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*Part 10* Route 66 from OKC to Amarillo: Crossing the Great Plains, “Elvis Was Here” + Don’t Miss Museums

This post is part of a series I’ve done on Route 66. In 2022, I drove the entirety of Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. 2500 miles, 8 states, countless stories, and an endless stretch of small towns, neon, diners, motels, and roadside attractions. Read through all of my Route 66 posts here. They’re also linked at the end of this post. If you’re planning your own Route 66 road trip, either the whole thing or just a part, I hope these help you out. Enjoy the drive!

Are we ready to roll on down Route 66 from Oklahoma City towards Amarillo? Great!

Get ready to leave the hilly farmland of the midwest behind as you cross the Great Plains. 

A lot of people think driving across the Great Plains is boring, but I don’t think so. And hey, I’ve driven through the Oklahoma panhandle enough to know. 

It’s unlike any place you’ve ever been before. The sky goes on forever, the wheat blows in the breeze, and the windmills tower overhead. I think there’s beauty in all types of terrain and yeah, sometimes it’s way easier to appreciate it at the beach or in the mountains, but the Great Plains are really something else. 

This stretch of Route 66 has some truly DO NOT MISS attractions so you’re in for a treat!

Route 66 Oklahoma City to Amarillo, TX

From Bethany (just west of OKC), you can drive Route 66 all the way through Yukon to the western side of El Reno where it hooks up with I-40. You can catch a spur at the Cherokee Trading Post/Travel Mart west of El Reno and follow it to Hydro (where it becomes more of a service road), through Weatherford and into Clinton. 

From Clinton it’s mostly a service road along I-40 (although it does detour through Canute) until you get to Elk City where it runs through town. From there it mostly follows I-40 until you get to Sayre where it kind of branches off through Erick until you get to the Texas border at Texola. That stretch is one of my favorites. 

Route 66 in Oklahoma City

Read my full post about Route 66 in OKC here.

Route 66 through Western Oklahoma

Lucille’s Historic Highway Gas Station: Hydro, OK

This old filling station has been really well preserved and it’s worth a stop. Head on down the road towards Weatherford and stop at Lucille’s Roadhouse Diner for a fun, retro Route 66 experience. 

Oklahoma Route 66 Museum: Clinton, OK

Oklahoma’s official museum pertaining to all things Route 66 is extremely well done and really conveys the spirit and culture of traveling Route 66 throughout the decades. From the migrations during the Dust Bowl, through the classic American experience of the 50s to the hippy years of the 60s and 70s until the road finally fell out of use, this museum gives you the perspective of what life was like on the Mother Road. 

The museum is most focused on the pop culture aspects of Route 66 and does its job by recreating sets and experiences that let you feel like you were there. This isn’t the type of museum where you’ll spend hours looking at artifacts and objects and reading tiny captions. It feels more like an experience. 

The museum is currently open 7 days a week (more limited hours on Sundays) and admission is $7/adult, $5/senior (62+), $4/student (6-18), 6 and under are free (as well as Oklahoma Historical Society members, veterans, and active military). 

This is a don’t miss museum along the route. 

McLain Rogers Park: Clinton, OK

Built in 1934, this 15 acre park has some art deco architecture, some WPA projects (some of the rock buildings), and some fun original neon. But the most fun is probably the Route 66 themed mini golf course!

National Route 66 & Transportation Museum: Elk City, OK

This is everything a Route 66 museum should be. It’s well done, but parts of it still manage to feel more like a roadside attraction than a museum (in the best way possible). It’s the NATIONAL Route 66 Museum so instead of just focusing on Oklahoma, it covers all 8 states that Route 66 traverses. The museum is in multiple buildings (get a map so you don’t miss the good stuff) and there’s also an entire town recreated (soda fountain, theater, barn, etc.).

Don’t miss getting to drive the pink cadillac!

The only negative thing I have to say is that it’s a shame that the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton and this museum in Elk City are so close to each other because I imagine a lot of people end up picking one or the other, but they BOTH deserve a visit. 

Besides the main museum and town setup, there’s a complex of other Elk City mini-museums on the property. I think the Old Town Museum is a real small town treasure. In a way it feels more like you’re walking through your great aunt’s house than a museum. There’s also the Farm and Ranch Museum, Blacksmith Museum, and a field of windmills. They’re all included with your admission. 

