|Traveling Down the Dixie Overland Highway:
A Short but Fun Road Trip along Vintage US 80
Highway 80 is not the mythical road that US 66 is, and it hasn't been dubbed anything
interesting like the "Lincoln Highway," which is what travelers call US 50. Nor does it go
through some of the first settlements in the United States, from Florida to Maine, like US 1
Still, US 80 is cool.
Running from Tybee Island, Georgia to San Diego, California, this highway spans the southern
portion of the United States, passing through Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New
Mexico, and Arizona along the way. If you took it from end to end, you'd travel almost 2,500
miles, and according to Google Maps, it would take you at least 3 days.
But for this article, I won't be taking you all the way through. Concentrating on the areas
around the Red River, let's instead take a road trip from Louisiana to parts of western Texas
on this old highway. I'm also going to show you the high-lights of the trip (meaning "the
places for which I have photos").
Like US 66, US 80 has been decommissioned west of Mesquite. It has merged in many places
with Interstates 20 and 30 (further west, with Interstate 10). Mostly, though, the interstate can
be avoided through careful planning!
I tend to call US 80 the "Bonnie and Clyde" road, mainly because it was just off this
highway that they were gunned down. Also, they traveled US 80 often as they drove
to Dallas or away from the law (and Clyde is buried just off of old US 80 in Dallas).
Ergo, the first stops in Louisiana are associated with Bonnie and Clyde.
The seat of Bienville Parish, Bonnie and Clyde were brought into Arcadia to get the
once-over from the coroner after they were ambushed on the Mount Lebanon to
Sailes road (LA 154). Visit the wooden Depot Museum, with its displays of Bonnie and
Bonnie and Clyde hid out at and around the Methvin farm near Gibsland. The day of
the ambush, Bonnie had purchased breakfast at Ma Cranfield's Cafe in downtown
Gibsland, and within the hour, she and her sandwich both were shot to pieces. The
Cafe is now home to the Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum.
Barksdale Air Force Base makes Bossier a military town. I'll get photos of Bossier as
time permits! You will cross the Red River along East Texas Street.
The town's name of Shreveport comes from Henry Shreve, who was charged with
removing the infamous "Red River Log Jam" that had hindered navigation on the
river north of Natchitoches. As you enter Shreveport on East Texas Street/ US 80,
you'll readily see what makes Shreveport so popular in the region: its many casinos
that sit along the banks of the Red River.
East of downtown Shreveport, US 80/ Texas Street holds sad remnants of the city's
once vibrant economy. The predominantly African American business district has
been left abandoned, with empty storefronts and whole street left to decay. The
Antioch Baptist Church, however, still goes strong.
Keep on trucking on Texas Street, which will turn into Greenwood Avenue before
you enter Texas.
|Mileage marker, set in 1934, on US 80 inside
|The Arcadia Depot Museum just off US 80 houses a
large collection of artifacts on the Bonnie and Clyde
|Peyton's Cut Rate Drugs on Texas Street in Shreveport
has seen better days.
|Along US 80 east of downtown Shreveport, the contrasts are stark, but full of Southern flavor. The Victorian-style mansion on the left sits neglected and
abandoned down Austin Street. Almost directly behind it is a collection of shotgun houses (many have been modified to add extra space). When I came
through, most of these houses were unoccupied, at least by legal renters.
As you travel from Louisiana to Texas (or vice versa), you'll notice
the many tall pines that comprise the western-most part of what
once was the Confederacy. East Texas is very different from the
rest of Texas, as it is historically linked to the South, with its
economies, histories, and its landscapes. A little before Dallas,
however, you will be entering the Grand Prairie and points west - a
land that opens up into the horizon, with short mesquite trees, a
few remnants of the Cross Timbers, and shallow, rock-strewn rivers.
Not much to write home about, Waskom does have one strange
feature: its downtown faces away from US 80. That's because
Waskom Boulevard, Waskom's main street, used to be US 80 before
the highway was straightened out and placed around downtown.
Marshall was the last capital of the Confederacy. It was also one of
the first cities in Texas at the forefront of the Civil Rights
movement. Marshall was home to both Bishop College and is still
the base of Wiley College, two prestigious African American
universities. Wiley College's famous debate team of 1935 helped to
spark Civil Rights movements in Texas (the movie, The Great
Debaters, was based on this college's achievements). On Marshall's
west side (Victory Drive), check out the abandoned drive-in theater.
