We left Santa Fe on Monday, arriving in Austin Wednesday afternoon, a trip of 668 miles in three days. We stopped at Amarillo, lunched in Lubbock, stopped at Abilene (which I now know how to spell, since I had to look up lodgings online), then on to Austin, where will stay for a bit.
I was actually glad to get out of Santa Fe. There is a quiet desperation about the place, because of the disparity in income. Our host told us that about 1/3 of the residents are wealthy, a lot of whom are only there part of the year. Then 1/3 are either Latino or Indian, with the Latinos holding most of the government jobs. Santa Fe has been a capitol of that area since the 1600s, so that makes sense. Then the last 1/3 are anglos who are from there or moved there, attracted by the beauty of the desert and artistic and spiritual flare of the town. Sadly, there is almost no middle class. Everyone we met, including our host had three or three jobs and were struggling to make ends meet, balancing schedules between jobs and loved ones. It’s a hard way to live. Our host said Santa Fe is know locally as “the land of entrapment” (a play on the state motto “Land of Enchantment”) because once you are there, you can’t earn enough money to leave. I think that’s partially because of its geographic isolation. Albuquerque is no better economically, and the next large city is Denver, which is over 400 miles to the north.
So we headed east on Route 66 (now I-40) and pulled into Amarillo, where we hit the Rt. 66 mother-load: The Big Texas Steakhouse and Motel, complete with dragon in cowboy boots (WTF?) and huge steer (makes more sense). We opted out of the 72-oz free steak challenge (you pay in advance and have to eat not only the steak, but salad, 3 fried shrimp and baked potato all in under 1 hour while on a platform where everyone can watch). The steak sandwiches were yummy and less stressful.
There was a harley dud checking into the hotel just after us and we jokingly asked if he was going to take the challenge and it turns out he already had! The BF, in his best journalist manner asked how he felt AFTER he won. “Let’s just say I was glad they had a bucket next to the table,” he said. I saw him later and asked if he was going for a repeat. He smiled and said not tonight. Sadly, no one took the challenge while we were there.
The all time winner? A “petite housewife” who ate the entire meal in less than 10 minutes. Then came back the next year and ate TWO meals in less than 1/2 hour. Our waiter in the morning said she was a long distance runner, which he thought had something to do with her astonishing ability to eat 144 oz (that’s NINE POUNDS) of steak. Plus fixin’s . Oh myyyyy.
After a substantial breakfast (fresh omelets at the breakfast buffet), we hit the road, left Route 66 behind and headed south. A few hours later pulled into Lubbock, where we pulled off the highway to find the Buddy Holly Museum, complete with huge glasses in the courtyard. It was a small, but extremely well done museum, showing the timeline of the emergence of Rock & Roll and Buddy’s role in the emergence of the new form of music. I learned a lot to my surprise. I didn’t realize Buddy was a contemporary of Elvis — I thought he came later. I knew he died young, but didn’t realized he was just 22. I knew he played a pivotal role in rock & roll, but watching the movie, seeing Paul McCartney talk about how he influenced he and John Lennon as teenagers, well. After enlightenment, we drove around the charming downtown area (brick buildings, brick streets), and Yelp directed us to a delightful restaurant with amazing food and wifi, so the BF could get some work done. Turns out the chef/owner was from CA, which explained why the food was delicate but robust with flavor. After lunch, feeling restless, Yelp found a bowling alley and the BF bowled for exercise before we hit the road again.
All of a sudden, it seemed, we were out of the desert and into rolling hills. In the rain. We drove the 4 hours to Abilene, where AirBnB failed us and we used a mobile app to find a hotel room at a reduced rate (I looked it up later, and we got it 1/2 off!).
Along the way, there were windmills. Texas is making good use of the tax credits for windmills, so we saw a lot of them. The rain made them seem otherworldly, fading off into the distance. The rain faded in and out; the clouds came down, then rose, giving us a long view of the scenery. We passed abandoned shacks surrounded by windmills, oil rigs surrounded by windmills, and rolling hills covered with vegetation (Toto, we’re not in the desert anymore!). There was an eerie beauty to them, as we drove along, hoping to get to Abilene before darkness fell.
Next up: Lessons from One Month on the Road
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