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Driving the West 2007

As part of a move from Seattle to Dallas in the late spring of 2007, I took a week and drove through parts of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and the top slice of Texas. Here is my journal from that zip-through-the-West drive. Check out the Google map of the drive here.

Monday, May 14, Day 1

I was up early since I had to go fetch the rental car from downtown which went pretty smoothly. One last Seattle bus ride (after being a daily Metro patron for five years) took me down to the Hertz office at the convention center. They were busy so I had to wait a few minutes for my turn. I wound up with a Toyota Rav 4 instead of the Ford Escape I was expecting but all the plants that I needed to transport to Texas including my 5 1/2 foot lemon tree fit so I was okay with the change. Driving out of the parking garage was exciting since this was the first time I had driven a car in about six months and I haven't driven one regularly since the big crash of 2002. I pulled gingerly into downtown traffic and made my way back to Ballard as quickly and carefully as possible. It took longer to finish packing and cleaning the apartment than I planned, of course, so I was about an hour or so late getting on the road. I stopped by the bookstore for one last purchase and a last goodbye and then got on the interstate south to Tacoma. As the interstate started to curve west around the bottom of Puget Sound, I cut straight south on US 7 to see if I could get a better view of Rainier. I had been promising myself for years that I would spend some time exploring the park, but here I am leaving the Northwest with that promise unfulfilled. I never went to the Grand Canyon either, though I lived in Arizona for fourteen years. Bad person, bad traveler. Mt Rainier National Park has been closed since the big floods earlier this spring but just this week they had announced the opening of the Nisqually entrance at the southwest corner of the park, more or less on the route I was driving. Since I had gotten such a late start, I didn’t have time to actually go into the park so the views of the mountain were just okay but the road was awesome driving. The map really doesn't do it justice. Tight twisting curves with the road sloping up to meet the car. There was too much traffic and I wasn't driving the best car to take advantage of the challenge but it was still fun. I kept wishing I had Dimitri's (a customer at the bookstore) beautiful dark blue Porsche Boxster to really do it justice. I could see quite a bit of evidence of the floods with fields of dead trees and accumulations of debris that hadn't been cleared yet. In certain areas it looked a lot like a forest fire. Even with all the reports of the damage on the news, I don't think I had quite appreciated the lasting consequences of the floods. Water can certainly be a powerful force. In spite of the damage, it was a beautiful drive through the trees.

I stopped for a break in Morton, a nice little town up in the mountains right about where US 7 dead ends into 12. From there the road straightened out and ran west through an area of green fields and neat farmhouses. Not an exciting road, but still pleasant. I rejoined I-5 south of Chehalis (the boring part of the day's drive and not worthy of even the briefest description) and got to Portland a little after six. With lots of merging lanes and exit only signs and plenty of end-of-the-commute traffic, I, of course, missed the exit that would have taken me directly to Vaughn and Karina’s house so I got to take the scenic route which was fine since it gave me a chance to see the neighborhood. Most of the houses in the area are 60's ranch-ish looking things with a nice lived in feel. Evidence of inhabitance by juveniles of the species abounds. V & K have a lovely house in this friendly neighborhood with a well-used park directly across the street. My four-year-old great nephew, Xavier, came out to meet me as I pulled into the driveway, talking a mile a minute. Vaughn and Karina gave me the tour of the house and explained all the work Karina has been doing on it. It’s a good size (huge when compared to the house they used to live in in West Seattle) with lots of light and a terrific big playroom for the kids in the basement. Xavier's towheaded little brother Matisse showed off his newly acquired walking skills before the two of them retired to bed and left the old folks to themselves. We had a lovely dinner and spent several pleasant hours catching up on news and discussing an impressive range of topics. I chose to sleep downstairs in the big room despite warnings of possible spiders. I'm happy to say that the warnings were unwarranted and I had a pleasant evening.

