Friday, November 07, 2008

Las Vegas to Amarillo: 12.5 Hours

I took a trip to Texas a few weeks ago. Two days of driving eastbound on I40 takes you directly into Amarillo, Texas, but I’m a scenic route kind of gal, so that 12.5 hours was only the tip of the driving iceberg for me.

This Vegas Girl may be a Vegas native, but both my parents were Texans by birth. My dad avoided admitting he was from Texas; my mother was a proud Texan all her life. I remembered Texas as our eternal summer vacation destination, a place full of farmland, grasshoppers, armadillos, aunt and uncles, and snakes. When I added up the time it had been since my last road trip to Texas, I was shocked to find it had been 18 years. The most notable change since then has to be the wind farms, which I noticed throughout New Mexico and Texas. Giant wind turbines sit in rows far out on the flat plains and atop mesas. They’re fascinating and out-of-place, and they’re almost pretty.

During this road trip, we visited the Petrified Forest, Palo Duro Canyon, and Montezuma’s Castle. We spent time with several friends and family members in Lefors, Lubbock, and Lamesa, with a stop in Amarillo. I finally got a chance to wander around the countryside with a camera. (On those long-ago childhood trips to Texas, Dad did not permit stops. For anything.)

My first stop was in Lefors, just north of Pampa. Over the next week, I drove south about 250 miles, with a stop in Lubbock, to Lamesa, the town closest to the farm my mother grew up on; then I returned to Lefors before making the trip home. The country along the farm roads is beautiful; fields of crops and grassland stretch to the horizon with occasional bursts of rock outcroppings. Every 30 miles or so, I ran into a village, many of them with populations well under 1000. It feels lightly inhabited, wide-open and unrushed, and a huge relief from the crush of people in Las Vegas. Lubbock, at 212,000 people, is close to the same size as Las Vegas was when I graduated from high school.

After a week and half, I had to come home. My husband was out of frozen food and my son was homesick. My mom-in-law, Bonnie, and I were ready to keep on going, but we knuckled under to the pleadings of our two males. Besides, we’re already talking about driving back in spring. Our journey was both brief and fun, and many green dots--they mark the scenic routes--are left to explore. As a child in the backseat of the station wagon, Texas felt as far away as the moon. This time, it felt like a quick trip. Isn’t it strange how age changes our perception—of everything?

Photo information: Above, a water crossing at Palo Duro Canyon, which is the second largest canyon in the United States. Below: the Petrified Forest; the view into Palo Duro; on a trail at Palo Duro; FM669 southbound (click to enlarge--notice the wind turbines in the background); Montezuma's Castle in Arizona, just outside the Cottonwood/Sedona area; and the area at the base of Montezuma's Castle. The sycamores are changing colors for the fall. All photos are mine, of course.

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