Actually his name was Tono and he was the alpha male of the paddock, an obvious choice for me to ride I guess! We went horseback riding (apparently horse riding isn’t a good enough description for Americans!) in Amarillo, Texas on a working ranch near the Palo Duro Canyon, the second biggest canyon in the US after you know who! It was one of our stop offs during our drive from Oklahoma to Arizona over the last few days crossing over 700 miles of southwestern desert. We crossed over into Texas through a bit of a gale although we were soon told that wasn’t unusual for the pan handle, at least the sun was shining again- a trend that we enjoyed up to today and it looks like it will be that for the foreseeable future!
We were told that everything was bigger in Texas and we had to believe that as we passed a 58 meter high crucifix before Reaching Amarillo. Apparently the biggest in the Western Hemisphere, unnecessary if you ask me, also a bit surprised that the Texans let someone else go bigger than them! When we arrived in Amarillo we needed to sort out lodgings for the evening, we decided to give Airbnb another go after the let down in Oklahoma, we found a nice ranch to stay in just south of the city. Needing to eat we stayed in Amarillo for food before heading to our beds, so we made a b-line for a well recommended steak house offering free 72 oz steaks for those that could finish one in under an hour. The catch was if you didn’t finish it you had to pay $72 dollars for your meal. I did fancy giving it a go but it would have been almost a days budget on one meal when I inevitably would fail, maybe another day! Instead we settled for the 33 oz steak to share between the 2 of us, it was delicious although I’m pretty certain I couldn’t have eaten 2.2 of them on my own so clearly I was right not to be tempted by the challenge! Once dinner was finished we followed google maps to our Airbnb, or at least where google thought it was… by this time it had gone dark so we couldn’t see anything out in the sticks that had no street lights! With the dreaded “you have reached you destination” message given in seemingly the middle of nowhere we headed up the next drive we found and knocked on the door of what we thought was our Airbnb. It wasn’t. Luckily (perhaps very luckily if American horror films are to be believed) the house we did knock at had a pair of lovely inhabitants who weren’t too angry that we had opened up their gate, driven half a mile down their private drive and parked infront of their house at 8.30 on a Monday evening and were perhaps more startled to have an British couple knocking on their door than we were to find it was the wrong house! After looking at the address we had they directed us just a bit further down the road to where we should be and eventually we got their. Our Airbnb host saw the funny side as she showed us to our room for a comfy night sleep!
The next day we planned to spend the day in Amarillo before a late afternoon drive across the boarder to Tucumcari, New Mexico. Our first stop was the Cadillac Ranch, a bizarre piece of art which sees a 10 Cadillacs sticking up from the ground with their noses buried in it. Sounds daft but it actually works quite well once you’re their looking at it. You are allowed to touch, climb and even graffiti the cars and so understandably its quite popular. It was the first “attraction” on 66 that we had visited that actually had more than a couple of other visitors. We had bought a can of spray paint on our way so we could leave our mark and we had a lot of fun walking up and down tagging the various cars. Some of the tags were covered over by other people before we’d even left so I’m sure there is no chance that there is any visible trace left of us now, 3 days later. At least we’re in the layers of paint somewhere! From the Cadillac Ranch we headed for the Los Cedric Ranch, home of Cowgirls and Cowboys of the West for our horse riding. I did think I was setting myself up for a fall (perhaps literally) seeing as Suzanne was probably riding horses before the stabilisers were off my bike (I was a late bloomer). I was actually quite relaxed until I was on the biggest horse of the whole group and the wranglers were talking me through Tono’s warning signs that he wasn’t happy: if his ears prick back hang on for dear life, that’s what I was hearing anyway. Suzanne’s answer was “just kick him” *gulp*. Fortunately I’d obviously make a good cowboy and me and Tono got on like a house on fire (as long as I mostly let him do what he wanted to do, which was never turn right apparently) and I ended the ride by getting told off (by Suzanne) for trotting him back to the stable when we were supposed to be walking, alpha males don’t play by the rules. Anyway, with another vehicle added to our count (a horse is a vehicle right!?) we got back in the car and headed west to the town of Tucumcari.
Just before leaving Texas we reached Route 66’s apparent geological midpoint at the town of Adrian with 1139 miles to both Chicago and LA. We stopped for the obligatory photo but that was about all as the midpoint cafe and souvenir shop were still closed for the off season. Almost immediately after crossing the boarder the landscape seemed to become punctuated by beautiful rock formations that continued all the way across the state and into Arizona, we’ve been gawping at them ever since. With such a vast Barron landscape we were able to stop almost anywhere on the road as we crossed the state and take snaps of nothing but desert and mountains except for the road and railways slivering through. Trains are few and far between along the single tracks, so when we were lucky enough to be passed by one while we had pulled over to admire the scenery we were quite excited. We even got a blast of the horn and a wave from the driver. Train drivers have pretty cool jobs, don’t they! As we continued up the New Mexico mountains we arrived in the picturesque Santa Fe, where all the buildings look like centuries old Native American buildings, made from smooth clay rather than bricks. The town has obviously worked hard to keep all structures to this style with clearly much more modern developments resembling older sections and it had worked very well keeping the character of the city authentic despite its size. The city is also surrounded by hills with an abundance of trails and we took advantage the next day with an incredible hour run looking down on the city and surrounding desert. A good way to expend all the energy build up from sitting in the car day after day!
We only had a short 60 mile drive planned for rest of the day down to the next big city of Albuquerque, so we decided to head off route a little to a National Park Service area known as tent rocks, so called as the mountainous formations resemble Tee Pee’s. We had to clamber up some challenging terrain and through some narrow caves but the view from the top was definitely worth it, even in the warm afternoon sun. As we continue over the next few days we will be visiting some breathtaking (so I’m told) natural scenery and this certainly wetted the appetite. Given how spectacular this area was but is seemingly upstaged by other areas in this part of the world it did make me think what we have in store! After heading back down the path, completing a 3 mile hike in just over an hour, we were back in our car and back on the mother road and headed for Albuquerque to see another Brit abroad.
As with previously, we benifited from meeting a friend on our travels and we got a free ride on Albuquerque’s Tram (actually a cable car, but I’ve given up arguing with the American language) that takes you to one of the peaks above the city. Alex had kindly managed to sort them out from his work at the University of New Mexico and so we got to watch the sunset from the mountain tops, before heading for a good catch up over some “proper” New Mexican food. We realised we might have been slightly underdressed when we boarded the cable car/tram in our summer clothes with others heading up in winter coats and when we reached the snow covered peak it was clear we weren’t going to be staying up there too long! But we bravely watched the sun set outside before taking refuge in the visitors centre until the tram/cable car was ready to head down. #BritsAbroad!
So now in Arizona, we had another fantastic drive across the desert and state line today passing herds of wild horses while we chased a number of trains through a narrow valley that seemed to have more rail traffic than earlier parts of our drive. We are staying in the tiny town of Chambers, not even sure you can really call it a town, I’m sure it once was but the interstate seems to have killed it off leaving just a motel and petrol station. We completed our 2000th mile just as we crossed over the continental devide, that determines weather water drains into the Atlantic or the Pacific. I guess that means its all down hill to California!