Groom, Texas: Britten, USA Leaning Water Tower, Giant Cross


By the time you’ve reached the Texas panhandle on Route 66, the landscape has gone from hilly to rolling to just plain flat.  That’s why it’s nice to arrive in Groom, where a couple of local landmarks provide large and strange diversions from the level land.

The first is an everyday, ordinary water tower… except for the fact that it’s tilted slightly to one side.  From a distance, it looks like two of the Britten USA water tower’s legs are off the ground, and the other two are sinking into the soil.  But collapse is not imminent!  The tilting of the tower is all part of a plan to draw attention to a nearby truck stop, that went out of business years ago.  “Britten” refers to Ralph Britten, the owner of the defunct truck stop, who bought the water tower, moved it here, and had it installed Pisa-style, as an attention-getter.

I thought it was funny that the sign for the truck stop had yet another tilted water tower on top–just in case you missed the bigger one, across the field, or somehow failed to make the connection.

The Britten USA leaning water tower is right next to the Interstate 40 at exit 114.  This is also the spot where Route 66 breaks away from the frontage road and makes a straight shot across downtown Groom (while the interstate arches to the north, around town).  I must admit, I was busy looking for the water tower, then the cross (which is off exit 112), and in the process I completely forgot to drive Old 66 through town.  Oops.

Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Miles before the leaning water tower came into view, you were already staring at Groom’s other unavoidable landmark: the 19-story tall Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  The super-sized spiritual symbol inspires drivers for 20 miles in either direction.

The cross stands north of town, south of the interstate, and generally in the middle of nothing. Once you get off the highway, you have to make a couple of turns, then head out an otherwise empty road.  As I made the drive, I wondered why I was traveling all this way, to see something that I could already see from here?

There is a good reason to come to the foot of the cross: not for salvation–although I suppose you could find it there.  What you definitely will find is a collection of statues that tell the New Testament’s story…


… including all the Stations of the Cross.  Just in case you haven’t been to mass in a while, the Stations of the Cross are certain scenes from the final days of Christ’s life, from His condemnation to death to His placement in the tomb.

Then, stand at the bottom and stare up 190 feet to the top of the cross.

For a while, the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ claimed it was the tallest cross in the western hemisphere.  But then a church in Illinois came along and built another one, that comes eight feet closer to heaven.  But the truth is, St. Augustine, Florida’s 208 foot tall cross has them both beat.
If you want to learn more about the giant cross, or why a local ministry was inspired to build it, stop by the gift shop nearby.  Or, check out the cross’s website.

Note: This trip was first published in 2008.

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