Driving straight through Sayre, Erick, and Texola, it was only a 30-minute drive before we reached the Texas state line and we managed to get a picture of the state sign. Nature began to change to a very flat landscape. Well, at this point we thought it was flat, but it was nothing compared to Arizona. While driving through Texas, we saw several modern wind power stations in the middle of large fields, but only a couple of old oil rigs. We were too far north in Texas for the major oil fields. One interesting sight were the cattle ranches with hundreds, maybe even thousands of cattle. I have never seen so many cows together!
Our goal was to get to Amarillo, TX for the night, but we stopped in the attractive town of Shamrock first. The town is known for the “U Drop Inn”, originally a café and gas station built in 1936. It has been completely restored and is currently the office to the local chamber of commerce. We skipped over Lela, McLean, Alanreed, Jericho and Boydston, because we knew there were plenty of sights around Groom right before Amarillo. At the Groom exit, we noticed the peculiar “leaning” water tower we had read about in the book. Continuing on Route 66, we saw the giant gross from a far distance. Apparently, the 190 feet tall cross is said to be the largest in the western hemisphere. It was interesting having me sit at the foot of the cross looking like a small dot in the picture. To be honest with you, I thought the whole area with the tall cross surrounded by sculptures of people carrying or dragging other cross and a church like building was a little creepy. I would not want to visit after dark! Our last stop before Amarillo was in Conway where they had the interesting Bug Ranch. It is a joke to the famous Cadillac Ranch we would see the next morning, where a set of Volkswagen Beetles are buried nose-firs in the ground. The Beetles are graffiti painted and right next to what used to be a motel; now completely destroyed.
Driving through Amarillo, TX was different than what I had expected. Parts of town were run down and poor. There were plenty of motels, the type you walk in the door on the ground from a U-shaped building, but none of us felt they looked very safe in the eastern part of Amarillo. We decided to buy some snacks and drinks before we continued on. Tone and I headed into a liquor store and were thrown off by the sign on the door: “Remove Hoodies and No Saggin’. I won’t show mine, don’t show me yours.” The door and windows had more steel bars than a jail cell. As I was taking a picture, the two employees looked skeptical through the window. However, we were buzzed in and I asked politely if they were OK with me taking pictures. The elderly African-American women who worked there said “yes” and we started a conversation about the sign on the door. They indicated how the young generation dressed inappropriately with sagging jeans, hoodies, etc. and they were often disrespectful towards the older generation. The store was decorated with plastic flowers, neon lights and signs; very different from liquor stores in the north! The two women were so friendly as they chatted and smoked while watching us “tourists” picking out beer. Trust me, the so-called wine they had resembled wine coolers, but they suggested we could get better wine in the grocery store and so we did!
It was already 9pm when we checked in to Country Inn & Suites west in Amarillo. We lucked out with a mini-suite, three beds, and had an aperitif before heading out for a late dinner. We had been so pleased with Applebee the night before and decided to repeat the experience. We lucked out because it was Karaoke night! The restaurant was huge with a bar in the middle where most of the guests sat and smoked. Yes, allowed, but only in the bar! Our waiter was a young, local gentleman who talked a lot. He was dreaming of going to college in Dallas and he was so excited because he recently left Texas for the first time in his life to see his girlfriend’s wrestling match in Tennessee. We ended up having an interesting conversation about life experiences and quality of life in the car the following day. We were fairly quiet at the dinner table, taking in the new impressions of a very different southern life style. There was a bachelorette party at a table close by, many couples in cowboy boots and cowboy hats, and of course some crazy singers. Of note, the music was of course all country western songs!
I think I had more Belgian Blue Moon beer than what I ate, but the chicken, shrimp, and green chilies over pasta dish was very good. The most memorable part of the night was paying the check. The total was close to $50, so incredible cheap compared to New York or Norway prices, and we decided to leave round it up to $70, leaving more than a $20 tip. Our young waiter picked up the cash as we were walking out and we thought he was coming after us to let us know that we probably made a mistake. We just smiled and waved back as he was running to the other waiters showing them what he got as a tip. We laughed all the way back to the hotel.