Day 7, Clinton to Amarillo. Bonnie and Clyde and an abandon garage..
18/8/11 woke up in Clinton, Oklahoma
Most of the days of our trip so far started around 11am, we did not have much time for museums, as by the time we made our way somewhere, they were about to close. We missed a lot of things, so today we decided to make an effort and make it in time to see something. Our target was a Route 66 Museum. The building itself is Route 66 themed and the designer behind it is the same dude who gave us Pops in Arcadia. It was very well done, but pretty small.
Following on from our morning, up on arrival to Elk, we headed straight to another Route 66 museum.
It covers the mother road in all eight states through which it passes. There are a few Harleys, some old cars and newspapers, but the main part of it is an outdoor exhibition called the Old Town Museum Complex, comprising of a replica of school, church, stables.. The museum is impossible to miss, as the exterior now includes perhaps the most enormous Route 66 shield ever conceived.
Our next stop was a small town called Erick. There is a museum here, but we gave it a miss. The place is famous as a hometown of musician Roger Miller, and it’s even got the museum in his name, but this is not why we are here. I was more intrigued by two different places: SandHills Curiosity Shop and Bonebrake Hardware Museum.
The shop was shut when we got there, but that doesn’t make that much of difference, as there are tons of things outside. Old neons, boards, bikes, boards with bullet holes. Tons of awesome things. All rusty and old. If I was leaving nearby, I would probably have my house full of it, mixed with some contemporary furniture.
The Bonebrake museum is probably more of a curiosity. You can’t go in. The closes you get to the “exhibits” is by peering into the window. The story goes that the Bonebreak family, who owned and run the hardware store, simply closed the door and walked away sometime in the 1960s, and everything is still just as they left it. Before seeing it for myself, I thought the shop was a small business, but I have to say 50 years ago they must have been considered very rich, as judging by the size they might have employed around 10 people.
Last but not least place we visited before crossing the border with Texas, was the town of Texola.
We started by visiting a one cell jail, with some memorabilia and press cuts hanged on the walls.
The thing that got my attention was a heater in the corner. We are visiting in the Summer and the weather is boiling, so it’s really hard to imagine that it ever gets cold around here.
Even though Texola doesn’t get much space in the road related handbooks, I found it quite interesting. It’s a typical ghost town, there may be 10 people living there (out of interest I have checked it in Wiki, it’s actually 36 people).
It’s hard to believe that in 1930s there was almost 600 people living here! There was even a newspaper: Texola Herald! It is great for taking pics though.
There is a famous phrase painted on one of the buildings, which pretty much sums up what one could say about Texola: “There’s no other place like this place anywhere near this place so this must be the place”.
The first stop in Texas was Shamrock, where we stopped at Pioneer West Museum, located in the former Reynolds Hotel and next to newly restored Magnolia fuel station. The museum has about twenty rooms filled with everything from Plains Indian culture to NASA moon mission articles. My favourite parts were the cabinets with retro dolls, old fashioned dentist rooms kitted out with Dexter like equipment, well it was cross between Dexter and Saw. pretty cool, but it’s hard to imagine people actually used it.
My favourite though must be an old framed newspaper articles relating to Bonnie and Clyde: favourite Texas outlaws from 1930s.
Wiki tells us that they were well-known outlaws, robbers, and criminals who traveled the Central United States with their gang during the Great Depression. Though known today for dozen-or-so bank robberies and numerous murders (mostly police officers), Bonnie in fact preferred to rob small stores or rural gas stations. The thing that caught my eye was a poem written by her, which shows more delicate side of someone known as a murderer.
The couple themselves were eventually ambushed and killed in Louisiana by law officers. Their reputation was cemented in American pop folklore by numerous movies, most popular being Arthur Penn’s 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde: a somewhat romantized account of the career of the notoriously violent bank robbing couple and their gang.
