The Lope: May 2005

Monday, May 30, 2005


Its the last day of the trip. After a fitful sleep at the Big Texan, we made a beeline for home with few stops. Of course one of those stops was the Cattleman's Cafe in OKC. Ace bid farewell to the neon cowboy at the stockyards entrance.

Last photo of a two-week trip - view from the McDonalds over I-44 near Vinita, OK.
"The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say."
- J.R.R. Tolkein

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Albuquerque to Amarillo

We decided that rather than take 66 or 40 from Albuquerque to Amarillo, we'd dip South a bit and take 60 most of the way. We lunched at Mountainair at a restaurant near this stone fence which dates from the 1930's.

The open sky furnished the background for a train shot in Vaughn, NM.

Around nightfall we reached Clovis, NM, not far from the Texas border. This was the coolest motel sign in town.

After woofing down a BMT at Subway, we ran across this beautiful old drive-in, the Twin Cronnies. Of course, I ate something in accordance with travel rule #12: everything tastes better under googie architecture.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

May 28, 2005 - Jackalope and Jackrabbit, D'oh!

This is a combination of three posts from back when this blog was new. They are part of a trip from Joplin, MO, to Needles, CA, with side-trips to Phoenix and Las Vegas.

Return to la Posada

Morning in Winslow saw us on the grounds of La Posada asking the question: "can you see too many trains?" The answer is: "of course not." This is taken from the Amtrak station next to La Posada.

And these are from the grounds of La Posada.

Here It Is

A fiberglass jackrabbit stands guard at the Jackrabbit Trading Post, near Jackrabbit, AZ.

The black, almost sinister jackrabbit logo has haunted roadside signs for decades. Their billboards were more numerous once, and many featured the catch phrase "Here It Is."

Of course, as with many Route 66 attractions in this part of the country, this one parallels the BNSF tracks.

The building itself has classic Southwest tourist trap decor.

This section of tile on the doorstep is a nice touch.

The owner of the Jackrabbit Trading Post keeps the place stocked with a good selection of classic tourist-trap stuff (and I mean that in a good way). I'd say the Jackrabbit is equalled only by the gift shop at the Big Texan as far as classics like "rattlesnake eggs."

Albuquerque? D'oh!

I'm not generally a sports fan, but I do love The Simpsons. Remember the "Dancing Homer" episode in which he was the mascot for the Springfield Isotopes? Remember when the Isotopes threatened to move to Albuquerque? That, and Albuquerque's history concerning atomic bomb manufacture, led to the name of their minor league team.

Dinner was had at the 66 Diner on Central Avenue, Route 66 through the city.

The diner's counter uses the classic Boomerang Formica pattern created in the early 1950s by industrial designer Brooks Stevens, later altered by Raymond Loewy, and first introduced under the name Skylark. Formica has re-introduced it from time to time over the years.

The 66 Diner is not all that old, its more of a retro diner, but the food is good even if the decor occasionally tries a little too hard to fit into the 50's.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Grand Canyon

The Dennys origin of the Rt66 diner in Williams shows in the boomerang roof line. I've eaten here before; it was adequate but unremarkable.

There are a few tourist traps on Hwy 64, which leads from near Williams to Grand Canyon National Park. This sign, labelled "Yei-Be-Chei Dancer", is outside one of them.

What would the West be without a few wild canines? I'd love to say this was a fleeting glimse of a wild animal, but, truth to tell, after I shot the photo he wandered up to other cars in search of tourist hand-outs.

Its the Grand Canyon; you can't say much about it that it doesn't say better, itself.

Scale is a wonderful thing.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

May 26, 2005 - Trek to Tiki

This a combination of several posts made when this blog was new back in May of 2005. They were parts of a trip from Joplin, MO to Needles, CA with side-trips to Phoenix, AZ and Las Vegas, NV. Ace Jackalope was still learning the art of disguising himself as a human and didn't quite know what to do with shirt sleeves yet, but here are the pictures anyway.

Star Trek Experience

Before leaving Las Vegas, I stopped at the Hilton's Star Trek Experience. It was almost too uber-geeky for me, but I enjoyed it and Ace found some Star Trek bears who served as uniform donors. The decor of the attraction is based on Deep Space Nine.

A very expensive life-size Gorn statue adorns a hallway.

