Last Sunday morning we packed up after the England vs Germany game and climbed into the car to set off across the rest of New Mexico and begin our first foray into the Lone Star State of Texas.
Our first scheduled stop was going to be Santa Fe, just west of Albuquerque (ABQ). The weather was beautiful, lovely sunshine, not too hot. When we reached Santa Fe, it turned out to be very similar to ABQ,if not a little bit smaller. The same orange and terracotta adobe buildings were all around the town centre. The town seemed full of art galleries, which aren't really mine and Rachel's cup of tea, so we decided after driving round the town a little more to press on east.
Instead of taking the highway (we seemed to have been driving along miles and miles and miles of highway in the last few days), we decided to drive along the "Santa Fe Trail" which were smaller roads and a more pleasant but slower drive. It was along this road that we got our first glimpse of the world famous "Mother Road" Route 66. (I'll come to Route 66 in more detail in the next
blog as we spent alot of time looking for the road and following the road after Amarillo).
It was also along the Santa Fe Trail that we got our first glimpse of the very heavy and very dark clouds that were looming ominously on the horizon. The Trail took us towards a smaller and less glitzy Las Vegas than the one we had spent four nights at earlier in the trip and as we passed this little town and rejoined the highway, the heavens opened. Big time. We watched a very large and spectacular electrical storn (lightning no thunder!?) flashing around the hills to our left. Rachel was on driving duties and carefully negotiated her way through the downpour that was producing raindrops and hailstones that were bigger and heavier than her and falling quicker than England's World Cup hopes had disappeared earlier in the day! It was during this time that I discovered regardless of how may photos I took and how many times I counted the gaps between the lightning strikes, I was never going to be a weather photographer!
When the rain subsided and the sun tried to peek its way out of the clouds,
we stopped for a brief lunch in the Silver Chevrolet Cafe and swapped over driving. As luck would have it, as we drove towards the east edge of New Mexico and towards the Texas Panhandle (look at the map, apparently Texas looks like a pan and the west side of it is the handle.) the weather held despite the wind and the very dark rolling clouds above us.
Our next mini stop was at Tucumcari. It used to be a major stop off point for vacationers, salesman and other travellers heading across the country during the heyday of Route 66. It was now anything but major. It was like a ghost town. It was late Sunday afternoon, but looking at the state of the motels and small shops lining the side of the road, the time of the day or day of the week probably didn't matter one jot. The town is two blocks wide and two miles long and is just a procession of sleazy and seedy looking motels that were enjoying their golden days before Rachel and I were even a twinkle in our respective father's eyes! According to United States On The Road book that has
been our companion throughout, some of the motels in the photos we took were fairly famous in the good old days.
The weather looked like it was closing in so we got going and soon crossed the border into Texas. As we did this the scenery changed considerably. We moved from high desert plateaus and impressive mountains to the flat and windy plains of Texas. It seemed to be flat as far as the eye could see and the car was taking a buffeting from the strong gusts of wind on the highway. Within an hour or so we approached the outskirts of Amarillo and our attention turned to finding somwhere to stay as we hadn't booked ahead. I jumped out at the first one we saw and asked the lady at the desk what the price was. "$50 for an unrenovated room at the back or $70 for a renovated room overlooking the atrium." This was a little more than we wanted to pay, and didn't like the sound of an unrenovated room (we are saving the hole in the ground outhouses for India thank you!). Using all the cunning and brains that we have both been thankfully
blessed with, we used the free WiFi connection on offer at the hotel from the car park and promptly booked a renovated room in the same hotel for $45! Bargain!And if you know Rachel, you know how excited she gets about a bargain!
Monday morning came round very quickly and we were soon packed up and ready to tackle Amarillo. The first place we headed to was one of the more surreal and unusual things we have seen in the USA. The Cadillac Ranch. The pictures are better and explaining this place than words are! It is a row of ten upturned Cadillacs half buried in a field just outside Amarillo. Apparently it is some sort of sculptural statement by an art financier called Stanley Marsh. Whatever it is, he must have been smoking something strong to have come up with this idea! Oh yeah, the Cadillacs are also painted in some crazy colours and lots of graffiti. There was a box of spray paint cans and visitors can paint whatever they want on the cars. I instantly became a chav and wanted to "tag" every car there! My wity scribblings can be seen in the photos.
a drive round Amarillo, which isn't all that spectacular, we got round to the task that this whole visit was about. The video. Yes, Rachel's performance in the video above. The lyrics took forever to amend to suit us, the video shoot location took forever to find and the video itself will forever live in infamy. People will ask throughout the ages, "Where were you when you saw Rachel Cain 'Find Her Way To Amarillo'!
Our last stop in Amarillo was the Big Texan Steak House. It is an institution in Texas. The deal is that you get a free 72oz steak. If you can eat it in an hour. If not, it costs $72. Its not until you actually the steak that you realise just how daunting a task this is. Look at the picture I have put up, it was huge! Rachel and I decided that we would probably be able to get through half of it in a hour between us! What was even more amazing was when browsing the "Winners Book" - a list of people who have completed the task, we saw that the quickest time was 8 minutes!!! Only in America. The most
recent winner was a gentleman from Texas who tipped the scale at 460lbs. Which is around 32.5 stone. Whats a 72oz steak to a man like that!? We declined to attempt to join the illustrious list of fatties, I mean winners, and left Amarillo feeling full after just looking at the steak.
As we left we took up the challenge of driving on Route 66 (not as easy as it sounds) to Oklahoma City. The next blog will document how we "Got Our Kicks on Route 66" and how we came about sleeping in Elvis' bed!
PS - An update on the geeky side of the USA trip.
Quarters collected are now - Indiana, Minnesota, Alaska, Ohio, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina, Montana, Maryland, Mississippi, Illinois, Rhode Island, Washington, Idaho, Vermont, Delaware, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Michigan, California, Arizona, Oregon, Connecticut, New York, Virginia, Kentucky, Texas, Alabama, Georgia (28 of the 50 states) Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands and the main Eagle Quarter. Total - 31.
Sad I know, but its keeping us (actually just me) amused!
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