Sunday, January 19, 2014

McLean Texas, Route 66

Generally I don't think of myself as a Route 66 kind of guy in terms of having any overarching interest in it any more than the average dreamer, but when you criss cross the America as much as we do, it is inevitable that you are going to be spending time on the 66 and lately due to certain extenuating circumstances like Jackie's love affair with the historic LaPosada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona,  or our work on documenting Highway 83 which intersects with Route 66 in Shamrock, Texas where we were staying to divine the essence of the epicenter/cosmic convergence of the American pre-interstate highway system, we have begun to develop a curiosity that has taken us on a new road.  Today, that road lead us to McLean, as we traveled east on the 66 from Shamrock to get to Amarillo and a certain BBQ place, Jackie had her eye on.
Once a vibrant and relevant hub of commerce and activity, along Route 66 when it was still the only way west, sporting 6 or 7 gas stations, movie theaters that operated, and 56 stores, ...., it now lies all but abandoned and in a state of decay that is deplorable, but not at all uncommon in the thousands of towns across the country that have been left to implode or wither away quietly now that they've torn up the railroads they once serviced and/or built interstates that allows the world to bypass them at 70 mph.  Now there is next to nothing left in McLean other than the few tattered buildings that make it an object of curiosity, a 1 or 2 hour stop over for Route 66 aficionados, longer if you decide to take in the Barbed Wire Museum.

If this photo looks like a hundred others I have taken, that's because it is.  Just another American main street empty and abandoned, devoid of life and searching for relevance.  If little else, there always seems to be a Dollar Store, consignment shop where people sell their possessions to stay alive in the absence of any real employment, a tattoo parlor,  beauty salon, convenience store and little else.  Below is the Avalon Theater, in name and facade only, that are falling apart and provide a photo op for any serious 66er.  I was fortunate that the clouds were with me that day and the sun was in the right place.  When you are just passing through, which is so often the case with us, either you get lucky or you don't, condition wise.  There is more to McLean, but not much, sadly, but this gives you the idea.  Hope the Avalon will still be standing if you get there. 

As I said, there are 6 or 7 abandoned old gas stations from a variety of eras dating back to the 20's and 30's in McLean, most  of which had their backs to the sun or were not photogenic for one reason or other.  This 1950's vintage one was not the best of the bunch, but was well lit.  It looked like the newest of the old abandoned stations, and of at least some historical interest.

As we were leaving town to head west, we passed the Cactus Inn Motel which was quite, a pleasant surprise relative to the rest of the town, and a nice place to stay if you should want to spend more time in McLean in order to see the barbed wire museum, the main point of interest in town.  In view of the inherent brutality of the concept, we passed on it.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Allenreed Texas, Route 66

I always look at certain photos like the trailer below, as a gift.  Here we are in Allenreed, Texas, and while I am sitting on a hillside on the side of the road next to the general store/post office/gas station which makes up 1/3rd of the town,

lamenting the fact that the light was not even close to being right for a certain potentially great photo I wished I could have taken, when these people pull up to fill up, et voila, the perfect Route 66 photo, a vintage 1960's trailer pulling up to the pump to fill up in Allenreed, Texas.

and just when I thought I couldn't have been luckier, this Coca Cola truck pulled up to make a delivery...


Monday, January 6, 2014

Austin Texas...

Didn't think I'd really like it, but Jackie really wanted to go to Austin, Texas in as much as she really has a thing for state capitols, so it turned out to be the last stop on our Highway 83 Texas road trip, but of course Austin is not on the 83, just the place where we caught our flight home.
But I did like it alot, maybe even loved it a bit.  It was a great city with just the right mix of the old and new buildings, and just enough mystery about it to keep me busy for a few days.  It was pretty overcast and rainy for much of our stay, so apologies for the flat sky.

6th Street seems to be where it is all happening.  Didn't buy the t shirt, but did get some good pictures.

On the corner of 6th and Brazos, we stayed at the most extraordinary historic hotel you could imagine, the Driskill.  Built in 1886 by a cattle baron of the same name, looking for a nice place to stay in Austin, it is a miracle that it is still here given the bad luck that seems to have marked its early years that is well documented in Wikipedia, beginning with its closing down a year after opening and it didn't get any better for many years, but here it is.

I guess the people in Texas just didn't get it back then.  It was too incomprehensibly Taj Mahal for them to grasp at the time and even now.  But if you find yourself in Austin, check it out, you won't be sorry.

Needless to say, they still love George W. Bush down here.  In fact I had one guy tell me that if W could have had just one more term, he would have turned things around and the country would not the in the terrible mess that that "clown Obama" has created.  The next photo just touched my heart.  I often lament that we no longer have vibrant downtowns where you can buy a pair of shoes, so when I saw this shoe hospital, I was smitten.

In fact, our only real disappointment in Austin was eating at a restaurant called Bess that seems to be the vanity project of a certain Sandra Bullock and a place Jackie was dying to try.  It is in the basement of an old building she bought and had renovated and was fantastic to see and sit in.  Had a hybrid speakeasy/brothel feel about it that was quite atmospheric, transportative and worked really well.  But the spell was quickly broken by our waiter,  a hostile, pugnacious fellow with a chip on his shoulder and an unpleasant personality that was palpable.  Looking at yelp afterwards, regarding Bess, the reviews were mixed in general,  but it would appear from some of the reviews that others have had the misfortune of being "served" by this guy and felt the need to comment.  Overall, the food was kind of bland and unimaginative and just ok, with small portions (a blessing in disguise?)  and even Jackie was quite put off by the experience.   Plus, she didn't get to see Sandra Bullock.