Sunday, October 7, 2012

Good Morning Amarillo, Texas

It feels like the first leg of our journey is done. We are safely in Texas, parked at the Walmart in Amarillo. Our adventure landed us here early Friday afternoon, after a short trip from Pampa, TX.

When we were in Grand Island, NE we heard the weather was going to turn bad around Thursday, so we headed south Wednesday morning. That night we stayed in Great Bend, KS. The wind had picked up during the day and our thoughts were on Dorothy and her little dog Toto. Ward asked me if Tornado season was over. I wasn't up on that sort of thing, but thought it would likely run about the same as Hurricanes, and October was no longer a threat in that area, so I thought we were fairly safe. Besides, the sky was clear. Tornados are also called funnel clouds, and there were no clouds to funnel. So again, we must be safe. We also asked the fellow working at a gas station we stopped at, and he said we were safe. He said Tornados are generally a Spring event.

I am glad we got information on Tornados from a local before we stopped at Great Bend, KS. That night the winds picked up. The motorhome was rocking and the wind was howling as temperatures dropped. Neither Ward nor I slept much that night from the rocking of the RV, the cold temperatures and the howling of the wind.

Driving down the smaller highways, you get a better feel for the areas. In Kansas a new crop appeared in the fields. I was used to corn, grains, and beans, but this was something different. The leaves looked like corn, but it was too short. And growing out of the top was a tall cone shaped flower that turned a deep red when ripe. Ward thought it might be Okra, and I had no clue at all. I tried to get a photo of the crop, but had some trouble. And you could not pull over on the highways we were on. Most of them had less than any shoulder at all and had a drop right after that painted white line. So, I stuck my camera out the window and tried to get a clear shot as we drove past. I later googled cash crops for Kansas and found it was a Milo Plant, also known as grain sorghum. Hmm, who knew!

The next morning we headed south again, changing our course so the wind was at our backs. That meant we would not stop in Dodge City, but go straight down to Buffalo, OK then angle west to Amarillo.

We stopped in Greensburg, KS to check out the world's largest hand dug well. I thought it would be a big hole in the ground, and I am all about seeing the 'cheese' of America, especially if it is free. We followed the signs and ended up going into a round building with tourist information. The lady began telling us about the well and how we could walk down inside it or go up higher and see a view of the town. She said there was 10 feet of water in the bottom. Then she mentioned the town had been hit by a Tornado in 2009, wiping out the entire town. 12 people died in the Tornado, 9 locals and 3 who were passing through. I said that would explain why all the buildings looked brand new. The entire Main Street was new. It looked like the town was just erected. After a nice chat, we started walking toward the well and were abruptly stopped. There was a fee to see it. Being the cheap tourists that we are, the world's largest hand dug well could go without our donation, and we were happy with the conversation and tourist info we got there.

While heading South in Kansas along Highway 183 I noticed the farmers were using stone pillars as fence posts. Some fields used a chiselled stone pillar for each post while others alternated between more modern metal posts and the stone pillars.

Red dirt does something to me. I love it. I remember driving through New Mexico in 2009 on our way to get married in Las Vegas. I just loved that red dirt. Well, Kansas has some too. It was near the border of Oklahoma, but it was there. Oklahomo had that red dirt as well, around the town of Buffalo. And we found it in Texas as well.

Our trek through Oklahoma was a short 85 miles. It could have been shorter if we cut through the panhandle, which is only 35 miles from top to bottom. We missed that thin panhandle by 7 miles to the east.

About an hour into Texas we came across the town of Canadian. Well, we had to stop and get a photo of the sign welcoming people to town. Ward said he wanted to stay in Canadian for the night. It was starting to get later in the afternoon, and would have been a perfect time to locate a place to stop and begin thinking about supper. But after driving down the main drag, the place did not look all that inviting. We ended up leaving town, looking for the next best place to stop. We had supper in a park in the town of Miami, Tx, then headed for Pampa, where there was a Walmart. Sometimes you just feel safer in the well lit lot of a Walmart.

The next morning we had breakfast, and headed out fairly early (before noon). It was early for us. After about an hour of driving we were at Amarillo. The city of Amarillo is officially our biggest city of the trip. It has a population of just over 200,000. The demographics are about 60% white, 30% hispanic, 6% black.

I expected Texas to have a high hispanic population and was not at all surprised with Amarillo having a 30% hispanic population. The state borders Mexico. I have seen high hispanic populations in New Mexico and Arizona in the past as well. But what really surprised me on this trip was the heavy hispanic populations appearing as far north as Nebraska. We noticed it as we drove through towns as well as seeing the different people on the streets and in the stores. The food aisles in grocery stores were stocking a large selection of flour and corn tortillas, canned goods, and hispanic brands. The meat departments had a more varied selection with beef tripe (stomach), pigs feet, and carne piccado for use in making chili. The signage was also bilingual (english/spanish).

After stopping at the Walmart in Amarillo, we caught the news. Much to our dismay we found the cold weather had followed us. The weather man showed how a low was coming in and would bring low temperatures for Saturday and Sunday. It was expected to drop to freezing, with a possibility of some snow in Kansas that could reach Texas. We got the cold temperatures, but no snow. Saturday gave us a high in the mid 40s and today was in the mid 50s. It still beats snow though. And on the bright side, Monday is looking better. They expect warm temperatures for at least 3-4 days. The bike will be coming off the rack, and we will be doing some sightseeing in and around the area.

That's it for now.

Happy Thanksgiving Canada and Winnipeg.

Another photo album for my amusement:

An old farmstead in Kansas
Oklahoma State Line
First rest stop inside Oklahoma
Rest Area in Oklahoma
Countryside in Oklahoma
Texas State Line
Texas Scrub Brush
Rolling Hills in Northern Texas
Texas Savannah
Highway Off-Ramp just outside Amarillo

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