Professional actors in Klingon regalia mill about.

This Ferengi harassed customers in the gift shop to buy more stuff.

Large model starships hang from the ceiling.

The facility has a museum but the labels do not make clear whether the objects are actual costumes and props, or reproductions.

Borg sippie cups glare at Ace from the gift shop

Ace makes a chilling visit to a Borg assimilation chamber.

Vegas is sin city, even inside a Star Trek inspired attraction, so of course they sell alcohol.

Before leaving, Ace tried his new finery on a dabo girl.

Ace is reminded of the U.S.S. Herrick, the first starship piloted by jackalopes. It was launched...and lost, on stardate 41153.7. Immediately upon leaving space dock, it's first (and last) subspace transmission mentioned going out for some dinner. It never returned, though charge slips for food and souvenirs purchased by the crew still arrive at starfleet command.

Boulder City, NV

A happenstance stop in Boulder City, NV, revealed the Nevada State Railroad Museum. This is a fine old switcher. I'll have to find my old copy of The Diesel Spotter's Guide, but I think it was built by the long-defunct Baldwin Locomotive Works.

The museum is restoring this Union Pacific GP30. I've always liked the aesthetics of the GP30 and have a soft spot for them as they were common in my youth.

Hoover Dam

We drove over Hoover Dam but didn't take the time for the $10 tour.

We did walk around a bit on the Nevada side. Can you tell I liked this statue?

Tiki in the middle of nowhere

After taking 93 from Boulder City, NV to Kingman, AZ, we took an old loop of Rt66 to Seligman, then took 40 to Williams for the night. On the stretch of 66 between Kingman and Seligman, I saw this tiki in the distance at Antares, AZ. I don't know if Antares is actually a town or if its just this place.

The owner said her son made this of concrete two years ago when they decided on a tiki/space theme for their trailer park.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Las Vegas Neon Museum

Vegas is a city of neon, and many of the older pieces are preserved along the East end of the Fremont Street Experience. Several free-standing pieces have been moved here by the Las Vegas Neon Museum; many have explanatory plaques.

The Las Vegas Neon Museum keeps a "boneyard," a three-acre lot near Cashman Field which holds about one hundred unrestored signs. Although I was only able to shoot from the outside, what can be seen through and over the fence is rewardingly surreal.

Its a "really big shoe." I think it might be the Silver Slipper of the casino by the same name.

At the East end of The Fremont Street Experience is Neonopolis, a shopping and cinema complex that features a central column decorated with signs restored by the museum. I could not find explanatory plaques in Neonopolis.

This is a time exposure. The hand pours the bottle and the bubbles expand.

I'm pretty sure this sign was originally in Tucumcari, NM, along Route 66.

This horse and rider stands just outside the East end of the Fremont Street Experience.

Here's one of the freestanding signs along Fremont.

Late that night, I took a drive down the strip to see old motel signs.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Vegas, baby!

We reached Las Vegas at nightfall and stayed at the Plaza Hotel. I had never been there, having no interest in gambling and assuming Vegas to be a shallow, neon-lit crucible of addicitions where stale music acts go to die. It is; but it sure is pretty. The Pioneer Cowboy is a Vegas icon. His arm no longer moves but the various neon pieces in his face make him wink and move his cigarette.

The cowboy, along with three blocks of Fremont Street, known as the Fremont Street Experience, is covered by an electronic canopy. I wasn't crazy about the hanging speakers, as they often obstructed what would have been my favorite views of the signs.

The cowboy has company across the way. I was surprised to see that the neon cowgirl is above Glitter Gulch, a strip club which advertises it's wares on a big screen TV overlooking the pedestrian mall.

I had heard that Las Vegas had veered toward a family appeal; the girls on the big TV, topless save for the words "Ooops" or "Zounds", seem to indicate otherwise. I wasn't offended, but was a bit surprised.

At night, every hour, on the hour until midnight (at least while I was there) the neon lights along the covered stretch of Fremont are turned off and a video show plays across the canopy, over the pedestrian mall. Sometimes these were music videos, at other times they were more like video game graphics set to music.

Ace checked out the casinos and gift shops; along the way he made a few friends.

Of course, he had to try the slots.

Before I went to bed, I noticed the carpet of the Plaza Hotel has this cool googie pattern.