On its east side (Grand Avenue), check out the abandoned high
Longview was founded as a railroad town, when the Texas & Pacific
came through in the 1870s. The Dalton Gang even conducted their
last bank robbery here. Today, with its larger neighbor, Tyler,
Longview's the economic hub for northern East Texas. US 80,
named Marshall Avenue, skirts downtown Longview, traveling
through strip centers that were built in the 1920s. A well-known
roadside attraction on US 80 is Johnny Cace's, a sea food
restaurant that incites pilgrimages by people from all around Texas,
Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.
Like Longview, Gladewater was founded alongside the Texas &
Pacific tracks. The original town area is quite compact.
Yet another railroad town, Mineola was named after someone's
daughter, or daughters - the stories differ as to who named it after
whom. Lots of antique shops line the downtown just off US 80 (and
many are open Sundays).
In the North Texas region, Terrell's best known for the Texas State
Psychiatric Hospital, which is located just north of US 80/ Moore
Avenue. The large campus, which began in the 1880s, is beautiful,
peaceful, and is an integral part of Terrell's economy. US 80 slices
directly through downtown Terrell.
|Reader Marie Ashley clarified that this abandoned building off of US 80 in
Marshall was once the Texas & Pacific Railroad hospital. Built in the 1920s,
it was closed in the 1960s and since then served as a juvenile detention
|This old motel on US 80 is still in use as a business office.
|Third Leg: Dallas and Fort Worth
As you drive away from Terrell, US 80 will become a four lane,
divided highway. But old US 80 still exists - all you've got to do is
find the exits!
This little hamlet used to be called Brooklyn, but renamed itself
when the Texas & Pacific chose to run its line through town.
Several alignments went through Forney; the later one is now the
frontage road of the current US 80. If you follow FM 688 (Broad
Street), you'll drive on an even older portion, and through the
center of town. Several antique shops line US 80.
A little after Forney, US 80 merge with Interstate 30. But don't fret!
You can follow the original US 80 by exiting onto Samuell Boulevard
in Mesquite, which is what old, decommissioned US 80 is now called.
While technically not on US 80 - downtown Mesquite lies south of
Samuell Boulevard - the town has a nice, sordid past, so I'll include
it here. For example, Belle Starr and her family called Mesquite
home. Belle, the "outlaw Queen," was a some-time horse and cattle
thief who hung out with former Quantrill Guerillas, like her future
husband Sam, and their friends Cole Younger and Jesse James.
Sam Bass also made a brief appearance in Mesquite, after relieving
the Texas & Pacific Railroad of some cash.
Once in Dallas, you'll be following a lot of roads that were once US
80. Since the "official" US 80 consists now of Interstate 30, I'm
consulting an old Conoco Map for your jaunt through Dallas and
later, Fort Worth. Today, the old US 80 route through Dallas is
Keep on driving on Samuell Boulevard (which used to be called
East Pike during US 80's hey-day) until you reach East Grand
Avenue/ TX 78. To follow old US 80, turn left onto Grand Avenue/ TX
78 until it meets Haskell Avenue. You'll be in the heart of the Fair
Park neighborhood on this route, and you'll catch glimpses of the
Cotton Bowl as you mosey on towards downtown. As soon as you
turn onto TX 78, you'll be on the Bankhead Highway, an old route
that linked Washington D.C. to San Diego.
Turn right onto Haskell and follow it west. Quite quickly, Haskell will
become Stonewall Street, as Haskell splits into two one-ways. At the
intersection of Stonewall and Parry Avenue, turn left. Parry Avenue
will take you right by Fair Park!
After you pass over the DART railroad tracks, turn right onto
Commerce Street and follow it to downtown Dallas.
At the intersection of Parry and Commerce is a grand old fire
station, which has been converted into a museum. The Museum of
the American Railway, where I volunteer in the archives, is inside
Fair Park, but not for long - its collection will be moved to
As you drive up Commerce, you'll have to jog onto Main Street or
Elm Street to your right - Commerce becomes a one way street in
the opposite direction. To get to Main or Elm Streets, take
Exposition to the right and then turn left onto either Main or Elm
(both will take you through downtown). Commerce Street is the
original US 80.
