Category Archives: Texas

Take my breath away….ūüéľūüé§ūüéĻ

A day to be breathless for lots of different reasons!  We started ours with breakfast at our hotel in Santa Fe and as we started to select our food, who should we bump into but Mark and Linda, the lovely people we met at the Halfway Point Cafe yesterday.  It was another opportunity for further conversation  and we wonder how many more coincidences we will experience.

No sooner were we on the road than we were experiencing jaw dropping moments as the vast skies and scenery stretched out before us. No matter how many films you see, nothing prepares you for the sheer vastness of the vista. Nowhere in the world have I seen skies which offer sun, small clouds, big clouds, clouds clearly rain laden, and the brightest, bluest sky…all at the same time, just by turning your head.

We just had to go and have a look at Albuquerque (a city with two Qs deserved a look). We serendipitously found Route 66 in the city and, in need of a coffee, happened on Garcia’s kitchen. ¬†Was it too early to fit in brunch? ¬†They did divine pancakes and Carolyn’s omelette was none too shabby either! ¬†After finding our way around some of the ‘Old Town’, we decided to head off towards Gallup.

No journey we have taken has been a straight forward trip from A to B. Where’s the fun in that? Today’s little detour took us about 25 miles off piste to see a volcano and an ice cave. ¬†This is where we experienced more breathlessness. The volcano was some 800 ft up a dusty lava strewn track. ¬†It was steep (very) and with the wind blowing and a rain shower threatening, I confess it was my idea to bail out of that idea and head for the ice cave instead. ¬†(I really don’t think Carolyn was too upset!!). The ice cave involved some considerable exertion too – loads of uneven steps (Carolyn counted 69!) as we descended into the icy chill. The temperature in this cave never gets above 31 F and, as rain water and snow melt into the cave, the ice floor thickens. ¬†We looked and then contemplated the return climb up those steps.

We did comment that the whole area was reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project, with few people around, deserted roads and dense woodland. I wouldn’t choose to be out there on my own at night. But whether or not the ice cave was the best thing we had seen, the scenery on the journey was jaw-droppingly awesome. As we near Arizona, the mountains, monoliths and pillars are becoming more and more spectacular and I am looking forward to our days amongst the canyons.

For now we are having a quiet evening in Gallup. There are some Route 66 buildings, murals, etc, but this is may be somewhere you pass through rather than stay.

Carolyn’s Curios

Native Americans still advertise their crafts and curios as ‘Indian’ which seems strange, somehow. However, we saw Apache and a tribe I’d not heard about until today… Zuni.

Shopping in the local supermarket late this afternoon in Gallup, I was struck by the relative poverty of the local people but, also, a feeling of dé ja vu connected to Shanghai in that I was the only blonde in the store! Ok, my blonde comes from a bottle but even so. In fact, thr only grey haired person in the store was my travelling companion! CTMQ.

Another odd driving day with new signs. Firstly, a reminder of American truck convoys with “a bear in the air” which was brought to mind by the first one and the other making comparisons with the U.K. warning signs for animals.

On the next table in Garcia’s Kitchen were two officers of the enforcement agencies ¬†looking nothing like our ‘bobbies’. If you imagine the archetypal comic sheriff of Dukes of Hazzard, Smokey and the Bandit or James Bond – they sat there. Overweight, seemingly laconic and with pistols on their hips.

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Finally, for this evening as the wifi is particularly slow… Gallup, New Mexico – a name which has a history and a sound of real interest. Regrettably, we haven’t seen that much to excite. Route 66 passes through here and some attempt has been made to capitalise on that. Not really successfully.. #Sorry.

The most impressive part of the day for me was the changing scenery especially the soil. Changing colour from red in Texas to a yellow in New Mexico but as we journeyed West, the layers of so many colours were displayed. More tomorrow.

 

The times they are a changin’

As we left the hotel this morning, I momentarily thought I was in the wrong place. It wasn’t the slightly overcast sky, but the definite chill in the air. The reading from the car said 60F degrees but we have been experiencing 90+F, so I wore a jumper!

Our first planned stop was just a couple of miles away. Easy. ¬†You must be joking – that two miles took over half an hour as we followed various sets of directions before asking at the gas station. I had wanted to see the Cadillac Ranch since we first planned the trip. In reality, it is a collection of 10 graffiti covered Cadillacs that are half buried nose down in the middle of a field. ¬†For reasons best known to their creator (Stanley Marsh, I believe), they face West “at the same angle as the Cheops Pyramids”. Whatever, but thanks to Carolyn’s steely determination and refusal to give up and move on, I was happy and lucky to have seen it.

