Road to Nowhere

Cutting across America’s heartland, US‑83 remains a must-do long-distance byway—transnavigating this broad, odd nation without once grazing a conventional tourist destination.


Once a major oil-pumping and refining center, Shamrock is a dusty, rusty old industrial town, off I-40 and a mile south of historic Route 66, which survives as the Business Loop of I-40 through town. Though it’s not a particularly lovely place, Shamrock does have at least one real highlight: the lovely old Tower Gas Station and U Drop Inn café, standing together in full art deco glory on the northeast corner of US-83 and Route 66. Following a long-overdue, very contentious $1.7-million state-funded restoration, these landmark buildings look great, but instead of selling gas or serving food, they now dispense generous portions of helpful advice, courtesy of the friendly, local visitors bureau (806/256-2501).

To discover more about Shamrock, visit the old brown-brick Reynolds Hotel, south of Route 66 and east of US-83, where the better-than-you-might-expect Pioneer West Museum (204 N. Madden St., 806/256-3941, Mon.-Fri., free) has two dozen rooms full of bygone goodies, including the complete interiors, fixtures, and fittings of a dentist’s office, a barber shop, and a general store. There’s also an exhibit honoring Apollo astronaut Alan Bean, who lived nearby in his youth.

For a bite to eat, it’s hard to do better than Big Vern’s Steakhouse (200 E. 12th St., 806/256-2088), right on old Route 66.

Tower Gas Station and U Drop Inn
Pioneer West Museum (204 N. Madden St.)
Big Vern’s Steakhouse (200 E. 12th St.)