Western Trips

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Visit Beautiful Tomales Bay California

If you've traveled north of San Francisco California you surely know how beautiful the Pacific coastline is. There are so many tourist attractions in this area that visiting it can certainly last several days. One area that you'll want to add to your vacation or trip planner is the town of Tomales.

Tomales California, located in west Marin County, has a population of around 200 and is approximately a one and one-half hour drive from the city of San Francisco.

tomales bay mapGetting to Tomales From the San Francisco Area 

One way to reach Tomales from San Francisco is to go north on Hwy 101 over the Golden Gate Bridge and pick up Hwy 1 north of San Rafael. Another would be to go north of Hwy 101 to Petaluma, exit at Hwy 116 and  and then go west on Bodega Ave, Chileno Valley Rd and Tomales Petaluma Rd to Dillon Beach Rd in Tomales.

Visit Tomales Bay and Point Reyes National Seashore 

Tomales Bay

Before the Europeans landed in what is today northern Califorina, the Coast Miwok people were the first to reside in this coastal area of sheltered coves, beaches, tidal marshes, and forest of Bishop pines now known as Tomales Bay State Park, forty miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

tomales bay
Tomales Bay shore view
The park came into being after developers were buying up large parcels of land along the seashore during the 1940's. Conservation groups along with residents became involved and the result was the opening of Tomales Bay State Park in 1952. The park features four surf free beaches plus forests and meadows. Hikers will find some excellent trails at the state park. Two trails at the park include the Jepson Trail and the Johnstone Trail

Kayaking Tomales Bay 

One of the most popular places for kayaking is on Tomales Bay off Point Reyes National Seashore It is the largest unspoiled coastal embayment on the coast of California. Tomales Bay is a 15-mile long, 6780-acre tidal water body.

The bay is bounded mostly on the west by the Point Reyes National Seashore. Towns and villages around this area include Pt. Reyes Station, Inverness, Tomales, Marshall, and Dillon Beach.

Point Reyes National Seashore

The Point Reyes National Seashore is a must visit when you travel to the area of Tomales and west Marin County. Point Reyes National Seashore is a fascinating piece of land. Point Reyes is a beautiful outcropping of coastal land. The Point Reyes seashore is one of the most scenic on the west coast. Tomales Bay is adjacent to Point Reyes and is a popular place for boaters, fisherman and oyster lovers. Point Reyes Light House is a great photo stop when you're at the national seashore.

tomales california photo
View of village of Tomales
The Point Reyes headlands stick out about ten miles into the Pacific Ocean. This is the reason that the point had been very dangerous to mariners for well over 100 years. Any shipl leaving San Francisco Bay had to take serious note of the Point Reyes area. Historians list some eighty maritime accidents off Point Reyes claiming hundreds of seamen. Before the Point Reyes lighthouse could be built, a suitable flat site was blasted out of the rock about 300 feet below the cliff. This is the reason that visitors today must walk down the long steps to enter the lighthouse itself. Visiting the lighthouse is a fun part of exploring the Point Reyes National Seashore and if the day isn't foggy you'll be able to take some terrific photos of the rocky California coastline.

Visit the Tomales Regional History Center

The Tomales Regional History Center is located at 26701 Hwy 1, Tomales CA. The History Center is located in the auditorium of the old high school just south of the business district. As of this writing, the
hours are 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, and Sunday. The number for more information is (707) 878-9443.

The town of Tomales is notable for its collection of intact architecture, the diversity of which reflects the evolution of the village. The Tomales Regional History Center is the perfect venue to see the various types of architecture that the village is well known for. Queen Ann style, Craftsman homes, a Spanish Colonial Revival school, a Richardsonian Romanesque church and 20th century buildings have all graced this village. 

point reyes lighthouse
Point Reyes Lighthouse on a foggy day
Built near the San Andreas Fault, the 1906 earthquake did considerable damage to Tomales and a large 1920 fire burned down several commercial buildings. Interestingly enough, Tomales kept a great deal of it's structural integrity and if you compare photos of early Tomales with those taken today you'll see a great deal of similarity. 