                      

left: Xavier in typical go-go mode

right: the family minus Dad

Tuesday, May 15, Day 2

I was up early to see Vaughn off to work (he rode his bike to the train station and then took the train to Seattle. Yes, kids, we are in Portland) and have a last visit with the kiddies before hitting the road east towards Mt. Hood. Since I was trying to make a point of avoiding interstates for most of the trip, I decided not to retrace the route along the Columbia River that I had enjoyed during my big road trip in 2001. Instead, I took US 26 east and south out of Portland through Gresham and then Sandy. As usual, I had skipped breakfast in Portland (I'll never understand how people can eat first thing in the morning) so I was pretty hungry by the time I got to Sandy. I had my eyes open for a real bakery and was happy to spot the red and white tiles of Joe’s Donuts. I do think that red and white tiles on the outside of an eatery are a sure indication of good food inside, in this case the buttermilk doughnuts that were like small but solid pound cakes with light complex flavors and just enough glazing on the top to give a nice morning sugar buzz. From Sandy the highway really started to climb up into the mountains. The winding road heading up to Mt Hood hid the mountain most of the time but every now and then I’d come around a curve and, bam, there’s this huge white cone. Nice driving road although not as twisty as Monday. This was clearly ski country and looked a little naked without a coating of snow. All the shops, restaurants and hotels along the road obviously catered to the outdoorsy, crunchy granola crowd. The towns on the way up were named Zigzag and Rhododendron. Nice. I wanted to stop and take some pictures of the mountain but I kept missing the obvious places to pull off. I was always past them by the time I realized it would have been a good spot. Somebody should write a photographer's guide to road tripping that says things like, "look for the pullout just past mile marker 23 for the best place to get a shot of blah blah blah." As I came out of the mountains, the road ran straight across a high plateau where I could see the cones of three volcanoes: Mt. Hood behind me and I'm guessing Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Washington to the southwest. I did stop and take a couple of pictures here but the mountains were much more impressive in person.

After a brief stop for a bite in Prineville, I continued on 26 as it swung northeast through the Ochoco National Forest. It wasn't the most direct route but it took me on a fantastic, nearly deserted driving road through some really spectacular canyons. One towering rock formation could not have looked more like a Norman castle if it tried. I stopped to take a few pictures and all you could hear was the babbling brook by the side of the road, some birds chirping and the sound of the wind blowing through the dry rocks. I passed the John Day Fossil Beds (yea, here be dinosaurs) without pausing and then entered into a lovely section of the drive that led through green valleys with fabulous old wooden barns. Everything looked so photogenic. If only I could actually take decent photographs. In the late afternoon the road went through a wide green valley with snow capped mountains to the south–the Aldrich Mountains in fact. I did stop and take some pictures of the mountains. With the black cows on the green grass and the white mountains in the background, I felt like I had taken a wrong turn and wound up in Switzerland. It was really a lovely drive all day but very long and by this point I was getting very tired. I was glad to get to Ontario close to the Idaho border which is apparently in the throws of corporate development. I chose the Sleep Inn from the generic hotels by the Interstate, had dinner at a Denny's that was indistinguishable from any other Denny's in the country and avoided the Kmart that shared the parking lot. The corporate sameness did its job and I had a pleasant night for a reasonable amount although I had trouble getting the hotel's wireless network to work properly.

      

 

left: Ochoco National Forest

right: the Aldrich Mountains

 

