|Highway 77 crosses through Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska and finally peters out in Sioux City,
Iowa. Originally a street improved by the 1924 Highway Act, most of the old road has been bypassed by
Interstate 35 in Texas and Oklahoma. In occasional articles I will trace this great old road, where pockets of the
American past can be seen and appreciated. My journeys will follow a north-south direction, from Davis,
Oklahoma all the way to Waco, Texas.
The Arbuckle Mountain Range in the south central part of the state provides a dramatic backdrop for this road trip. This portion of the road
parallels I35, and takes you gently from rolling hills to the Red River bottom lands.
US 77 is a wide, straight highway in Davis. Davis is itself a lovely town with a restored train depot and several old gas stations - the kind
with living quarters on top - doubling as BBQ restaurants and antique stores.
Detour: Take OK 7 to the east and find Chickasaw National Recreation Area next to the pretty little town of Sulphur. This stretch of road
takes you into the heart of the Arbuckles, where Honey Creek spills into at least three dramatic waterfalls. The biggest one of them all is
Turner Falls, which the city of Davis turned into a park. Make sure to stop at the scenic overlook, which provides a glimpse onto the falls
from atop a ledge. Along the road are tourist camps, amusement parks, and ruins of scenic hotels straight from 1930s and 1940s. Stone
houses hug sharp curves, and souvenir shops beckon travelers to part with their money. Through the trees, you can spot rusty signs of
long forgotten road side camps.
Detour:: Turner Falls Park is a real vacation destination, and it makes no bones about it. As it is not a state park, the city requires an
entrance fee, and the grounds are chock full of small businesses catering to the traveler,including rent-by-the-night tipis. Honey Creek
runs clear throughout the park and creates two deep swimming holes, one at the base of the falls and one further downstream. If you feel
healthy enough, climb the stone stairs to the Castle ruins. Built in the late 20s and early 30s by Dr. Ellsworth Collins, a professor at the
University of Oklahoma, the native stone castle-like structure, complete with turrets and towers, served as his ranch headquarters. Now in
various states of decay, the castle hugs the mountain side. A driveway in the second set of ruins leads to the mountain top, from which you
can look down upon the 70 foot water falls.
Driving further south will take you into the little town of Springer and then the large city of Ardmore. US 77 used to go through downtown,
but newer alignments placed it to the west. Along the highway, you'll see old roadside motels converted to cheap apartments and former
gas stations housing antiques and flower shops. Further out of town, you'll meet up with roads beckoning you to discover Lake Murray
State Resort Park.
Detour: Where US 77 crosses OK 199, take a meandering drive to a ghost town. Follow OK 199 east to Gene Autry Road, which runs north
about five miles outside of Ardmore. Follow the path to Gene Autry, a little town that used to be called Lou, Dresden, and Berwyn before
deciding to honor the great cowboy hero, who owned a ranch around here. Visit the Gene Autry Historical Museum while you're at it.
The next town you'll encounter as you journey down US 77 is Marietta. Marietta is revitalizing its downtown, so make sure to take a peek.
|Fireplace inscriptions at the castle, which was built by an English professor.
|Castle in the woods at Turner Falls along US 77 near Davis, Oklahoma.
|From Davis, head south on US 77. South of town are the ruins of an old tourist court, across the old 77 from a trailer park. The abandoned
cabins are faced with fossils, no doubt an added attraction for the road weary traveler of long ago. Past the tourist court, you'll cross
Interstate 35 and begin climbing into the mountains. Keep your eyes peeled for signs to Arbuckle Wilderness, a drive-by safari attraction.
There are two "last stops" you can make before US 77 merges back onto Interstate 35 south of Marietta. The first one is Thackerville, a
farming community. Nearby is the historic site of Brown Springs. The second one is the Chickasaw Casino, a monstrous building that
boasts Big Ben, the Roman Coliseum, and Moorish architecture. Right on the prairie, too! It's a surreal world.
|US 77 in the Arbuckle Mountains: "This Road Built With Prison Labor."
Part II: Gainesville to Dallas, Texas
To keep following US 77, you'll have to leave Oklahoma on Interstate 35. US 77 really doesn't reappear until south of Dallas, but the towns
along the route are worth a look, anyway.
Gainesville is the first stop. There are outlet stores, but those are of course boring. Instead, go shopping downtown. There's even a soda
fountain inside a pharmacy there!
Detour: West of Gainesville lie the remains of a World War II-era P.O.W. camp, where German soldiers were housed. You can see chimneys
and a few barracks on County Road 401 (exit 498-A, go west) or on FM 1201 (exit 499 onto US 82 west, then turn right (north) on FM 1201).
The next town you'll meet as you drive south on Interstate 35/ US 77 is Valley View. Valley View is a small farm town where the feed mill
remains its number one employer.
Once you reach Sanger, take exit 479 for Business 35 and follow it all the way through town (it's called 5th Street in Sanger). South of
Sanger, the road bends. You'll see a small street named Cowling Drive; turn left (south) onto Cowling, and guess what? You are on an
original alignment of US 77. Follow Cowling Drive south until you once again meet up with Interstate 35. To go southward, you'll have to
follow the service road until in makes a u-turn under the Interstate.
|Camp Howze (where German POWs were also held) lies just west of Gainesville, Texas.
|Valley View is south of Gainesville in northern Denton County. This old feed mill is now gone.
|Your next stop on your US 77 road trip is Denton. Denton's a university town with a lot of western history, so it behooves the traveler to
take some time and visit the city. If you take exit 471 and go south on Elm Street, you'll be on an older alignment of US 77 that will lead you
right into downtown Denton. Keep following Elm Street to Eagle Drive, then turn left. At Dallas Drive, turn right to keep following US 77.
