Sunday, October 5, 2008

October 5 2008 - Gallup, New Mexico

Last night we spent in Amarillo, Texas, after a long drive across the rest of Oklahoma, and the northern panhandle of Texas. We opted for the first KOA Campground of the trip, and were rewarded with hot showers, laundry facilities, wi-fi connection, and a pizza delivered right to our camper. Talk about “glamping” (glamor camping). A heavy rain storm passed over head for several hours, shaking us on the suspension all night and whistling the skylight gaskets. In the morning, the rain had reduced to a sprinkling and we were rewarded with a view of a coyote chasing after rodents in the tall grass adjacent to our parking spot.

Thinking back to Oklahoma (which occupied me for most of yesterday) my biggest impression and distinction from Arkansas, was that the landscape has now flattened out and opened. The trees, where there are any are short and scraggly, and well beaten down by the incessant wind across these southern plains. The soil is now a deep red where it is exposed, rather than the dark brown of the eastern states.

Night before last, camped on the shores of Brushy State Park(pictures at end of yesterday's post), in Oklahoma just north of Sallisaw, we walked at dusk and were amused by the fire flys in the cut grass around our site. They were just the prelude to an amazing night of weather pyrotechnics as a massive thunder and lightening storm tracked just a few miles south of us. I determined this by counting the seconds between the amazing sky flashes and the almost deafening crashes of the thunderclaps. Even though we had the shades pulled tight, the light from the crackling lightening was bright enough to shine through the cracks at the edges of the windows and illuminate the inside of the camper. At first, we gave up all hopes for sleep and lay awake looking at the ceiling, bracing knees against the shaking canopy and letting out ooohs and ahhs after each spectacular sky borne crescendo. Eventually, we covered our heads with a pillow and must have fallen asleep.

The winds today on the eastern plains of New Mexico have picked up and buffet us as we roar down the road. We’ve topped off fuel and water tanks to compress the springs so they are stiffer against the push of the sideswiping gusts. We are traveling west on route 40, the replacement highway for historic route 66. In places we travel right alongside the old roadway, and in other places we can see where the quaint 2 lane ribbon it has been completely obliterated by the runway like expanse of the new thoroughfare. Here the towns are spread far apart and most travelers on the road are in it for the long haul. Old abandoned intersections can be seen just off the roadway, with stark and isolated structures reflecting the classic lines of an enamel tilled filling station and old style rusting pumps out front. Rusted signs swing off kilter in the wind, pot marked with bullet holes from some adolescent’s boredom. The brush has pushed up through the cracks in the pavement softening the demarcation between dry prairie and roadway. Dried, caked and cracking mud holes fill the depressions with bunch grass in front of the abandoned stations where countless traveler’s of years past have rolled in, checked oil, washed windshields and filled their tanks.

Whosh, another tandem UPS truck rolls by, followed in just a few feet by some rumbling behemoth carrying some obscure piece of mechanical equipment barely narrow enough to conform to width restrictions. License plates on the trucks reflect a wide diversity of sources for the loads heading west. The rain, which we had left behind in Texas has caught up with us so we drive in an incessant bombardment of sound from rain, windshield wipers, and wind whistling in the door gaskets. We are absorbed with the vast landscape and the very physical way in which we are pushing our way through it. The roadway has sections of 10-15 mile straight always, rolling slightly over the chaparral with low bridges over the sharp walled washes that tell of sudden, but inconsistent precipitation. Occasionally, a broken sage brush tumbles by pushed by a gust of wind.

(Click on any picture to enlarge it)

The view down Route 66 - west of Albuquerque, NM

About as much of the continental divide as we saw - all water from here drains to the Pacific!!

Mesa Land in New Mexico



Outside Gallup, NM





What's this she asks?



On to the Grand Canyon tomorrow...

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