Tag Archives: water tower

Route 66 sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Somewhere to lean on

This post is part of an ongoing series called 66 Fridays, which explores the wonders of old Route 66. Click on the preceding “66 Fridays” link to view all posts in the series, or visit the initial overview post here.

I crossed Texas twice last year: once at its widest point (where we logged over 900 Texas miles), and once across the Panhandle, which is where Route 66 cuts a literal straight and narrow path. One of the main Mother Road attractions to visit there is the “Leaning Tower of Texas,” a ho-made gravitational wonder in the middle of the neverending plain.

At least, it used to be in the middle of nowhere. Now it’s surrounded on three sides by other nearby giants: a bunch of those enormous modern windmills, and an awful 19-story cross that isn’t so much delightfully hokey as disgustingly hideous.

So I flashed my laminated Artistic License, faced east as to miss most of the horizon clutter, and edited out the rest. I regret nothing.

Llano Estacado sketch by Chandler O'Leary

After all, I was trying to capture the feeling of what it’s like to cross the Llano Estacado. Even today, when travelers have better navigational aids than makeshift stakes, it’s not hard to imagine how those first visitors must have felt.

Route 66 sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Or maybe modern technology has a different meaning here. Maybe the fenceposts and telephone poles and windmills that dot the landscape now are this era’s stakes, marching in steady progress across an otherwise unknowable vastness.

Mendocino water towers sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Captain’s quarters

When it comes to water towers, Mendocino might just be the capital of the world. They serve a very specific purpose there: the town sits on a headland out over the Pacific, and the water table there is extremely low. So for the past 150 years or so, residents have had small wooden water towers on their properties, in case of drought during the summer. A handful are still in use, but many others have been converted into cottages, artist studios, spare rooms or storage sheds.

Mendocino water tower sketch by Chandler O'Leary

And a very few have become guest rooms—and I got to stay in one.

Mendocino water tower sketch by Chandler O'Leary

It was just about the best overnight I’ve ever had on a road trip; it felt like I was eight years old again, and had discovered some sort of secret hideout. I called a friend that night and told her where I was, and she laughed and said, “That’s so you. It’s just about the most ‘Chandler-y’ place you could have found.” Yep.

The downside, though? It’s pretty much ruined regular hotel rooms for me forever.