On the Road: Looking at America Through a Layer of Filth, Grime and Bug Guts

U Drop Inn
Shamrock, TX and The U Drop Inn Cafe

Just over the Oklahoma/Texas border is a town called Shamrock. We took 66 through the town to see what was there. The book suggested we at least see a place called the U Drop Inn Cafe. As we made our way through the town, one of the sadder aspects of the the old road became very apparent. In some of the towns like this one, the businesses and homes along the road are empty and falling into decay. I don't think in every case the cities are becoming ghost towns, its just the heart of the town is moving over a few miles to be closer to the interstate. That's not such a horrible thing, except the local flavor is being replaced by the national flavor of bland. The great thing is, there is still a lot of pride in the history of Route 66 and enough tourist driving the road, that some of the old buildings and sights are still around and being maintained. Until somebody decides to bulldoze the vacant buildings, you can still have fun just looking at the relics along 66. Most are pretty standard buildings, but every once in a while you come across a real gem.

U Drop Inn U Drop Inn

The U Drop Inn is one of those gems. It used to be an old gas station and diner and before that, it was a new gas station and diner. I don't know much about architecture, but this is the finest art deco gas station I think I have ever seen. The structure is made of a light pink concrete, highlighted in green paint. Two different spires crown the restaurant and the gas station. Over the cafe the spire is topped with a sphere. The other, taller tower is marked with a faded paint that used to spell out the name Conoco. This spire is crowned with something resembling an old vase. Around the top of the over hangs for the gas pumps, the concrete is shaped into ribs that give the place contour and texture. The same is found above the cafe door and around the bases of two towers. The sign above the cafe said opened, but the locked door said closed and the shot gun blast said "Get off my property!!!"

U Drop Inn The U Drop Inn is a marvelous sight. Places with that much personality are rare these days. But that was the name of the game back in the early days of highway travel. Every place had to be different. Conformity wasn't an option when it came to commerce. You had to be conspicuous, to blend in was death. I saw one hotel along the way which had rooms in the shape of wigwams. That was their selling point, "stay in a wigwam." Hotels on 66 had names like, "Apache", "Americana", and "Lasso", you never passed the same hotel twice. These days, people will only stay at your hotel, if you have the same name and architecture as the hotel 2 miles away. People want it easy, they never want to take a chance. They never bet on anything being great, because they are afraid it may be awful. So they stick with the bland, the unseasoned, the beige. You know, I didn't stay in one Comfort Choice, Clarion, or Motel 6 on the entire trip and I enjoyed each nights stay on the road. Unbelievable. I stayed in locally owned hotels and I didn't catch one disease or get bitten by one roach wearing a name tag. I was roughing it semi-old school, not like the Oregon trail or the Donner party, but just like every family going west about 40 to 60 years ago.

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