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.

Breakfast can save the world.

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I sit at the apex of the boomerang shaped counter. The formica top well-worn from years of fidgeting coffee cups in the hand of patrons. Two heads bobble in the rectangular window across from me. The heads dance with a synchronized rhythm.

The hidden torsos, limbs, and hands create, build, and produce with a second nature muscle memory; two eggs, easy, up, over hard, bacon, crispy, burnt.

The atypical waitress’ tattooed hand hurriedly scribbles the order on the ticket. The ticket’s destination is a  carrousel that lazily hangs in the rectangular widow.  With a movement sharp and heavy she clips the ticket, seeming satisfied to give the bobbing heads something to do.

Suddenly an arm and hand appears, plucking the ticket and disturbing the balance of the carrousel. Random words, like an unfamiliar language, echo from the rectangle window. Suddenly smells and sounds tingle, tantalize, and tease the senses. Whipping, clanging, sizzling, the smell of pork belly.

Outside, drizzle and thick air produce a gloomy morning in Abilene, Texas, inside dry and comfortable accepting and welcoming.

The Dixie Pig Cafe shows its’ age with a thick build up of grease and gunk. A protective film that lets dust slide off, disinfects, and in the right light produces a great shimmer and shine. The gleam and glitter that epitomizes an All- American cafe.

Around the perimeter of the cafe, booths sporting vintage  vinyl as smooth and satisfying as any silk allows for an easy and satisfying slide into the embrace of the booth.

Booths, the couches of restaurants.

This like many other breakfast mainstays across America plays host to a variety of individuals every morning. The patrons’ diversity reads like a Dr. Seuss book; some tall, some small, some happy, some sad, some homely, some hot, some rich, some not.

I sit in this hodgepodge of heredity awaiting what we all came for. What we all can agree on. Breakfast.

The framed heads bob and sway, creating, build, and producing. I eagerly sit while the waitress moves to and fro, like a shark, seeming to stay in constant motion in the moat between me and the window.

People enter, people leave. Some exchange pleasantries, others not. Egos, attitudes, and prejudices are  check at the door. There is not room for that while we break breakfast bread. Aka Toast.

Soon the bobbing head’s hand appears. Gingerly, with light pressure, using only a thumb and two fingers presents the creation to the window.  Once the plate is properly seated, the hand rings a bell and the head produces more unfamiliar sounds.

The waitress’ heavy and sharp movements deliver the plate. The perfect plate, the plate known as breakfast.

Breakfast unlike lunch and dinner, is a time we can all get along.

There is not hate with a hash-browns, or ego with eggs. No pompous with the pancakes or gripes with the grits. There is sincerity with the service and syrup and love with the lox.

Breakfast is patient, breakfast is kind.

It does not envy, it does not boast.

It does not dishonor others.

Breakfast never fails.

Too bad breakfast is not served all day everywhere.