Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Cowboys," Coyotes, and Tumbleweeds, Oh my...

I am not a religious man by any means, but I must confess, I prayed for a decent nights sleep last night and lo and behold Aldous delivered.  Woohoo!  We did not rush when we got up this morning because we knew we could knock out the last 650 miles or so in a day pretty easily.  We finally got on the road about 10:30 AM well rested and looking forward to getting to Albuquerque to see my uncle Bill and aunt Rebecca.

There wasn't much exciting to see in Oklahoma until we got past OK City and the wind farms started popping up.  I find myself very interested in the whole green energy movement and I've seen a couple of shows about these huge wind farms in OK, North Texas and New Mexico, but seeing them on TV and seeing them in person is two different things.  First off, the windmills are HUGE.  Without seeing them in person, it's hard to believe just how big they are (  Not only are they huge, but the wind farms themselves are massive and are stretched out amongst the three states I mentioned along I40.  We must have seen hundreds of them, maybe even up into the thousands.  Some people think they are eyesores, but I personally don't see that.  I actually think they look pretty cool, almost like some modern art out there on the barren landscape.

As we made our way out of OK we stopped at rest stop to have lunch.  The first thing you notice about the rest stops in OK is that the picnic benches are all under stone teepees.  It's kinda cool.  As you can imagine, the Native American influence is all over this place and this was kind of a neat way to pay homage to it.  We had lunch under one of the teepees and when we were finished I took Bella to the bathroom while Michelle finished feeding Aldous.  As Isabella and I walked up to the bathroom an older gentlemen, about 300 lbs walks out of the men's room headed for his car.  He was wearing the biggest cowboy hat I had ever seen.  Seriously, Aldous could have taken a bath in that thing.  He had a bolo tie and matching cowboy boots on as well.  As he approached us he said quite loudly "HOWDY!" and Isabella and I returned his greeting.  After he passed us, Isabella grabbed my shirt and tugged hard and was yelling and whispering at the same time as she said, "Daddy, Daddy, that was a real live cowboy!"  I was about to explain to her that he wasn't a real "cowboy" but  turned around a bit to look at him and he must have heard her because he looked back as well and was smiling.   I bet she made his day, even if he knew he wasn't  real cowboy.  At that point I figured what was the point of telling her he wasn't a real cowboy.  Sometimes perception is more fun than reality and this trip is all about the fun.  :)

Moving into Texas from OK the thing that struck me was just the extreme expansiveness of the landscape.  I've seen it on TV, but like the massive size of the windmills, it just doesn't compute the same as it does in person.  Everywhere you look, as far as the eye can see it's flat and just seems so immensely huge...and it goes on like this FOREVER, to the point you think the scenery will never change and then all of a sudden it does.  About 25-50 miles from the New Mexico border the scenery all of a sudden changes from totally flat land with a few shrubs on it or some sort of crop to what looks like a scene out of western movie with a landscape that is full of little canyons and  mesas of all sizes.  It's remarkable how quickly it changed and it surprised me even more how excited I got when the landscape changed.  This was the sort of stuff we took this trip to see!  Rolling into New Mexico it's much of the same, until we got closer to Albuquerque and all of a sudden you could see the mountains rising in the distance.  Our whole journey today was done in what can best be described as a massive wind storm.  We were fighting gusts of 40-60 mph the whole time.  I had to hold the steering wheel turned to the right the whole time just to go straight.  It's not fun fighting the steering wheel for 650 miles but it sure made it obvious why they have so many windmills out here. We arrived at my aunt and uncles about 8:30 local time and they were waiting for us with cold beer, fantastic homemade beef stew and chocolate chip cookies.  It was a perfect welcome for 4 road weary travelers.  :)

We will probably be here in Albuquerque for a few days.  My cousin Jim is flying in tomorrow and my cousin Kate lives in town so we are going to spend some time with them as well.  I'm not sure how much I'll have to update the blog in the next few days so I thought I would list the states we've been through and name the things that jump out at you as you travel through them.  Here goes...

Alabama:  Adult novelty stores, abandoned businesses and religious billboards.
Mississippi:  Adult novelty stores, abandoned businesses and religious billboards.
Tennessee:  Adult novelty stores, abandoned businesses and religious billboards.
Arkansas:  Adult novelty stores, abandoned businesses and religious billboards.  Are you noticing a pattern here?  I think it's a southern thing.  Arkansas also seems to have a Walmart on every corner.
Oklahoma:  FLAT, casino and religious billboards, dead coyotes (big ones) on the side of the road, windmills.
Texas: FLAT (till the last 30 or so miles of I40), religious billboards, windmills, tumbleweeds (we hit a big one blowing across the road today going 80 mph and it exploded like a giant dandelion seed head).
New Mexico: Beautiful scenery, windmills and casino billboards.  :)

After just 3 days the number one thing that jumps out at me is I can't believe I waited till I was 41 to do this.

Here are a few pics from today, but keep in mind most of them were shot from inside a car that was traveling between 75-85 MPH at a time, which did not help the quality.

PS, please forgive the typos, it's 3AM and I can't stay awake to proofread it.  :)

A landscape shot of TX to try an give you some idea of the expansiveness of the landscape....the pic doesn't do it justice.

The famous Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo TX,

We stopped to get Bella an Ice Cream and I saw this old abandoned service station on the other side of I40 from the Dairy Queen and I felt compelled to cross I40 take a pic of it.  I don't know why, we have literally seen hundreds of abandoned service stations like this, but it somehow called to me.  We get to Albuquerque tonight and my uncle Bill is looking at the pics and asks if this pic was taken in Shamrock TX.  I told him, yes, I think it was.  He said he recognized it because he had an old VW that broke down on him back in the 80s in Shamrock on a trip and he recognized this as the shop that repaired.  It just seemed an odd coincidence that that of all the abandoned service stations we saw I felt the need to take a pic of this one.

I had to take this pic because this was the first time in at least 15 years I've seen the old style gas pumps like these that were still functioning and in use!

They say everything is bigger in Texas....well, I can tell you that certainly applies to crosses!

Another landscape pic that doesn't look like anything special in the picture, but was awesome in person.

I'm now of the opinion that every rest stop should have teepee picnic table shelters.

I wonder what Don Quixote would have said had he come across these "giants?"

This kinda gives you an idea of the size of the windmills....although technically I believe these are called wind turbines as they turn turbines to make electricity, as opposed to turning mills.  :)

The sun had JUST set behind the mountains as we were approaching Albuquerque.  If we had been even 5 minutes earlier this would have been an incredible pic.

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