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

     Defined by fields of Longhorns, rolling wooded acreage and the occasional oil well, West Central Texas is a transitional area.  The wooded areas of Central Texas are gradually giving way to more and more open ground, and sometimes coming over a hill or corner, hints of the grand vistas to come appear.  I was pleasantly surprised and glad that my preconceived notions that all of Texas was flat, boring and treeless were once again proved wrong.  Let me show you…


You don’t have to go far out of Abilene to experience vintage Bankhead Highway and original 80!  Motoring west out of 80-TX-Tye-Old_Concrete_1.JPG (134248 bytes)Abilene on U.S. 84, watch for old North St. to suddenly veer right to pass under an old 1925 RR overpass.  Be sure to take it.  Though bumpy, this is an exquisite stretch of original concrete demonstrating the sharp curves and narrow concrete (see pic) that doomed early stretches of roadway like this to be quickly bypassed.   Follow this stretch80-TX-Trent-Old_80_west_of_Town_3.JPG (168277 bytes) under the 84 overpass to rejoin newer 80 for a trip back in time along the RR and pole line through the towns of Tye, Merkel (with its majestic bank pillars and ghost signs) and Trent with its abandoned corner cafe.  Leaving Trent westbound as the road curves north towards the interstate, be sure to follow the old concrete angling off to the west (County 593) for a another looping ride on vintage concrete (see pic).


Forced back onto the interstate westbound after our interesting little curvy jaunt, more vintage road lies just ahead!  Be sure to take exit 256 and the I-20 north frontage just a short ¼ of a mile or so west.  Note the road veering off onto (unfortunately) private80-TX-Herndon-X256_Gated_Road_5.jpg (118681 bytes) property to your right.  If you get out of the car and look back east, you can see that this stretch of road is indeed in perfect alignment with the I-20 eastbound lanes and the short stretch of concrete we just came off of.  Another treat awaits if you are willing to take a short hike west down the train tracks.  The road you just glimpsed veering off to the NW veers around back south and this pic is of the old 1930’s era concrete at the original grade crossing (see pic).  This scene of old 80 has probably been invisible to most for at least 60 years.


Sweetwater.  The very name (I’m sure by design) conjures up images of refreshment and relaxation.  This fact was not lost on 80-TX-Sweetwater-Unknown_Motel.jpg (197312 bytes)the entrepreneurs in the area as is evident by the many 80-era relics to be scene in the area such as this unknown 80-TX-Sweetwater-Midway_Drive-In_Theatre_2.JPG (140996 bytes)motel on the east end of town.  Also be sure to enjoy the fine downtown area-note the Texas Theatre 80-TX-Sweetwater-Midway_Drive-In_Theatre_4.JPG (137123 bytes)sign and many murals.  Heading west out of town, be sure to check out vintage 80-TX-Sweetwater-Old_Hwy_80_1.JPG (143471 bytes)Bankhead Highway running along side of you to the south and note the many rusting vehicle ghosts at the still standing Midway Theatre.  It’s easy to picture these beasts firing right up and hanging a left back down the old highway into town…


Roscoe and Lorraine are fine examples of the quintessential rural highway towns.  Nowadays, 80-TX-Roscoe-Heading_West_into_Town.JPG (127890 bytes)these small towns barely hang on by serving the needs of the local rancher and farmer instead of the 80-TX-Lorraine-Main_St_Looking_West_into_Lorraine.JPG (132539 bytes)passing motorist.  The pic at right is the old Bankhead approach into Roscoe while the second pic is of a sleepy Lorraine on a stormy morning.  



Though on a map the next ‘big’ town would appear to be Colorado City, it really isn’t so.  I don’t want to be inconsiderate, but though80-TX-Westbrook-Old_Concrete__Building_1.JPG (145901 bytes) obviously once a bustling good sized town anchored by a major hotel (The Baker-now being demolished), today, Colorado City is essentially dead-depressingly so.  Outside of the old stone-built White Way Courts and a vintage bridge on the east end of town, my thoughts might be to just bypass the town and focus on more interesting sights further west such as the fine strip of vintage road through Westbrook (see pic).