May 24, 2005: Kingman to Needles on Route 66

This is a combination of what was previously five posts about a drive from Kingman, AZ to Needles, CA on Route 66 in May of 2005.

Morning in Kingman

After waking up at the dull but adequate Super 8 in Kingman, I drove around looking at older motels. The Arcadia is the first I've seen with naked statues. Why didn't this trend ever catch on?

Cool Springs, AZ

We left Kingman and followed an old loop of Rt66 that runs quite a bit North of interstate 40 before rejoining it at about the Arizona/California border; it is a desolate but beautiful stretch. Cool Spings lies along this mountainous loop.

Ace made a new friend.

Gold Road, AZ

Gold Road is a very small place along Rt66; just East of it is this fine observation point from which the terrain 66 traverses may be seen. There are many hairpin turns along this stretch of the mother road.

Looking to the North, the craggy peaks seem foreboding.

Speaking of hairpin turns, I didn't even need an ultra wide lense to shoot this. It was shot with a 28mm lens; the curve is actually that tight.

Oatman, AZ

West of Cool Springs lies Oatman, an old mountain mining town with many gold-rush buildings intact. The big thing about Oatman, though, is burros...lots of burros. The federally protected animals are decendents of the ones miners used in the 1800's. For fifty cents you can buy a bag of carrots to feed them. Watch it though, they're persistant and won't believe you're out of food; they'll even follow you to your car and try to get in.

Ace picked up a friend at a gift shop.

Needles, AZ

Needles is as far West as we went on this trip before turning North to Las Vegas. Ace wanted to set paw on a spot of California's Rt 66. I've read this wagon used to be part of a sign for the El Rancho Motel in Needles.

Needles has at least two classic motels.

The 66 Motel sign

The Sage Motel sign

Monday, May 23, 2005

May 23, 2005: Flagstaff to Kingman

This is a combination of several previous posts from my old blogspot blog. It is part of a trip from Joplin, MO to Needles, CA with side-trips to Phoenix, AZ and Las Vegas, NV. Much of the trip was on Route 66, though I didn't shoot too many pictures.

Leaving Phoenix, May 23, 2005

As you drive North on Highway 17 out of Phoenix toward Flagstaff and Route 66, the Saguaro cacti thin out until there are no more. I always miss them.

We stopped in Sedona, as shown in another post called May 18 and 23, 2005: Sedona, AZ, before continuing north to Flagstaff.

66 West of Flagstaff

Old Route 66 West of Flagstaff in not in great shape, in fact, its got some major craters in it and trees have grown right up to it's edge. But we wanted to drive a bit of it, nevertheless.

Williams, AZ

The West was won...or lost, depending on your perspective, with the help of the iron horse. This Alco locomotive was made long after that, but is still a classic on the Grand Canyon Railway in Williams, AZ. Ace Jackalope gazes West to his next destination.

As it turns out, his next destination was Rod's Steak House, a Rt66 institution since 1946.

This trip was largely fueled by steak.

Kingman, AZ

We settled in Kingman, AZ for the night...not at the Route 66 Motel, but it does have an iconic sign.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Bikini Lounge

My last stop on Hwy60 Sunday was the Bikini Lounge on Van Buren in Phoenix. Last year this area was sleazier, but in the interum, small art galleries have popped up and the area is improving.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Bikini's two tikis were of recent vintage. The place uses black lights and flourescent paint accents on the walls.

I know ATMs are convenient for owners and customers but I'm not crazy about this juxtiposition.

I'm told the wahini in this old painting was originally nude and the skirt was added by later owners. Next year, when I have more time, I'll try to discover the whole story.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Phoenix area hwy 60

The best mid-century architecture and sign hunting I found in the Phoenix area was along Highway 60 from Peoria to the Northwest to Apache Junction out East. I spent parts of Saturday and Sunday driving it.

This is a time exposure; the divers on this sign flash in sequence.

Even this porn place looked good.

I shoot pictures of a *lot* of motels. One sign of a good one is when I'm seen by the management and they invite me to shoot more. This is a well-preened place; if I need lodging in Phoenix, I'll be tempted to stay here.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Kon Tiki

On Friday, I drove from Phoenix down to Tucson to go to my favorite tiki bar, the Kon Tiki. On the way, the sun set behind Picacho peak.

