Texas isn’t just big—it’s ginormous. Anyone who’s driven I-10 across the Lone Star State knows that you can roll on for what feels like forever.Texas actually has the second-shortest Route 66 alignment.Fortunately, this is not the case for travelers on Route 66 across the Texas Panhandle (the rectangular outcrop that sits atop the state). Texas actually has the second-shortest Route 66 alignment; Kansas claims first place with only 13 miles of the Mother Road. And although Texas is only the runner-up, driving through the Panhandle is not necessarily a quick jaunt either.
Despite Texas’s reputation as a rough-and-tumble state, bursting with ego and pride, the Panhandle is an out-of-the-way region with its own pace and attitude. Most Route 66 towns are lined up along a quiet, lonely, two-lane highway and hold fewer than 500 residents. Large Texas cities like Dallas or Houston are nowhere near Route 66; Amarillo, the largest city in the Panhandle, is about one-third of the size of Austin. This is a quiet, dare-I-say humble area of Texas.
Route 66 originally stretched 178 miles through Texas; today, about 150 miles are actually drivable. Most of Route 66 lies under the I-40 Frontage Road. A Route 66 road trip through Texas will follow I-40 between Jericho and Alanreed as well as the last 18 miles as you exit the state from Adrian to Glenrio. But don’t fret—even this frontage road still offers a rural, middle-of-nowhere feel.
Best Route 66 Panhandle Restaurants
- Golden Light Café and Cantina, Amarillo: Established in 1946, this is the oldest restaurant in Amarillo.
- The Stockyard Cafe, Amarillo: Chow down with the cowboys in the Amarillo stockyards.
- Rooster’s, Vega: Look for the large sheet-metal rooster outside to find this hole-in-the-wall restaurant serving great enchiladas.
- MidPoint Café, Adrian: Stop for a photo op and a slice of “ugly pie” at the geographic midpoint of Route 66.
Planning Your Time
Driving through the Texas Panhandle is a straight shot and can be done in one day. Route 66 sights start to appear in Shamrock and McLean, but you can push onward to spend the night in Amarillo. The next day, it’s a little more than 100 miles for the final stretch to New Mexico.
Route 66 runs alongside I-40, so if time is a factor, it’s easy to jump on the freeway as needed. Though you’ll be passing through several small towns, most of the gas stations are defunct and non-operational. Plan to fill up the tank in Shamrock; the next major gas stop will be Amarillo, approximately 90 miles west.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Route 66 Road Trip.