Thursday, September 8, 2011

Archer City

As you may have noticed from my pictures of Holliday, Texas, there really isn't much to look at in the area. As such, you have to look at the details to find inspiration for your next adventure.
110 Degrees is Uninspiring

Found Inspiration on Main Street
That red arrow isn't pointing to a street sign. It's actually a mileage sign to the next town. The next town is Archer City, 20 miles away. Archer City is the hometown of actress Angela Kinsey who plays Angela (go figure) in The Office. While that is kind of cool, the city is best known as the birthplace of Pulitzer prize-winning author, Larry McMurtry.

Location shots for The Last Picture Show and Texasville were shot in parts of Archer City, Wichita Falls, and even little Holliday. Holliday isn't listed in the IMDB location filming credits but my cousins have the Kodak moments of Jeff Bridges talking with the locals in-between scenes to prove it. In contrast, Cybill Shepherd was nowhere to be seen. (Rumor has it that she was hiding away, terrified of catching something from the natives.)

McMurtry's story is semi-autobiographical and it was a little intriguing to see where the films were shot, but it is also worth noting that while he lived in the Washington D.C. area he and two partners started a used book store in Georgetown called Booked Up, Inc. He opened a branch in Archer City and it is now one of the largest used book stores in the United States.

As I'm a big fan of the dying culture of the used bookstore (you can't get that smell from a Kindle,) that's the kind of inspirational detail that I'm always looking for. It was then that I knew I must make a pilgrimage to Archer City before I left Texas.

I originally thought that the trip would be a solo ride by bicycle. As you may already know, my earlier local rides didn't turn out so well. Once again, I hired my sister to be my Sherpa guide (paid for with endearing begging) and we took off for the local Hollywood launch pad.

The ride there was pretty much what I have already showed you. We did stop at the rest area so I could take more pictures.
Cooking on grill is not recommended.
Nearing the town, my sister noted a sign for the Lonesome Dove Bed and Breakfast. We were definitely in Larryville. There is one thing that stands out about Booked Up that I never realized before my visit. There are actually four buildings that hold the nearly 450,000 books in its collection. Each of the buildings is somewhere around the courthouse and that makes sense since most of the town is around the courthouse.
Archer City Courthouse

We went into Building #4 first since it was closest. It's right next door to the Royal Theater  which was featured in The Last Picture Show.
Royal Theater from Booked Up Entrance

Then we went into Building #4.
Building #4
Inside Building #4, I found an interesting sign. It seems the only clerks around are in Building #1. The other three buildings have surveillance cameras to not answer your questions. You simply bring your books to Building #1 and pay for everything at once.
You are Here. Pay Over There.
Over in Building #1, I found a small vignette honoring the Old West section of books.
Local Steer Posing for the Tourist
While I was browsing in Building #1, I spotted Leo, the cat, resting near the back door. I tried to take a picture of the snoozing kitty but Leo had other ideas. A proper host, he came over meowing and greeting his visitors. He acted like he was really happy to see us. I finally started petting him just to get him to sit still long enough to get a picture.
Leo Welcomes Me to Booked Up, Inc.
What's Missing Here?
What's missing in all of the pictures are people. There weren't any. This was Tuesday at around lunchtime. The only two people in the bookstores besides me and my sister were the two clerks in Building #1. Dying culture,indeed. Mirroring the bookstore was the town square around the courthouse. Archer City is practically a ghost town. As far as I could tell, there were more bookstores than restaurants - one cafe' and one Tommy's Donuts and Fried Rice restaurant (I'm not kidding and I don't want to know). You can also get lunch to go at the local Oodles Market (a convenience store, really). My sister and I grabbed large cherry limeade slushes at Oodles to keep us cool for the trip back to Holliday.

Side note: Has anyone else ever suffered brain freeze in your chest? Man, that is seriously painful and scary.

On the way home while sniffing and searching the area for wildfires, I wondered how much longer McMurtry could sustain Booked Up, Inc. and if Archer City, which primarily a rancher's town, could rebound from the drought in the current economy.

I also decided that I'm happy I trusted my instincts and didn't try to ride to Archer City by bike. The local market was on the other side of town from where I would have entered and I could see myself falling apart looking for it on those hot roads.

Score one for common sense.


  1. This is Christine. I hope the two clerks keep a close eye on Leo; I have an uneasy feeling that Tommy may be. As for slushies--Texas wisdom says: don't gulp.

    I sure hope the Dept. of Texas Tourism doesn't read our blogs. They may "get a rope." Seriously, I laughed out loud.

  2. You know Christine, I never thought about Tommy and Leo getting together but now that you mention it, I have heard that Tommy gets rave reviews for his fried rice and that usually means one thing... poor Leo!