Wednesday, May 16, Day 3

This was the one day that I had decided to trade an interesting drive for speed and convenience partly because Southern Idaho is not particularly noted for its beauty and partly in the interest of time. I zapped right through Boise on the interstate and stopped at Mountain Home for gas. I really don't understand why they call it Mountain Home since it's situated on a perfectly flat brown plain. Maybe it's somebody's idea of a joke. Driving southern Idaho on an interstate is pretty much the definition of boring. There was nothing to look at at all. I know they make interstates like this on purpose but, man, I think they overdid it on this one. I did have one cool break. I was looking for a place to pull off and put some drops in my eyes--my contacts had dried out from all that dry brown landscape, I guess--when I saw a sign for a state park that appeared to be right next to the highway. I could see a stone shelter and a parking area which seemed good enough for my purposes although I couldn't figure out why they would put a park in the middle of nowhere like this. An exit and a couple of turns later and I saw a sign asking for an honor system admission fee but I still couldn't see any reason for a park. As I got to the parking area near the highway, I finally realized that there was a steep-sided gorge that ran directly under the highway. The Malad Gorge is part of the Thousand Springs State Park. A little iron footbridge runs above beautiful dark squared-off volcanic rock with a whitewater river at the bottom. I stretched my legs walking along the path that follows the rim of the gorge up to another viewpoint. It was very pretty in a dry rocky windswept plain kind of way and a perfect break from the interstate. I must say, that was the only interesting part of the day. I stopped at the honor pay station on the way out and gave them a little extra money as a thank you.

Why is this a state park?

 

Because this runs under that bridge!

By mid afternoon I had crossed into Utah and shortly thereafter I ran into the greater Salt Lake City traffic jam. I don't know who all these people are or where they're going but they all like to drive fast through construction. The traffic coming into Salt Lake was nasty and crowded with construction that ran for about 40 miles. I made it to the city center about 4 PM and found the City Creek Inn, a classic older motel, clean and equipped with wi-fi and cable TV but with a pink-tiled bathroom that could use a remodel and a little too much night time traffic to be completely comfortable. After settling in, I went for a walk over to Temple Square where I noted the location of the genealogy library and then stepped in to admire the inside of the silver-roofed Tabernacle across the street. A volunteer demonstrated the perfect acoustics of the building by dropping pins at the podium that we could clearly hear fall all the way back to the door. From there, I wandered around the grounds a bit, taking pictures of the outside of the Temple (members only inside), admiring the flower gardens and nearly getting run over by troops of Chinese-speaking tourists.  I wonder if Mormon missionaries have infiltrated the mainland or if these guys were all from Taiwan. The huge old houses on Temple Street (that would be East South Temple not West South Temple or East North Temple) drew me east where I found the Catholic cathedral which has a magnificent painted interior. I really would have liked to get some pictures but I can't imagine that a flash would be good for the paint. It was a nice walk with some magnificent architecture and the snow-capped mountains looming east of the city. I had hoped to do a little shopping in the downtown district on the way back but the ZCMI center was mostly closed for remodeling along with almost every other store in downtown. Apparently they're in the process of some major redevelopment. I was a little curious about the big air vents I kept seeing. I'm guessing that there are a lot of underground Latter Day Saints.

I had planned to try the Utah Opera production of The Grapes of Wrath that evening but I was tired enough after three days of driving that I was happy to retreat to the motel with a couple of slices of pizza and some cable TV.

 

There were roses everywhere in SLC

The Temple

Thursday, May 17, Day 4

I awoke Thursday morning to the realization that there was no coffee in the immediate vicinity. No little pot in the room. No big pot in the office. No Starbucks next door. This is bad. I don't even like to look at other people until after I've had my coffee. I forced myself to get dressed (it's just wrong to get out of pajamas before your first cup) and go look for a coffee shop. I walked and walked. Came across a trendy shopping complex. No coffee. Found a cute retro restaurant. Not open for breakfast. Saw a juice bar advertising coffee but realized as soon as I stuck my head inside the door that they and I would not see eye to eye on what constitutes a good brew. FINALLY, I was passing an art gallery when I realized it was an art gallery/COFFEE BAR. Two guys wearing black, tattoos and piercings were having a business meeting complete with laptops and cell phones. This looks like the place. The girl behind the counter recommended French Press rather than brewed (good call) and I decided to try the sour cream coffee cake (also a good call). I logged on to their wireless network, plugged my Nano into my ears, drank some good coffee and proceeded to blog. Wow. I didn't realize I had been missing Seattle so much. And the artwork in the gallery was good, too. Just in case you, too, find yourself desperate for coffee in SLC, the place is L'Astelier Cafe at 57 West 200 South, Suite 103. It's across the street from the Capitol Theatre which has a beautiful multicolored terra cotta facade.

