Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Welcome. You are about to read the Northwest Freeway Corridor blog, one of the most extensive pages on an American highway. In fact, I dare say that you can read and absorb everything in more time than you'd take actually driving the thing. This blog, originally a single HTML page, is a bit long because it covers about 45 miles of freeway. A bit of introduction: originally, it was supposed to be a simple list of buildings cleared in the 290 expansion project with some photos. Like the Interstate 10 widening a decade ago, there could be many, many casualties, almost certainly including single family houses (and as of summer 2015, those have happened). Sometime after the original project started, Erik (Oscar) Slotboom released his own pictures inspired by this very page, which are great--they have a lot of things I missed. Even though this page came first, I felt like I wasn't going to be able to compete with that, and eventually stopped updating my list, exacerbated by the generally poor data I've gotten (finding out when everything was built would require a LOT of HCAD-digging). This celebrates what is there, what has been there, more information on them, and a personal perspective as well. I also want to avoid covering the same ground as West Houston Archives, but even West Houston Archives originally didn't cover as far out as this page originally did (it still doesn't). Consider this your ultimate guide to both the freeway as it is now and an excellent historical reference. You will notice that in some areas the guide isn't 100% comprehensive. I do take requests if you want something to be covered though.

Because of this page being under construction, check out Carbon-izer's existing coverage. Note that the dates added aren't accurate, they're all 9/20/16 for the interest of keeping the order of the page. Sadly, even during this writing (as I am dragging my feet on this), some of the pages are already out of date. A second run will be completed when I update it again. Many of my resources these days are going toward The Houston Files.

Last Updated: August 26 2018 (some changes to above, working on Telge Road for real this time)

The Index is as follows.

Highway 6 North (or keep reading down)
FM 1488
FM 1098
FM 362
Fields Store Road (added late November 2016)
Waller-Tomball Road/AJ Foyt Parkway (added March 26 2017)
Binford Road and Kickapoo Road (added March 26 2017)
Hegar Road (added March 26 2017)
Betka Road / Badtke Road (added May 12 2017)
Roberts Road / Katy Hockley Road (added May 17 2017)
Becker Road (added June 3 2017)
Grand Parkway (added November 23 2017)
Mason Road (added February 18 2018)
Mueschke Road (added March 15 2018)
Cypress-Rosehill Road / Fry Road and Spring Cypress Road (added March 19 2018)
Skinner Road (added March 25 2018)
Barker-Cypress Road (added March 29 2018)
Telge Road (added September 17 2018)
Huffmeister Road (added November 18 2018)
FM 1960 / Highway 6 South [COMING SOON]
North Eldridge Parkway and West Road [COMING SOON]
Jones Road [COMING SOON]
...and many more to come!

Highway 6 North

While U.S. Highway 290 actually extends to west of Fredericksburg, we won't be covering that. After all, if you keep following west, you'll have to take an exit at Brenham to continue west. The road will go north as Texas 36, including the terminus of FM 60 (University Drive). There are actually five distinct segments of U.S. Highway 290 between its two access points off of either end of I-10 (which itself is a different distinct segment).

Our story actually is between Hempstead and Houston. As a younger person, going to Houston was somewhat of an adventure. Rarely did we actually stop in Houston (mostly a pass-through en route to Galveston) but Houston represented more than that. While Florida (see my other blog for a reference to that) and Louisiana were more exotic in their own ways , Houston was more of a superior example of what my town could be, with pretty much everything that College Station/Bryan had but much much more. Every type of store and fast food restaurant could be found there, there was more trees, skyscrapers, and generally what my town could aspire to be. My mother, of course, was horrified at these prospects, and frankly, with the historical high crime and pollution (as well as the ever-present contemporary problem of traffic, something that BCS would gain soon enough), she had a point.

Getting to 290 was the first part of the journey, and required a 35 mile trek through predominantly rural highway. And then we would see it...a ramp, jutting three full levels up into the air and curving the entire way into 290 East. Today, they have little dividers to mark the ramp (those didn't appear until some point after spring 2008 but not much longer afterward). Symbolizing this great change from the rural Highway 6 to the wide, smooth environs of Highway 290 was the massive Lawrence Marshall Hempstead car dealership. "We clobber big city prices!", they bragged, advertising to Houston and College Station while giving the Hempstead economy a big boost. Well, that didn't work out when the auto industry imploded. LMH closed in February 2009 and over the next several years, I would watch sadly as the place started to deteriorate, as the banners of the auto makers faded and eventually fell off (you can see them with the slider feature on Google Maps Street View). There was also a large electronic sign to be seen as one accelerated onto the highway. As of August 2016, there is now BARRY Fleet Services taking up part of the Highway 6 side of the vast complex.

