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 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
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 far
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 frontage.
Pretty darn quick, a glimpse of this old 1932 bridge will let you know you
made the right decision...old 80 verified!
Staying on the north frontage, you will soon be treated to more real
vintage goods: The Catfish
Cafe at the Brazos River. Be sure to stop in, say hi, check out the
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
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 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
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 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
motels in the area. Though in a dilapidated state today, the remains
of the old Ranger Hill Motel would have been
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, but
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 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
TX 6 between Eastland and Cisco was at one
time obviously much busier than it is today. Now a virtually
abandoned 4-lane 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
Cisco is a real treat. Home to Conrad
Hilton's (yes, THAT Hilton!) 1st hotel and the famous 1927 Santa Claus
Cisco is just chock full of old buildings, fine murals, ghost signs and vintage
brick Bankhead Highway (see pic-coming
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 other direction.
But if you enjoyed this stretch of highway, just wait. On the
other side of Putnam, be sure to stay on the north frontage
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 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 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 Bankhead
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 local
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!