Of the many unique geographical features of Oklahoma, I realized on our most recent ride this is the first place I’ve ever lived where I can go from west side of the state across the state line into the west side of the neighboring state, Texas. It’s a damn geographical oddity, to quote one of my favorite movies.
Waking early to beat the triple digit heat, it seemed like a perfectly good day to leave the state and with the third in a series of trips to shoot what remains of Route 66 from the City to the western border on the agenda, we added an extra fifteen minutes to see Shamrock rather than turning back at Texola. Even before the ride began, I was slowly milling about, enjoying the predawn before we left, adoring being up in the early hours, drinking coffee, rechecking the sparse gear required in summer we’d gathered the night before. Unfortunately, that calm was disrupted when a few unforeseen disasters threw a wrench in the works, but rather than stew and stress, we continued on as planned, albeit almost two hours later than originally slated. In spite of the morning’s mishaps, the white noise of the engine and the warm morning sunshine pulled me into two wheel meditation quickly and by the passing of the first hour my mind was clear and decisive rather than worried and rash.
As we got further west, nearing the border, Josh asked if the hair was getting bigger. It was. The air was getting hotter, the hair higher to God, the familiar and very much missed since I moved to Oklahoma syrupy drawls I grew up with were heard more frequently. As the land gave way to an almost flat gentle rolling and the wind became constant and hot, throwing dust in great plumes across the road, I scanned the landscape for tumbling tumbleweeds as the song goes and sighed at the worn state of the mother road rolling through quiet desolation, the interstate when barely visible just a distant flash of movement on the northern horizon line.
The road herself changes just after the state line where she emerges from a small cluster of low wind battered trees and becomes a frontage road for 40. She’s better maintained on the Texas side through to Shamrock, but if you travel that way by night be mindful of a few places where what looks like a continuation of your lane is actually an exit for opposing traffic on the interstate. We were told riders in the past had been hurt at those exits, and although in broad daylight they are easily recognizable, I can see how in the pitch dark of night a mistake could easily be made and not realized until “Wrong Way” signs flash by.
I absolutely beamed as we came into Shamrock, passing old gas stations and buildings exemplifying the glory days of Route 66 deco, well maintained and still occupied, a welcome sight after so many ghost towns I’d spent the morning shooting. Shamrock’s chamber of commerce has made priority of their remnants from 66’s heyday, even housing their operations in the former U Drop Inn under its iconic tower. The 1936 building is gorgeously maintained and if you pass through at night, they have even restored its beautiful green neon.
Before photographing we had to have water, rehydration and shade. We arrived later in the day than originally intended and to describe the heat radiating from the asphalt as sweltering would be a vast understatement. As I walked into a convenience store, I heard a familiar metal jingle nearby and started to laugh. Josh asked what was so funny and I pointed out that I hadn’t been in Texas fifteen minutes before I heard spurs. Only in Texas… I love that state.
After a rest in the sparse shade of what I think passes for a tree in the panhandle, we moved on, hungry by now and planning to eat after we crossed back into Oklahoma. However, after photographing a handful of the more eye catching buildings on our immediate route, before we could ride out I had to make one last stop, a hell of a car graveyard with more than one model to die for. It’s on the east side of town just as you leave, should you want an excuse to drool too.