TX80-Central Texas
(Bygone Byways(TM) since 2001)

 
     Though there was a lot to see and do in the DFW area, but I must admit, I'm ready for the open road!  So here we are, in Central Texas, and yessirree, my preconceived notions of a flat, boring Texas were thankfully once again shot right out the window.  Indeed, Central Texas almost reminded me more of the rolling country of Southern Missouri than anything I'd imagined.  And in the midst of this all, old 80 wound its way over hill and dale leaving all sorts of goodies for us to uncover.  Luckily, we don't have to go far for some good exploration.  In fact, just over the county line...

     Just after the I-30/I-20 merge, be sure to take I-20 exit 420 south on Farm Road 1187 for a real treat-original 80 and a stretch of the 80-TX-Hudson Oaks-BHH4.JPG (194673 bytes)old Bankhead Highway!  A mile and 1/2 south, look for the E. Bankhead Hwy heading back off to the west.  Though you will be forced to backtrack to I-20 exit 420 on the south frontage road (one way eastbound), you will be treated to fine scenes like this that really take one back in time.  Note, exit 414 will take you west into Weatherford on newer 80-the Ft. Worth Highway, but might I suggest you take I-20 exit 410 and head back east.  You can drive a much longer segment of this fine stretch of Bankhead Highway but it will require a 10 mile interstate back track for those westbound roadies.  Also, exit 410 heading NW will take you into Weatherford on the old routing.

     After the junction of the older Bankhead and newer Ft. Worth Highway routings, continue west on U.S. 180 to downtown80-TX-Weatherford-Old Courthouse 1.JPG (127674 bytes) Weatherford.  Weatherford almost seemed familiar to me.  It looks like a scene right out of that Michael J Fox movie "Back in Time"!  Check out this great old courthouse at the 'round-about'.  Beyond the courthouse, we don't have far80-TX-Weatherford-Coronado Motel 1.JPG (120164 bytes) to go before that huge decision pops up...do I take the historical routing over to Mineral wells, or do I take the newer routing down Spur 312 to the SW?  By the time you reach the old Coronado Motel, you had better have decided!  This page is going to focus on that newer 80 (1939) that headed SW out of Weatherford.  

 

     It doesn't take long before Spur 312 wants to dump you out onto I-20 westbound.  Don't let it!  Veer right to stay on the north 80-TX-Weatherford-1932 Concrete Bridge 1.JPG (143140 bytes)frontage.  Pretty darn quick, a glimpse of this old 1932 bridge will let you know you made the right decision...old 80 80-TX-Brazos River-Catfish Cafe 4.JPG (143136 bytes)verified!  Staying on the north frontage, you will soon be treated to more real vintage goods: The 80-TX-Brazos River-Catfish Cafe 3.JPG (98390 bytes)Catfish Cafe at the Brazos River.  Be sure to stop in, say hi, check out the vintage 80-TX-Brazos River-1934 Brazos River Bridge 3.JPG (188679 bytes)pics.  Then, fill up on some catfish, slaw and hushpuppies like I did before wandering outside to admire the old 1934 truss bridge.  Just across the bridge, Hillbilly Haven looked to be a popular place to rent boats, camp and rent tubes on a hot summer day.

 

     Leaving the Brazos River area with both our bellies and cars fueled up, stay on the north frontage road paralleling I-2080-TX-Thurber-Stack 5.JPG (87636 bytes) down past New Salem (couple of attractive stone buildings), Gordon Junction, and the neat (but closed) Trolley 373 Cafe on our way past Thurber and its landmark smokestack.  The presence of old concrete bridges on the north 80-TX-Ranger-1934 Bear Creek Bridge 2.JPG (179059 bytes)frontage attests to the fact that this was indeed old 80, but the old road also occasionally wandered back and forth between the woods and the creeks as I have found at least one 1934 culvert marker on the south frontage (just west of exit 380).  In addition, the exquisite 1934 Bear Creek bridge (accessible via exit 361) is also on a cutoff dead-end segment of south frontage.   Exit 361 is also marks the rejoining of the Historic 80 routing ('26-early '39) back into the newer 1939 alignment.

