Across the State in Eight (part 5 – Mineral Wells to Abilene) – A Bankhead Highway motorcycle adventure.

“For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.”

-Emerson

The Bankhead Highway route out of Mineral Wells is the gateway to the Palo Pinto Mountains – well hills. A beautiful country where springs feed creeks that flow into the Brazos River, supplying life to the balanced collection of arid and semiarid flora throughout the region.

This was Native American land. Kiowa and Comanche roamed this section of Texas for centuries. Many nations tried to tame Comancharia, and many failed.

Today the area is calm. Ranchers have staked and claimed the land, posting up the consequences for being on the wrong side of the fence.

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An excellent example of an old Sinclair Station. 

Palo Pinto is named after a tree, a tree with spots. It is also the county seat of Palo Pinto County. Aside from the courthouse and other government offices are a few remnants of the old Bankhead Highway such as this Sinclair Station.

Many Bankhead bridges still can be found in Palo Pinto, with original glass marbles embedded in the cement. These were used as reflectors in the early 1920s.

On to Strawn, Texas. Home of t e “world’s best” chicken-fried steak.

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The hotel was built with an E floor plan. This produced “light wells.”

The Bank.”d Hotel was built in the early 1920s on the Bankhead Highway in Strawn, Texas.

A 1924 photo can be found at the Strawn community museum of the bricks being hand-laid in front of the hotel.

Bob Stogsdill recently repainted the Bankhead Hotel sign. I found Bob in the museum and we spoke about the history of Strawn.

Many of these Bankhead Highway towns’ histories are kept in the minds of residents. So when one of these little museums is open, they are worth a stop. The simple experience of sharing experiences is worth the time spent.

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Bob Stogsdill – Bankhead Hotel sign painter

The Machine. Sitting pretty y on a 96-year-old road.

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Hand-laid 96 years ago. 

Now about that, “World’s Best Chicken-fried Steak.”

Mary has made that claim and might be suitable for the number of cars and motorcycles in the parking lot.

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Motorcycle overflow in the parking lot. 

Ranger, Texas, is coming up next.

I have decided to travel about ten miles of interstate and check out a roadside rest area that is a bit of a Bankhead Highway Museum.

Before I get there I see progress, or more precisely the evolution, of the Bankhead Highway. If you look to the right you see a little road “snaking” to the right side of the hill, which is the original Bankhead Highway.

As we created larger machines to make more significant cuts, the four-lane grey road was built next to the old route. For years the s hill of I-20 caused headaches for tractor-trailers as they struggled up the incline.

Today, man and Machine have all but flattened the hill. On the left s the new road: quicker, faster, safer.

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At the top, I find the roadside rest area I am looking for. A section o original pavement, along with the appropriate markers, makes an ideal spot to let fido do his business. Watch your s ep – rattlesnakes and dog dung may be in the area.

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Inside the rest, an area is an excellent group of exhibits discussing the Bankhead Highway.

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On to Ranger, Texas, to ride some vintage brick pavement.

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These bricks were laid for a reason. Ranger was an oil boomtown. Fortunes were made overnight and with the wealth came the population.

Ranger was busy with oil field workers running up and down the dirt streets around the clock. Soon Ranger, Texas, was stuck in the mud.

No fear. Thurber, Tex s, now a ghost town and a stone’s throw from Ranger,  had 800 workers producing 80,000 bricks daily. So decision was easy to build those streets with brick.

Today the Machine is riding on some of those bricks.

Eastland, Texas

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This route is alive. 

I make my way into Eastland and find that the town supports the old highway with some Bankhead Banners around the courthouse square.

Within the walls of that courthouse, one will find  Eastland’s claim to fame, Old Rip. The zombie horn toad that visited the White House. Today his b y “Lies in State” within the walls of the local government building.

One will find Josiah Gordon “Doc” Scurlock in a more modest and traditional postmortem plot. A cowboy and gunfighter, he is remembered as a founding member of the Regulators.

Scurlock rode with Billy the Kid during the Lincoln County Wars in New Mexico.

Scurlock died in 1929 at 80 and is buried in the Eastland City Cemetery.

A vintage stop sign on the courthouse square.

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Not a lowrider-friendly town. That would take a bumper off. 

Cisco, Texas.

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The road into Cisco, Texas

Tons of brick roads; I am not tired of them yet.

In downtown Cisco, I pull into the Mobley Hotel. This hotel was Conrad Hilton’s first hotel. Today it serves as the Chamber of Commerce; although there are period correct rooms to view, it does not provide accommodations for today’s travelers.  IMG_9021

Santa Clause robbed a bank on Christmas in Cisco. Google it. Fascinating story.

The Bank and the historical marker.

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West of Cisco, I take FM 2945, unsure if it is the right road. Quickly, I find that it is.

Again, the Bankhead Bridges don’t change.

This viaduct reassured me that I was on the correct route. This rise in the road allows the train to pass without interference in travel.

Initially, the Texas and Pacific Rail Road would run beneath the Bankhead route. We will get into more of that in the days to come.

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The next town is Baird, Texas.

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That sign was already there – I promise I am not putting them up. 

Crispy Cold Fruits and Vegetables. A vintage grocers’ prized possession, today scrap.

Couldn’t find that discount beer either. Deceptive. IMG_9034

I take Finley Road out of Baird. A  mixture of pavement, dirt, and rock. The Machine stays under 20 miles per hour and in second gear.

I wonder if I have made a mistake taking this section of Bankhead’s alignment.

This road pays off big.

We have stumbled upon a  worn and weathered, beat and broken, severed and shattered, cracked and crumbling, beautiful bridge.

Rebar rise from the torn towers of the railing like exposed nerves. Hunks of the structure lay below in the shallow creek.

Still firm, it stands, serving the purpose it was built to do, take travelers west down the Bankhead Highway.

The all-weather, all-season, all-condition road.

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I will end Across the State in Eight (part 5) – A Bankhead Highway motorcycle adventure with a pour from Cisco’s own Red Gap Brewing “1878 Lager”.

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Stay tuned for part 6 of the Bankhead adventure. Please like and share the Facebook posts.

About halfway there.

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Please join us on our ride. Feel free to follow on Instagram and Facebook – links on this page. Thanks.

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