This stretch of highway from Chicago to Los Angeles, built in the 1920s, quickly achieved a route of choice for goods and travelers crossing the nation. But with the advent of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, the route accommodated both hope and desperation as citizens took flight from lives devastated by drought and poverty, only to find more of the same as they moved westward. It was a human condition elevated to literary heights by John Steinbeck in his classic American novel “The Grapes of Wrath.” More than a decade later (and at the end of the Second World War) the country’s prosperity rose once again and Americans, flush with automobiles and disposable income, took to the road for pleasure and discovery.
One hundred and seventy eight miles of Route 66 originally traversed Texas, crossing the Panhandle east to west in a straight shot through Amarillo. A mile-long stretch of vintage Route 66 architecture, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, still occupies Amarillo’s 6th Avenue, once Route 66’s main thoroughfare through town. Attractions still thrive along the displaced route including Dot’s Mini Museum and the Vega Motel, both in Vega, The Art Deco-style Tower Station and Café in Shamrock, the Midpoint Café in Adrian, and the decidedly more modern Cadillac Ranch, a series of 10 vintage Cadillacs buried hood-first in the ground.