Kon Tiki is a classic, built in 1963 during the height of America's infatuation with pseudo-Polynesian decor. The sign is probably patterned off the now-defunct Islander in Stockton, CA. The manager is attempting to gain authorization from Tucson to re-light the gas torches.

Ace poses in tiki attire in the mouth of one of Kon Tiki's wooden statues, most of which were made by Phillipine sculptor Milan Guanko. This one is outside and served as the inspiration for a new mug and shot glass made by Tiki Farm for Kon Tiki.

The mug and shot glass in question are the brown ones. Of course, I had to have a pair.

One of the tikis that stands guard outside.

All of these are inside; I believe all were made by Milan Guanko.

I reviewed Kon Tiki for a Tikicentral, my favorite tiki website, last year. This year, I was touched when a small group of people from Tikicentral arranged to greet me at Kon Tiki.

If you want to see the pics I did last year, click my posts from

On the way out of Tucson, I took a couple night shots of signs along Miracle Mile. I'd shot lots of signs along the Miracle Mile/Oracle/Stone stretch in previous years, but had not seen these working at night.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Phoenix Hilton

Ace checked into the Squaw Peak Hilton while in Phoenix. He does not usually go for resorts, but he was traveling with a group and this was the best option.

This was the slowest hummingbird I've ever seen.

The Hilton had a Western theme. All of the vegitation made Ace want to relax and go au natural.

A bit of Native American decor in the room.

The Drift, Scottsdale, AZ

While on a brief excursion to Scottsdale, I checked out The Drift, a tiki bar of recent vintage.

The Drift combines tiki decor with mid-century mod furniture.

The light-up puffer fish is a staple of classic tiki bars.

Tiki carvings of various sorts embellish the place.

Unique driftwood furniture on the patio.

Of course, ya gotta have a Moai (Easter Island head).

One must always dress appropriately for a tiki bar.

Signs of Phoenix

A nice googie bowling alley.

A really huge car dealership sign.

There's nothing like a day of shooting signs and tiki bars to tucker one out.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

May 18 and 23, 2005: Sedona, AZ

This is a combination of three previous posts. It is part of a trip from Joplin, MO to Needles, CA with side-trips to Phoenix, AZ and Las Vegas, NV. On the way to and from Flagstaff to Phoenix, we stopped in Sedona to see the red rocks. Since I had to do some editing on these posts anyway, I decided to combine the two Sedona stops.

Hwy 89 and Sedona, May 18, 2005

These views are along Arizona Highway 89, heading South toward Sedona.

Fun with water fingering it's way across rocks.

I thought I saw a face in this rock. Do you see it?

Leaving Phoenix, May 23, 2005

As you drive North on Highway 17 out of Phoenix, the Saguaro cacti thin out until there are no more. I always miss them.

Another Look at Sedona, May 23, 2005

We diverted over to Sedona for another look at the red rocks. These are views from an observation point above the town and to the East.

Winslow, AZ

La Posada in Winslow, AZ is an old Harvey House that has been restored and is in use as a hotel and restaurant.

Navajo culture infuses this part of Arizona and Ace decided to try to adopt traditional dress. Thats a nice chunk of petrified wood he's standing on.

Part of this building was a train station; some of the original furniture remains and the wide open rooms are perfect for the display of regional art.

Harvey Houses were known for Harvey girls; its hard to say which is prettier...the window or the woman.

The food here is great, and breakfast was surprisingly inexpensive. The eggs with green chili are especially rousing.

From the Turquoise Room, one can dine and watch the trains while being served by beautiful women. It doesn't get much better than this.

The grounds of La Posada are well-kept and there is a nearly unobstructed view of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe double main line from the back patio.

Visitors are allowed to appoach very close to the trains, but not onto the actual platform, which belongs to a still-functional Amtrak station nextdoor.

The rooms at La Posada are nice, alhough there is no elevator.

It's too bad the Highway Diner, across from La Posada, is no longer in business. It looks like an old Valentine diner, manufactured in Wichita, KS.

Winslow's other claim to touristic fame is in question at the moment. The "Standing on a Corner" park, as in "standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona" from the Eagles' song, Take it Easy, is fenced off after the adjacent building burned last year.

