Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Tucson At Last

The Welcome Cactus

Tucson, Arizona.  3/5/2014:  Houston, we have syzygy..the planets have
aligned..and now we're in Tucson.  (Go ahead, look it up.)

You can tell I'm where I was headed by the Welcome Cactus (see above) outside Dale and Betsy's front door.  The SuperStorm may have conspired against me, but I was only a day late and a few dollars short.  But now here's Tucson, and that's lovely.


The day started in Las Cruces, New Mexico, about 250 miles east of here..

It's a fine thing to set out on a sunny bright morning.  If you're ready for it,
the road rolls out obligingly, promising amazing sights, places to stop and lovely notions that occur to you when the scenery is so impressive.  This is the real desert Southwest; the cactus stands tall, the plains spread for miles and mountains rim the horizon like guardian walls.

Consider them.  Ageless sentinels, host to primitive people who farmed in their shadows.  Witness to birth, death, war or peace..but even older than all that.  Formed as continents moved or volcanoes spilled the Earth's foundation, wise beyond imagination, silent as the night.  My God, they're wonderful.

This is Texas Canyon, a passageway through the high peaks between New Mexico and Arizona.  Settlers and soldiers pulled through here, Indians roamed here.  It's always a good place stop, sit and think.  

So I did.

Finish your coffee, then dive down the mountain from Texas Canyon--or Texas Pass--into Benson, Arizona, just down the road from Tombstone, where Wyatt Earp, his brothers and Doc Holliday fought the Clantons that time at the OK Corral.  From Benson, it's a brief run to Tucson where the GPS takes you through modern city streets to a warm and loving welcome back.

If I sound a little gushy..maybe a lot gushy..I don't apologize.  This is a wonderful place to be among family and good friends..and there is a history written on these rocks that stirs imagination. 

It is good to be back.




Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Back In The Old West

The "Old West" 


Holiday Inn Express, Las Cruces, NM.  3/4/2014:  There is a place where the modern west abruptly gives way to the old.  

It's magic.

This Time Warp is right at the border between Texas and New Mexico.  You can find it for yourself by traveling west on I-40 through Amarillo.  With pastures on either side of the road, you come to the crest of a hill and, as if you cut it with a knife, the road drops into the brown, rocky landscape you read about when you were a kid.  There is no gradual transition.  Suddenly, mesas, sagebrush, golden grassy plains stretch hundreds of miles in every direction.  It's that dramatic!  And it's a sight I always wait for as I make this trip.  The picture above is just a hint of it.  If there is an ounce of romance in your soul, this will make you sing.


As you can see, I'm in Las Cruces tonight and I'll be in Tucson tomorrow.  This trip has not been without adventure..but last night, I put all that behind me and settled down to a gorgeous 8 ounce filet mignon in no less an eatery than (I kid you not) Big Vern's Steakhouse in Shamrock, Texas.  That. and a huge glass of the best local beer and all the aches and the pains of the trip vanished .. well, pretty much.

I told you that to tell you this:  There is a place called the Big Texan in 
Amarillo that offers a free 72 ounce steak to anybody who can polish it off.  See picture, taken out the window as I roared by:
I have no idea how many hungry  citizens have pulled off this culinary legerdemain..and I probably don't want to know.  Big Vern's 8 ounce filet was delicious and just about all I could handle at that moment.  72 ounces?  Sounds like suicide to me.


Finally, I paused today to admire my all time favorite rest stop.  This ultra-modern, solar-powered, high-tech facility is located along I-40 west and old Route 66 west of Amarillo.  It demonstrates the modern, technological Texas.  Happily, my second  favorite rest stop is just across the highway on I-40 east.  Totally Art Deco, it commemorates the glory days of old Route 66, getting your kicks and all.

It's things like that that keep you happy as you roll through the weary miles.

Good for Texas.

See you in Tucson.



Monday, March 3, 2014

Out Of The Storm He Rode.

Finally. BIG SKY!  Seen first just west of Oklahoma City.


Holiday Inn Express, Shamrock, Texas.  3/3/2014:   At one point today,
I left the Natural State and crossed into the Cherokee Nation.  Where was I?
I won't hold you up..I left Arkansas and entered Oklahoma.  And a big moment  it was, too.
 For those who came in late..I was caught in the lower reaches of that horrible storm on Sunday as I made my way west from Nashville, TN toward my ultimate destination, Tucson, AZ.  I got only as far as Clarksville, Arkansas when  the heavy rain and beginning snow suggested I take shelter.  And I did. That was Sunday night.  When I got up this morning--it is Monday, isn't it?  I looked out the door and there was my car and several others covered in at least a half inch to an inch of ice.  It took a couple of hours to get it loose enough to go.  With trepidation, the car and I eased out onto the Interstate.  It looked like this:

Right. One semi-dry and snow in the other.  Still, we moved at a pretty good pace until we found them..trucks and cars all in a row, and no way to pass.  

We had us a convoy!

Now, I don't want to go on about this too long.  I know a lot of people have a 

similar story to tell. I just wanted to show you how vast this stinkin' system was!  I stopped seeing snow on the ground at about the time I crossed the Texas border.  Look at the side of the car--that is solid ice that would not knock off until I got it into a car wash here in Shamrock and blasted it with hot water.  

I am getting the idea that Mother Nature is sending a message.  Either that, or she is drenching us with water--frozen and/or unfrozen--to fill up the ground because she is planning one hellish summer.  Just a theory, you understand..but think about it.

Tomorrow..Albuquerque and beyond with beautiful weather (I hope).




Sunday, March 2, 2014

Curses! Foiled Again!

Rain, rain, great big pain.

Sherwood Best Western, Clarksville, Arkansas.  3/2/2014:  I really thought I'd ducked the storm.  I went south to get under it, spending last night in Nashville.  But it found me.

When I started west from Nashville this morning, it was 43 degrees. Then, in a few minutes, the rain started and pretty soon, it was 32  (see temp gauge, lower right speedometer).
But I persevered..or plowed on, as the case may be.  


It's interesting what you notice while driving through a flood.

I passed Grinder's Switch, Bucksnort, Mousetail Landing and Loretta Lynn's Dude Ranch.  All of that, just west of Nashville.

I wondered as I crossed the Mississippi: why does Arkansas call itself the Natural State?  If it were natural, it would spell itself Arkansaw.  I didn't see anyone running around in the buff, so that can't be what it means.  The roadsides and the fields and lawns look reasonably tidy, so they haven't gone back to nature.  Bill Clinton's from Arkansas...naw, that's not it.

But I had plenty of time to think..even paused in a covey of long-haul big wheels while police cleaned up a mess somewhere up there where I couldn't see.


Anyway, I'm dug in.  They say it's snowing up ahead in Oklahoma.  I know this is no big whoop to those who live in the battered northeast, but I thought I'd let you know the storm stretches from you clear to Texas.  I can see it.  I don't have any idea where I'll be at this time on Monday.  

Maybe right here.

Oh, well..there's a Pizza Hut up the street and a Mexican place just outside my door.  

Hibernation is good. Right?