Route 66, Day 5: Amarillo (and not quite to…)

(Note: this post is being posted a day AFTER its events. I passed through Texas and most of New Mexico on Tuesday the 24th. Photographs and other links added February 11, 2012).

Tuesday morning, I broke Texas.

Not really, but it was certainly interesting to wake up and discover that the room had no running water. A quick phone call to the desk revealed that not only was the hotel out of water, the entire town was out of water due to an overnight main breakage. After packing and making sure I got out of Texas before they found me before it got to be too late, off I went into the wild…nothing but an endless, windy grassland with a few angry rocks poking up here and there.

Beyond the initial amusement at a sign that said “Don’t Mess With Texas” and then listed the fines for littering along the highway, I found the passage of the land rather meditative. I’ve never been in Texas before. I found plenty of stereotype, including Texas-shaped grills at the rest areas, and the “Jesus Christ is Lord (Not A Swear Word) Travel Center.” I drove past a leaning tower that wasn’t really leaning up close near Britten, a giant cross in Groom, a and a set of Cadillacs upended in a field outside Amarillo. (Across the road, I found an even more amusing sign for the “Bates Motel – Each Room with a Shower – Taxidermy”).

In Vega, Texas, the Boot Hill Saloon had a sign reading “Free Beer Tomorrow.” I stopped at a gas station to put more gas in the car, and in counting out my change wrong, mentioned to the clerk that it was too early to count. She blinked twice, grinned, and said “Too early? It’s fixin’ to be noon.”

At Adrian, the midpoint of Route 66 between Chicago and Los Angeles, I stopped to have lunch at the famous Midpoint Cafe, only to find it closed, so I got back on the freeway and started counting ravens. Missouri and Oklahoma had been full of hawks and eagles. Texas was full of ravens, so many I lost count.

Eventually I crossed through some ghost towns and into New Mexico. Here the land started to get more rocky, and climb steadily upward. A polite sign let me know that “gusty winds may exist” – and indeed, they did. I finally saw my first tumbleweed on this trip, somewhere outside of Albuquerque. Albuquerque also presented me with my first real mountain driving. Before this, Monteagle in Tennessee was my biggest mountain – and by comparison, that mountain’s a hill. However, as you can tell from my posting, I survived the ascent and the descent, and got a good laugh as my iPod belted out “Dueling Banjos” just as I got to the summit and played it all the way down. Here’s to random mountain music at just the right time.

I stopped to refuel in Laguna Pueblo, then continued on. I’d intended to go to Gallup for the night, but after the switchbacks during the Albuquerque evening rush hour, I realized that I was running out of energy fast. (The nosebleed I got from the elevation probably didn’t help). A quick consultation of the map said that Grants was about as far as I’d get before it got totally dark out, and so I stopped there for the night, among the black volcanic rocks and high altitudes near El Malpais. Maret had joked that I was entering Mordor. It wouldn’t be until Wednesday that it really felt like that was true.

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