The Long Drive
We awake to news of appalling floods in Texas resulting in 6 deaths. We feel very lucky to be on the northern edge of the bad weather. Although there is some evidence of last nights storms and the day is cloudy there is no disruption to our plans and the weather is set to improve again.
Amarillo's star attraction is the Big Texan Steak Ranch where the steak is free if you are able to eat a 72oz steak with all the trimmings within an hour. I don't think this is a challenge I will be taking on as I have difficulty eating the whole of a 10oz steak. We drive there and are confronted by a large restaurant built to look like a ranch. On entering Marcus has his fortune told by Zoltan and both he and Mark get target practice with rifle and guns (this resembles a stall at a fair but with better props).
After looking around the shop and restaurant we take a wonder round to the hotel. The rooms are behind a faux heritage facade, appearing to be an old west sidewalk consisting of typical buildings with verandas. They are a bit of fun and to top it off there is an outside pool shaped like Texas.
Once on the road again we head for Cadillac Ranch. On the way we come across the RV Cadillac, a park for RV's. There is the ubiquitous giant figure, a cowboy and three Cadillacs staged at angles to the ground. This place reminds us of the strange view the US has regarding guns. The 2nd Amendment is on a plaque below the Cowboy.
Cadillac Ranch is only a mile down the road. This iconic instillation was created by a local millionaire who in 1974 planted ten Cadillacs in the ground. Unfortunately the ground is rather muddy due to last nights rain, but Mark and Marcus are determined to leave their mark. Armed with spray cans they graffiti on the cars (accepted practice). Mark even leaves his tag on the ground. One of the small crowd of people here says that the paint he left last week has already been covered up. We therefore take photos for posterity.
As the journey to Albuquerque is long we set off in earnest towards New Mexico. The Texan plains are endless. They are not as lush as those of Oklahoma but cattle are grazing contentedly. The scenery doesn't change much and I begin to nod off.
Suddenly with little warning we cross the border into New Mexico . Marcus points out that we have gained an hour as we travel from Central to Mountain Time Zone. The first town of any note is Tucumari. This is the home of one of the best-preserved stretches of Route 66; what a gem. There is motel after motel advertising with giant neon signs (these must be some sight of an evening). Many of them are still operating as businesses, but some have been abandoned to the ravages of time.
We pull up at Del's restaurant a typical Route 66 diner with counter and booths. There are different varieties of cream pie and the biggest home baked muffins we have ever seen. Deciding against these sweet delights we order breakfast. Marcus and I decide on eggs, bacon and pancakes - yes pancakes with maple syrup (is this really the healthy option?). Mark goes for eggs, spam, grits, biscuit and gravy (he's game for anything once). The grits are like unflavoured couscous, the biscuit a scone and the gravy a kind of roux sauce, not at all what he expected.
On leaving the diner we return to the highway, which seems to go on and on and on. The scenery begins to change considerably as we pass towns which seem to have disintegrated into the ground. Many slip roads lead to one lone building or non at all. We can imagine tumbleweed rolling along the plains here.
Santa Rosa is a very small town but it does have the Route 66 Auto Museum. There are cars in the front, many rusty and looking like they were just abandoned by some traveller when they broke down. There are three young lads from London following the same route West as us and thoroughly enjoying the experience.
We see hills in the distance and notice that the ground is more sandy and the trees are all conifer types - usually bushes. The hills become mountains but because these grow out of flat land they look like a stage set, one behind the other.
At last after driving what seems like thousands of miles (in reality 288) we see Albuquerque on the horizon. We are soon at our motel and book in. We sit by the pool with beers and a bottle of red wine. We deserve them after that long drive, well Mark does.