After coffee, I walked over to the Family History Library, planning to fill in a few holes in the family tree. I knew from the website that they had microfiche copies of village records from the French village where my great-grandfather was born. Unfortunately, I didn't quite understand that not all of these microfiche spools were immediately available. The ones I particularly wanted were stored in a cavern vault (seriously) south of town. I did look at some of the records from his town for years that didn't really apply to my search just to see if I might luck into something and I realized that before I look at these things again I need to A) learn more French, B) get better glasses and C) have my head examined. Anybody that looks through these bits of foreign language chicken scratch just to find a name or date must be crazy. Everybody at the library was wildly helpful and the most determinedly cheerful people I have ever met in my life. I still haven't decided if it was nice or creepy.

Since my day at the library was now abbreviated, I decided to pass the afternoon with a drive out to the Great Salt Lake. The lake is quite beautiful but there is nothing there. A tiny marina showed how determined boaters can be even when you're in a lake so salty that there are signs reminding you to wash off your boat when you take it out of the water to avoid damage. I spent an hour or so driving around neighborhoods in the afternoon really just trying to see what life is like around here. It looked pretty normal if a little neater than most places. There were spectacular roses blooming just about everywhere I looked.

After dinner, I walked back over to the Tabernacle to attend the open rehearsal of the Tabernacle Choir. There were already quite a few people waiting to get in when I arrived. We could hear music coming from inside but the doors were not opened to the public until quite a bit later than advertised. Apparently, they were working with a guest artist as well as a good sized orchestra in preparation for that week's broadcast. (Did you know that the choir's radio broadcast, Music and the Spoken Word is the oldest continuous nationwide broadcast show? It's been going on since 1929.) When they did let us in, a fairly full house got to listen to the choir and orchestra accompany a pretty good female vocalist with a country gospel style. Then the orchestra and the guest left and the choir got down to the business of preparing for the 2008 Mother's Day broadcast, almost a year in advance. Wow. This choir goes through a lot of music. They did one piece that I had sung with The Market Street Singers, "For the Beauty of the Earth" and a piece from a movie that I've always wanted to sing, the Brookfield Anthem from Goodbye, Mr. Chips, "Fill the World with Love." There was a shipfull of WWII Navy vets in the audience and the choir took a minute to sing the Navy Hymn for them. Lots of tears. I was impressed with the iron hand the director used to run the rehearsal and with the extreme efficiency of the crew that rearranged the entire stage while the rehearsal was going on without once causing any noise or interruption. Must be nice to have roadies. And roadies in ties, too. A very pleasant evening, all in all, finishing with a nice walk back to the motel in the warm evening air.

      

left: eight floors of drawers of microfiche at the Family History library did not contain the roll I wanted

right: the Great Salt Lake

Friday, May 18, Day 5

Another quest for coffee, this time in the car on the way out of town, began this day with less pleasant results than the day before. I did drive by the impressive courthouse and the equally impressive new library in my search but the coffee place I found didn't seem to have any parking attached. I gave up and got on the highway, coffeeless.

The first part of today's drive took me south on the interstate. Salt Lake City does seem to be a fine example of western sprawl. There didn't appear to be any end to SLC or any beginning to Provo although the exit signs indicated that I had passed from one to the other. I was happy to cut off to Highway 6 and head southeast through remarkably green country given the fact that I'm in Utah. As I drove further south and east I could see the beginnings of canyon country with a dryer, rockier landscape. I made a quick stop for bathrooms, drinks and snacks in Price--a middle of nowhere town if there ever was one--and then continued on down 6 to the junction with Interstate 70. The big road took me east for a brief stretch and then I once again headed south, this time on the two lanes of Highway 191 where I got to play leap frog with a number of big white RVs who  couldn't quite make up their minds about how fast they wanted to go. I hate passing big white indecisive RVs. Around 2 PM, as the road signs began to indicate that Moab was quite near, I almost missed the sign I was looking for--the entrance to Arches National Park. I pulled into the drive, paid my entrance fee and then stopped briefly in the welcome center/gift shop for literature and some extra water. The temperature was pushing 90 and I knew I would need the liquid.

