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Why stay in those old vintage courts?

Seventy -four years ago Clark Gable was here, “cabin” number 6 – Boots Court, Carthage, Missouri.

Tonight, I sit a voyeur.

Seventy-four years ago, Clark Gable was here, fresh out of the service, still mourning the death of Carole Lombard.

I feel the movement of air – as his silhouette moves towards the door.

Eighty-four years of memories thrive in these four walls my senses discard all other and focus on Clark Gable’s visit seventy-four years ago.

I fight the bitterness.  

Seventy-four years ago, 1947, Clark Gable was here, do I smell the Lucky Strike? Is blue smoke rising – drifting slowing before diverging.

I am olfactory overtaken.

Seventy-four years ago, Clark Gable was here, his voice, torn from tobacco, blustered firm statements between drinks.

I listen intently.

Seventy-four years ago, Clark Gable was here, tonight he is here, Boots Court is still here, that is why I am here.  

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.

Midway Drive-In

Years ago, darkness filled the space between city limit signs, a void of life and light. These lonely stretches of blacktop created ideal spots for drive-in theaters.

In the middle of the last century, “Midway” drive-ins popped up along those segments of highway. Strategically placed midway between towns, the Drive-ins would benefit from both populations’ patronage. Mid-century summer nights would come to life in these otherwise desolate areas midway between towns.

One such “Midway” Drive-in existed along what was once known as the Bankhead Highway in Sweetwater, Texas.

The Midway.

Sweetwater’s Midway Drive-In opened on May 20, 1948, with a screening of “The Time, the Place and the Girl,” starring Dennis Morgan. Warner Bros’. most successful film during 1946 and 1947, earning $3,461,000 domestically and $1,370,000 foreign. Might this success be the reason the Midway opened with it two years later?

Owned by Jack Wallace. He, Dorothy, his wife, and son J.D. ran the theater. The projectionist was Billy Faught.

Many other outdoor cinemas share the Midway’s demise. Victims of changing culture and fluctuating populations. Today the screen still stands, a mammoth white cement wall, waiting to continue to perform its duty, frozen in time, just off West Broadway, Sweetwater, Texas.

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.

 

Finding the lost Bankhead Highway

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Dan Smith and the Bankhead

Dan Smith is not shy when it comes to the promotion of the Bankhead Highway. His love of the road is apparent with his self-designed Bankhead shirt and ball-cap. Even his car carries the Bankhead brand with magnetic badges that can be prominently displayed on any metallic surface, today they are on the doors. His car’s trunk is a treasure trove of Bankhead paraphernalia from t-shirts, postcards, maps, photos, and even actual pieces of Bankhead pavement. The only thing that challenges his quantity of tangible Bankhead items is his mind full of Bankhead Highway knowledge and history. All of which, he is excited to share.

Today the Bankhead, once labeled the Broadway of America, is difficult to find unless one knows where to look. Scattered reminders are hidden in plain sight. Out of place blacktop and bridges sit abandoned of their original purpose and useless in the current condition. Vibrant towns that once boasted numerous residents and visitors stand motionless. The grid of the streets create plots where many of the buildings now lay to rest.

There is a stir of life along the Bankhead due to an increase of heritage tourism and revitalization of small-town America. While a multitude of factors have come into play to help breathe life back into the road, Dan Smith, author, historian, and road reviver, maintained the Bankhead’s faint pulse and kept the road alive.

 

Dan Smith wrote the book on the Bankhead Highway, literally, he wrote the book. Texas Highway No. 1 The Highway, is “that book” and currently the only Bankhead Highway guidebook in print. Dan intended the book to be one-half history and one-half travel guide. Dan stated, “I wanted to replicate the old earliest 1920’s guidebooks.” His book is spiral bound because Dan intended the traveler to just, “lay it on the seat next to them.”

How the Bankhead Came to Be

With an origin at Mile Marker Zero, in Washington D.C., the Bankhead would snake its way across the southern half of the lower 48 with its terminus in San Diego, CA. The Bankhead Highway would guarantee America the reliability of all year travel, something the Lincoln Highway could not offer due to its northern route.

The United States Federal Government had allotted money to states for highway construction. With roughly 1000 miles of the Bankhead located in Texas; the lion’s share of the funds would be headed to the Lone Star State. In April of 1917, a large group of important people convened deep in the heart of Texas to make sure that Texas had its share of what would ultimately become the Bankhead Highway.

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Ultimately in less than one week, in 1917, the group would string together commerce and community and like an artisan jeweler, they would create a fine chain of highway that would shine across Texas and America ushering in new businesses and tourism.

Texas would brand its Bankhead Highway section as Texas 1. Collectively the entire route of the Bankhead would come to be known as the Broadway of America.