Closed on Sundays. 

Western Motel: Sayre, OK

I LOVE this neon sign (and I haven’t even seen it at night yet!). 

Also, practically speaking…there’s not much past Sayre if you’re heading on towards Amarillo and there’s a really nice Hutch’s Convenience Store/Gas Station in between the Western Motel and I-40 if you need a place to get gas, go to the bathroom, and get snacks. 

Beckham County Courthouse: Sayre, OK

Loop through town for a peek at the vintage looking downtown and make sure to see the Beckham County Courthouse. It was featured briefly in the Grapes of Wrath

Sayre to Erick

The drive into Erick from Sayre is a good one. Don’t miss the windmills and Okie Trading Post sign. 

There’s also a bit of an older alignment that’s still paved and used as a bike/walking path on the north side of the road. 

Sandhills Curiosity Shop: Erick, OK

A good curio shop is a staple along Route 66 and this is one of the finest. Owner Harley Russell used to perform with his wife Annabelle (“the Mediocre Musicmakers”) but since she passed away he’s a solo act. But he truly is a performer. 

Here’s what you need to know: the Sandhills Curiosity Shop isn’t really a shop (there’s nothing to buy), it’s more like a little mini-museum of Harley’s life long Route 66-centric collections. And Harley is the show. He’s a bit controversial, with some people thinking he’s a real hoot and others just being plain offended. If you’re part of a group, call ahead to make sure he’s there otherwise it’s hit or miss. 

If he’s at the shop, he’ll show you around, tell you some stories, sing some songs and just generally do his “bit.” Since there’s nothing to buy, tips are appreciated. But this isn’t an organized show/tour with any kind of admission. 

If he’s not around, there’s still plenty to see outside the shop. 

Erick to Texola

The drive through Erick on to Texola is full of vintage-y goodness. There’s not much to Texola anymore, but the Tumbleweed Cafe looks like it’s worth the stop if it’s open. It’s been closed for an extended period of time although it’s not fully closed down. 

Route 66 Texas State Line to Amarillo

The Road through Texas

Most of Route 66 through the Texas panhandle is frontage road along I-40 with little pullouts as you come through towns. East of Amarillo, the road mostly sticks to the south side of I-40 while west of Amarillo it’s the north side. The route through Texas isn’t the most scenic stretch due to the constant interstate presence, but there are some real gems. 

Shamrock, TX

Shamrock is probably my favorite little town along Route 66 in Texas. Yes, it’s small and like most towns that the interstate bypassed, it’s probably past its prime, but it still seems really well kept up and full of life. 

U-Drop Inn Cafe & Tower Station: Shamrock, TX

I always say there’s no way you can see and do everything along Route 66, but this is one stop that you want to plan your trip around. It is a GEM and it’s easily on my top 10 Route 66 list if not top 5. 

This old art deco service station and cafe has been near perfectly preserved and it still welcomes visitors. Part of the building houses the Shamrock Texas Visitor Information Center (and gift shop!) and the other half is a little cafe.

The cafe has VERY limited hours, so it takes some planning to hit it just right. When I visited in June, they were open from 11AM to 2PM for lunch and then 2PM to 5PM for ice cream. And I believe they were closed on Sundays and Mondays, but you should call ahead to verify their hours during your dates. 

If at all possible, I would make an effort to visit when the cafe is open. It’s such a cute little, well kept place and they’ll even point out the booth WHERE ELVIS SAT. I seriously can’t tell you how thrilled I always am when I inadvertently find out that I’m somewhere Elvis has been. How fun. 

It’s tricked out like a diner, but it’s really just a small cafe. They don’t serve anything that requires much cooking. It’s mostly just sandwiches, paninis, etc. So don’t expect burgers and onion rings. Although they do make a great shake!

The visitor center has more reliable 9-5 hours. And you don’t want to miss the maps! Put a push pin where you’re from and just marvel at how many people from ALL OVER THE WORLD have ended up in this tiny little town in the Texas panhandle. 

FYI there’s a whole lineup of Tesla charging stations out back. 

And yes, you Cars fans, the U-Drop Inn Cafe was the direct inspiration for Ramone’s Body Shop in the Pixar movie. 