The park has a nicely designed road that takes you close to most of the well-known rocks with lots of pull-outs and parking places which it good because everything is pretty photogenic so you're constantly pulling over to shoot something. I stopped at quite a few of them and walked the paths through the sandy desert to get a better perspective. I think the balancing rock was my favorite. Toward the northern end of the drive I had to decide if I was up for hiking up to Delicate Arch or if I was going to take the easy way out. Since I was already feeling a little crispy fried (did I really used to live in Phoenix and go out in sun and heat like this all the time?) I opted for the middle way, choosing the short hike up to the "upper viewing point." It was probably only about a quarter mile but it was decidedly uphill under a 4 o'clock sun and I can't say I thought it gave you a particularly good view of the arch but I'm sure it was good for me. After that, I turned on the air-conditioning in the car up to full blast and headed slowly out of the park with Vaughn & Karina's CD playing Borodin's Nocturne Andante. Not a bad soundtrack for big red rocks.

From the park I drove the short distance south to Moab and proved to myself, once again, that the internet is NOT the best way to choose a hotel. The Days Inn that looked large, clean and centrally located on the web when I booked it turned out the be on the edge of town and rather scruffy with a non-functioning pool. The people at the front desk were moderately rude and there were several guys working on their motorcycles right outside my window. To be fair, the room itself was fine and there were guys working on motorcycles all over town. I was pretty disappointed by that lack of a pool, though. Especially that evening when I walked into town and saw the number of hotels that did have pools.

After a shower and a little blogging I walked down the street looking for dinner. Ron from the store in Seattle had told me to look for the Moab Diner he and Andrea had enjoyed on their trip last year, but I got the streets confused--two streets in the whole town and I got them confused--so I didn't find it until later. The town was bustling with all the outdoor enthusiasts who consider this pretty much Mecca. I saw every imaginable piece of sporting gear--kayaks, ATVs, and the gnarliest mountain bikes I have ever seen--mostly attached to vehicles with very large tires. I don't think I've ever seen so many jeeps assembled in one place. The people crowding the sidewalks came in either heterosexual couples with identically toned muscles and matching tans or gangs of four-wheeling, beer drinking guys, some stag and some sporting ladies with suspiciously large chests on their arms. I felt like I was getting a contact testosterone high just walking down the street. The only people who seemed really out of place, other than myself of course, were the drivers of the multi-colored line of Miatas I had seen buzzing around Arches earlier. They were driving around town, single file, looking like those little cars Shriners drive in parades. I kept expecting them to start doing drill formations. Favorite non-human things I saw in town: a t-shirt for sale that read “keep your hands off my Jeep unless your (sic) naked” and a small office building with its original aluminum art deco sign “Uranium Building.” After my enjoyable evening of people-watching, I got a big scoop of strawberry ice cream from a crowded parlor and walked back up the highway to the hotel.

 

my favorite rock

my favorite picture

Saturday, May 19, Day 6

Almost decent coffee this morning from the little coffee maker in the room (with the help of my personal coffee and filters). They even had ceramic mugs to drink out of.