The Texas Section of the Bankhead Highway

The Abilene Morning News reported in 1929 that the Bankhead Highway was carrying one car per minute. The official count was 1,216 cars in 1,200 minutes explicitly excluding local traffic.

In the 1920’s an oil boom in West Texas utilized the Bankhead to its full extent.

According to the Texas Historical Commission, “The Bankhead Highway provided an indispensable transportation route for oilfield laborers and drilling supplies.” In 1927, the Bankhead was widened to accommodate traffic to oil wells near Midland.

The Bankhead also ushered in a new type of development targeted toward tourists. A multitude of courts, cafes, and gas stations as well as hotels that were grander than anything before.

Such a hotel was the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells constructed in 1925. The Baker Hotel created quite a footprint in the town of Mineral Wells with 232,000 square feet and rising 14 stories above the town. Four hundred fifty guest rooms and the healing mineral waters awaited Bankhead Highway travelers in what Texas Monthly Magazine describes as “Texas’ premier spa” during its heyday.

Dan envisions an early Bankhead Highway’s travelers’ experiences as, “every day is a whole new world,” when driving, “from here to California.”

World Wars further utilized the Bankhead importance to America’s security and transportation of military traffic. Several World War I military installations were located on the Bankhead. As America became involved in World War II, the Bankhead Highway became vital to the war effort. Local communities became the home of multiple newly constructed military bases and installations. The road, in turn, benefitted with upgrades and improvements during mobilization.

The Bankhead is Lost

While the Bankhead Highway was the primary route early in the 20th century, Bankhead Highway’s history would become a tangled mess of names and numbers, realignments and alternative routes, abandoned fragments, fenced off pavements slowly being reclaimed by Mother Nature, and other sections covered with interstate highway I20 and I10.

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The Bankhead was repeatedly beaten and battered by political and economic forces that resulted in the evolution of the road. The highway would ultimately become a variety of numbers with only a couple of small sections keeping the Bankhead moniker in their names. The Bankhead, pride of the south, testament to America’s dedication to progress and development, and a conduit for West Texas Oil wealth, would fade into history until Dan Smith would accidentally become its savior.

Dan’s Journey to the Bankhead

Dan is an author, historian, and self-proclaimed geek who seems to find the unique and forgotten topics the most fun to research.

Dan is a Floridian, born and raised in Miami. He graduated number two in his class and began a career with the weather service. He does not remember when he became interested in weather but remembers in the seventh-grade winning science fairs with his weather experiments.

Dan recalls a time in graduate school when an assignment sent him on a journey to research, “the most obscure thing I could find.” This led Dan deep into the library to discover dusty journals focused on 19th-century steamboats that navigated narrow Florida rivers.

Dan immerses himself in his interests, while the Bankhead might be his passion, even years after his introduction to the steamboats, he will still use any opportunity to discuss this steamboat with any ear that will listen.

But he will admit that his thoughts and talks will quickly go, “back to the Bankhead Highway.”

His interest and career choice will ultimately bring Dan and his family to Texas and closer to the Bankhead Highway. Fresh out of college and eager to continue his work with the Weather Bureau, Dan was quick to take advantage of a vacancy in Fort Worth, Texas. Dan would spend the next thirty-plus years of his life working with the Weather Service.

New Year’s Day 1970, was, “the first time I was west of the Mississippi.”

He humorously describes his new Texas home as a “new world” and “neat place.” This “neat place” unknown to Dan, will introduce him in a few decades to an old road that will become his passion demanding years of research and attention and ultimately bring Dan recognition and respect from people far and wide. This Texas transplant will arguably be the best thing that has happened to the Bankhead since 1917.

Dan readily admits that he, “literally just stumbled on the Bankhead Highway.”

A random bicycle ride near his home in Fort Worth, Texas, would be an event that would change Dan’s life and ultimately breathe new life into the Bankhead. As for the actual date of the ride, Dan will respond, “your guess is as good as mine”. While the exact date and time is up for debate it was for sure around the year 1983.

Dan’s ride that day took him down a random Texas road, a road that happened to still have Bankhead in its name. A street sign was enough to pique Dan’s interest and when he got home decided to find out more about this Bankhead Highway.

This single sign opened an area of research that would become the focus of Dan’s life and introduce him to over 1000 miles of route in Texas of a road that crossed the country as the Broadway of America.

An endless amount of information about a forgotten road

Dan made calls from Austin, Texas, to Washington, DC, attempting to learn more about the road. He received boxes of information that had been stored away for years. Dan states that the information about, “the Bankhead just grew, and grew, and grew.”

“The more I researched the more I went out and learned things,” and the more people he would meet, “so many people, notebooks full of people.”

Unknown to Dan at the time, the Bankhead was about to have a birthday, and he would be a key player in the celebration.

