Chance Meetings

I was never planning to do the Route 66 pilgrimage but flooded interstates in South Louisiana pushed me north to Memphis and it seemed an opportunity not to miss. Much of the original highway has been lost to time and the creeping sideshoots of  modern day expansionism but there are stretches and towns which still retain some of the flavour of bygone travel.

My point of first contact was northeast of Oklahoma City at the historic Round Barn and POPS angular steel-beamed gas station which displays and offers for sale a mind boggling array of bottled sodas and beers. I bought a Route 66 grape soda and a Dublin Vintage Cola.

In El Reno the 1892 hotel, red barn and museum contained a treasure trove of antiquities. One of my constant beefs is the way larger museums feel the need to minimise their exhibits, picking just a chosen few choice objects for display in interactive isolation. I wanna see the whole collection. Don’t hide it away in the vaults. It’s well worth visiting and supporting these small town museums run by volunteers.

So I planned to make Amarillo by sunset but all my dalliance was running me late and I didn’t want a repeat of yesterday’s long drive. I managed to pick up some decent wi-fi at the Domino’s in Texola before crossing the state line into Texas. Shamrock up the road seemed a good place to stop and the Country Inn had good reviews. I made it there in Texas quick time.

Shamrock turned out to be one of those chance layovers that revealed more than I could ever have hoped. It was a photographer’s dream with its rusty old scrapyard cars and Route 66 memorabilia.

I was taking pictures of the famous Conoco Tower Gas Station and U-Drop Inn when I noticed a guy on the opposite side of the street doing the same. We got chatting and it turns out he’s a photographer who likes documenting back roads US highways.

He’d been to the Cadillac Ranch west of Amarillo and his kids were still covered in paint from adding their mark to that weird roadside installation. As the sun set behind us we snapped away and one by one the neon lights of the old building came on. From the clutter in the trunk of his car he produced a shrink-wrapped copy of his book Garish, a collection of colour Polaroid shots taken on his travels and promptly signed and wrote a message inside for me. Did I say I was glad I’d stopped in Shamrock? His name is Robert Jones btw and the e-book is available on Amazon.



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