Even during their lifetimes, the couple’s depiction in the press was at considerable odds with the hardscrabble reality of their life on the road—particularly in the case of Bonnie. Though she was present at a hundred or more felonies during her two years as Clyde’s companion, she was not the machine gun-wielding cartoon killer portrayed in the newspapers of the day. Gang members were not even sure whether they had ever seen her fire at officers. Her reputation as a cigar-smoking gun moll grew out of a playful snapshot found by police at an abandoned hideout, released to the press, and published nationwide; while she did chain-smoke Camel cigarettes, she was not a cigar smoker.
According to FBI files, Bonnie and Clyde met in Texas in January, 1930. At the time, Bonnie was 19 and married to an imprisoned murderer; Clyde was 21 and unmarried. Soon after, he was arrested for a burglary and sent to jail. He escaped, using a gun Bonnie had smuggled to him, was recaptured and was sent back to prison. Clyde was paroled in February 1932, rejoined Bonnie, and resumed a life of crime.
Even though they were considered dangerous killers in Texas almost 80 years ago, their story seems to be very romantic.
Out of museum and on the road again, we entered the town of McLean. The most picturesque thing to see is an old, tiny Philips 66 petrol station from 1920.
On the way to Amarillo, whilst driving through Alanreed, we came across an old 66 Super Service Station. For an untrained eye, it may just be the next “typical 66 gas station”, and not many “roadie handbooks” even bother to write more than a brief two sentences about the place, but since me and Shane have recently became compulsive “oversnappers”, we couldn’t help but stopping for over 30 minutes.
The station looks awesome, probably because it looks very abandoned. There was finger writing on the dusty window dating 2009! Even better was the building next door, looking like post apocalyptical, post fire mega garage with old, rusty cans and metal parts, and a massive hole in the wooden ceiling, which made some large pieces of wood hang low above our heads. Brilliant place for geeks mainly. If you can find beauty in things that are ugly for the majority of people, this is a great place for you.
Looking at some of those abandoned places along the way, it made me wonder: who actually owns it? Can one buy it? How much for? Like in the case of abandoned hardware store I mentioned. What happens to places like that?
It was getting late, so we hit the road and only stopped briefly at the leaning water tower in Groom, built purposely this way, as Groom has next to no other attractions.
We were aiming to get a bite at Blessed Mary Restaurant, a non-profit entity where you pay what you want for your meal, but unfortunately it was late and the place was closed.
There is one more interesting thing about this place. A gigantic cross, said to be the largest in the western hemisphere, at 190 feet tall.
On the way out we spotted an old Chevrolet rusting on the side of the road. We stopped immediately and took some amazing pics. It kind of makes you realise, that life can be all about the small things, like pics of an old car with no wheels and snakes crawling out of it.
Arriving at Amarillo, we spotted an ad for a free 72oz stake at Big Texan Steak Ranch, and since I felt hungry, and wasn’t quite sure how 72oz of meat looks on one plate, being polish and figuring things out in kg, I decided this is our destination for supper.
The deal was: eat the steak together with a side of a roll, potato, a shrimp cocktail, and a salad, and you get it all for free. If you leave anything on the plate, you have lost and it costs you 72 USD. Pretty simple. Oh. And you cannot puke. Or get help from your friends. And go to the toilet or stand up. Oh and one more: you’ve got 60 minutes.
How do they make sure everyone is obeying the rules? They put you in the middle of the room, at a raised table, with other nutters.
The first 20 minutes were awesome, I was at the table with 3 guys, chatting away, eating great steak, but then I realised, they don’t want to chat as it takes the time and they want to win. Another shocker was what I heard from every one of them: not only did they not have lunch that day, they did not have breakfast and dinner the night before! That’s what you call a competitive streak! I stuffed myself with M&M’s which now felt like cheating.
After 40 minutes I knew it is not that easy. The steak was getting cold, and I couldn’t bare the smell of meat. It was coming from the kitchen, it was coming from my plate.. grr..
I cleared 52oz of medium rare flesh. More than I though was possible and more than I thought was the capacity of my stomach.
Shane is scared as he now thinks my stomach will require a separate savings account just to refill.
We rounded up the day at the outdoor pool in the hotel, goofing around with Leah till 10pm.
Pretty good day if you ask me.