Magnolia Gas Station: Shamrock, TX

Just off the route you’ll find this cute little fully restored service station.

Pioneer West Museum: Shamrock, TX

And next door to the Magnolia Gas Station, you’ll find the Pioneer West Museum. I didn’t have time to go inside, but it’s in a nice building

McLean, TX

When you’re reading through a guidebook, sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s what. You read about one little town after another and it’s hard to know what to expect. Especially how to budget your time. Well when I pulled into McLean, here’s what I honestly thought…”I wish I had stayed longer in Shamrock.”

I had a list of things to see and do in McLean, but none of them seemed particularly appealing. Don’t necessarily go off my impressions, but I just remember thinking that guidebooks don’t really give you much context on what places are like when they’re describing attractions and route alignments. 

Anyways, on paper there are actually quite a few things to see in McLean. 

Burma Shave Signs: McLean, TX

This is the first place I saw the famed Burma Shave signs anywhere along the route and I got pretty excited! Even if one was missing. If you’re not familiar…Burma Shave signs were small little signs where each sign only had one (or a few) words so you had to read them all as you went to get the message. I don’t believe there are any original Burma Shave signs on the route anymore, but there are several places where you can see replicas and this is one. 

Devil’s Rope Museum & Texas Route 66 Museum: McLean, TX

This is one of those places where I pulled in the parking lot and ended up turning back around. The two museums are in the same building. If you don’t know…”Devil’s Rope” is barbed wire and yes, this is a whole museum about it. Surprisingly, or not surprisingly, being from Oklahoma, I’ve actually seen a huge exhibit on barbed wire in a museum before so this was not a big draw for me haha. (The Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City has a whole room of it if you stop there and that’s a world class museum). 

I was mildly interested in the Texas Route 66 Museum part, but I wasn’t sure once I pulled up so I kept going. Once I drove by I could see how big the building actually was so maybe it’s a great museum and I’ll never know. Or maybe I’ll stop by another time. 

McLean-Alanreed Area Museum: McLean, TX

This is another one that doesn’t look like much from the outside. It’s actually in the little downtown area. But it does have information about the German POW camp that was in the area during WWII so if you’re a big WWII history buff, it might be worth a stop. 

Phillips 66 Station: McLean, TX

I can never pass up a good, restored gas station. 

Cactus Inn: McLean, TX

Not sure I would stay here (I mean I can certainly never see myself spending the night in McLean, TX), but the signs are pretty cute. 

Groom, TX

Groom has a different feel than Shamrock and McLean, but it’s teeny tiny. There’s a few things to see as you drive by though:

Leaning Water Tower: Groom, TX

Grain Silos and a Vintage Gas Station: Groom, TX

VW Bug Ranch: Conway, TX

We’ve all heard of Cadillac Ranch, but did you know there’s a VW Bug Ranch close to Amarillo? In Conway (just east of Amarillo), there are a handful of old bugs buried in the ground and absolutely everything is covered in spray paint. 

Keep moseying down the road and you’ll come to the biggest city in the Texas panhandle (and that’s not saying much!). Compared to what else is around, Amarillo is a cosmopolitan paradise so if you’re looking for a nice(er) place to stay and some creature comforts, it’s a good place to spend the night. 

Read my full post about Route 66 in Amarillo here

Planning a Route 66 road trip? I’ve got all of the info you need! 

I’ve written about my cross country road trip pretty extensively section by section. Read them all here: Part 1 (Chicago), Part 2 (Chicago to St. Louis), Part 3 (St. Louis), Part 4 (St. Louis to Springfield MO), Part 5 (Springfield, MO), Part 6 (Springfield, MO to Tulsa), Part 7 (Tulsa), Part 8 (Tulsa to OKC), Part 9 (OKC), Part 10 (OKC to Amarillo), Part 11 (Amarillo), Part 12 (Amarillo to Albuquerque), Part 13 (Albuquerque), Part 14 (Albuquerque to Flagstaff), Part 15 (Flagstaff), Part 16 (Flagstaff to San Bernardino), Part 17 (Los Angeles). 

Plus I’ve done roundups by state: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California.

I’ve got the scoop on where to stay including the best Route 66 motels recommendations

And finally, my final trip recap where I spill the beans on how many days you need, the best itinerary, my favorite don’t miss spots, and other tips.