Dallas Drive will eventually merge onto Interstate 35 E.
As you drive south of Denton on Interstate 35 E, you'll notice A LOT more cars and buildings and people. That's because you're coming
into the outskirts of Dallas. To drive onto another old alignment of US 77, take exit 461 and turn right onto Post Oak Drive, right onto
Shady Shores Drive, and then right onto a little street called "Old US 77." Follow it to the northbound Frontage Road and swing back
around Post Oak Drive to return southbound.
Parallel to Old US 77 are the tracks for the A-Train, a new commuter rail that follows the right-of-way of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway
and the Interurban Line that used to link Denton and Dallas.
Further south you can see US 77 again in Lake Dallas, a town named after the lake that was built in the 1920s to serve as water storage
for Dallas residents (the town's original name was Garza). In Lake Dallas, US 77 is known as Denton Drive.
Once again on Interstate 35 E, you'll cross Lake Lewisville. You're in my territory, now - I live here! Lewisville calls US 77 Mill Street. Take
exit 454 B (Justin Road) and go east onto Lake Park Road, then turn right onto Mill Street. Follow Mill Street all the way to downtown.
You'll meet up with Interstate 35 E south of downtown Lewisville.
Keep on trucking south on the Interstate until you meet up with Harry Hines Boulevard. Go south on Harry Hines, which used to be THE
road to take to get to Dallas. It was also US 77 (replacing an older alignment, which is now the smaller Old Denton Road/ Maple Avenue).
Harry Hines Boulevard is still a bustling place, though some of the area has become a little down-market. That doesn't mean that you
shouldn't visit. The Mecca has some of the best hamburgers in town; you can buy beer to go with your burger at Keller's Drive-In; and
Golden d'Or Fabrics offers a huge selection of materials. There's also a Sam Moon, Parkland Hospital, etc. One of Harry Hines' main
attractions is sadly gone, however. It once boasted an infamous traffic circle at the intersection with Northwest Highway. About six years
ago, the old Circle Restaurant and Hotel still stood along Harry Hines, commemorating the landmark. The Circle Inn has been torn down,
|Suburban Lewisville offers plenty of history. The original US 77 is Mill street. Its northern end dead-ends into Lewisville Lake.
|I literally wrote the book on Lewisville. Har har. If you'd like to know more about my
fabulous city, you can buy the book at Barnes & Noble (exit 448 B at the shopping
center in Lewisville) or on Amazon.com. You can also click on the photo to buy the
book directly from Red River Historian (autographed, too!)
|The razed Circle Inn neon at Tom Fouts Cirlce (which has also been razed) on Harry Hines Boulevard in northwestern Dallas.
|This school anchored the tiny town of Letot before Dallas annexed it. The school has been demolished, and it its place is a woman's shelter.
|Harry Hines Boulevard continues south into Dallas. Before downtown Dallas confuses you with its maze of streets, you can veer right onto
Market Center Boulevard and meet up with Interstate 35 E and continue south to go out of town. Or, you can follow Harry Hines Boulevard
to its bitter end, take a right onto Field Street, another right onto Broom Street, and veer right onto Lamar Street. Lamar will take you to
Interstate 35 E.
South of Dallas, US 77 becomes its own road again - at least for a while. To enjoy US 77, take exit 410 in Red Oak and follow the signs to US
77 south. You'll soon come into Waxahachie. Waxahachie is a beautiful town known for its famous "gingerbread architecture" and its
equally famous courthouse.
Follow US 77 to Forreston, Italy, and Milford. Along the way, you'll see traces of the old road in the form of abandoned bridges and gas
US 77 kind of peters out near Hillsboro, so you'll want to rejoin Interstate 35 again when you come across the intersection. Interstate 35 is,
of course, a boring drive. One way to relieve the stupor is by taking a stop in West, which is very proud of its Czech heritage, as
evidenced by almost every sign in the town. There are a lot of beer, sausage, and Kolaches here.
Waco is the last stop on the "US 77 through the Red River Valley" tour. To see old US 77, take Exit 335B to South University Parks Drive.
Head south, then turn right onto La Salle Avenue.
La Salle Avenue is Waco's once-major thoroughfare, and evidence of its important past can be seen from the many commercial and
industrial buildings that now line the street. Past 18th Street you'll encounter two main relics: the Circle Drive-In and, further down,
Waco's confusing traffic circle. The Drive-In movie theater is now a flea market. Along the circle are two vintage restaurants, the Elite Grill
(make sure to go inside this art-deco building for its many photographs of Waco) and the Health Camp Hamburger Joint.
Past Waco, US 77 moves away from Interstate 35 and continues south to Brownsville, which is at the Mexican border. If you continue
traveling on the highway, you'll encounter many remains of Texas' Spanish colonial past. Happy Trails!
|1883 church in Milford between Waxahachie and Hillsboro.
|The old alignment of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway parallels US 77 just north of Italy.
|Waco's infamous traffic circle confused many a traveler.