Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Pecans, Hill Country, and BBQ

Texas looked a lot different through the window today. There were hills, gently rolling hills, covered with more mesquite but more oaks too. We saw more road kill possums and a turkey or two, and a LIVE turkey. I think Benjamin Franklin was right, the turkey should have been our national bird. We saw less cattle and more goats and donkeys in pastures alongside the highway. The Allsup convenience stores have shelves of sunflower seeds and jerky in a wide variety of flavors. How about dill pickle sunflower seeds? When you spend hours on the road you start to notice other things that have a pattern or a common thread. I don't know, maybe it was because we enjoyed the series Friday Night Lights from 2006; anyway we started noticing high schools along the way and their mascots. We saw Zephyr Bulldogs, Gorillas, Foxes and Vixens, and Cardinals. Oh, and if you are an antique collector, there are plenty of places beckoning you to stop along Hwy. 183S in Texas.

We didn't stop for antiques but we did stop for pecans in Goldthwaite, TX.

I indulged my sweet tooth and had a good conversation with the owner of the store who, by coincidence, has lived in the tri-cities area of WA. I asked about all the fields of goats we had seen in the hill country. No, they are not raised for milk, but for meat. I said that I knew a few hispanic restaurants that served goat in Seattle but most goat meat was in halal markets for Muslims and I did not see any Muslims in Texas, that is for sure. She said that is exactly the market for the Texas goats. The animals are slaughtered to Muslim religious expectations and then the carcasses are frozen and shipped to other parts of the country. 

In Brownwood my hankering for BBQ was satisfied! I would give Underwood's a 3 out of 5 stars (it is a buffet, after all). I had the steak and then ladled on some extra barbecue sauce. The beans weren't as spicy as I like. The peach cobbler though; that was a 5 star desert! The crowd and the ambiance were south of 65 for the most part. It kind of reminded me of Huckleberry Square in Burien.
Then, I barely blinked and we were in Austin. We chose a Days Inn that is definitely on the 'wrong side of the tracks' umm, 'highway 35'. It has zilch walkability to downtown. I mean it can be done; but it is so unpleasant to walk alongside 75mph highway traffic. But the room is clean and the beds are comfortable and we have good AC, a flat screen TV and wireless internet. All will be fine. 

While it is the 'hike from hell' to walk to downtown Austin, we did it and I (along with hundreds of other people) stayed long enough to watch the sunset and the bats emerge from under the Congress Bridge. 

Then on the walk back I saw the romantic and beautiful Driskill Hotel and I just had to take a couple pictures. 

Although the walk back to the 'other side of the highway' was not pleasant it was good medicine for all the time spent driving and passaging across the Lone Star State.

Monday, March 30, 2015

In Abilene, Sweet Abilene

You would think after a nine hour road trip from Santa Fe, NM to Abilene, TX. I would have have not much to say since the scenery looks pretty much like what I have in these 4 pictures. The road could easily be straight as an arrow, I think they add curves just to keep the driver awake. As I have mentioned before, highway driving is fast out west; if the limit says 55, it's 70 and if it says 75, you better be going 80. In Los Angeles they go fast once they have room to move because so much time is spent in traffic congestion. In Texas they go fast to cover the hundreds of miles between places. We stopped for gas, food, or to stretch our legs three times and once we had to turn around and go back to make the only highway change we needed all day. It was 'Eleanor's fault', the car's GPS which is mostly a help (especially within cities) but can give some very screwy directions too. It was only a 20 minute addition to our day, which is certainly not severe. We double checked every step of the way with a road atlas after that. So what did we see? 
-flat, flat plains
-red plowed earth
-wisps of cotton in the fields from last season's harvest
-rows of irrigation
-endless numbers of cattle in feed lots
-acres of windmills
-mesquite and short pine trees
-more tumbleweeds
-less dust than New Mexico
-real cowboys at McDonalds (hat, belt and bowed legs)
-countless (I DO mean countless) Cudd Energy trucks as we got closer to Abilene which means fracking has been involved, which makes me nervous
-one dead possum on the road
-tiny deep purple and yellow flowers growing low to the ground in ditches along the highway
-massive clumps of prickly pear cactus

So here we are, smack dab in the middle of Texas, over 3000 miles and two time zones away from home and all is good.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sunshine from Start to Finish

Strange how there can be so many clouds in the sky and yet sunny here in Santa Fe from sunrise to sunset. After breakfast at El Rey Inn I went to mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St Francis of Assisi. What a beautiful setting for a Palm Sunday mass!