Still, you could see a large McDonald's/Exxon sign in the distance, and the adventure began...

Next Exit: FM 1488 (or scroll down)


Back to Intro

FM 1488

That McDonald's/Exxon sign carries a lot of nostalgia. (February 2014)


While you can see the signs from the ramp from Highway 6 to Navasota (and ultimately, to Waco, as just sticking the road ultimately terminates at I-35). FM 1488 is mostly Hempstead's collection of highway gas stations and restaurants.

=Eastbound (South)=
Shell (1945 FM 1488) - This gas station originally included a Long John Silvers inside (a bit uncommon, especially for gas stations), though it was fully integrated into the gas station (no semi-separate building from the looks of it), meaning the whole store probably smells like greasy fried food (although that may be an improvement from the normal convenience store funk). An actual stop to the store in mid-March 2016 revealed that the store was in the midst of changing it to a Chesters Fried Chicken. Signage on the inside was gone, and there was an employee meeting going on. Despite that, there's a lot of LJS d├ęcor leftovers inside, or at least the last time I looked. As of summer 2017, Chesters is already out, replaced with "Southern Kitchen Kountry Cooking", a one-off which advertises barbecue.

Jack in the Box (1925 FM 1488) - Until September 2016, I never went to this Jack in the Box. When I did, I found it remarkably similar to the other one at Waller.

=Westbound (North)=
Hempstead Truck Stop (2000 FM 1488/100 Cottonwood) - This Exxon advertised a McDonald's on its fading dual-pronged sign, and it was a great reminder to the road trips I took with my family in the late 1990s and early 2000s, including (but definitely not limited to) the Houston area. Imagine the hole in my heart when I drove up around December 2017 to find that the Exxon sign and the price display was missing, leaving a lopsided lone McDonald's sign there.

While Exxon/McDonald's combos are relatively common, the Hempstead Truck Stop actually was combined with a Denny's, which had the address of 100 Cottonwood rather than 2000 FM 1488. The McDonald's is located next to it (and it appears to have been renovated between 2012 and 2014). From what I've heard on Yelp, the Denny's was terrible (dirty, poor service, still has smoking allowed inside), worse than your average Denny's restaurant (not great to begin with) and sometime in early 2016 (February or March) a Subway was added to the complex on the side of the building closest to the freeway. Unlike Denny's it shared the address of the truck stop but it also did not connect to the gas station. (Cottonwood is the small access road between the truck stop and the westbound on-ramp). At some point (I want to say near the end, because I didn't really notice it until then) they did have a Krispy Krunchy fried chicken program going on.

A drive-by in June 2017 revealed that sometime in the spring, Denny's had exited and was replaced with "Country Delight Cafe". It was a sign of things to come before the whole thing was closed, except for the Subway (oddly enough). A picture I have from January 2018 (not added to the site unfortunately) showed the gas station had been demolished interior-wise, except for Subway. Subway's facade is missing and it can only be accessed from Cottonwood.

I don't know when Hempstead Truck Stop opened (there's another "Hempstead Truck Stop" in Hempstead proper but we're not covering that road) but Waller County Appraisal District says the year 2000. It's a huge piece of property and I guess it never lived up to its potential. I mean, the thing had 50 truck parking spots!

When I visited in February 2018 again during demolition, I found out that the Subway had never been part of the main gas station, having been carved out of space that was once presumably Denny's seating. From what I've figured based on what I remember passing by there was a door that opened to the west (facing 290) and that was where Denny's was, then you would get to the main store on the other side, where the FM 1488 entrance was. When the Subway was added, a portion of the Denny's seating in the southwest part of the building was removed and converted. Additionally, the Subway guy said that it would be a Pilot Travel Center, and that would include a Starbucks inside (as well as presumably others). So Exxon's vacant spot on the sign won't be empty for long.

Hempstead Seafood & Steak (210 Cottonwood) - Modestly popular restaurant. I have yet to get a good picture for this one.