For a schedule of events and upcoming exhibits at the museum see website www.tomaleshistory.com/events.htm 

See the Western Trips articles on the links below for more northern California travel stops...

Coastal Hiking at Bodega Bay

Luther Burbank Home and Garden / Santa Rosa 

Aircraft of The Castle Air Museum / Atwater, CA

Tomales Bay Lodging

The lodging available along California's Tomales Bay is plentiful and diverse. There are unique B&B's, cottages directly on the shoreline and quaint hotels. Below are websites for several...


The next time you visit northern California and in particular the Bay Area, a drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and into Marin County along the coastline on Hwy 1 is a trip into California's coastal beauty and history. Plenty of coastal sightseeing and outdoor activities makes this part of northern California a popular vacation destination.

(Article copyright 2014 Western Trips)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Early Rock and Roll Hits From Clovis New Mexico

The music recording studio located on 7th Street in Clovis New Mexico played a big part in the early years of the Rock and Roll industry.

Artists who recorded at the Norman Petty Recording Studios included Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Roy Orbison, Buddy Knox, Waylon Jennings, Sonny West, Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs, Charlie Phillips, Jimmy Bowen, Johnny Duncan, Carolyn Hester, Chita Rivera and many others.

Norman Petty Studios, Clovis, NM
Norman Petty Studios, Clovis, NM

The Norman Petty Studios If you're are a big fan of Buddy Holly, you will definitely want to add a stop at the Norman Petty Studios in Clovis NM.

In fact, if you're a fan of Rock and Roll, a tour of this studio is a must. Norman Petty made music history in this very same studio.During the early 1950's Norman Petty formed a trio with Jack Vaughan and Petty's wife Vi. The trio had a huge hit with the Duke Ellington song "Mood Indigo".

The "Clovis Sound" made popular by such greats as Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison, was created and recorded in Clovis at the Norman Petty Recording Studio. This small studio on 7th Street helped shape American Rock & Roll. During the early 1950s, Petty formed a musical trio with his wife Vi, and a friend Jack Vaughan. This "Norman Petty Trio" scored a big hit with the Petty penned song ‘Mood Indigo’, which ended up selling over half a million copies.

Buddy Holly and the Crickets cut their first demos in Clovis in 1956 . Buddy Holly and the Crickets lived in Lubbock Texas, about 90 miles southeast of Clovis and made the drive up U.S. Hwy 84 many times for their recording sessions. In just a matter of a few months hits like “That’ll Be the Day” and “Peggy Sue” boosted them, and the Norman Petty Studios, into the international spotlight.

Norman Petty is often referred to as one of the greatest sound engineers in American history.
You'll find a lot of original equipment still there. The history of this studio is outstanding. Visit the old recording studio and you may have a chance to sit on the same chair that Buddy Holly sat in and see the microphone Buddy used to record many of his hits from the 1950's. You may even be given a chance to sing into this very same microphone yourself. To say a visit to the Norman Petty Studios in Clovis New Mexico is a unique experience is an understatement.

The studio is set up today the very same way it was during the late 1950's when Buddy Holly recorded there. The studios were active all the way into the 1990's.Tours are by appointment only, and should be booked well in advance. The studio is located at 1313 West 7th St., Clovis, NM. Phone 505-763-7565.

Norman and Vi Petty Rock & Roll Museum
The Norman and Vi Petty Rock & Roll Museum

Today, the Norman and Vi Petty Rock & Roll Museum, which opened in September 2008, preserves the artifacts, culture and equipment of the studio’s heyday. Visitors learn how a hit record was made – the business and the technology – and revisit the stories of the many musical legends who recorded in Clovis. This museum highlights the Clovis' rich musical background and it's intention is to complement all the music history that was made at the 7th Street recording studios. 

As of this writing, the museum is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to Noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The museum address is 105 E. Grand Ave, Clovis, NM.

You may enjoy the Western Trips articles on the links below...