Just west of Westbrook, keep motoring along the south frontage and experience the old road as it has been since the80-TX-Iatan-Dyslexic_RR_Date.jpg (159934 bytes) Bankhead Highway days.  The accompanying RR (complete with this dyslexic date stamp west of exit 199) and pole lines provide relaxing companionship along the road way.  Though backtracking is required, I would follow the south frontage until it dead ends to check out the FAP marker at the county line and to check out the old original roadbed marching along the RR as the newer road veers slightly away then around the hill to the west.  Be sure to check out my East Texas driving directions for many more interesting features in this area. 


Original 80 followed the aforementioned RR, eventually crossed to the south side of the RR and made its way on into80-TX-Coahoma-Rural_Pic_from_Midway_Rd.jpg (161293 bytes) Coahoma where it was known as Pacific Street.  Look for it right alongside the RR tracks on the east end of town.  Leaving Coahoma, I would suggest that the intrepid roadie follow the original (and more scenic route) road due south out of Coahoma, then west on Midway Rd. to enjoy fine rural scenes such as this on our way to Big Springs.


Aptly named, Big Spring was a major stop along the old thoroughfare as evidenced by the many courts and old stations.  Of 80-TX-Big_Springs-Municipal_Auditorium_1.JPG (130431 bytes)special interest is the Municipal Courthouse-unmistakable with its gleaming golden towers and statues out front (see pic).  Leaving Big Springs out the western side of town, check out the cute prairie dog town along the southern80-TX-Bates_Rd-Oil__Grasslands_4.jpg (151427 bytes) frontage road-a sure winner with the kids (and kid-hearted).  Continuing west be sure to veer left onto Bates Road (original 80-look for the old military helmet) for a quick trip through the oil/ranch country typical of the area.  A close up of this pump eerily reminds this author of something from a Stephen Spielberg movie-perhaps a mechanical T-Rex? 



Stanton was one of my favorite little towns in this area.  Along with a friendly atmosphere, several remaining relics reminded80-TX-Stanton-Buick_Sign_2.jpg (104672 bytes) me of the highway’s heyday.  This coupled with the large storage silos and cotton implements only reinforced the image of 80-TX-Stanton-Shop_Stanton_Barn_1.JPG (134948 bytes)Stanton as one of those once fine towns that struggles on today trying to re-identify itself with the relocation of its lifeline from the center of town.



Reluctantly, back to the cities.  Approaching Midland, you can see the skyline for miles.  I’ve got to be frank…after enjoying the country, I didn’t spend too much time in Midland (home of President Bush and the Confederate Air Force) or Odessa.  I felt all80-TX-Midland-Blue_Star_Inn_Facade.jpg (101248 bytes) ‘closed in’.  And it’s no wonder.  Take a look down Wall St. today-it's unrecognizable as the old Bankhead Highway through the area.  Now comprised of skyscrapers and business parks, nothing vintage remains on the east end of town to80-TX-Midland-Midland_Motel_2.JPG (135435 bytes) remind one of yesteryear.  Downtown, the Art-Deco styling of the Petroleum Building and the historic Yucca Theatre are worth noting.  Towards the SE side of town, where the old Bankhead Route rejoined the newer 30’s routing, there are a few reminders of the roads golden area.  I love the deco facade of the Blue Star Inn and the little fellas waving hi on top of this unknown motel brought a smile. 


Odessa unfortunately, has not fared as well as its neighbor.  The main drag through town, old 80 is a repetitive litany of dying 80-TX-Odessa-Southern_Maid_Doughnuts_1.jpg (147258 bytes)60’s-70’s era motels and abandoned stations.  The earlier routing on 8th St. is now comprised mostly of auto 80-TX-Odessa-Westerner_Motel.jpg (103935 bytes)dealerships and strip malls, though this endearing little doughnut shop has somehow managed to hang on.  At the west end of town, a few motels such as this one hang on by catering to the weekly or monthly visitor instead of the weary family.



With that, we leave the transitional land of West Central Texas behind and truly approach the wide open skies and sweeping vistas of West Texas...

West on Texas 80 to:

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