DaVita Dialysis (220 Cottonwood) - Built here in spring 2015, I was expecting this (when it was under construction) to be a restaurant of some sort. Not exactly a roadside stop, unless you had some sort of medical emergency, I guess.

DIRECTORY
<< Back to Highway 6 North

>> Next Exit: FM 1098

FM 1098

You can't even see the sign in this 2014 picture.


When I was a boy, I used to think that this was the first sign of civilization, only to find more open fields open. Now, due to gas stations built since, that's becoming less and less true. Funnily enough, one of my friends who lived in Texas had thought the same thing in the early 2010s!

It features a once rather attractive late 1990s build underpass (the only depressed underpass along 290, at least until Brenham), though it is a bit worse for the wear today, unfortunately. Set back a bit from the road is a large and once-colorful (over the years since 2011 it's started looking darker and grimier from one side and faded from the other, before the whole thing was covered up with a tarp around 2016) "Frenchy's" sign (not visible in the picture above), which replaced a large Williams Fried Chicken sign (supposedly...never saw that). Regardless, Frenchy's didn't last long, closing about a year after its opening circa 2011 and reduced to rubble by the end of 2013. That's a bummer, because that was the only place to eat at this interchange. This is also the access road to Prairie View A&M University, a historically African-American campus originally created as the segregated "colored" counterpart to what is now Texas A&M University in College Station.

Williams Fried Chicken originally opened in 2002 at 608 University Drive (source, archive).

DIRECTORY
<< Back to FM 1488

>> Next Exit: FM 362

FM 362

Buc-ee's is hard to capture because it's so large (looking east in March 2015).



I've always felt that the FM 362 overpass (heading eastbound) goes way too high with sharp dropoffs before adding guardrails at the very top (at least they have shoulders), moreso than other overpasses in this part of 290.


=Eastbound (South)=
Waller County Line BBQ (20727 FM 362) - A large Shell station, this was slightly expanded (based on roof and pavement color differences) in the time span between 1995 and 2003. They have survived the arrival of the beaver's gas station, but I can't imagine they were very happy about it. This is a picture from February 2014 of Waller County Line BBQ from the highway (sorry for the quality). The address is also home of Cedar Creek Saloon, which does not connect with the convenience store/restaurant portion of the gas station. This is your typical smoky poorly-lit honky-tonk with pool and cheap beer.

=Westbound (North)=
Buc-ee's (40900 US Hwy 290 Bypass) - Once Buc-ee's opened, it quickly became a near-regular stop on the highway. Based on what I can find, it appears to have opened in late 2013, though I swear I remember it opening earlier that year (just a little). It advertises (at least until it became common knowledge, or I could be just getting used to it) even on Highway 6 South as "Waller You Waiting For?" I love this store and has become a regular stop in returning on the 290 corridor. At least three times (as of last time I kept count, which was a while back) I have eaten here for their awesome club sandwiches and in-house potato chips, though I gotta admit, I've had a number of "bad chips" (almost consistently per package) where it somehow doesn't get cooked properly and ends up having the texture of folded paper. It was definitely disconcerting for the first time, because I couldn't see them while eating. True story: I remember actually exiting the highway to try to spit out what I thought I was a napkin I had accidentally ingested. I have a few pictures of this Buc-ee's, but not from the highway. Buc-ee's is hard to capture because it's so large (looking east in March 2015). Here's another picture looking back at the beaver statue to the west (also in March 2015).

Swamp Shak (20797 FM 362) - This seafood restaurant appeared sometime in early 2015, though a Yelp review seems to indicate they've been active since April 2014. As of fall 2016, I haven't seen too much activity here...I think it's closed. The address is as stated as per their Facebook page, though Yelp and Google want to put it closer to Business 290.


<< Back to FM 1098

>> Next Exit: Fields Store Road

Fields Store Road

As of this writing, the exit to Fields Store Road is closed, and the outer eastbound lane where this was taken has moved to the former inner shoulder of the westbound lane.


