Taos NM to Oklahoma City, OK 3/12 - 3/23/2016


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North America » United States » Colorado » Alamosa
March 23rd 2016
Published: March 25th 2016
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THE BASICS

We left Taos, driving by the Earth Houses, and headed up to Alamosa, CO. Were very impressed with our visit to Great Sand Dunes National Park near there; those dunes are awesomely huge. The next four days, we stayed at the RV park in Salida which we enjoyed last fall. And we spent happy hours with Susie, Brady, and three-week old Eliza. Beautiful sunny days, but it was quite chilly and the winds were fierce - and those winds have continued. From Salida we headed south through Westcliffe, where Brady teaches, and then on to Trinidad, CO. The RV park was not great, but we celebrated St. Patricks Day by going into town for a beer and a burger. Next, we traveled through a patch of northeast NM, and finally arrived in the Texas Panhandle. Stayed in Dalhart TX that night and the next day proceeded to Amarillo, which for some reason John had been so eager to see. Stayed there for a couple of nights and then headed out of Texas into Oklahoma. Stopped halfway to Oklahoma City and the next day continued, after watching the news about the Brussels bombing. That afternoon we went to the National Monument commemorating the awful bombing in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. Very beautiful place to be. And today we have enjoyed visiting the OKC Art Museum and Botannical Gardens which are right in the middle of this very attractive city.

THE FLUFF

The Earth House community near Taos is fascinating; we should have stopped, but were eager to get to Colorado, and just driving by gave us a sense that some people care enough about the planet to work to find unique solutions for shelter. We found the Walmart in Alamosa, CO, and parked, then drove to the Sand Dunes Park. At that point, those very lively winds had blown huge amounts of sand against the southwest sides of the mountains. There were kids with sleds and snowboards to slide down the dunes, or they simply tumbled down. And it was a laborious ascent for them because the sand was quite loose. It would embarrass John and me to admit how far we actually walked toward the dunes...

We had fortunately stopped in the Alamosa visitor center, because a nice guy there told us we also had to drive out to the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge where tens of thousands of sand hill cranes were stopping on their migration. No problem finding where to stop - there were dozens of cars parked by the area. And I saw some of the most enormous lenses on cameras that I have ever seen. (The photos on our cell phone are pretty weak...)

On we rode the next day to Salida and parked at the nice riverside RV park. And then we went to Susie and Brady's house and met Eliza. She is a beautiful little girl, and her face is so mobile. Never any doubt if she is satisfied or needing something. She isn't quite smiling yet, but Susie and I noticed that in the short time we were in Salida, she was focusing her eyes much better. Susie and Brady have a very nice house, which they have made very attractive. And their large back yard is acquiring lots of garden spaces, as well as a large gravel-based area for cookouts and entertaining. John and I didn't actually do much of anything in Salida except visit, which was fine. But it was frustrating that the wind was so harsh that we couldn't even bring ourselves to walk Huck the dog, to help.

John had just figured that we had gone 47 days without rain, and of course that night we heard pit-a-pats on the roof. Then it got suspiciously quiet, and indeed the next morning we had a light dusting of snow on the ground. But, oh, the mountains to the west were spectacularly snow-capped. Salida is about 7000 feet elevation, and there is a range of 14,000 footers to the west. Surely one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

Driving away from family is not easy, but we steeled ourselves and headed south. The drive along the Arkansas River is also very beautiful. After awhile, we turned a bit west, toward Westcliffe. We bought a delicious sticky bun from a young woman in a bakery run by Mennonites, and visited some with townies, then headed on. Parking in Trinidad (at one time the sex change capital of the U.S.), we celebrated St. Patrick with a beer and burger in town. Nice sports bar, with a dance floor, but no band at 6:00 PM...