Visit the Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock TX

Visit the Roger Miller Museum in Erick Oklahoma

Visit Post Texas / The Town Built by C.W. Post

An excellent book regarding Norman Petty and the hits recorded at the Norman Petty Studios in Clovis New Mexico is...The King of Clovis - Norman Petty: American Music Legend: The Man Behind Rock 'n Roll's Greatest Artists by author Frank Blanas.

 The Clovis Music Festival 

One of the best times to visit the Norman Petty Studios and the Norman and Vi Petty Rock & Roll Museum is during the annual Clovis Music Festival. The year 2014 is the 27th anniversary of the Clovis Music Festival.The Festival is planned each year during the second weekend of September The Clovis Music Festival is a tribute to the influential musicians that recorded their music in the Norman Petty recording studios and had an impact on Clovis.
For more information about the festival including schedules and events see website
Clovis is the capital of the High Plains when it comes to great family activities and events, a community full of friendly people and a rich history rooted in music. Don't miss out on some of the coolest music history in Clovis New Mexico.  (Article and photos copyright 2014 Western Trips)  

Monday, July 14, 2014

Gems Across The Texas / New Mexico Route 66 Segment

Route 66 Through Texas

Historic Route 66 enters Texas in the Panhandle region as it moves westward out of Oklahoma. It's estimated that more than 150 miles of the original 178 still exist in Texas. When you enter Texas from Oklahoma on Interstate 40 you're closely following the old historic route. From the Oklahoma border westward toward Amarillo Route 66 lies mainly to the south of the Interstate. From Amarillo westward to the New Mexico border, the Mother Road runs north of the Interstate.

route 66 texasRoute 66 Through New Mexico

The topography along Route 66 through New Mexico is very much different than how the road runs through Texas. The New Mexico topography has always posed challenges. New Mexico’s elevation along this path varies from a low of 3,800 feet at the Texas border to over 7,200 feet at the Continental Divide near the town of Thoreau, creating a roadbed characterized by climbs, descents, switchbacks and cuts.

Traversing New Mexico east to west along roughly the 35th parallel has been difficult even before Route 66 was constructed. That being said, the New Mexico portion of the Mother Road offers scenery like no other.

Travel Stops Along Route 66

We want to highlight several interesting stops along this Texas/New Mexico segment of the Mother Road. These are not the only interesting stops by all means but they should give you a good idea of what's in store.

shamrock texas route 66
Historic U Drop Inn, Shamrock, TX
Shamrock Texas

Shamrock got it's name in 1890 from it's first supposed postmaster, George Nickle, who actually never opened up his post office. Nickle was a local rancher and suggested the name Shamrock which would stand for good luck and courage. A post office was eventually opened by a woman named Mary Jones who used Shamrock as the name for the settlement.

What would be more natural then celebrating Saint Patrick's Day in Shamrock Texas? Shamrock's Saint Patrick's Day event dates all the way back to 1938. A man by the name of Glenn Truax thought that Shamrock, with it's name and Irish immigrant history, would be the ideal spot for an annual Saint Patrick's Day celebration that would draw thousands of attendees. The celebration continues to this day.

amarillo texas sixth streetAmarillo Texas Sixth Street Historic District

Today, to see some of the remnants of this historic highway in Amarillo Texas, you'll want to make a fun visit to Amarillo's Sixth Street Historic District. This is a thirteen block area west of downtown Amarillo in the San Jacinto Heights Addition. Amarillo is the largest city in Texas that the old Route 66 passed through. The good thing is that it still indeed does pass through.

This historic district is a collection of commercial buildings that are associated with the famed highway. Shopping, restaurants and unique shops are what is now part of this area of Amarillo's nightlife scene. For anyone out there who might remember the days of the old Route 66 this is definitely a must stop.

route 66 tucumcari
Blue Swallow Court, Tucumcari, NM
Tucumcari New Mexico

At it's peak, Tucumcari offered travelers some 2,000 hotel rooms. It was considered the gateway to New Mexico. Today, the number is a fraction of that amount. There is however a Tucumcari motel that has survived over all of those decades and that is the Blue Swallow Motel. Originally called the Blue Swallow Court, the Tucumcari NM hotel was built between 1930-1941 and it's believed to have opened for business in 1941.

