drink of water infused with lithium and I am ready to roll.

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No. 2 – just right for me

And a photo with the recreation of the Crazy sign.

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A recreation of the original – looks great

Oh – and a quick “World Best” burger at Woody’s 

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World’s Best!

World’s Best? It certainly is good.

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Woody’s is located in a Quonset hut – Google it if you need to. Serving the citizens of Mineral Wells and the veterans who once trained at Fort Wolters since 1951.

I will end Across the State in Eight (part 4) – A Bankhead Highway motorcycle adventure with a pour from Cisco’s own Red Gap Brewing” Big Chief Bock”.

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Stay tuned for part 5 of the Bankhead adventure that will journey further out into West Texas.

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Please join us on our ride. Feel free to follow Instagram and Facebook links on this page. Thanks.

 

 

 

 

Across the State in Eight (part 3 – Sulphur Springs to Dallas) – A Bankhead Highway motorcycle adventure.

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“I can see the concrete slowly creeping – Lord take me and mind before that comes” – Ronnie Van Zant

Soon the Bankhead will carry me into the cities of Dallas, Fort Worth, and all the adjoining communities that make up the DFW Metroplex.

Before that happens – breakfast.

Not just any breakfast, breakfast at the Brashear Store in Brashear, Texas.

Located only a few miles outside of Sulphur Springs, Texas, is the small out of the way Bankhead Highway community of Brashear. Brashear was founded in 1868 and its population has declined ever since.

One citizen has recently put the community back on the map.

Betty is the head chef and pot scrubber at the Brashear Store. This California transplant is creating custom culinary creations in this compact community.

I arrive early to stake my place in line. Betty serves until the food is gone, so best not to wait too long.

After we exchange our pleasantries she asks what I would like to eat. I simply state, “something savory.”

Enough said. I get a cup of coffee and wait.

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You call it breakfast with you call it pricing. Excellent all around. 

Soon my plate arrives, savory indeed.

Conversation and coffee.

Too much food served with all the time in the world to enjoy it – the perfect way to start the day.

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Don’t make assumptions – this place is perfect.

I stick with Hwy 67 as it closely follows the original Bankhead route. I enter into Greenville, heading west, the sun still on my back.

Securing my Machine tight next to the Texan Theater.

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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.

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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.

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My favorite Bankhead sign.

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.

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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.

 

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Bankhead Brewery – Promoting the road. 

Unique art embellishes the walls of the Bankhead Brewery like this barbed-wire map of the route.

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Bankhead Highway Map – Wood and Wire. 

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.

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The iconic live music venue Trees. 

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.

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The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza 

Goodbye to Dallas. The west is ahead of me and the Machine.

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A Bankhead bridge across the Trinity River 

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.

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Stay tuned for part 4 of the Bankhead adventure that will take us further west – into the Big Sky country of Texas. 

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Please join us on our ride.

 

Across the State in Eight (part 2 – Texarkana to Mount Vernon) – A Bankhead Highway motorcycle adventure.

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BH map letterhead c (2)“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.

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Headed west on Broad St. (Texarkana)

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.

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The Grim Hotel getting a facelift

 

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”

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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.

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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.

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Abandoned Bankhead Highway (Maud, Texas)

 

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.

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Dennis and Connie Chartier (Athen, Texas)

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.

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The bridges will look the same for the next 800 miles (most will not be painted yellow).

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.

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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.

 

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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”.

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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.

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Please join us on our ride.

Across the State in Eight – A Bankhead Highway motorcycle adventure

Warm and cold air mixed  last night. The sky wrote messages of love as the electrons and protons showed their attraction to each other.  Air rose and fell, uplift, downdraft, strong, weak, hot and cold. Energy.

Today the air is cool and a strong north wind will keep my machine dancing all over the road as we begin our adventure down the Bankhead Highway.

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Before this journey can begin we, the machine and I, must get to the starting point. In Texas the Bankhead starting point is Texarkana, Texas.

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Today will be spent quickly, and safely, navigating space between tractors and trailers, UPS and FedEx, vans, parents, pets and wildlife.

Texarkana, emotional mile marker one for the machine and I. In the upcoming days we will cover almost 900 miles, four regions of climate and geographic change, revitalization, decomposition, long tall tales, colorful characters, myth and legend.

Our guide is Dan Smith book Texas Highway No. 1 – The Bankhead Highway in Texas. I will attempt to follow the maps as close as possible, staying true to the actual “original” route.

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Tomorrow is a big day. The start of an epic journey across the State of Texas. A toast to the unknown with a pour of Texarkana’s own Pecan Point brewery’s “State Line Blonde”.

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