Our next stop was at the Midpoint Cafe in Adrian which celebrates being the official half way mark of Route 66. However, instead of the officially declared 1139 miles, we had already done 2015!! ¬†This is because we keep wandering off to go and look at lovely points of interest. ¬†We helped out a couple of groups who wanted photographs at the famous sign and in return got one for ourselves. One very helpful fellow traveller took a selfie of himself with us whilst his friends were taking photos… whilst lying in the road.

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We also enjoyed our stop at the famous cafe (decked out in true 50’s style, with a working juke box), and met a delightful couple from Pensilvania who not only shared our love of 60s music, but the guy was almost as knowledgeable as Carolyn!

By this time, the clouds were breaking and the temperature was lifting as we made our way out of Texas. This was not before seeing a cattle ranch with probably several thousand head of cattle. Home of Texas Beef.  I also watched a tractor coming towards me spraying a field. The problem was I could neither see where the field began nor where it ended.  It could take him all day to spray a couple of furrows. All the jokes about everything being big in Texas are clearly true.

As we approached the border of New Mexico, our day suddenly got longer. First, the sat nav and then our phones shot back an hour. We had crossed into Mountain Time and gained an extra hour, taking us an hour further from the UK. I realised that my travels involving time changes had previously been experienced on board ship, and these are artificially constructed to take place at night. This was my first experience of crossing an invisible line to be told by my phone that my watch was wrong!

We caught sight of a flat topped mountain looming large in the distance and reminiscent of movies where the Cowboys are being pursued across the plain, mountain in background, by the ‘Indians’. We were approaching the town of Tucumcari and the mountain of the same name. ¬†It was excellent for a browse as the town has preserved its links with Route 66. Indeed, that very road forms the town’s high street. We stopped for lunch at a thriving cafe, which is a clear favourite with the locals, and dined on a “Patsy Cline Melt”. This was a beef burger on toasted rye bread with cheese and mushrooms. Once again, a retro caf√© and full of character and characters. The food was better than the menu looked but quirky!

Our final stop, before ending our journey in Santa Fe, was at The Blue Hole in Santa Rosa. Apparently a famous destination for scuba divers as the clarity of this artesian well is such that you can almost see the bottom through 80 ft of water.  Very inviting but difficult to get into swimwear in the open air without changing facilities, so we returned to the car. And, the water was cold!

But that was not not the end of the water. ¬†As we climbed upwards to begin the long loop to Santa Fe, storm clouds descended, lightening flashed and the rain was epic. ¬†Personally, I blame Carolyn for suggesting just an hour earlier that we should get the car cleaned. By the time we reached our hotel, the sky was clear, the sun was hot and normal service had resumed. That was a 300 mile drive today….and more of the same tomorrow.

Carolyn’s Curios

Curious signs: No Engine or Jake brake… apparently, these types of brakes involve engines and air pressure are noisy and, therefore, frequently banned in built up areas.

No disrespect intended but… I couldn’t help but notice that the spelling¬†on the religious graffiti hadn’t been totally successful.

My section is headed Curios but we see them daily. This shows just one place where they are advertised.

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Kath commented and the world’s steaks on the hooves but driving further, we reached scrub land. I saw no more than two dozen cows in forty miles with the only fence being the one between the road and scrubland. There was no cultivation and the only sign of wild life was a few birds – barren.

We missed mentioning yet another encounter with ‘bikers’. Usually on Harley’s and enough of them for a book let alone a Chapter.

Times have changed… Driving at 75 mph with Sat. Nav. means we have a relatively easy journey. As we covered the miles, thoughts turned to the early settlers in their horse drawn wagons with minimal, if any, maps. “Go West, young man!” was the only instruction. What about those escaping the poverty, starvation and dust bowl in the Thirties immortalised in Steinbeck’s ‘Grapes of Wrath’?

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We were reminded of the American gun laws by the Pawn Store next to our hotel tonight advertising guns, as well as musical instruments and jewellery, for trading. I, also, spotted this sign.

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Confession time: the discussion with the lovely couple from Philadelphia involved Sixties music, Beatles’ Tours of Liverpool, Herman’s Hermits etc. but, as is often the case, descended almost into a game of Top Trumps. “I saw Peter Noone a little while ago in California” – “I saw him in Blackpool three years ago” “I saw Paul McCartney with a three hour concert earlier in the year” – “I saw Bruce Springsteen do a four hour concert at Old Trafford” et al. However, I missed my best card which is…”I learned to play drums left-handed on a kit which Paul McCartney played a drum duet with Ringo Starr. Paul also played left-handed!”

