Down a New ‘Road’: PBS TV Show Travelers Embark On a New Expedition in the Texas Panhandle

[Courtesy Roger Estlack of the Clarendon Enterprise]

An old building that once pulled people off of US 287 will soon have new life and a new purpose for travelers to the area.

For the past few weeks, curious passers-by have noticed work being done at the old Petty Texaco service station at the corner of US 287 and Gorst Street. The lot is being cleaned. The weeds are being cleared. Old tires are being removed. And there’s activity inside the old building itself once again.

The building’s new owners Nikki and Dusty Green, Donley County residents and producers of the nationally-broadcast PBS travel show “Two for the Road,” have a vision that involves a restoration of the old building, a re-invention of the tourism model in the Panhandle, and what they hope will be an exciting new breath of life in historic downtown Clarendon.

Nikki and Dusty Green look over copies of the original blueprints for the Petty Texaco building as they make plans to give the facility new life with their tourism business. Enterprise Photo / Roger Estlack

For several months the Greens have been in talks with the station’s previous owners, longtime Clarendon residents Lester and Shirley Petty, who first bought the station back from the Texaco Corporation back in the late 1970s. The sale was finalized recently, and the Greens are already hard at work cleaning and converting the building into the Clarendon headquarters for their exciting new venture, a tour company called the Saints Roost Expedition Company.

“First and foremost this wouldn’t be happening if it weren’t for Shirley and Lester’s help, their generosity, and quite frankly for their faith in us and in this project,” said Dusty. “And the best part of this entire process without a doubt has been getting to know Lester and Shirley, who are just the kindest, sweetest people. And we’re so happy to be able to call them great friends. We really hope to make them – and the rest of Clarendon – very proud with what we’re doing.”

The immediate plan, say the Greens, is to clean up the property and restore it as best they can to its original condition. As far as records indicate, the Texaco Type “EM” service station was originally built back in the late 1930s or early 1940s. And although its outward appearance has changed quite a bit from those old days – from layers of new paint added every so often to the addition of the metal awning that crowns the structure – the Greens say getting the building back to how it looked in its early days will be difficult but not impossible.

“It can be done, and we’re confident it will be done,” said Dusty. “And we’re confident that folks are going to be blown away once we get it back to its original 1940s and 1950s classic Texaco look. And it will definitely something that will catch the eye of everybody driving by.”

The company’s Clarendon operations will run out of the old Texaco, which will be named the Lester Petty Station. Lester had to close the station in the early 1990s, and since then the building has had a handful of tenants over the years and was used for a variety of purposes.

“The building needs a lot of love, for sure,” said Nikki. “But it’s actually in remarkably good condition for being so old. And in the process of cleaning we actually came across a series of original Texaco blueprints of the building from the 40s and 50s which are still in incredibly good condition. So we certainly hope they’ll help as we move forward, and give us a road map of sorts to follow with the restoration.”

The Greens say they hope to work through the Clarendon Economic Development Corporation’s Historic Facade Grant Program to help cover some of the expenses. They are currently taking bids for the project and plan to present their case to the CEDC in September.

Concept art for changes to the former Petty Texaco building.

“We want not only do this the right way but do it in a way that benefits the community as a whole,” Dusty said. “We want this to be a place the folks in this community can be proud of and really enjoy.”

The Greens say they hope the old station will serve as much more than their tour company headquarters. There will be a retail component, and they aim to convert the large, spacious lot surrounding the structure into a community gathering area, complete with picnic tables, fire pits and games, and spaces for food trucks, outdoor music, special events and more. Following in the footsteps of other successful projects like the renovated Mulkey Theater and the new city aquatic center, they hope the project will be yet another catalyst in the effort to revitalize Clarendon’s historic downtown area.

As far as the kinds of tours they’ll be offering through the Saints Roost Expedition Company, the Greens have been working over the better part of the last year with area businesses, landowners and government agencies to develop a variety of intimate, small-group tours that will highlight the area’s rich history, abundant wildlife and beautiful landscapes. The Greens say many of their tours will be innovative and unlike anything ever offered in our region, and are based on many of the incredible tours they themselves have taken while filming their television show around the world.

“We’ve been to some fifty plus countries around the world and worked with a countless number of excellent tour companies, guides and organizations.” said Dusty. “And over those many years we’ve studied them, learned from them, and developed an appreciation for and a knowledge of how a world-class tour company operates. And we want to apply what we’ve learned on our tours around the world to the tours we plan on offering here. So there’s a tremendous amount of work and planning involved but we feel great about the direction we’re heading. We think folks are going to love it.”

In addition to the Clarendon office, the Greens hope to establish a similar but separate company headquarters down the road in Quitaque to better serve the thousands of travelers who come through that city every month to visit Caprock Canyons State Park.

The Greens are in the process of finalizing a contract with Texas Parks and Wildlife to allow them to run tours, activities and other events in the park itself. Dusty says their talks with park and state officials have gone very well and they expect that contract to be finalized in the next couple of weeks.

“We hope to begin running some ‘soft’ tours here in the next couple of months, and we’ll certainly be offering spots on these tours to local folks to help us smooth out all the kinks. They’re going to be a lot of fun. And by next spring we hope to be fully open and running at full capacity. Of course COVID might have something to say about that too. But we’ve got all our fingers crossed.”

But what does this new venture mean for the future of their Lone Star Emmy-nominated travel show? Only good things, say the Greens, who in the midst of building this new company are also in the pre-production process of season five of Two for the Road. They aren’t certain at this point when production will actually begin or when the new season will air – thanks mostly to uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and their ability to travel again safely – but the show will definitely go on, they say.

“It sounds strange to say but the Saints Roost Expedition Company has been the silver lining of COVID for us,” said Nikki. “We’ve had the idea for this company for several years now, but just haven’t had the time to really invest in it because of all our traveling with the TV show. COVID changed all that. Since we haven’t been able to travel, we’ve been able to spend our time and resources on making this new dream a reality. So it’s worked out really well in that sense, and it’s incredibly exciting to see it all finally coming together.”

One Comment

  1. Great story! There is an old service station (probably Texaco) in downtown La Grange that this story reminds me of. I wish someone or some organization would buy and restore this art deco structure to its original glory. Rounded brickwork corners..even the original display shelves are inside. (Its currently a tire shop) ..i just hope it doesnt get torn down (like the Chicken Ranch) before the people of La Grange discover what a gem it is.
    Loved the pbs tv spot ! Makes me homesick…(grew up in Lubbock)

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