Sunday, March 3, 2013


You can find it on a map.  McLean Texas is about 35 miles west of the Oklahoma border in the Texas panhandle off Interstate 40.  And that's McLean's problem.  It used to be a stop on US 66, America's primary highway between Chicago and Los Angeles.  The interstate meant the economic end to a lot of the small towns along Route 66, unless they could come up with some other reason for travelers to stop.  McLean tried but appears to have given up--maybe 30 years ago.

On our trip to Arizona this spring, we picked up the route of old US 66 at some point in central Illinois and stayed on it until Holbrook Arizona, two days later.  We had stumbled on McLean last year, looking for some lunch, winding up at the Red River Steakhouse.  Based on our experience last year, we actually sought that place out again this year.

The steakhouse is, in our opinion, an authentic western eatery, with most of the patrons wearing cowboy hats and boots.  It also features a fair amount of local "artwork," including the following:

The interior is even more interesting, including a couple of walls covered with vintage license plates.

Note the Wisconsin plate in the upper left.

Oh, and here's a sign in the restaurant's parking lot that caught our attention.

To get to the restaurant, we had driven through the town, which took at least two minutes.  I liked the decrepitude evident in the town and decided to go back through town before returning to the interstate.  Even though the town's population is under 800, amazingly, it features two one-way streets.

I think what happened here is that when the interstate came through the town made an effort to appeal to tourists by presenting itself as the "Heart of Old Route 66."  The town tried to create a 1950s atmosphere, including a lot of local street art.

Ultimately, the effort failed, as evidenced by the structural decay.

Then it was back on the interstate.

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