The mural, which shows a "girl in a flatbed Ford, slowing down to take a look" at a sort of everyman/Jackson Brown-ish statue, is intact; but the site stays fenced while an insurance company, the building owner and the city come to an agreement as to how to proceed. In the meantime, "Take it Easy" still plays endlessly from the loudspeakers of anxious gift shop owners.

Meteor Crater, AZ

Disguised as a Navajo, Ace visits the spectacular Meteor Crator in Arizona.

A building at the edge of the crater houses a museum and Omnimax theater.

An Apollo training capsule sits outside.

A close encounter in the gift shop.

Lizards like it here.

Meteor City, AZ

Meteor City (not to be confused with Meteor Crater) stocks most of the normal tourist crap for such a place in NM or AZ, and is adequate but unremarkable for shopping. It does, however trigger four roadside rules:
One must always stop at a vintage tourist trap.
One must always investigate a concrete teepee.
One must always investigate a geodesic dome.

And, one must always pay at least moderate attention to the world's largest anything.

Two Guns, AZ

Two Guns, AZ is an abandoned tourist trap. The site has a long and bloody history. Some say it is cursed.


Snow caps the mountains North of Flagstaff.

Hwy 89 and Sedona

This post has been merged with another Sedona post into a new post called May 18 and 23, 2005: Sedona, AZ. This marker will remain for awhile to redirect those of you who may have bookmarked the previous one.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

May 17, 2005: Albuquerque to Holbrook

This is a combination of several posts from back when this blog was new. They are part of a May 2005 trip from Joplin, MO, to Needles, CA, with side-trips to Phoenix, AZ, and Las Vegas, NV.

Cubero, NM

We started out May 17 in Albuquerque but the first picture I shot was in Cubero, a small village just off Route 66 between Albuquerque and Grants. Catholic-inspired wall art is not uncommon here, and this was the most accessible example I saw.

When tumbleweeds attack!

It's coming right at me!

Near San Fidel, NM on old Rt66.

Whiting Brothers gas stations were once common along Route 66; now, only one or two are left operating. However, the distinctive shape of the sign lingers with many of the subsequent businesses that bought their properties.

Prewitt, NM

A BNSF train moves past the site of a previous derailment near Prewitt, NM, on Route 66.

Continental Divide, NM

There are a couple of well-stocked tourist traps at Continental Divide, but the find of a real (for a change) wagon was the highlight. As I'm sure you know, the continental divide runs along the crest of the Rockies, from British Columbia, through the United States, and continues Southward through Mexico and Central America. In the U.S., it divides the country's principal drainage into that flowing Eastward to the Mississippi River and that flowing Westward to the Pacific Ocean.

New Mexico residents seem justly fond of their flag. The yellow and red colors are from the flags of Spanish explorers. The state of New Mexico adopted the Zia sun symbol in the 1920's from one of it's native Americans cultures. This is one of Ace's favorite flags and he was happy to blend in by wearing it as a kerchief.

This is a view of the cliffs to the North of the Continental Divide exit from Hwy40. The access road is Rt66.

BNSF train

An East-bound BNSF train between Continental Divide and Grants. The tracks run near Route 66 in this area.

Gallup, NM

I've probably shot photos of two dozen motels, etc., in Gallup in previous years, but I'd never gotten this drive-in at the West end of Rt66. I like the shape of the awning.

Lupton, AZ

You'll know when you're at the NM/AZ border because a cluster of tourist traps will greet you. The Chief Yellowhorse trading post is a classic along Route 66 just West of Arizona's border with New Mexico.

Holbrook, AZ

Holbrook has one of the three remaining Wigwam Motels; the other two are in Cave City, KY and Rialto, CA. The ones in Holbrook and Rialto are on Rt66.

We didn't stay here for the night, but I would do so on a later trip, which you can see here and here. The Cozy Cone Motel in the Disney/Pixar movie "Cars" was based on this motel and possibly its siter motel in Rialto, CA.

Joe and Aggie's is an old Rt66 institution.

Ace sees one of his ancestors immortalized in a mural on the front of Grace's, across Route 66 from Joe and Aggie's. Jackalopes are a recognized part of western lore.

