Waking early (at least early for Bart), we hopped on I-40 West and began our ride across North Texas where we’d be staying for a few nights while continuing our exploration of small town America.
The very first place we wanted to visit just over the OK/TX border was Shamrock, TX (pop. 2,000). The town was named by the first postmaster who was, no surprise, an Irish immigrant. We can assure you, Shamrock takes it’s Irish heritage seriously. The biggest celebration of the year is St. Patrick’s Day and all the men are required to wear a beard. Hopefully the women are excused from this tradition!
Shamrock’s very own leprechaun welcomes you.
A fragment of the original Blarney Stone is set within a concrete monument in the Plaza. Pucker up and give the chunk a little kiss for everlasting good luck.
Still standing on Route 66 in Shamrock are its most famous and iconic structures, the Art Deco Tower Conoco Service Station and U-Drop Inn, both landmarks since 1936.
The inside of the U-Drop Inn is exactly the way you would have found it back in the day. There’s even an elderly customer still sitting in the back booth by the window. Talk about slow service.
Leaving Shamrock, we encountered miles of straight roads and flat farm land.
Although we saw many farms and ranches with horses and cattle along our route, our favorite farms were planted with massive windmills topped by 3 blades that reminded us of the Mercedes Benz logo. Wind energy is big business in Texas and it produces the most wind power of any other U.S. state.
Some of these windmills are up to 328 feet tall. Poetry in motion.
Our next stop in Texas was the small city of Canyon (pop. 13,300). We wanted to explore Canyon because it was recently designated as one of the Top 10 Best Small Towns in Texas by a non-profit organization called Livability.
Walking around the historic downtown square, we were immediately drawn to the old-fashioned Rock ‘N Roll Soda Shop. Housed in a 1907 building that was once a pharmacy, owners Jason and Jennifer Mashburn have carefully maintained the original interior including a very retro soda fountain.
Back in the day, Jennifer’s first job was at this very place and we’re pretty sure that’s why this was Jason’s favorite hangout. It’s still the “cool” place to be and where Canyon’s teenagers flock to for food, fun, music and more.
Bart hanging out with his new friends.
Nostalgia covered walls, old fashioned coke machine, vinyl 45 records, and working juke box are all a definite flash from the past.
Rorie was desperate to eat one of these but – believe it or not – she held out (for just a little while).
Bart dropped into the offices of The Canyon News, which began publishing in 1896. Its offices looked like a throwback to an earlier day. He hoped to meet the managing editor, but he wasn’t in. A friendly Shannon Cook greeted Bart and gave him a little company history. The newspaper industry is in trouble nationally, but this hometown paper seems to be doing just fine. It has been recognized year after year as one of the top twice weekly newspapers…by the Texas Press Association.”
While Bart was visiting the newspaper, Rorie snuck off to a different newsworthy business. You can certainly let them eat cake at the Cake Company bakery, but in Rorie’s case it was a decadent gooey, chewy salted caramel shortcake bar. Pure heaven and gone so fast there wasn’t even time to take a picture of it. Gotta get that recipe.
Opened in 1999 by Mandy Williams and her husband Billy, the Cake Company is a tribute to this couples hard work and love for all things sugar. From one sugar addict to another, THANK YOU.
Our last stop in Canyon was to see the spectacular colors of the grandest, most panoramic canyon in Texas at the Palo Duro Canyon State Park. This is the 2nd largest canyon in the U.S. (the Grand Canyon in Arizona is #1) at roughly 70 miles long and about 820 feet deep but getting as deep as 1,000 feet in some places. Standing high above the canyon on a rim without any fences is a little unnerving. Not a place to lean over to get a better view of the multicolored layers of rock and steep mesa walls. Another one of Mother Natures awe inspiring creations.
Heading out of town, we saw rural areas that have fallen on hard times and which will not be able to turn things around any time soon. These roadside scenes reminded us of the pictures we’d seen of abandoned farms during the 1930’s Dust Bowl.
We headed “home” to our hotel but, after a long drive, we were in serious need of some vittles. We found out the rule is, when in Texas, you gotta eat like a Texan. That means trying the world-famous Whataburger (and fries of course). Like everything in Texas, it’s a big burger, on a big bun with big flavor. What a burger!
Whataburger opened its first restaurant in 1950. The goal of the original owners was to make a better burger that took two hands to hold and tasted so good that when a customer took a bite they would say “What a burger!”Well it worked because that’s exactly what happened.
Finishing a day jam-packed with amazing discoveries, Our Lone Star State adventure continues tomorrow after what we hope will be a really good night’s sleep.