Before the automobile descended upon it, Tucumcari was a railroad town. Tucumcari was founded in 1901 even before Quay County itself was established. The year 1901 was also the time that the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad built a construction camp in what is now the western portion of Quay County. The Rock Island camp was originally given the nickname of "Six Shooter Siding" because of it's too numerous gunfights.

route 66 auto museum
Exhibit at Route 66 Auto Museum
Santa Rosa New Mexico

There's more than one interesting vintage and classic car museum along the old Route 66 and one with a fascinating large collection is the Route 66 Auto Museum in Santa Rosa New Mexico. Santa Rosa is on Interstate 40 between Amarillo and Albuquerque. Santa Rosa is one of those towns that the Interstate goes directly past yet the main street through town is a part of the original Route 66. On your next western road trip through this part of the country, exit Interstate 40 at Santa Rosa, drive through the main town area of restaurants, motels and shops and you'll be treated to a great display of vintage cars that have marvelously restored.

You may also enjoy the Western Trips articles on the links below...

Visit the Gallup Cultural Center

The Corner in Winslow Arizona 

Visit Arizona's Lowell Observatory 

A fun and fact filled read regarding the old Route 66 includes an excellent small booklet with plenty of photos and images titled ...Traveling Route 66, 2,250 Miles of Motoring History from Chicago to L.A. by author Nick Freeth.

route 66 bridgesRio Puerco Bridge

There is one preserved old Route 66 landmark bridge which is located just west of Albuquerque along Interstate 40. The Rio Puerco Bridge was constructed in 1933 as part of the Federal Government's program  to use emergency money for highway construction.

This particular stretch of highway which is still preserved next to the bridge became a part of the official Route 66 alignment in 1937. The bridge design is a common one for the era. The bridge also had to be strong enough to endure possible flooding which had occurred several times. The bridge went under renovation in 1957 which included the addition of guard rails to help protect the trusses.

The Hotel to the Movie Stars / Gallup New Mexico 

The list of stars who appeared in movies shot around Gallup seems almost endless. Humphrey Bogart, Ronald Reagan, Spencer Tracey, Burt Lancaster, Gregory Peck, Joan Crawford, Doris Day, Kirk Douglas, Lucille Ball and many more. The list is a who's who of Hollywood during the mid 1900's.

el rancho hotel gallup
El Rancho during 1940's and 50's
The stars traveling to Gallup needed a place to stay and the El Rancho ,built in 1937 by the brother of director D.W.Griffith, was the residence of choice for many of them.

If you're a old western movie fan and traveling through Gallup on Interstate-40, a stop at the El Rancho is a must. The lobby area still has it's old west theme and rooms are named after the celebrities who stayed there. Also a lot of great pictures and autographs on display.

Taking a trip along the old Route 66 through Texas and New Mexico is a real trip into history. While Interstate 40 has done away with large segments of the old Mother Road, there still remains many interesting and historic landmarks would make an excellent addition on your vacation planner while traveling through the Southwest. 

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Western Trips. Photo of El Rancho in the public domain)

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Old Spanish Trail Highway / The Southern Trunkline

The five ton Texas granite boulder that proudly sits on the grounds in front of the San Antonio City Hall was dedicated on March 27, 1924. This marker is a high historic significance in as much as it was placed in recognition of the Old Spanish Trail highway begun in 1916 and completed and opened in 1929.

The idea of building the Old Spanish Trail was launched and led by good roads boosters and Chamber of Commerce officials. Support also came from a group of southern senators and congressmen who signed a declaration calling attention to the potential tourist and military importance of the highway. 

The roads were needed as the automobile industry produced more and more cars and people everywhere were replacing the horse and buggy with motorized vehicles. As you can imagine a good deal of politics were involved as to exactly what towns along the way this early road would pass through. 

old spanish trail highway map

A Transcontinental Southern Route

The trail started as a connector route between New Orleans and Florida but soon expanded into a transcontinental highway from Florida to California. The eastern terminus was St. Augustine Florida and the western terminus San Diego California. The Old Spanish Trail begins in St. Augustine and basically follows old U.S. 90 along 455 miles, cutting through the Florida Panhandle and into Pensacola. The trail passes through the states of  Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and, finally, California. The Old Spanish Trail follows what years later would be U.S. Highway 90 in the east and U.S. 80 in the west. When the road was opened in 1929 it was called the most expensive to build of all the transcontinental highways.