Monday, May 16, 2005

May 16, 2005: Amarillo to Albuquerque

This is a combination of several posts from back when this blog was new. They are part of a May 2005 trip from Joplin, MO, to Needles, CA, with side-trips to Phoenix, AZ, and Las Vegas, NV. Much of trip was along Route 66.

Cadillac Ranch, West of Amarillo

The Cadillac Ranch was an obvious inspiration for the Cadillac mountain range in the Disney/Pixar movie "Cars." I wish cars still had fins.

Ace does not have a high opinion of automobiles and enjoys the fact that at least ten are partially buried as part of this famous outdoor sculpture.

This sign was across Rt66 from the Cadillac Ranch.

Midpoint Pete is halfway there

The Midpoint Cafe in Adrian, Texas, is aptly named, being at the midpoint of Route 66.

Midpoint Pete, a prairie dog, was left there by a customer and usually occupies a high shelf.

The ladies working that afternoon were a blast.

The sign across the road was designed by the restaurant. The ownership was a bit peeved to discover their copyrighted property had been used on mass-produced fabric, but Ace was happy to have a "place specific" vest made of it.

Midpoint's Fran Houser gets down a Texas flag for me to purchase. Fran is thought by Route 66 News to have been an inspiration for the character "Flo" in the Pixar movie "Cars", and I tend to agree.

It isn't often that a jackalope and a prairie dog get to share pie.


Route 66, West of Adrian, looking East.

Glenrio, TX

Glenrio is supposed to be a Route 66 ghost town, or so said much of the material I read. There was a block of mailboxes there, however, and fenced dogs could be heard barking as I shot photos. This looks like an old Valentine diner, but isn't, being made of concrete. It was the inspiration for the defunct Glenrio Motel, seen in "Cars."

And I'd read about this. One side of the sign had read "First Motel in Texas", the other, "Last Motel in Texas."

Albuquerque, NM

Albuquerque's stretch of Rt66, Central Avenue, is crammed with good neon. I'd shot much of it last year, but found a few more gems this time around. This neon sculpture arches over Central near the Western city limits.

24-hour restaurants are a great find when one spends the evening hours driving and shooting pictures. The Frontier, across from New Mexico University on Central Avenue (Route 66 in Albuquerque) was more than adequate for food as well as people-watching.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

May 15, 2005: Vinita to Amarillo

This post is a combination of several sequential posts from my previous blog. They occurred during a May, 2005 trip from Joplin, MO to Needles, CA with side-trips to Phoenix, AZ and Las Vegas, NV. Much of the trip took place along Route 66.

Would you like fries with your trip?

This McDonald's, over I-44 near Vinita, OK, touts itself as the largest McDonalds in the world. It isn't anymore; but the novelty of it being built over the highway is the real appeal, anyway. It's rather odd to consider such a corporate place as anything other than...well, a corporate place, but driving under this arch between Joplin and Tulsa has always seemed like a symbolic transition to me...kind of like someone waving the starting flag declaring that a trip has begun.

I was learning to use Photoshop at the time I posted these and my attempt at darkening an almost burned-out sky rendered an odd effect, but I've left it intact since it reminds me of the sky in old hand-colored postcards.

This McDonald's does actually have a bit of history. It was formerly a Howard Johnson's and is known locally as "The Glass House." It's also got a gift shop full of non-McDonald's touristy stuff befitting of a trip out West. In fact, as you travel Route 66 or the somewhat parallel I-44 going west out of Missouri into Oklahoma, this is the first place I know of that has a mass of the typical western tourist trap stuff you'll see all through Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. I'm talking about keychains that look like Indian headresses, flocked plastic buffalo...that sort of thing. By Arizona, typical tourist trap inventory takes on much less of a cowboy feel and tilts more toward southwestern Indian-inspired stuff.

This place even has a statue of Will Rogers. I find a nice bit of continuity in the fact that this part of I-44 is the Will Rogers Turnpike, and Route 66 was the Will Rogers Highway.

A Sandwich in Stroud

The Rock Cafe along Route 66 in Stroud, OK was built in 1936 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The current owner, Dawn Welch, has restored it to as near it's original appearance as practical. This was a daytime visit but the fully functional neon sign deserves a nocturnal look on a future trip.

