Part 2 – Land of Billboards
The grasslands gave way to bluffs and mesas. I entered the Land of Enchantment. Sandstone bluffs reddish in color. There was a red rock mesa behind a tourist trap specializing in the selling of tchotchkes. Somehow, the place wasn’t as enchanting as it had been when I’d first driven through it last century. Back then I didn’t have to wear a seatbelt. I was also strongly encouraged to put my headlights on. I didn’t. I saw no speed limit sign either so just kept it at 80 or so operating under the assumption that if Arizona was 75 then its neighboring state should be, too. There were a few “work corridors” which blocked off lanes and slowed me down. And, the time of day was wrong for viewing the remembered dramatic red mesas. I passed them around noon. The first time I passed them it was around 4 in the afternoon and the setting sun had made them a breathtaking scenic wonder of reds, oranges and russets with black shadows and the faded green sagebrush colors. The splendid sight in my memory must have been enhanced over time and distance. These days there were loads and loads of billboards and casinos were being advertised aplenty.
For once I didn’t hit a major city at rush hour and was able to drive through the downtown Albuquerque area at a sedate 55 mph since I didn’t want to collect a speeding ticket. There had been remodeling on the roads and the results were large urns in the center divider and most underpasses sported native art rather than graffiti.
As I was indoors I had no idea what the outside temperature was but since there was no snow, no rain, only pleasant sunshine under spacious blue skies, I assumed it was well above freezing.
Before dark I drove into Texas. It was flat and prairie like. There were stricter speed limit laws as nighttime driving was 65 mph and during the daylight hours the top speed was 70. Still, it was a lot better than what many people went through back in the 80s when Sammy Hagar rightfully sang, “I can’t drive 55.” He sang it from the heart and I could sing the same tune though with absolutely no musicality. But I had those feelings of not being able to go so slow.
Upon crossing the New Mexico/Texas border I saw an informative sign: Central Time Zone. Thanks, Texas! That meant that if I wanted to watch “American Idol” I had to stop before 7 o’clock.
Nine miles into the second largest state, I was surprised to see a couple of small wild fires and fortunately they were being tended to by men who’d pulled over to the side of I-40 in their pickup trucks.
Before it was dark I paid close attention to those helpful blue information signs that advertised what restaurants and motels were forthcoming. Amarillo was packed with that kind of knowledge and just before sundown I pulled into the not too full parking lot of some pseudo castle. Found out the $38 included tax and was better than the previous night’s rate. It was disconcerting to have to fork over my driver’s license to have it copied, but I was too lazy to leave and find another motel. The nonsmoking downstairs room included two double beds with pretty pastel floral bedspreads and yet another 21” or so TV. This TV had basic cable that seemed to include a movie channel or two, and a nice selection of channels. But I was only interested in Fox. I went outside into the cool but not cold dusk, in search of a KFC joint. All I saw was a used car lot. I decided it might be a better idea to get in the Mustang and locate a nearby place. Drove through some low rent areas, made a U-turn, and found a Wendy’s. Made a decision to keep “local” and got a Southwest taco salad as it was my last night in the great Southwest.
Back in room #123 and I was dining on a salad with a sour cream topping sans chili as I didn’t realize it was still in the bag. Found it before it got cold and dumped some of it on the iceberg lettuce and consumed the rest in its cup. Good stuff on a getting chilly February night in northern Texas.
Unlike the previous night where I just looked tiredly at the computer bag, I got ambitious and tried to log onto the ‘net. Nothing. Called the front desk to get the code. That didn’t help. Oh well, maybe tomorrow when I’d be closer to my destination.
Took a shower using motel provided a 2 for 1 “conditioning” shampoo made in India [I read labels and used to make my own shampoo] and this stuff smelled like fake orange blossoms mixed with burnt bacon. Went to bed around 9 pm. I saw white lines and black asphalt and felt like I was still in my car when I closed my eyes.