Commerce, Main, and Elm Streets form the center roads for
downtown Dallas. All three merge on the west side of downtown
into Commerce Street as they pass through the infamous "Triple
Underpass." If you drive down Elm Street, you'll see the "X" on the
road that marks where John F. Kennedy was shot.
After they merge, Commerce Street becomes a two-way road. This
portion of Commerce street is a newer alignment of US 80. You can
follow this road into Oak Cliff.
If you want to follow the original US 80, you'll have to turn left onto
Houston Street at Dealy Plaza. Follow Houston Street as it curves
onto the Houston Street Viaduct, considered the longest concrete
bridge in the world (and who'd want to dispute that!)
Interesting side note: the Trinity River used to flow where the Triple
Underpass now stands. The river was straightened through a
series of dikes during the 1930s and 1940s. This project was
considered one of the most expensive and ambitious civic
undertakings in US history. Now, of course, Dallas would like to
reclaim the Trinity, which has become nothing more than a ditch
that occasionally floods.
If you took the older alignment from Houston Street, your path will
lead you through the heart of Oak Cliff and past the Texas Theater,
where Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested after his event-filled day in
November of 1963. In Oak Cliff, US 80 is Davis Street.
If you decided to follow the newer route on Commerce Street, make
sure to veer left onto Fort Worth Avenue, or what locals still call the
"Old Fort Worth Turn Pike." Fort Worth Avenue is a great road to
take when you want to ponder the past, or when traffic on Interstate
30 gets so bogged down you need an alternate route. Either way,
it's a great road. You'll see lots of old motels, vintage diners, and
even Clyde Barrow's Grave at the Western Heights Cemetery,
located on Fort Worth Avenue between Navarro and Neal Streets.
Fort Worth Avenue will merge with Davis Street just west of
Westmoreland Road, and you'll once again follow a single US 80,
which is now designated as TX 180.
Once you pass over Loop 12, you'll be in Grand Prairie. There's not
much to see here, except some old drive-ins and several flea
markets. TX 180/ US 80 becomes Main Street in Grand Prairie.
Continue west on TX 180 / US 80. After the intersection with Great
Southwest Parkway, you'll be in Arlington, the third largest city in
the Dallas/ Fort Worth Metro-area. Long before you get to Arlington,
however, you'll be able to see its newest landmark: the brand new
Dallas Cowboys Stadium, a.k.a. the Jerry-dome. It is HUGE. It also
occupies an older section of town that had been condemned
through eminent domain to make way for the stadium. The many
diners, motels, and older stores from the old neighborhood that
still ring the stadium will most likely go away soon, as developers
see opportunity knocking.
In Arlington, TX 180/ US 80 becomes Division Street. This a cool old
road that is hugged by down-home restaurants, dance halls, and
local dives. The large campus of the University of Texas at Arlington
sits behind this street, next to the rather nondescript downtown.
East of downtown is one of my favorite spots on this jaunt:
Arlington Baptist College. But not because I'm religious - it's
because the campus, built of sand stone and situated on one of the
highest hills in Tarrant County, sits on the site of a former
speakeasy, the Top of the Hill Terrace. Drinkers and gamblers
would revel in an underground tavern, but would flee through an
underground tunnel if the police showed up.
Aaah, my favorite town. As you come down this way, you'll pass
through Handley, a small railroad town that maintains its identity
separate from Fort Worth.
In Fort Worth, TX 180/US 80 becomes Lancaster Avenue. It doesn't
go through the best of neighborhoods - several homeless missions
line the road on both sides. When you pass under the Interstates
near downtown, you'll see why Lancaster Avenue had a more seedy
side to it... it used to empty right into the heart of the notorious
Hell's Half Acre. Alas, the convention center has replaced this
According to my trusty Conoco Map, the old US 80 route veered off
from Lancaster Avenue and onto Main Street. Then, it continued
west on 7th Street, and then followed Camp Bowie Boulevard to the
southwest. You can jog this path, or just stay on Lancaster Avenue
until it intersects with Camp Bowie Boulevard - the choice is yours.
Both ways are interesting.
Camp Bowie Boulevard (also US 377) is Fort Worth's favorite road.