Note added when re-editing in 2007: Ms. Welch, who was not present when we were there on this trip, was the inspiration for the Sally the Porsche character in the Disney/Pixar movie, "Cars." Ace and I did meet her on a subsequent trip few months later.

Although Ace discovers this wood motorcycle to be merely decorative, he is intrigued by the photo of a man tattooed with the cafe's logo. Apparently this place has some real devotees.

Stroud also boasts this cool sign for the Skyliner Motel.

Oklahoma City, gateway to the West

The West really begins at Oklahoma City. At least that's the way it feels traveling West on Rt 66 or Interstates 40 and 44. Missouri and Arkansas are pleasantly "Ozarky" and Tulsa feels more of Googie and Art Deco. The first Cowboy image Ace sees on this trip is the welcome sign at the OKC stockyards.

The Cattleman's Cafe in OKC serves as a mood-setter to Ace's journey West. A little history always helps; it began business in 1910 and in 1945 it changed ownership as the result of a dice game. Gotta love that.

Disguised as an one of the usual customers, he enters. With doorpulls that look like a steer, this has to be a good place.

Jackalopes are more carnivorous that their Lepus ancestors and it is here that Ace devours the first of many steaks. It is a little-known fact that traveling jackalopes live by several rules, one of which is: eat no mediocre meals. He places the Cattleman's Cafe at the top of his Steak list.

(Note added while re-editing in 2007: after many, many steakhouses, this one is still holds our #1 rating)

Art deco in an Irish town in the old West

The Tower Conoco Station in Shamrock, TX is a great blend of art deco, petroliana and Rt66 nostalgia. The best thing about is that it not only still exists but is being restored. The 1936 combo of a service station and a restaurant is currently used as the Shamrock Chamber of Commerce and sells a few souvenirs.

If this building looks familiar to you, but you've never been to Shamrock, you may be remembering Ramone's House of Body Art in the Disney/Pixar movie, "Cars." There is no doubt that Ramone's was based on this place.

The neon was restored in 2004 or 2005.

The name "U-Drop Inn Cafe" was chosen in a contest won by a schoolboy who got $50 for his cleverness.

Info centers are bigger in Texas

The Texas tourism info center on I-40, West of Shamrock is rather striking at night.


The Big Texan Steak Ranch is a regular stop for Ace on his way to and from the Western states, and this year was no exception. It contains not only a restaurant, but a motel, gift shop and horse boarding facility.

The road is generous in offering meetings with kindred spirits; Ace met Becky Ransom, former president of the Texas Route 66 Association, at the Big Texan. She now works there in administration and has previously held a variety of jobs at various Route 66 institutions. She was a wealth of information...and cute, too.

Editing note added in 2007: Becky was also acknowledged in "special thanks" column in the credits of the Disney/Pixar movie, "Cars."

And yes, The Big Texan is the place with the free 72 oz. steak.

Its free...if you can eat it, with all the trimmings, in one hour...otherwise its $50. Ace discovered this one is a display, wrapped in cellophane.

There is other fun available at the Big Texan, although these machines give only tokens.

Like the motorcycle at Stroud, this wagon turns out to be only a toy, but it's a fun one.

The Big Texan is proud of it's history. The business was started along the old Route 66 (now Amarillo Blv.) in 1960 and was moved to the newly completed Hwy 40 in 1970.

Some of the motel rooms really carry through the Western theme.

Can it get any better? Cowboy scenes under which to dream.

Ace and I revisited most of the locations above on a subsequent trip a few months later.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Ace gets custom duds

Ace now has an official leather designer. Through the craftsmanship of Justin Reichert of Reichert's Custom Leather in McPherson, KS, he obtained a custom vest and hat for his upcoming trip out West. It was just what Ace wanted, as Cowboy imagery will be a theme of the upcoming journey. Here, Reichert poses with his son, Thorin, and Ace. Did you know the name "Thorin" is not only that of one of Tolkiens's Dwarves in "The Hobbit", but was also used in Tolkien's source, the Icelandic mythologocal work, the Elder Edda?

This outfit will enable Ace to blend in perfectly, indisinguishable from the average cowboy.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Ace goes national

A photo of Ace Jackalope is featured on page 120 of the May 2005 issue of Landline Magazine. He is shown in a story about a proposal in the Wyoming Senate to make the jackalope the state mythological animal.