 

     Ranger Hill is a major land mark in the area, and was a challenge for the early roadie and their less powerful vehicles.  Early 80 took a winding 80-TX-Ranger Hill-Old 80 @ Top of Hill 2.jpg (326564 bytes)routing further north on the hillside than modern I-20, but where it tied back in at the top can still be seen today by taking the very 1st exit you can at the top of the hill (north frontage) and looking back over your right shoulder.  Though on private property, a great photo op can be had from the gate (see pic).  Conversations with the TXDOT district office have informed me that TXDOT is in the process of putting in a rest stop on the north side of the interstate on Ranger Hill that will access portions of the old roadbed.  The old road is not going to be destroyed, but incorporated as a small hiking/biking trail.  Kudos TXDOT!  Stay on the north frontage on into Ranger.

     Ranger Hill then Ranger itself obviously used to be a major stopping point as evidenced by the old truck stops, stations and80-TX-Ranger-Ranger Hill Motel 1.JPG (158012 bytes) motels in the area.  Though in a dilapidated state today, the remains of the old Ranger Hill Motel would have been80-TX-Ranger-Sunray Courts 2.JPG (169391 bytes) the 1st court a  tired motorist would have come across after the long climb up the hill so I'm sure it snagged its share.  Further on, the faded moniker for the old Sunray Courts only hint at what must have been a very colorful sign sometime in the past.  Follow Loop 254 through town to the I-20 north frontage for a trip on into Olden and Eastland.  Note: see my driving directions for more details and goodies in this area.


      Taking Ranch Road 3363 through Olden, there is not really much to see (mostly residential) or reminders of an earlier era, but80-TX-Olden-BHH denied!.jpg (158156 bytes) the real treat becomes the road itself on the west end of town.  Original brick Bankhead Highway segments were asphalted over with the improvements Highway 80 brought (it was found out quite early on that brick became a very slippery road surface in the rain).  Check out the remains of the old solid white center stripe in this terrific photo of the old road.  The road is unfortunately cut-off by an oil storage facility, but can be picked up again in Eastland...see next paragraph.

     Back on the north frontage, take the very next exit (exit 343) or TX 112 as if to go into Eastland.  A second immediate right turn 80-TX-Eastland-Majestic Theatre 2A.jpg (98727 bytes)will put you back on the aforementioned Bankhead Highway alignment which used to connect with Olden.  Return to TX 112 and follow it into downtown Eastland where TX 112 will turn north, but you, the inquisitive Highway 80 traveler, will continue straight onto a fine stretch of road-TX 6.  Before you leave however, check out the intricate neon work and styling of the Majestic Theatre downtown.

 

     TX 6 between Eastland and Cisco was at one time obviously much busier than it is today.  Now a virtually abandoned 4-lane 80-TX-Eastland-Old Auto's 7A.jpg (145952 bytes)expressway, TX 6 through these parts reminds me of some of those 4-lane segments of old Route 66 in Illinois.  In fact, only one car passed me the whole time I had stopped to snap several photos of these vintage relics sitting in a field between Eastland and Cisco.  I'll bet I was out there for 20 minutes.

 

     Cisco is a real treat.  Home to Conrad Hilton's (yes, THAT Hilton!) 1st hotel  and the famous 1927 Santa Claus Bank Robbery, 80-TX-Cisco-Old Brick Road into Town 2A.jpg (139857 bytes) Cisco is just chock full of old buildings, fine murals, ghost signs and vintage brick Bankhead Highway (see pic-coming80-TX-Cisco-Texas Flag Mural.jpg (147674 bytes) into the east side of Cisco).  Indeed, Cisco could keep any real roadie busy all afternoon.  I had to pull myself away else I could have shot 200 photos!  But before you leave, check out the old alignment scooting out of town on the NW side past the cemetery and RR tracks.  Another fine find of original 80 just for you.  In fact, be sure to check out my detailed driving directions (at the upper level Texas 80 page) to catch all of the alignments in the Eastland-Cisco area.

 