I got a reasonably early start from Moab in the morning. The first part of the drive led through more red rocks and past the entrance to Canyonlands National Park. I had been considering making a stop at this park, too, but I really didn't have time considering the amount of territory I still had to cover before the car had to be returned in Dallas on Monday. And anyway, sorry guys, but I think I’m rocked out. So now begins the freeform part of the trip. I didn't have any specific plans or reservations, just a vague notion of heading through the Four Corners area and checking out some of the little towns near the Dolores River. It was a good straight road south to Monticello with not much traffic. When I made the turn onto 489 to head into Colorado towards Cortez I thought I was in big trouble. The old number of this highway is 666 and it certainly seemed evil. Terrible, pitted surface and construction forever. I had visions of the car jouncing to pieces. Fortunately that all cleared up after about 15 miles and everything was good to Cortez. Somehow, I had been picturing Cortez further up in the mountains. It was in the foothills, I guess, but definitely more desert than mountain. The country got greener and nicer on the way up to Durango and then even nicer up to Pagosa Springs where I stopped for food and gas.  As I turned south towards New Mexico things got downright beautiful. Green meadows, wildflowers, lightning arcing from purple thunderstorm clouds to the mountains peaks in the distance and Palomino horse farms lining the road. Gorgeous. Those horses are even prettier running around on green grass. Once in New Mexico, I turned East on 64 for Taos on a road through the Carson National Forest. I probably should have paid more attention when I saw the big gate that lets them close the road on a regular basis, but, please, it was 80 degrees. It was a beautiful nearly deserted highway with just enough curves to make it interesting until the road started to climb. And then I realized the road was wet. That thunderstorm I had been admiring from a distance had dropped a lot of rain here. As I drove higher I started seeing light colored patches above me. Could I be high enough to be near snow? Surely not. Yes, indeed. And then the snow was not next to the road, it was on the freakin road. Since I didn’t have a car in Seattle many people don't know this about me, but I am terrified of driving in snow. There was a pickup truck in front of me who didn't even slow down heading through the white stuff and I could see he was leaving good tracks to follow so I took a deep breath and kept going up the mountain. It turned out that the snow was really more slush than snow and as soon as I got to the top I was back to just wet pavement, but I was definitely not a happy camper until the road started to descend. Tight twisting curves with 25 mile an hour speed limits took me back down to tree level and out of the mountains.

Once out of the forest the road straightened out and ran across an area of high desert scrub. The perfectly straight road, the completely uninhabited landscape, and the purple clouds pouring rain onto the purple mountains in front of me combined with the odd sensation of the cruise control on the Rav4 gave me the weird impression that I was being pulled forward without actually going anywhere. I could almost imagine that I was in the Continuum with Q about to make an appearance (just a shout out to any trekkies out there). I finally caught up with the rainstorm and the outskirts of Taos at about the same time and after one look at the dark two lane highway leading out of town and back up into the mountains, I decided that it was the better part of valor to call it a day and look for a hotel even though it was only about five o'clock. Driving through the tight streets of Taos, I finally felt like I was in the southwest with adobe buildings on both sides and the ubiquitous colors of burnt Siena and turquoise on every surface. By the time I found the row of hotels on the south side of town the rain had mostly stopped so I decided to drive back into the center, check out the historic plaza and see if I could find a little Mexican food for dinner. The last time I was in Taos I was about ten years old and I have a memory of the city center as being a rather fancy slice of the old west with the historic La Fonda hotel and lots of shops selling expensive turquoise jewelry and gorgeous two-foot tall Kachina dolls. La Fonda was still there and there were a fair number of shops but they all seemed to be selling horrible made-in-China southwestern kitsch and bad starving artists' paintings. Everything was closed for the evening and I couldn't even find a restaurant for that Mexican food fix. Maybe it's just that it's not high summer season here yet, but everything seemed a little run down. It's an interesting problem with historic places like this. Should they spend all their efforts making sure nothing changes or should they allow some discreet improvements that would allow for some renovation and a more vibrant commercial life? Driving back to the hotel, I stopped and got a burrito to go from a little place I had noticed on the way in and took it back to the hotel to eat in front of the TV. Not horrible, but certainly not the blue corn tortillas I had been hoping for.

