It was nice to leave overcast Dallas and get out on the road. I got lost on the Dallas freeways several times again. The GPS kept turning itself off. But eventually I found the correct freeway and then the highway north toward Amarillo. The weather turned out to be beautiful the further north I got. I guess Dallas was getting some of the rain from Hurricane Alex which hit northern Mexico that night.
The highway went through several rural cities and towns – some with populations as low as the 300s. It kind of felt I was going through the real Texas. Places such as Decatur, Rhome, Bowie, Clarendon, Quanah, Memphis (not the Tennesse one!), Childress and Claude. In one place I asked a girl in a restaurant for some ‘take away’ food and she seemed completely perplexed. After explaining I wanted to take the food with me she said ‘oh you mean “to go”‘ and had a little giggle at me. About three quarters of the way there I needed to get petrol so I pulled into a ‘gas station’. When I looked at the pump I couldn’t work out how to use it. So I asked a lady on the other side of the pump and she admitted she didn’t usually come to this station and she didn’t know either. Together we worked it out with a queue of cars forming behind us. The lady asked where I was from and said we had cute accents!
The drive took 6 hours and I was actually expecting it to take 8 hours. It was a very pleasant drive. At one stage I must have been close to the Oklahoma border because quite a few vehicles with Oklahoma registration plates started to appear. Once I got out onto the Texas Panhandle the land was very flat and seemed to go on forever. Amarillo has a population of around 170,000 but it is very spread out so It appears to be a large city without all the skyscrapers. They love their cars around here especially pick up trucks and they love their steak. There are plenty of steakhouses and one, The Big Texan Steak Ranch advertises if you can eat a 72 oz steak in an hour you can have it for free. Apparently thousands have attempted this with only a hundred or so actually accomplishing the feat. I ate in the hotel restaurant and asked the waitress if a catfish (which was on the menu) looks like a cat and she answered me with a completely straight face that no it didn’t look like a cat at all.
I started the morning off at the mother of all roads Route 66 Historic District in Amarillo. For the first hour from 9.30am there was no one else on the sidewalk. It was deserted. About 10 o’clock a steady stream of cars were going up and down the old road. At 10.30am I saw other people but no tourists – not a one during the two and a half hours I was there. I thought this was great. There was a lovely breeze blowing down the street and no tourist hordes to fight. It made great photos too – easy to not have anyone in my shots. The stretch of Route 66 along 6th Avenue Amarillo is dotted with cafes, galleries, antique stores and a few empty shops. The area registers high on the quaint-ometer. I just had to have a retro milkshake to finish off the experience at Frankie’s Diner.
On the spur of the moment I decided to see the Texas show at Palo Duro Canyon. First off I have to say that I had never heard of the canyon before even though it is the second largest in the U.S. (after the Grand Canyon). But I highly recommend going to see it. The views were stunning and I only wished I had spent more daylight hours there. Someone had handed in a spare ticket to the show so luckily I scored the ticket and was able to watch the show for free. Even if I had had to pay for it, the ticket would have been worth it. The show was very enjoyable and they made good use of the surrounding canyon without it turning into a sound and light show. The show was essentially a musical with acting, singing and dancing telling the story of the settlement of the western plains of Texas. It was a riproaring piece of fun and they even threw in a mini show after the main show to honour the 4th July celebrations. Singers, dancers, horses, wagons, flag waving and fireworks all made this a very interesting presentation.
I started the trip to Santa Fe from Amarillo with a touch of sadness at leaving Texas. The Texans were so friendly and helpful and their manners were outstanding. The first place I stopped at was the Cadillac Ranch just on the west side of Amarillo. Ten Cadillacs with their noses buried in the ground all spray painted with graffiti. I left my mark there saying “LeaveKat woz ‘ere”. I’m not sure what the purpose of these cars sticking out of the ground but it provided a nice little break from the road. Some miles down the road (I-40) I decided to pull off at Vega which I heard had been one of the places to stop at on Route 66. There’s not much there now – a couple of gas stations and a few other businesses. I got gas (petrol) at one of the corner stations and the nice young man (!!) helped me with the bowser. Next stop a bit further down the road was Adrian which is supposedly the half way mark on Route 66 between Chicago and Santa Monica. The Midpoint Café provided some yummy food and good ol’ Texan hospitality. The Midpoint Café is said to be the inspiration for Flo’s Café in the animated movie Cars.
I decided that I wouldn’t make any more stops until I got to Santa Fe as I had no real idea how long the trip would take. Very soon I was over the state line and into New Mexico. The terrain became hillier and as the road rose and dipped I felt like I could drive for infinity. I had such a strong sense of freedom. I was having a Thelma and Louise moment went I noticed there were some flashing lights in my rear vision mirror. To my horror I was being pulled over by the New Mexico police. I not going to use the policeman’s name but Officer XX got out of his car and walked up to my window. The conversation went something like this…
“Do you know how fast you were driving just back there?”
“I’ve no idea. I’m sorry.”
“Well you were going 72 miles in a 55 mile zone”
“That’s no good”
“Can I see your licence and insurance papers?”
The officer declared that my licence was just about the furthest he’d ever seen.
He went to his car to check my plates and let me sweat a little.
When he came back he explained that the fine should be $225 (?) but he would fine me as if I was going only 6 miles over the limit – a $71 fine. Yippee!
I made it to Santa Fe by about 5pm had a shower, some tea and got ready to go out. I was really looking forward to opening night at the Santa Fe Opera. I had bought the tickets for Madame Butterfly on the internet about 3 weeks prior and had got the third last seat. The Santa Fe Opera theatre is an open air one with a roof but no side walls. The view looking out the side of the auditorium and at the back of the stage is quite stunning. The mountains provide the back drop. As the production commenced there was a small amount of lightning and thunder which was a nice touch to the al fresco feel of the theatre. However, as the production wore on the lightning and thunder became more intense and the rain started coming in sideways onto the seats at the edges of the auditorium. As I had a seat at the end of the row I started getting quite wet. By interval it was apparent that the storm was over us. In the second acte the rain just kept coming and I was drenched. Towards the end the rain was so intense that it was flying right across the auditorium from one side to the other. It was an extraordinary sight. All I could do was laugh at the situation. Patrons started leaving and some of us moved in towards the centre. But it just kept coming. Now I was just waiting for Madame Butterfly to commit hara kiri. As soon as she stabbed herself I left and it finished 1 minute later. I was so wet that the mascara had run down my cheeks and I could hardly walk in my shoes which were soaked. It was an amusing night – one that I will never forget. My admiration goes to the performers who at the end were surely getting drenched too.