It has come to my attention that “The Texas Panhandle” is the northern rectangular protrusion, rather than the pointy western protrusion. I had always assumed it to be the latter, given that, if one were to make a pan in the shape of Texas, one would probably prefer to grip it by the El Paso end rather than the blocky, cumbersome Dalhart end. But people don’t name state panhandles by application, as so few people even bother to make pans in the shape of states. So it’s the top part, the part I had been referring to as “The Texas Stovepipe.” I think that’s a better metaphor anyway, but then it only causes confusion.
On Friday I drove from Laramie to Dalhart, Texas. Dalhart is by far the smallest of my various destinations, with only 7,000 or so souls in town. My mother’s family lived there in the late 1950′s. My grandfather was a civil engineer who worked on a reservoir and park south of town, so there is a street named after him. I wanted to take a picture of the street sign, and I thought it would make a nice diversion into smalltown America.
I stayed the night in a motel, and ate breakfast at the 50-year old Sands Restaurant. I had the ultimate greasy-spoon diner breakfast of my life here. I could not believe how great the coffee was – I asked the waitress and she just said it was Cain’s Coffee (a restaurant supplier so generic I couldn’t find a website for them). So I’m forced to assume there is a rich, dark, chocolatey magic in their mugs and carafes. I dare even say it was the second best cup of coffee of my trip. And the hash browns were fluffy. Fluffy! The eggs and toast were great as well. I set off to explore the town and found an Alco. Much like my A&W experience in Oregon, this was a trip back in time. Alco in Harrison closed around 1992 I think. It even smelled the same! I could’ve written Proustian volumes of the memories this place triggered in me. Even the price tags were the same. I really wanted to find something in the toy department to buy just to have something with the price tag. I couldn’t find anything worth buying though, although I did find some bargains in the music bins – for $4 each I got Spies Like Us on DVD, the remastered Police albums Outlandos d’Amour and Reggatta de Blanc as well as a lesser-known gem, Traffic’s Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.
I set out in search of John Todd Drive, to no avail. I asked three people, including a cop, who informed me that I was essentially standing on it. He pointed me toward the street sign, and theorized that it had most likely been removed for re-painting. Had I not experienced the joys of Alco and The Sands breakfast, I would have been greatly dismayed at having driven 8 hours to find a blank sign frame.
Laughing quietly in the face of misfortune, I set out toward Amarillo on some very rural north Texas roads – the kind of lonesome stretches of highway where the telephone poles blur into a low sine wave over the long rolling hills, and the towns you pass through only have one cash-only gas station if they have one at all. I actually enjoyed this a bit more than the Interstate at Amarillo. From there to Oklahoma City you can trace the route of the old Route 66, in a far less romantic fashion. I took a picture of this leaning water tower, which I later discovered makes an appearance in Wikipedia’s Route 66 entry.
I arrived in Oklahoma City on Saturday evening to hang out with fellow Pointed Stick founder Heath and his wife Mary Beth. Oklahoma City’s street plan, it’s worth noting, is a marvelously convenient grid, but its freeways make no damn sense at all. On top of that, I got stuck in a Heller-ish limbo wherein I could not get back on the freeway after accidentally exiting, so I went to down to the next on-ramp, which also prevented me from going the direction I wanted.
Today I’m in a coffee shop in Kansas City’s Westport district. I’m staying with my old high school chum Kevin, and hanging out with fellow HHS grad Michelle as well. I have to get back to Little Rock for Superflux rehearsals on Thursday (I’ll be playing my last gig with them in Stuttgart on the 24th), so I think I’m heading back to Arkansas tomorrow, stopping off in Harrison tomorrow night. That will conclude the larger portion of this trip, which will resume the weekend after Thanksgiving, when I set out for New York with various stops along the way.
1.) I apologize for making two literary-figure adjectives in one blog post, but seriously I-40 in southwest Oklahoma City was a damned Catch 22 for me around the Portland exit. Plus there was a dead cow blocking traffic. Click here for a funny bit of Heller trivia I just read.