It was mid-afternoon when we rolled into Texas on the third day of our Route 66 road trip.
Our first unofficial “stop” (we sped by it at 80mph) was the Leaning Tower of Texas located in Groom, Texas.
The water tower sits at an 80-degree angle with the ground and was intentionally tilted with a bulldozer. It was tilted to catch the eyes of Route 66 travelers in an effort to get them to stop at the adjacent truck stop (owned by Ralph Britten) and spend their hard-earned cash on food and drinks.
Next was the Slug Bug Ranch. My mom was a VW Bug lover. At the time of her passing, she owned a VW Bug. I remember a conversation I had with her a couple of days before she passed away. I had just arrived in Minnesota from London and was driving her beloved VW Bug to visit her in the hospital. She jokingly asked, “Do you even remember how to drive a stick?”
Her joke was fitting because Peter and I had been living in England for several years at that point and I had not driven a manual transmission regularly for several years at that point.
I read many blog posts that stated that the Slug Bug Ranch was not worth visiting because the site had basically become a trash dump. This did not matter. My dad and I had to stop because if my mom was still alive, it would have been her rolling down Route 66 with my dad, not me, and it would have been a must-do for her.
We arrived at the “parking lot” of the abandoned motel next to the Slug Bug Ranch. Two other visitors were hopping onto their motorcycles to continue their journey. We stepped out of the car and they shook their heads and said, “What a shame”.
First impressions were not good. There was garbage everywhere and the smell was horrendous. I had to cover my nose. The smell was a mixture of standing water, rotting garbage, and human/pet waste baking in the intense Texas sun.
There were four or five VW Bugs angled into the ground, similar to Cadillac Ranch but in far worse condition. Just beyond the cars was another abandoned car with 57 layers of spray paint on it and beyond that was an abandoned building.
The building had become two things: a spray painter’s canvas and a drug den. As I was taking photos of the Bugs, I caught a glimpse of the first three letters of my name in spray paint on the side of the building.
I walked over to the building solely out of curiosity – not many people share my name. Had someone spray-painted my name onto the side of the building?
I took a couple more steps…
I took a couple more steps…
And then I took a couple more steps and I was standing in front of the side of the building and saw this:
I froze in my tracks. I could not move or speak. Though CAMMIE is slightly off from the spelling of my name, CAMIE, my dad’s name is Dave and what were the odds of my dad and me visiting a place that my mother would have loved to visit only to see our names spray-painted next to the Bugs?
I called my dad over and we stared at the side of the building for a few minutes. The world stopped spinning. It was eery.
We inspected the graffiti. We saw ENGLAND written above my name – I lived in England for nearly five years and was living in England at the time of my mom’s death. And we saw HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAMA above my dad’s name. The date of our visit was not close to my mom’s birthday but it was close to my dad’s birthday, his 66th birthday – “Driving Route 66 at the age of 66”.
CAM(M)IE + DAVE + MAMA
I think about my mom every day and after the visit to the Slug Bug Ranch, I think about that visit every day now too.
Stopping at the Slug Bug Ranch only took about 10 minutes, including the time we spent staring at the graffiti. Hot and sickened by the smell of the site, we crawled back into the Corvette and headed west to the Cadillac Ranch located just outside of Amarillo, Texas.
My sister told me that we could “just drive by and take photos” but we stopped anyway. The Cadillacs are positioned pretty far back from the US 40 frontage road so you have to get out of your car to get any sort of decent photo.
Similar to the Slug Bug Ranch but to a lesser degree, the Cadillac Ranch has turned into a stinky garbage dump. I do not understand why visitors believe it to be acceptable to leave their empty spray paint cans and rubbish behind.
I also do not understand how some people do not understand that spraying paint into the wind means that the paint will blow back into their faces. I counted four people who attempted to spray their paint on a Cadillac only to be shocked when the wind blew the paint back onto their faces. Has society really become this stupid?
I got lucky with my photos of the Cadillac Ranch. The majority of people take their photos with their backs facing the road. This makes it is difficult to get photos of the Cadillacs without people. Switching to the opposite side of the Cadillacs (so that you are taking photos facing the road) allows you to position yourself in a way so that people on the road-side of the Cadillacs are hidden by the Cadillacs themselves.
The Cadillac Ranch is a must-do on Route 66.
Our final stop in Texas was to the Midpoint Cafe. I am not sure how we ended up there because it was not on our original itinerary but I’m glad we did. The Midpoint Cafe is located in Adrian, Texas at the midpoint of Route 66 between Chicago and Los Angeles (which technically is not the end of Route 66).
I was disappointed to see that the cafe was closed because I could have done with a bite to eat and I feel as though the food would have been better than the food we ate at another Route 66 diner in New Mexico but you can’t win them all.
There were several other tourists at the Midpoint Cafe when we arrived and they asked if they could take photos next to the most-American car ever made. Dave said, “Sure” and grinned ear-to-ear. This was not the first or last time we stood by as people photographed themselves next to the Corvette. I get it! It’s a sexy car!
Next up, the only state I’d not stepped foot in prior to the Route 66 trip, New Mexico.