Amarillo by Morning

The final ride on my quest for 254 was also the longest ride I’ve taken: 1,893 miles over five days. It came during the first week of August, 2020, and for the most part, the weather was pleasant for this time of year in Texas. The remaining group of 29 county courthouses were all north of Lubbock.

The first day, August 3, simply got me from my home in Round Rock to Lubbock, about 375 miles away. Day two took me up the western side of the panhandle to the northwestern corner, then back down to Amarillo. The first stop was Littlefield, seat of Lamb County, the hometown of Waylon Jennings.

Littlefield, seat of Lamb County
Muleshoe, seat of Bailey County
Farwell, seat of Parmer County

My route through the western side of the panhandle took me past several large dairy farms and feed lots. Needless to say, you can’t escape the odors of these places on a motorcycle. All you can do is hope that you’re upwind of them. Almost as bad as the smell of the hundreds of animals kept in close quarters is the smell of the mounds of silage used to feed them. But as a rancher once told me, for some people it “smells like money.”

Dimmitt, seat of Castro County
Hereford, seat of Deaf Smith County
Vega, seat of Oldham County
Channing, seat of Hartley County
Dalhart, seat of Dallam County
Stratford, seat of Sherman County
Dumas, seat of Moore County
Amarillo, seat of Potter County

Day 3 started and stayed cool. I kept my extra jacket on until past noon. It was great weather for riding and some beautiful country to see, starting and ending in Amarillo, but making a big loop through the northeastern quadrant of the panhandle.

Panhandle, seat of Carson County
Between Panhandle and Stinnett
Stinnett, seat of Hutchinson County
Spearman, seat of Hansford County
In Spearman
Perryton, seat of Ochiltree County
Lipscomb, seat of Lipscomb County

The panhandle has a reputation for being flat as a skillet for as far as the eye can see. And there are parts where that is true. But the Canadian River cuts across the panhandle, and I crossed it four times over two days. There is a huge swath of land, many miles both north and south of the River, where the flatness breaks up into buttes and bluffs in the descent to the Canadian and the ascent therefrom. (For example, on US-385 between Vega and Channing, on US-87 between Dumas and Amarillo)

But even apart from the area around the Canadian River, the eastern panhandle has lots of hilly terrain. I enjoyed the drive between Perryton and Lipscomb, including an unnumbered and unpainted asphalt strip by the name of “Uncle Sam Road,” then on to Glazier on TX-305.

The Canadian River, north of Canadian
Canadian, seat of Hemphill County
Miami, seat of Roberts County

I went slightly out of my way between Miami and Wheeler to make a quick stop at the intersection that appears in the final scene of the film “Castaway” with Tom Hanks (intersection of Farm-Market roads 1268 and 48). By this point, I still hadn’t encountered any dairy farms or feed lots as I had the previous day. The first one was just west of Wheeler, and it was populated by bison.

Wheeler, seat of Wheeler County
Pampa, seat of Gray County

Day 4 took me south to Canyon, seat of Randall County. I skirted but did not get a good look at Palo Duro Canyon, though I have camped there before. Just out of sight of this amazing natural wonder, the road to Claude was as straight and flat as any I’ve ever seen.

Canyon, seat of Randall County
Claude, seat of Armstrong County
Clarendon, seat of Donley County
Memphis, seat of Hall County

Farm-Market roads 1547 and 1056 made the drive between Memphis and Wellington a pleasant break from US-287.

Wellington, seat of Collingsworth County
Childress, seat of Childress County
Silverton, seat of Briscoe County
Tulia, seat of Swisher County
Plainview, seat of Hale County

And there it is, Texas County Courthouse #254. It wasn’t chosen as the final one for any special reason other than the efficiency of my route. I felt a sense of relief at this point, but I still had an hour of hot road to ride to my resting spot for the night in Lubbock, and dinner with my daughter there.

Day 5 of this amazing week was the long, hot ride back to Round Rock. It was the hottest day of the week, and my body was ready to be done.

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