Regrettably, we both ‘failed’ when discussing the first UK act to top the US Billboard Charts. Our new American friend said ‘The Beatles’ but I, somehow, thought it wasn’t and suggested Herman’s Hermits (or, in my mind, the Dave Clark Five). We were both wrong. ¬†The¬†first UK act to top the Billboard 100 Chart was Acker Bilk (May 62) but in ¬†pre-Billboard lists, it was Vera Lynn in 1952! Research complete!

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Was this the way to Amarillo?

The temperature this afternoon crept up to 98 degrees Farenheit which, coupled with a strong wind, made the car journey in its air conditioned comfort a pleasure, despite the distance.  Of course, I did the Peter Kay walk and sang happily as we loaded up the car and it must have been the right way as we reached Amarillo late this afternoon.  Needless to say, there was an adventure along the way.

We both agreed that a visit to the highly recommended National Route 66 Museum in Elk City was a ‘must’. Our optimism was justified and the transportation element was great fun with the chance to sit in a Cadillac, climb aboard a fire engine and ogle the motorbikes provided many a giggle. The funniest moment might have been Carolyn’s determination to come down the firemen’s pole – which she did with aplomb!

The Old Town element showed us a two storey Victorian house, the top of which was devoted to early cowboy and rodeo way of life. There was an Opera House, a Livery stable, Railroad depot, drug store, a church and, of course, the jail.

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We had found some quirky 66 stuff shown in one of our books in a place called Erick. Oh boy, was that a story. ¬†I will forever think of it as “Revenge of the Sat Nav” after we had decided to do our own thing in Oklahoma yesterday. ¬†We thought we were being clever when we put in a rather obscure but very precise address. ¬†After turning off onto ¬†smaller and smaller roads, we realised we were really in the heart of nowhere. We came upon Erick Cemetery and reasoned we were not too far away, so reprogrammed and, at that point, you could almost sense, “You have to be kidding me”, from the sat nav. ¬†We went from narrow country lanes (without a building or vehicle in sight), to narrower dirt lanes, to ones where the grass growing in the middle was rattling the car’s undercarriage. ¬†All I could think was, “Please don’t let me break down”. Eventually we made it into “town” to find the exhibit which we were looking for was both delapidated and closed. Thinking about it, the town seemed closed too. Nowhere for a coffee, not that I was remotely interested in lingering longer and was just itching to get back to the highway. ¬†We found said road in just about a mile, which is when I knew the sat nav had been having a laugh. ¬†This was real redneck country and not for the faint ¬†hearted!

Because we were in Texas, it had to be steak for lunch. ¬†By this time, we were in Shamrock, saw more Route 66 antiquities but were seduced by Big Vern’s Steakhouse for a sirloin and a salad. ¬†Time was moving on, so onwards to another hotel. Because it is a Holiday Inn and same chain as last night, we are instantly at home. We were invited to Happy Hour in the lobby with snacks, beer and wine, all free. Amazing.

Tired now and 300 miles tomorrow but still looking for “Sweet Marie who waits for me”. Come on, sing the song!!

Carolyn’s Curios

When we look at modern day America with Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric (and some in the UK!), we may forget that all Europeans in the US were immigrants. More than that, they were invaders! Recently, we’ve driven through ‘homelands’ of Cheyenne, Navajo and Shawnee. Deprived of their ancestral birthrights, I can only imagine how they may feel as Native Americans.

As we could needed the miles we’d set ourselves for today, we noticed that the land had changed. The brown and grey of the soil had given way to take on a red hue.

Reminding us of the flatness, likelihood of high winds and, of course, tornados, it was salutary to see roadside billboards broken but still advertising ‘Camping’ with clean rest rooms and… storm shelters

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A few interesting road signs have caused me to smile. Wrong way signs on one way streets, Yield, instead of Give Way, and, the best of all, for me, the speed sign in redneck mid-America pronouncing firmly ‘No tolerance’!

Wild life isn’t too evident here. Black Angus cattle, a few horses and a couple of squirrels but today I saw a coyote.

I’ve commented elsewhere about my experience of music -especially ‘popular’ – so the Roger Miller Museum prompted slightly off key versions of ‘King of the Road’ and, of course, ‘England Swings’.

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So, we hit Texas and the Purple Heart Trail. Suddenly, for me, we now seem a long way from the UK. However, the journey continues… more exploring, more sights, more music, more fun!

Again, to end, as Kath misses out in the main blog her part in the posing for photos, a few here…