It's bumpy, too, as some of its sections remain paved with brick. The
Modern Art Museum, the Kimball, and the Museum of Science and
History are located off of Camp Bowie, and many stores,
restaruants, and theaters line the road, too. The neighborhood
surrounding Camp Bowie is quite eclectic, ranging from old
apartment buildings to 1950s suburban homes to fancier digs. Camp
Bowie Boulevard is the reason why so many people fall in love with
|There is plenty of 1930s architecture to admire in buildings and store fronts
along Parry Avenue near Fair Park.
|The Doublewide, a bar on Exposition Street with a tornado on its roof,
cracks me up every time I see it.
|Arlington is full of vintage and colorful signage along US 80, as for years it
was the main thoroughfare between Dallas and Fort Worth.
|The newer alignment (50 years young) of US 80 passes as Commerce
Street right through the Triple Underpass at the base of Dealy Plaza.
|Get your kicks at the Ritz Starlite Room in Arlington!
|The old TP station along Lancaster Avenue has been converted into
Once Camp Bowie Boulevard passes underneath Interstate 30, it
becomes the current US 80. You'll want to follow the signs for US 80
- that means, veer right to stay on Camp Bowie Boulevard, and
follow the street as it becomes Palo Pinto Drive. You'll eventually
merge with Interstate 30 to go west to our next stop, Weatherford.
Exit the interstate onto TX 180/ Fort Worth Highway in Weatherford.
As the county seat of Parker County, Weatherford is quite the
prolific town. Mary Martin, the famous Broadway actress, was born
here, and Oliver Loving (Charles Goodnight's partner) is buried
here. The courthouse sits in the middle of the road, forcing
everyone to drive around it. There are also some great Victorian
homes on the western half of TX 180/US 80.
The next stop is Mineral Wells, one of the most interesting towns in
North Texas. The fabulous Baker Hotel will shade your path as you
drive through downtown.
Mineral Wells was once a spa resort, and people from all over
would flock to the town to take in the waters. As people began
taking their vacations to farther destinations, the town lost its
tourist clout, and only pockets of Mineral Wells hint at what was
once a bustling resort city.
As you continue your journey west into Palo Pinto, you'll find two
side roads that are named "Bankhead Highway." Here's where your
journey really gets fun - you'll be able to drive down the original
alignments, with the old paving still intact!
US 80 was named the Bankhead Highway after John Hollis
Bankhead, an Alabama politician. US 80 was one of several
intersecting routes that eventually connected Washington D.C. to
San Diego, California. These routes were mapped out and paved
through several funding acts during the 1920s, making
trans-American travel possible. These networks of roads included
the Lincoln Highway and of course, good old Route 66.
On your way west on TX 180/ US 80, you'll often notice parts of the
old road that have become someone's driveway.
Palo Pinto began as a town in the 1850s. Many Comanche raids
threatened its existence, but it hung on until it became a
well-traveled ranching center and stage coach stop.
Today, it's still small, but as the county seat of Palo Pinto County, it's
not going anywhere. The jail is now a museum that never seems to
be open (then again, I tend to visit on Sundays, so it's my fault).
End of the Road (for us, anyway)
After the coal mining town of Mingus, you'll drive on US 80 further
west to Shackleford. Then, old US 80 turns south to meet up with
modern Interstate 20 at Strawn. Here, Interstate 20 approximates
the original route through Ranger, Cisco, and Abilene, on toward El
|The Baker Hotel in downtown Mineral Wells.
|Ruins have become a staple of downtown Mineral Wells.
|A very vintage scene in Strawn: a brick road lined with Thurber pavers and
a hotel named after US 80, the Bankhead Highway. Note that the
"Bankhead" followed US 80 west of Dallas only.
|US 80 is one of the grande-dames of the American highway
system. While it still exists as a supplemental road to
Interstates 30, 20, and 10, traces and swaths of the old road -
and the automobile culture that went along with it - still remain.
Like Route 66 and US 50 have done for their states, this
highway has defined the Red River Valley, and I hope that one
day, just like its sisters, its importance will be recognized.
|Clyde and Buck Barrow's grave at Western Heights Cemetery on Fort
Worth Avenue is still well visited.
|An original alignment of US 80 east of Mineral Wells.
|The Montgomery Ward Building on the west side of downtown Fort Worth
now houses trendy people inside lofts.
|The Drummer's Inn along Camp Bowie Boulevard is a real relic - not just
because of the neon and the cartoon, but also because of the name.
"Drummers" were door-to-door salesmen who'd come into town, hawking
their wares. This motel may have catered to them when it was first opened.