Dan understands that there is much more to learn about the Bankhead. While he does not look to compare the Bankhead to more well-known and popular routes in America, he feels that the Bankhead has great significance.

Texas celebrating the Bankhead

As the centennial celebration of the Bankhead grew near, the State of Texas and the Texas Historical Commission joined the celebration.

“I heard from the folks with the Historic Commission in Austin (Texas), and they were fixing to give a contract of roughly a million dollars or whatever it was, to a research company to do a study on the Bankhead Highway.”

Dan Smith was soon contacted by the research group that secured the contract.

Curious about their plan, Dan asked, “what are you going to use for a map?”

Their response, “that is why we are calling you.”

Dan’s book became a valuable resource to the state and its research

At this time Dan’s Bankhead book was not complete, but he did have a draft that would soon be ready to publish.

“I gave the only copy to them,” he quickly corrects his statement, “loaned it to them.”

The intention was to create a guide. “My thing was that if they can’t find their way with this then I got work to do,” Dan states with regards to revision.

Both parties mutually benefited. Dan’s book was field-tested, and the group was able to navigate a century-old road.

As for Dan’s relationship and influence with the Texas Historical Commission, he states, “I feel I have been very helpful to them.” He continues that he tries to keep them up to date “with what is going on” with the Bankhead.

Dan pays homage to the Bankhead Highway with signs and his book

The book was not the only homage Dan had for the Bankhead Highway. Dan, together with a local sign maker, started producing Bankhead Highway signs and historical plaques. Dan states with pride, “I’ve put out about 100 of those all the way across the state.”DSC_0011 (2)

The State of Texas also has placed some official signs designating the old Bankhead Highway, but Dan is quick to point out, “My signs were never intended to compete with any state sign,” those placed by the highway department the TDot signs, “are altogether different.”

Dan points out that, “signs go up on city or county property, not TDot,” not interfering or infringing on state or federal rights of way, confessing, “that’s how we get away with it.”

The self-described Johnny Appleseed of the Bankhead Highway peddling BH signs to all takers. He does have a request, “when I give those away (BH signs) my only wish is, put it somewhere people can see it.”

What Dan Smith offered the Bankhead Highway

“I can’t tell what is going to happen to the old road, but at least in my book it will be preserved forever.”

Dan reconnected the broken chain of the Bankhead. His book pieces together the fragments that would have been lost in plain sight. The gems and jewels still exist albeit a bit tarnished and Dan’s travel guide allows the heritage traveler to have an experience a century old.

Today those same communities that built the tourist courts and camps, spas and hotels, gas stations and cafes 100 years ago are looking for ways to bring them back to their original luster.

The heritage tourist, as well as the casual traveler, will find several gems and jewels along today’s route as well as historical and cultural significant interests. Each town down the Bankhead route will offer a multitude of hospitality of yesterday and luxuries of today. These roadside treasures await the heritage tourists as they make their way down the Broadway of America.

The Settles Hotel in Big Spring, as well as the El Capitan in Van Horn, have been reconditioned to their early twentieth-century glory offering five-star overnight accommodations and services.

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The previously mentioned Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells is presently being restored with plans of reopening in 2022. Laird Fairchild discussed the plans with Texas Monthly Magazine and stated the restorations as, “the largest restoration in Texas history of a site listed on the National Register of Historic Places.” Phil Garrett, the Mineral Wells unofficial historian believes that the Baker’s rebirth is, “the most significant historical event since the discovery by our town’s founder of the local mineral water in 1881,” as stated in the article.

Abandoned tourist courts in Abilene and decaying midcentury architecture in Merkel will give the traveler a haunting reminder of how things used to be. Native American and Comanche culture is woven into the route. With the dynamic city of El Paso not ending the journey, but just adding extra layers to a satisfying experience with the mixture of cultures and old west persona.

Today’s Bankhead traveler can still drive on miles and miles of original hand-laid brick roadways. Traveling on a brick road can add to the nostalgia of heritage travel. These hand-laid roads are evidence of the longevity of certain early road engineering. Dan believes that there is, “at least a hundred miles, maybe more,” of vintage Bankhead pavement in Texas adding, “that brick goes all the way across Eastland county.”

These unique experiences will add variety to what Dan calls today’s “great sameness” in traveling experiences.

And just like the State of Texas Dan Smith’s, Texas Highway No.1 The Bankhead Highway in Texas, will be the required travel companion. The guide will inform and educate while keeping the tourist from getting lost.

What the Bankhead Highway offered to Dan Smith

Dan’s humbleness often overshadows his accomplishment.

Dan is identified by many as “America’s Recognized Expert” on the Bankhead Highway, he is quick to affirm, “I don’t make that claim,” but as Texas’ research group confirmed with their call – he is the go-to guy with regards to the Bankhead Highway.