I swear it's snow

Sunday, May 20, Day 7

I woke up to beautiful blue skies and perfect cool temperatures this morning. Yesterday’s thunderstorms had completely moved on. I suffered through another cup of bad hotel coffee (the in-room coffee maker sported a horrible new invention where the filter holder was part of the prepackaged filter/coffee combo so I couldn't substitute my own coffee and filter) and then hit the road heading east out of town on 64. The road almost immediately entered another part of the Carson National Forest, twisting its two lanes through trees and up hills, past a roadside stream and through green valleys. It was very lovely in the morning sunlight and I can just imagine how terrible it would have been driving this road in the dark downpour of the previous day’s thunderstorms. The highway continued to wind up into the mountains past Angel Fire, which I understand is a ski resort although it didn't really look like one, until I finally reached the incredibly lovely valley of Eagle Nest. There was a mountain lake on the right, a green valley on the left, snow covered peaks to the Northwest and a cloud–a real cloud–covering the road in front of me. It was awesome and I am soooo happy I got to see it in the sunlight. There was, in fact, an Econolodge up there at the top, so it would have been a nice place to stay if the rain hadn't been a factor. Next trip, maybe. The elevation sign for the town put me at 8,250 ft and I still had to ascend a little further to get out of the valley.

From there the road went into back into those 90 degree turns with 25 mile an hour speed limits coming down from the pass until it entered the incredibly beautiful (and of all the beautiful places I saw on this trip, this definitely takes the prize) Cimarron Canyon State Park. I think you could actually get me to go camping at this park. The trees, the water, the soaring rock walls, the tiny deer grazing by the side of the road (I saw seven deer before 10 AM that morning) the perfect temperature…actually, everything was perfect.

Once out of the park, the road quickly straightened out and descended to flat brown cattle grazing country that went on for many, many miles. I kept thinking that the landscape meant that I had to have crossed into Texas and they just hadn't mentioned it but, no, I was still in New Mexico. Just after Clayton I came to Texline where I stopped for gas and saw the Patriot Cafe, fabulously decked out in American Flags. It looked like a gay 4th of July parade but I doubt that the owner would appreciate hearing that. I stopped in Dalhart about noon to fuel up at a local grocery store and chatted briefly with the check out lady. When she heard I was on my way to Dallas she said "Ooh, that's about twelve hours from here, isn't it?" Hoping devoutly that she was mistaken, I got back on the road and sped south on 87 through Dumas toward Amarillo. I was pleasantly surprised by the state of the road which was a four lane divided highway although it did slow down every time it passed through a town or by one of those numerous grain elevators next to the railroad tracks. I had hoped that I would have time to stop in Amarillo to see the Cadillac Ranch, but as it was, I paid for my pretty morning drive through the mountains by not stopping at all from Dalhart on. 287 took me through cattle country and then cropland through Memphis and Childress. Around Childress it started to get quite pretty with lots of green bushes and fields of yellow wildflowers. Wait. This is north Texas, isn't it? Since when does North Texas have enough water in May to be sporting wildflowers? I found out later that the drought of the last two years had been seriously broken in May with near record levels of rain, thus the pretty flowers. Around six, I passed through Wichita Falls and became convinced that I could actually make Dallas by dark. A little later, I cut east from Decatur on 380 to Denton and then got on the interstate to head into the north Dallas mixmaster mess. I had been driving pretty much non-stop for about eleven hours at this point so trying to figure out turnpikes and interstates that didn’t exist the last time I lived in this town was a little taxing. After passing a lot of exit signs for highways I never heard of, I spotted the exit for Loop 12. Woohoo! I know that one, that's Northwest Highway. The buildings were unfamiliar as I made my way south but soon I was passing Bachman Lake (it's more like a big pond with paddleboats) and Love Field. I made it to Willow Wood about 8:00, just as dark was really setting in.

So here I am. Trip over. Ready to start the new adventure...I think.

 

looking down on the clouds at Eagle Nest

toward Texas

See my list of suggested reading for this trip

The fabric used as background on this page is a Navajo blanket from the Four Corners region