Monday, July 12th
Up by 5:30 (again), had bacon, sausage & scrambled eggs at the Best Western, hit the road at 6:41. Took US-83 north to KS-51, then west toward Hugoton. This area is high plains, llano estacado, Comancheria country. Some center pivot irrigation, but mostly cattle – and oil (think pumps rising above corn stalks). Sandra always wanted one of those pumps for the front meadow. Hugoton is an oil town, and home of the High Plains Music Festival. Picked up US-56 there, westbound, through Rolla, KS and into the Cimmaron Nat'l Grasslands – couldn't tell the difference from what I'd been driving through.
Now heading southwesterly, Elkhorn is the last town in Kansas and is home of the Whistle Stop Park in an area that once was railroad yards. Sometimes you can tell when you cross a state line by the difference in pavement; in this case Kansas was smooth and Oklahoma was rough. In this area, US-56 is part of the Santa Fe Trail auto trail. Panhandle wheat fields are just starting harvest – I saw two grain trucks and a line of combines ready to go. The road was mostly empty, except for bunches of doves. Boise City was my 100-mile mark, time for cheaper OK gas. I'm listening to old country music o n Willie's Roadhouse, XM Radio.
US-56 between Boise City and Clayton passes many broken down buildings and ghostly towns. Sandra would have clamored for a photo op stop, but those kinds of shots were her metier, not mine. I first saw Rabbit Ears mountain, the famed trail landmark, about 25 miles out.
Roads were better after I entered New Mexico near Clayton, and the speed limit dropped from 65 to 60. I saw a line of ??? on a ridge to the south. What were they? Trees? A herd? Comanches? Imagination runs wild!
Clayton has an old movie house, a noted hotel with bullet holes in the bar ceiling, and a lake with dinosaur tracks.
I left town on NM-402, a road so busy that grass grows in the cracks. Roadside sights include ruins of adobe houses, Sand Draw Road, and a sign reading “Caution – blowing sand on road.” I did see my first prairie dogs and first antelope of the trip. The only town on that 60 mile stretch is Amistad, home of the Cowboys. They won a state championship in something back in '72. The school looks deserted in the summer, but anyplace else would be one heck of a bus ride. Amistad has a well-maintained Methodist Church – the cornerstone reads United Brethren 1909.
Further along a rancher pens his Hereford bulls near the road. I passed a Fairview Cemetery, seemingly in the middle of nowhere – old foundations indicate that live people were once in the area. Working windmills feed stock tanks in a draw. Nara Visa is near the Texas border, but the Rocking Horse Woodworking & Antiques and a bar are no more.
Further down I passed Palla's Shoenail Ranch, a name that raises lots of possibilities. There's a brand new bridge over the Canadian River gorge at Logan.
Tucumcari, a classic Route 66 town – home of the Mesalands dinosaur museum (closed Mondays), a local museum with an outhouse and a F-100, the Blue Swallow and other iconic motels, murals all over town, and Del's Restaurant (where Sandra & I ate whenever we stayed in town). I went for the green chile cheeseburger, too big to eat w/o a fork. Many of the motels are still running, the restaurants not as lucky.
Took off on I-40 to Santa Rosa, since there's no other rational choice. Busy, lots of trucks whizzing downhill and laboring up the other side. The hiway crosses the Goodnight-Loving trail just west of Pajarito Creek. Looked around Santa Rosa a bit, skipped the Blue Hole since it cost $10 to park to see, maybe play at, a big sink hole, and bought some sunscreen and ice. Returned to my Holiday Inn Express and worked on this blog for a while until I could get into a room. The hotel is up-to-date, and the desk chair actually adjusts.
Supper at the Silver Moon: great salsa/chips, v.g. Chiles rellenos (green), good beans, posole a bit hard.
For the day: 327.4 mi, 801.6 for the trip.
Tomorrow it's US-54 to Alamogordo, US-70 to Las Cruces, with stops at Carizozo and White Sands.
Gas: Hugoton $2.83-2.95. Boise City $2.75-$2.80. Clayton $2.99. Tucumcari $3.05. Santa Rosa $3.09.