Dan loves to discuss and chat about the Bankhead, “What I am happy about is the fact that I am still at it, that people still give a hoot.”

Dan wishes he would have kept count of the number of formal and organized groups he has spoken to across the state. When Dan is asked about what has brought him the most joy he brightly responds, “all the talks I have given.”

Dan borrows from Jimmy Doolittle’s quote that he will, “never be so lucky again,” and the Bankhead’s history and today’s heritage tourists will never be so lucky that Dan decided to go for a bicycle ride.

 

A Teacher’s Summer at the White Sands

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Heading west through the heat of a Texas sun with a destination north of El Paso in the Chihuahua Desert. Leaving behind what most school teachers hold dear, the summer, I pass through small towns and upper elevation villages until the two lane crests and I begin my descent into the Tularosa Basin. The purpose of this summer sacrifice – White Sands National Monument. The NPS has allowed me the privilege of working as a Teacher-Ranger-Teacher for the next 8 weeks. The time is intended to be a mutual benefit to both parties.  Gravities’ pull accelerates me down the final miles to the entrance of the monument. The monument’s adobe visitor’s center sits baking in the sun while the basins surrounding mountains are veiled in a haze. I set up my camper and eagerly await the next day’s realizations.

National parks and monuments, too many visitors, are the scaffolding of an all-American road trip. These natural backdrops for Kodak moments provide grand itineraries to trip planners and fill the lines of life’s list destinations. For many years, I held the same tourist approach to the purpose of the National Park Service’s unique lands and monuments. I was unaware that these areas of beauty and awe held far more valuable lessons in environmental appreciation and emotional connection to nature until I was immersed in the NPS.

My awareness of NPS themes, or purpose, came through my participation in the Teacher-Ranger- Teacher program of the NPS. This program allows classroom teachers to work in a national park or national monument for 8 weeks during the summer. During this time I determined the NPS, just as a teacher, is attempting to make connections with people. I began to see WHSA as a classroom, a wonderland of geology, biology, and ecology. White Sands National Monument is an environment where adaptations occur before the eye and Earth’s cycles perform as if on stage.  As a TRT I was able to entangle myself in these plays for the majority of the summer.  This genuine experience showed me a purpose to the NPS I was unaware of, an incredible educational resource.   

My experience has helped me not only as a teacher but a visitor to our national parks. My family and I will no longer be the “30 minute” tourist. We will stop and stay longer and instead of just taking the iconic photo or seeing the must see attraction, we will listen to a ranger talk or go on a guided hike. We will attempt to interpret the park on a personal level. This new purpose to our travels will allow a better connection to “our” national parks and monuments.

As my summer TRT experience comes to an end and I head east toward home.  My vehicle struggles up the Sacramento Mountains one last time,  I turn and look down upon the Tularosa Basin – I now know that when a visitor looks upon Whites Sands National Monument in the right light, at that particular time of day, when the mind is full of wonder and curiosity, that he will see the gypsum infused water flowing into Lake Lucero and evaporating just as quickly while the temperature, water, and wind relentlessly weathers and breaks down the selenite crystals into smaller and smaller pieces creating the sea of soft white waves.

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.

The Bankhead Highway

Before American roads and highways had designated numbers they had names. These names were associated with politicians  who help make the roadways reality. Political clout allowed politicians the ability to be forever remembered by having their names tied with cross-country roadways. This legacy was compromised when the highway department organized state and national highways with the numerical system used today.

The Bankhead Highway was named for John Hollis Bankhead an Alabama politician. According to the Texas Historical Commissions website the Bankhead Highway  ran from Washington D.C. to San Diego, Ca. with construction beginning in 1916 making the Bankhead Highway one of the earliest continuous routes from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Over 850 miles of the Bankhead Highway existed in Texas. Today much of the original route is covered by Texas highways 67 and 80 while others sections were left abandoned and reclaimed by nature. There are still parts of the Bankhead that are maintained and Tab Across Texas set out to find a piece of the Bankhead and experience a drive on a road that is 110 years old. We started our adventure in Weatherford, Texas, and decided to travel west toward the town of Mineral Wells, Texas.

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The remaining sections of the Bankhead are clearly marked and have little traffic so the journey down the Bankhead can be easy and casual.

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Keep an eye out for some vintage concrete. This bridge has seen better days but has supported and witnessed more than a century of traffic on the Bankhead Highway.

 

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A rest stop along the highway dates from 1936. The lonesome picnic table sits waiting for the next weary traveler to take a break in the shade of the Oak tree canopy.

Our trip on the Bankhead Highway terminated at the Crazy Water Well in Mineral Wells, Texas.

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The taps allow the public to purchase the Crazy Water pumped out of the original well.  It did take a while to get our bottle filled.

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