     Heading west out of Cisco on Ranch Road 2945 is yet another treat.  With old telephone poles & RR tracks on one side and rural America on the other, I wouldn't have been surprised if I saw an Edsel, Hudson or even a little Henry J coming from the other80-TX-Putnam-Finley Road-Lone Star Tourist Court 1A.jpg (181155 bytes) direction.  But if you enjoyed this stretch of highway, just wait.  On the other side of Putnam, be sure to stay on 80-TX-Putnam-Finley Road-Lone Star Tourist Court 4.jpg (473085 bytes) the north frontage westbound.  This will become Finley Rd. - 8.5 miles of one of the finest stretches of vintage highway I've come across in my travels.  An absolute *MUST SEE*!  The rural countryside, many concrete bridges and vintage concrete are a real time capsule.    To top it off, out in the middle of it all, just on the west side of Deep Creek lies the abandoned old Lone Star Garage & Tourist Camp (see pic).  I found out the name purely by chance: I was out taking some pictures when from across the street, a red pick up slowly cruised on up and I had the pleasure to meet Ms. Johnsie Allen (see pic) whose folks owned the homestead right across the street and also used to own & operate the old court itself.   Now living in Baird a few miles down the road, Johnsie had just stopped out to feed some wild cats (what a softie!) so 10 minutes either way and we probably would have missed each other.  We chatted for about an hour and 1/2 about the old court, her family and Baird before I had to mosey on as the sun was setting.  Isn't it funny how chance works out?  I would have always wondered about that old cafe I never would have met Johnsie.
Author's Addendum-04/05:  I have the unfortunate duty of relaying the fact that Johnsie passed away early this month-out here at this very same spot-no doubt reminiscing about the old road, her old homestead and all of the love and memories that came along.  She will be missed greatly by her family, and by myself.

     Another person familiar with the old tourist camp is James Owens from Clyde.  He writes: "Thanks for the picture...that's the station I was talking about. When I was in high school, we used to think it was haunted and try to get scared, but nothing turned out from it...lol"  Thanks for sharing James!

     Sadly, we must leave Finley Rd. behind as we hit I-20 at exit 310.  If you popped on the south frontage then west, you can see where the old road went around the large hill where the radio towers are then swung around on into Baird, but this all gated and 80-TX-Baird-RR Mural 1.jpg (154237 bytes)private property now.  But don't despair, Baird has enough old Highway 80 for anyone.  Indeed, at least three alignments are evident through the area (see my driving guide for details).  Loop 425 coming into town is the last incarnation, but east of town, be sure to check out Ivey Rd. for evidence of even earlier 80!  Downtown, Baird has a small but quaint area with a couple of very nice, historic murals and is anchored by a historic RR depot at the southern apex.  Be sure to check out the area before heading west out of town on Ranch Road 18.

  Hey, speaking of Highway 18, again, James Owens of Clyde also writes about his Dad often warning him about drag racing on the sharp curves west of town!  For example: "Another Story my Dad told me...... I guess it was just to scare me about drag racing, but not sure. Just to give you the time setting my dad was in high school in the early 60s.  He and his friends used to drag race on Hwy 18.  Well the road has a sharp curve right before you enter Baird.  Its carved out on side of the hill and there is a gigantic drop off almost like the roads in Colorado. He called it Dead Mans Corner. Dad would tell me of guys racing and going off the edge and that their car could never be found."  Sounds a little fishy, but James is still around to write me, so the story must have scared him straight!

 

   Well if you've survived the drag-racing loonies on Hwy 18, we approach the last leg of our journey in Central Texas.  Just keep on motoring along Highway 18 through the small town of Clyde, then west again into the southeastern side of Abilene.  Note all of the 80-TX-Abilene-Junction of S 1st & Pine.JPG (103279 bytes)mid -20's dated RR culverts along this stretch.  In Abilene, catch TX 36 past the airport (which obliterated early 80), then north on Business 83 to meet up with S. 1st. St. west.  Abilene is obviously the cultural, industrial and historical center of Central Texas.  Be sure to note the junction of Pine and S. 1st St (see pic).  This was an important junction as this is where the northern routing of the Bankhead Highway rejoined with the southern routing of the Bankhead80-TX-Abilene-Artistic Horse D-T.JPG (120355 bytes) Highway and thusly is most likely where Historical Alternate 80 originally rejoined 80 (unproven, but the most likely scenario based upon old maps).   Further west near Cedar (the later rejoining of Historical Alternate 80), a few local80-TX-Abilene-Ponca Motel 1.JPG (125157 bytes) art galleries liven up the downtown area and even further west, motel row remains as a reminder that I-20 wasn't always the quickest way to get from here to there.  

 

 

     So check into a motel, explore old Abilene and prepare yourself for tomorrow, for there's quite a bit of West Central Texas to come!

West on Newer 1939 Texas 80 to:

West Central Texas

Navigation Note:

You can click the horse riders to move east or west within the state, or you can jump to any Highway 80 state of your choice by clicking on that state below.

 

NE on Historic Alternate 80 from Abilene -or-

   

NE on Historic 80 from the bottom of Ranger Hill -or-

 

East on Texas 80 to:

Dallas-Ft. Worth

 

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