The Road To Nowhere

Shamrock

Once a major oil-pumping and refining center, Shamrock is a dusty, rusty old industrial town, off I-40 and a mile south of historic Route 66, which survives as the Business Loop of I-40 through town. Though it’s not a particularly lovely place, Shamrock does have at least one real highlight: the lovely old Tower Station and U Drop Inn, standing together in full art deco glory on the northeast corner of US-83 and Route 66. Following a long-overdue and contentious $1.7-million state-funded restoration, these landmark buildings look great, but instead of selling gas or serving food, they now dispense generous portions of helpful advice, courtesy of the friendly local visitors center (806/256-2501).

To discover more about Shamrock, visit the old brown-brick Reynolds Hotel, south of Route 66 and east of US-83, where the better-than-you-might-expect Pioneer West Museum (204 N. Madden St., 806/256-3941, Mon.-Fri., free) has two dozen rooms full of bygone goodies, including the complete interiors, fixtures, and fittings of a dentist’s office, Wheeler County Military-War Room, and The Old School Room. There’s also an exhibit honoring Apollo astronaut Alan Bean, who lived nearby in his youth.

For a bite to eat, it’s hard to do better than Big Vern’s Steakhouse (200 E. 12th St., 806/256-2088), right on old Route 66.

Wellington

South of Shamrock, US-83 passes over the Salt Fork of the Red River, which definitely deserves its name, running a muddy red throughout the rainy season. West of the highway rise the Rocking Chair Mountains, named after a large cattle ranch established west of here in the 1880s by a group of aristocrats, mainly younger sons of noble Scottish families. The only visible sign of their Scotian legacy survives in place-names like Aberdeen, Clarendon, and Wellington (pop. 2,189), which is 25 miles south of Shamrock. The center of Wellington is west of the highway, where a nifty 1920s Ritz Theatre (902 E. Ave., 806/447-0090, $7) has been brought back to life, but the US-83 frontage holds all the gas stations and cafés.