Texas is big, loud, and brash, and there are so many things to like about riding here. For one, the vast state has plenty of great roads. The people are warm and inviting. There’s always something interesting, unique, or downright strange to see along the way. And even though not everything is bigger in Texas, it won’t stop you from enjoying a road trip out west.
The end goal of this trip is the second-largest canyon in the U.S.—Palo Duro Canyon. It’s located near Canyon, TX, a small town in the Texas Panhandle also known as the Gateway to Palo Duro Canyon. But before camping in Palo Duro for a night, I have some genuine Texas attractions to see.
Riding out of McKinney, TX, a northern suburb of Dallas, the morning sky is dark and threatening to open up. It’s a straight shot on US 380 to the outskirts of Jacksboro, then a right turn on US 281 north to Windthorst. A stop for gas at Joe’s Kwik Stop yields a surprisingly good grilled ham and cheese sandwich. I usually avoid gas station food, but I’m glad I took the chance.
The plan from here is to continue to Booked Up in Archer City, a bookstore founded by the Pulitzer-prize-winning author of Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry. It’s probably my favorite book, and I’m on my fourth or fifth reading. McMurtry died in March 2021, so this feels to me like a pilgrimage to his hometown.
As I ride away from Joe’s, a few scattered raindrops and a distant rumble of thunder let me know that I’m at the mercy of the elements. A brief 10 minutes later, as I pull into the parking lot of Booked Up, Mother Nature lets me know she is not concerned with sentimentality. The rain is coming, and a check on my phone tells me it’s bringing hail with it. With one last glance at the front door and a promise to return, I decide to skip the bookstore.
The Mother Road
My first night is in Shamrock, TX, a working-class town on historic Route 66. With the clouds growing darker and the rain falling harder, I set my GPS for the quickest route. SR 25 leads me out of Archer City to Electra, US 287 to Childress, and finally US 83 into Shamrock. Eventually, I know I’ll head north and away from the storm, but for now, I keep my head down and hope for the best.
A trio of storm chasers passes me at well over the speed limit, and I think this may not be the best route for a motorcycle. I spend a lot of time on the road and I’m never overly concerned about the weather. But this time, on flat roads with nowhere to hide, that tiny feeling of doubt starts to creep in. I wonder if I should’ve stayed back at the bookstore and protected my bike from the downpour. Then the tall water tower of Shamrock comes into view, and I find my motel—Route 66 Inn—outrunning the brunt of the storm for now.