One mission I have for my Castles and Kings blog is to write about life’s experiences off the beaten path – from the eyes of an interior designer. So without further delay, it’s time for the first recap of the Wallis wild west summertime road trip!
Along with my husband and two young boys (ages 5 and 7), I’ve just returned from a two week trip from Memphis to New Mexico for a fun filled summer vacation. No, we did not fly. Call us crazy. We chose to drive over 2,500 miles, and we loved each and every day (except for the last day in the car!). It was an unbelievable experience. I have to admit that before we started, I was wondering if we would even make it to the Texas state border. I was mentally prepared we’d be turning around for Memphis.
Note to my Texas Friends: Your state deserves a whole blog post all by itself! It will be coming soon.
The boys also didn’t have iPads or a DVD player in the car. We may be crazier! The boys actually got along great and communicated beautifully. As one quick example of how we passed the many hours on the road, we played old fashioned car bingo. Have you ever tried to find a cat along an interstate? There are none. There are also no stop signs or school buses along the interstate in the summertime. It was a good time to teach the boys a lifelong lesson about cheating too. Especially, when my 5 year old would call BINGO after about about five minutes! I am pretty sure all we saw outside our window were a bunch of longhorns grazing in the open fields and enormous windmills along the horizon. Before long, the boys started competing on who had more oil derricks, windmills or cows on his side of the car.
Along our journey, we would occasionally detour onto Route 66, one of the best decisions of the trip. I expected to see beautiful sights, but I was not prepared to experience the amount of Art Deco and mid century design and architecture, which has always inspired me. I think visiting Graceland as a little girl was my first real love of a little flashback, maybe it was the pink Cadillac that really hooked me!
Route 66 has countless examples of a little throw back style. Route 66 was built in 1926 and ran from Chicago to Los Angeles. It was the main path for those who migrated west. I wanted to jump out of the car and do cartwheels at some of the retro sights we saw!
The first “filling” station I encountered along my trip was this Conoco station in Shamrock, Texas. This Art Deco structure was built in 1936, and its tower is an Art Deco landmark. It closed in the 1990’s as a working station, but thankfully it was restored with a federal transportation grant. Today it is used by the Shamrock Chamber of Commerce as a tourist office.
When I was little, my dad could pull into a gas station, and a friendly man would fill up the car and check the tires and oil and probably a lot more, all while we never left the car. What a nice and relaxing way to get gas! Well, that doesn’t happen anymore, at least where I live.
Shamrock, Texas had some historic Route 66 sights, including Texas’ tallest water tower and our first dining experience on Route 66. Big Vern’s Steakhouse is a must try for dinnertime. I say dinner because I can’t imagine eating a steak for lunch, but then again, it is Texas. We were a bit hesitant about walking in, but our two huge steaks, steak fries and golden mashed potatoes did not disappoint. There was also one choice of white wine on the menu, if you want some vino with your meal. Yelp also helped out with the decision.
So the next day we drove Route 66 to the town of Tucumcari, New Mexico. It is retro central! So much so that we called and cancelled our Albuquerque hotel and chose to stay in the Historic Route 66 Motel. After cruising around the town, my husband asked if I really wanted to cancel our hotel in Albuquerque for a motel in Tumcumcari. My response: “I promise.”
This place is so interesting! It brought back memories of Palm Springs or maybe Miami South Beach (in a retro sense). Upon entering the lobby, I was looking around for a rotary dial telephone, but was not successful. What we finally found was a baby kitten, and my Butler (age 5) yelled BINGO.
The movie crew for The Lucky Man (starring young actor Jesse James) was staying at our motel, and they were using these two old cars in the movie. The film is about a preacher’s kid who gets side railed a bit. It will be released in 2016. My kids entertained the crew by catching all of the croaking bullfrogs on site at the motel. For some reason I keep accidentally typing hotel, but go back to change it to motel. It was the best $48.00 (including tax) we spent on a motel – ever.
And another option for motels here in Tucumcari is The Blue Swallow Motel. I love that the sign reads “100% refrigerated air, vacancy and TV”. Look at the fun Art Deco Branding! That blue mailbox is waiting for the next postcard to be returned to sender. Can you tell I’m an Elvis fan? And those motel chairs are painted so perfectly and bright.
I always try to make time in life for the unexpected. This is where I get inspired. If we had kept on driving to make it to our next destination, I would have never encountered this experience.