Until what is now Irv's (40203 U.S. 290) began construction, Field Store Road was solely access to Waller proper with no freeway-side attractions (well, except an LDS church and an elementary school) until relatively recently, when a small gas station (Chevron brand) began building on a cul-de-sac created during freeway construction. "Rocky's B-B-Q Grille" opened in summer 2010 but within its first few years, it changed hands and became Field Store BBQ (at least by my memory...for some reason I remember being it under construction in early 2009), then Irv's Field Store by 2013, then eventually simply Irv's with a repainted red sign by August 2014. Not long after it was simply "Irv's", construction began next door which by March 2015 was revealed to be a new gas canopy with diesel (the canopy is a simple green one) with a large concrete pad for trucks. That's right: they "upgraded" to being a truck stop. For Irv's, I actually have before and after pictures. Here's my picture from May 2014, back when it was still Field Store. Notice obviously-tacked-on later "Irv's" sign. My second picture comes from December 2015, with what Irv's looks like today. Sorry it's a bit darker (a lot darker, actually) than it should be, it was a new camera.

The opposite direction has a building called NCI Metal Roofs (40202 U.S. 290). I'm not sure when it was built, but it was prior to 2003.

<< Back to FM 362

>> Next Exit: Waller-Tomball Road/AJ Foyt Parkway

Waller-Tomball Road / AJ Foyt Parkway (FM 2920)


I know that as of this writing the exit is closed (well it was as of early February) but this intersection has become a common stop. When I was doing interviews in Houston (and later living in Houston, if briefly) the Jack in the Box was a common stop here. Most notably is a huge Exxon sign advertising Exxon and Popeyes (the Popeyes sign finally changed to an updated logo, which was a bit disappointing as far as familiarity goes) and then the Domino's Pizza (the diamond-shaped logo) below that. The businesses are off of Stokes Road, which may have been intended as a frontage road at one time but is a separate access road.

The eastbound businesses are as follows:
CVS/pharmacy (31013 FM 2920) moved from a strip mall location circa 2005 that was only briefly a CVS (virtually all CVS stores in Texas prior to 2004 were Eckerd drug stores) down the road to this location. I've stopped here at least once. It probably doesn't see as much freeway-side traffic as the fast foods and gas station does, but it serves a purpose for those things drug stores have that convenience stores don't (hey, I stopped there once), and it serves local Waller interests as well. It isn't very busy.

Jack in the Box (31014 FM 2920) used to be my Dad's stop when heading down to Houston and later was adopted by me. The first time I actually remember going in to the store was as far back as 2009, when they were advertising the HangInThereJack campaign, which would ultimately result in altering the logo of Jack in the Box, and within a few years that would sweep the chain. I don't know about the logo change, to be honest, it took me a few more years to get to used to it, but this is one of the places I always stop these days. On the wall it mentions what its first year was but for some reason I don't have that recorded here.

Exxon (31100 FM 2920), as aforementioned, is actually in a large plaza featuring a Subway, Sakura Nail Spa, and a local doughnut place called Donuts Delight. Popeyes is there too, but it's not connected to the inside of the convenience store, Town & Country Market. I have one shot of the gas signage when gas prices began to go down around late 2014 (January 2015 picture), though on my iPhone, reds display as oranges. I'd have to say that the gas station (minus Subway, which was built later...probably why it lacks co-billing with Exxon) probably came in-line in the late 1990s, though don't quote me on that.

In previous versions of this page, I stated that "none of the food establishments are accessible from inside the convenience store", but that's not true, it actually does have a Domino's inside, but it's just a counter inside the store.

Shipley Do-Nuts (19757 Stokes Road) opened around 2013 or 2012, and is the furthest from the highway access. I stopped here once in early 2015 as a day trip and got an apple fritter. Since then I've dropped by once or twice for a donut. It's closed from mid-day on, so if you want a donut, get here early.

Americas Best Value Inn (19777 Stokes Road) is also slightly newer (new being a relative term); it appears to have been built in 2005. (This is an addition to the blog, it wasn't covered in the original page)

Just a bit farther (past the entrance) is the Walker Veterinary Hospital (38111 US-290), it seems to share the original rectangular plot of land US-290 cuts through and Topper's Camper Center (see our next page) shares.

On the westbound side sits just one business, the Love's Travel Center (30710 FM 2920), which has an Arby's inside. I've been here a few times but I rarely stop at it (usually prefer Buc-ee's). As a truck stop, its merchandise mix is a bit more interesting than the usual convenience store fare, but the restrooms aren't that great, the prices aren't that great, and I don't really care for Arby's as a fast food option (probably why they seem to have closed a lot of locations in the last few years). It can be seen on the left side of the distant shot looking toward the Exxon.

<< Back to Fields Store Road

>> Next Exit: Binford Road and Kickapoo Road