Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang, in Las Vegas, Nevada? Heck yeah, why not?!
It was an excuse, really. To make an epic road trip and to have a good time. The anniversary party in Vegas was simply a convenient destination. Ok, perhaps ‘convenient’ is a stretch, but a destination nonetheless.
I bought a car in June, 2012. Since then, I’ve looked for most any opportunity to go and enjoy the ride. “Hey Paul, wanna do something a little crazy?”
We left Holland, Michigan at 3:00 on a Wednesday morning. Target destination: Amarillo, Texas, a mere 17 hours down the road. Somewhere in Illinois, we start to get hungry and need food. A chain restaurant would be too easy.
While Paul pilots my 2007 Shelby GT500 south on Highway 55, I grab the atlas and say, “How about Farmersville?” Not even 7:00am local, we arrive in a tiny town that doesn’t look promising. There’s NOBODY around, let alone a restaurant. Paul nearly blows a stop sign and is almost t-boned by a truck. (It may have been the only stop sign in town.) “Hang on, where is that truck headed?” Turns out it was headed the same place we were: the Silver Dollar Restaurant and Bar.
Like a tired Hollywood cliche’, we walk in and heads turn our direction. “You serving breakfast by any chance?” Joyce is busy counting change for her cash register. The locals are patiently waiting for her to finish so they can get their morning coffee. “Have a seat at the bar, I’ll be right with you.” Her sister is the owner of the establishment, but as of this minute, Joyce is the lone staff. Cashier, cook, and hostess all in one.
It’s a small place and we’re obviously ‘not from around here.’ “Where are you headed?” “What are you doing HERE?” We explain the trip, quickly making friends with the folks who give “Farmersville” its name. 30-40 minutes later, we’ve been refreshed both by the food, but more by the people.
Paul and I agree that our visit to Farmersville was an absolutely fantastic start to the trip! What started as a spur of the moment thought quickly became a rule: “No chain restaurants.”
Lunch then, brought us to Claremore, Oklahoma and a cafe called the Boomarang Diner. Chris, the owner’s son, Tammy and Lyndsey recommended the ‘best catfish in the County’ to Paul, while I dined on a non heart-healthy dish of chicken fried chicken.
Three great young people, all with smiles to match their attitudes.
As we piled up the hours and the miles, we neared our destination for the first night. However, along old Route 66 in Shamrock, Texas a destination that I’d been tipped off to presented a photo opportunity. The Tower Station and U-Drop in Cafe.
While detoured in Shamrock, we drove past what appeared to be an abandoned bar. Behind the bar was a ‘junkyard’ full of old cars. We pulled over and walked past an open door. Debbie nearly scared me to death when she poked her head out of the building. “Any chance we can go wander through the cars parked out behind your building?”
Debbie didn’t mind, she had nothing to do with the abandoned lot. She was merely working a roadside gaming establishment that contained a handful of video slot and poker machines. “You’re going to Vegas” she asked? “What do you play, machines or cards?” When the answer was “cards,” she seemed happy to hear it. (did I mention she was working a gaming room filled with machines?
Early Thursday morning, we made an obligatory stop at the iconic Cadillac Ranch just west of Amarillo.
I had no idea that Texas could be so COLD!
Onward. We’ve got a date in Vegas. First, we stop briefly in Grants, New Mexico, to have a Badlands Burger served to us by Kayla.
Another brief stop, this one courtesy of the Albuquerque PD:
The officer was kind enough to verify the readings on my speedometer and to alert me to the many State Police patrolling between Albuquerque and the Arizona border.
Once into Arizona, we were easily distracted: METEOR CRATER! “Ah, Hell, why not?” We’re never getting back here again, right?
“We paid sixteen bucks for THIS?!” The two young men echoed our sentiments exactly. With signs like “Main Shaft,” “Raised Strata” and “Thrust Fault,” we quickly deemed this an ‘adults only’ observation deck. Sophomore humor comes quickly and easily when you’re on an expedition like this…
Friday dawns, we’ve arrived at our destination. A quick breakfast outside the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and we attempt to wind our way around the buildings to get to the main entrance to the track. Wait, what’s that? Those are COBRAS! We’ve GOT to stop and see if we can wander around. Dorothy happily gives us an unofficial guided tour around Speedway Classic Cars as we listen to Mustangs rip around the road course just outside their doors.
Once at the track, I was overwhelmed. So many Mustangs, how do you capture all of them? Not possible. But the creativity in the personalized plates gave me an idea:
A sample of some of the uniqueness of both the owners and their cars on display.
One more overnight in Vegas, then back on the road. Dinner and beers in Fruita, Colorado, served by Jen, who rides her purple Schwinn to work each day.
Somewhere west of Colorado, however, we had a Ford SUV pull up alongside us on Route 70. The driver of that vehicle smiled as he pointed to the iconic Shelby Cobra snake tattooed on his left shoulder. “Sweet!” Another Mustang fan.
Imagine our surprise when we stopped in Beaver, Utah (no, the sophomore humor never ends!), and bumped into Kailen and his passenger at the same gas station. They had traveled from Mankato, Minnesota to the Mustang anniversary party we just attended. Kailen is a huge Mustang (and Shelby) fan and really admired my car. “Come on over when you’re done filling your tank, we’ll chat and grab some photos.”
I could see it in his eyes; there’s definitely a Shelby in this young man’s future.
Oh, what a ride.
Happy 50th, Mustang!