 St. Kateri Tekawitha

 St. Francis of Assisi 

While I was at mass Chris walked every street in historic downtown Santa Fe. He even indulged me and we walked a little more when I was done with church. We had been to Santa Fe in 1981 and it has changed considerably. Every single shop is filled with Native American arts and crafts or it is a gallery, museum or restaurant. There is a lot to look at, some of the artistry is very beautiful. Chris is so lucky that I do not collect silver and turquoise jewelry! 

Burro Alley

The bartender at the Thunderbird Restaurant is an artist. Just look at this 'salad in a glass'! 

That is where we met Mary, Chris' friend from high school, for lunch and we talked and talked and talked. I had to choose this photo; I just loved the look on the face of the unknown little girl sipping the soda and hugging the popcorn, to the right of Mary and Chris.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Enchanted to be Here

I think I'll start this with some free association:
Pink rocks, mesas, pink highways, fast trucks, so many trucks, gas in Gallup $2.17, loud trains, long trains, trading posts here, trading posts there, trading posts everywhere, tumble weeds and dust devils, alligator skin and dried out eyes. Crossed the continental divide and state lines. Land of Enchantment here we are!

Couldn't help but stop to see one more gem by architect Mary Colter, this one in Winslow, AZ (and yes, the lyrics "Standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona" have been my ear worm all day long!
The photos below are of La Posada Hotel.

It is an elegant hotel filled with historic pieces, Native American arts and crafts, and just perfectly lovely in every detail.

The hotel is now owned by Alfred Affeldt and his wife Tina Mion, a world renowned artist. I had not heard of her before today. Her work is very arresting. She has a studio and gallery space at La Posada. You can see Tina Mion's work here.

Although this is not it, La Posada is in possession of the world's largest Navajo rug. The least expensive Navajo weaving that I saw was a table runner for $95. and it was only about 4 feet long. I can't imagine what the one on this wall costs! I don't think I will be buying any on this trip!

And for a totally Route 66 experience, how about the Wigwam Motel in Hobrook, AZ?

Tonight we are in this 1930's motel in Santa Fe, NM, El Rey Inn. It's pretty cozy, and full of charm. We made it here in time to watch the second half of the basketball game; the Badgers are heading to the final four!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Grander than Grand

We heard people rolling around, taking showers and heading out of their rooms as early as 2:30 this morning. We were eager, but not THAT ambitious! We hit the road for the Grand Canyon at about 8:30. 

Then what a nice surprise! Age 62 qualifies you for a $10. Senior Pass that gets you into any National Park in the country.  (Thank goodness I married an older man!)

We entered via the east entrance of the park and our first stop was to this Historic Watchtower which was designed by architect Mary Colter in 1930. Imagine that, 1930, and a woman architect designed this! How come we never heard about women architects when I was in school? 

Photo taken of us on the Bright Angel Trail. We did not do the entire trail down, we saved energy to walk more of the rim trail. 

Below you see the Colorado River from Hopi Point. 

It takes 40 years for a tree to grow one foot at this altitude.

Here I am, all zen like at Powell Point. I have more photos in a Flickr Album.

We saw deer hiding in the shade as we drove through the park. By far the most exciting wildlife sighting was 2 condors at at the top of a tree. A forest service truck was stopped and taking note of them too. Did you know that condors are the only animal brought back from extinction and now all condors are tagged and have names. Every condor alive is known by a name and number. Tomorrow will probably be our longest day of driving. Our goal is to make it to Santa Fe, N.M. 6 hours away, not including breaks!