Three Zero Milestone markers exist. The one in San Antonio Texas plus Zero Milestone markers in St. Augustine and San Diego. Building this highway from St. Augustine to San Diego connects some of the sites of Spain's earliest missions and forts. In latter years just as with Old Route 66, some alignments were changed and routes through larger cities were altered somewhat. 

old spanish trail marker san antonio
Zero Milestone Marker, San Antonio, TX
The Old Spanish Trail in Texas

The section of the Old Spanish Trail in Texas began at the southwestern Louisiana border at Orange. The trail passed through Beaumont, Houston, San Antonio, and ended at El Paso. Pretty much the same route as today's Interstate 10. 

Texas is a big state and as such comprised about one-third of the entire Old Spanish Trail highway.

The Adventure of Driving the Highway

The early highways that crossed much of the U.S. were given names. For one reason, a name gave the highway publicity. A name worked as a marketing tool. It added romanticism to a highway. Old Route 66...The Lincoln Highway...the Dixie Highway, The Alaska Highway are examples. Rand McNally hit it on the head in their 1923 Road Book which stated ..."Along the Old Spanish Trail are the riches of history, legend, sentiment and natural beauty. And throughout the route there are members of the Old Spanish Trail Association who will find pleasure in making your aquaintance."

When completed, driving this road was a real adventure. We're talking about the time when automobiles made it possible for people to hit the open road and travel great distances. In many ways the automobile offered the type of freedom never before enjoyed. By the same token, driving this highway in 1929 was nothing like it is today. Early paving of roads usually involved stones packed down to form a hard surface.

See our Western Trips articles on the links below...

Why Did Route 66 Abandon Santa Fe?

The Chief Joseph Scenic Byway 

Battle of Gonzales Texas / Annual Reenactment

On our Trips Into History website see our article on Driving the Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway

old spanish trail marker plaque
Zero Milestone Marker plaque
Unlike Route 66 and the Lincoln Highway, the Old Spanish trail was not routed by patching together existing roads. 

The roads often had to be built directly through swamplands on the easternmost portion through the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Bridges needed to be built over major waterways. In 1928 a bridge spanning Lake Ponchartrain in New Orleans was completed.

The Centennial Celebration

A good portion of the Old Spanish Trail exists today. Plans are being formulated for the centennial celebration to take place in 2019. The celebration is expected to last a full decade and is expected to conclude in 2029 with a motorcade grand finale that will travel from St. Augustine to San Diego. This will mirror the first celebration motorcade over the highway that occurred in 1929.

old spanish trail marker st. augustine
St. Augustine Zero Milestone
Some Special Notes 

The official archives of the Old Spanish Trail Association are held in Special Collections at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas.  

The Old Spanish Trail Association, with its director, Harral Ayres, was a group of community leaders from towns and cities across the entire southern stretch of the United States, from St. Augustine, Florida, through San Antonio, Texas, and west to San Diego, California. 

Detailed information regarding the planned Centennial Celebration can be found on the Old Spanish Trail website www.oldspanishtrailcentennial.com

A few good reads regarding the Old Spanish Auto Trail includes...Classic American Roads: Walking Tours of Towns along the Old Spanish Auto Trail (Kindle Edition) by author Doug Gelbert. Also, Roads of Destiny: The Trails That Shaped a Nation by author Douglas Waitley.

For a Story of the Old Spanish Trail written by Harral Ayres see website link http://www.oldspanishtrailcentennial.com/history

(Article copyright 2014 Western Trips. Photos copyright Western Trips. Map of the Old Spanish Trail highway courtesy of Old Spanish Trail Association Archives, Louis J. Blume Library, St. Mary's University, San Antonio, Texas.)