We were on the road early. I was nervous about Raton Pass (my ongoing fear of precipices) but it was not a problem. John drove into Raton, sure we would find a coffee shop there. But we couldn't! We drove across a swath of New Mexico which was very flat, high plains, with little vegetation. But enough for huge cattle ranches. There were oil wells and windmills and occasional feeding lots, which made last night's burger a conflicted memory. We stopped at a country store, where the proprietor made coffee for John. We asked about the TO ranch we had passed, and he told us it belongs to the biggest landowner in our country. And we chatted with a couple from Houston, who were headed home from a trip to Colorado and beyond. They had been totally freaked coming over Monarch Pass in the snow - Monarch is where Susie and Brady ski, 20 minutes from their house. We later reached Texas, our third state that day, and stopped for the night in the Panhandle town of Dalhart. Lots of grain silos and railroad tracks. It amazes me that when we crossed into Texas, we came into the Central Time Zone. In just over a week, we had "sprung forward" and then had to set our watches forward again. The sun rises and sets at around 8:00 out here.

When we first left Dalhart, the terrain was flat high plains. But suddenly it changed almost dramatically to rolling hills, tableland. We passed a place called Boys Town (for boys who "need a shoulder to lean on"). All the hills and holes gave me echoes of the young adult book Holes; I should check that out to see if there is a real connection. At last we reached Route 40 and were officially, absolutely headed east. We found a pleasant RV park for the next couple of days in Amarillo. John says that 1/4 of the beef produced in the U.S. is from the Amarillo area.

After setting up, we drove into the city to get oriented. We found a strip of Historic Route 66 which was lined with antique shops, bars, gun shops, pawn shops, motorcycle gear shops, etc. In the downtown area, most impressive to us were the megachurches; we saw several of them, and they were all absolutely enormous. The other biggest buildings we noticed were megabanks. We do have one problem now - something happened to our tow hitch. John spent a bunch of time researching options. He has rigged a "chewing gum and chicken wire" repair for now, and ordered a new hitch mailed ahead to a place we will stay. We are keeping our fingers crossed, and so far, so good. One thing I suspect: the roads out here do not have storm drains like we have back home, and sometimes - often - there will be a big dip, a ditch, when you proceed from one road onto another.

On Palm Sunday, we drove south from Amarillo to Palo Duro Canyon State Park, which is advertised as the second largest canyon in the country. (John reminds me that we were, after all, in Texas, and everything there is bigger.) We passed several more megachurches with full parking lots. The canyon really is lovely, with several geological strata, and multiple driving and walking trails. From there we drove to the town of Canyon and strolled around the West Texas A and M campus. Huge buildings, large athletic fields. A very attractive campus. I was a bit surprised to learn later that the student population is about 3/5 of UNH's. We stopped en route back to the RV to get a haircut for me; it has grown long since mid-January. My cutter had tales to tell. One was about her father driving the family over a pass past a ghost town near Salida. They had to drive through a lake, which fortunately wasn't too deep...

When we left Amarillo to head to Oklahoma City, the wind was blowing strongly, and I again buried myself in sudokus and crossword puzzles to try not to panic and drive John nuts. The wind was not hitting directly perpendicular to us, so it was not quite as perilous as we once experienced in Kansas. But I was very glad to pull off the road into an RV park and be relatively still for the night.

The next morning's news brought the awful story of the Brussels bombing. It is not easy to imagine that kind of hate. We traveled on, assisted and/or hampered by a strong wind, to an RV park near Oklahoma City. We drove into the city, to get an idea of the layout and decide where we wanted to visit. Of course we would see the Monument about the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, and we decided it would be appropriate to go ahead and visit it that day. The design feels so right. The entry has 9:01 etched on it, and the exit has 9:03 on it. There is no building between those walls, because the bomb exploded at 9:02. Where the building was, there is a grassy field with metal chair-like sculptures to honor each of the victims. To commemorate the children from the day care center, the chairs are shorter. There is a large pool and the place is peaceful, not fostering hate.

After that powerful experience, we went to a fun part of OKC, along a mile-long canal lined with restaurants and bars, with pansies and tulips in bloom as well as some of the flowering trees. John and I each had a Stella Artois beer (because Stella comes from Belgium). This is a very attractive city, not overwhelmingly large and with many attractive buildings. This morning we went to the Art Museum which has a large collection of Chiculy glass formations. They seem so lovely and happy to me. I tend to enjoy the smalle

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