Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wind Storms and Dust Bowls

We found ourselves driving up to Lubbock again. What the heck, I know. But I found another acre of land for sale and am a sucker for punishment. The land was situated just outside Bledsoe, TX about a mile from the New Mexico border. The ad seemed promising, stating a deed was actually possible and there was a road to the property. I sent an email to the fellow and got GPS coordinates. Ok, the coordinates showed the property to be west of town and the description said south. But why quibble over details.

Off we went north from Odessa. The first night we stayed in Seminole. A local was kind enough to tell us about the city park in town. He said RVs could stay for free for up to three days. So off we went in search of the park. When we got there we found another camper with a fifth wheel. They have been homeless wanderers for five years now, originally from Amarillo. We talked about places we have been and things we have seen. Then the topic got on to the water, as we were still a little under the weather. The woman said they had both been sick recently as well and it was a bug going around. That was a relief to us because we were beginning to doubt every bottle of water we bought. They told us the windmill water stations used the same reverse osmosis as the Walmart Culligan machines. That was also good to know.

We ended up staying an extra day in Seminole, then headed north again. This time I was on the bike and Ward was driving the RV. No reason he gets all the fun, I say. We stopped overnight in Brownfield then drove into Lubbock the next day. It was a bit windy when we left, but the wind was at our backs so I didn't think it would be too bad. About half way to Lubbock I pulled over at a rest area for a bit. I was dodging tumble weeds on the highway, and had driven through a few large dust clouds. Goggles would have been a good idea that day, but we left them in Winnipeg. My big concern was running into one of the bigger tumbleweeds that were darting out in front of me on the highway. I ended up running over a smaller one, which broke apart under the bike.

Ward had been listening to the radio and told me there was a wind advisory out. No kidding! He said the wind was gusting up to 35 MPH or better. At least it was at my back. When I got to Lubbock I had to turn onto the loop (like our perimeter hwy). I had the wind blasting me from the side. All I can say is 'ouch'. I ended up getting a bit lost and driving around for a while before finding the Sams parking lot. In the open areas it was like being in a sand blaster. Again, ouch.
The next day the parking lot was filled with debris and huge tumbleweeds everywhere.

After the wind came cold temperatures for a few days so we hunkered down in the RV and waited out the weather until it would be warm enough to take a day trip to Bledsoe on the bike. The weather was only going as high as 65 degrees in the afternoon with a wind coming from the cold front in the Central States, so Ward put on his snowmobile suit and I got my winter jacket out. You know, the nice black leather one (thanks Jo). We drove past another heavily populated oil field around Levelland, and on to Bledsoe. The land was uncultivated and had a fence around it. The soil was red and sandy. Everything was fine except, again, there were no roads and no access onto the land from the county road.
We stopped in at the county court house in Morton and asked about the land. They did not have any record of the person selling the land and no record of that section being subdivided. Doesn't it just figure. This fellow took it one step further and didn't even file a plat map with the county. The county clerk said a lot of people are purchasing these lots sight unseen and driving out to find no road access. She said the land is not suitable for parking an RV on it. The RV would just sink. We got to talking about the other lots we had looked at and how we are just looking for an inexpensive piece of land to park the RV. So, she got out a book and pulled up some information on lots the county was selling. We were given sheets on a few lots right in the town of Morton and were told we could stop by City Hall to see if they allowed RVs on the lots. We checked the lots. One had some old buildings on it and the other was empty, with just overgrown weeds. They were both under $1000. That was an interesting idea to consider and we drove back to Lubbock with new ideas in our heads. Maybe we will find a town we like and then hit City Hall and the County Clerk to see if there are vacant lots that the county is selling off for cheap. Hmm.

We stayed in Lubbock to watch a PBS show that aired Nov 18-19, called The Dust Bowl. It showed how people settled in Northern Texas, the Oklahoma Panhandle and Kansas back in the 1920s. They broke the soil and began farming the land. The show explained how their farming techniques made it easy for the winds to blow the soil and may have contributed to the drought and horrible dust storms of the 1930s. We sat there watching the show, remembering the small and insignificant wind storm we were just in. But we also were witness to large burms of dirt that form along fence lines, caused from the wind storms. The show also talked about irrigation techniques that allowed the farmers in the area to keep farming, even when it did not rain. They mentioned the windmills that were put in, taking water from the underlying Ogallala Aquifer. And then they said the Aquifer would be drying up in about 20 years if the farmers kept irrigating their crops with it.

It is strange being here, in the areas they were talking about. We went to the Museum in Lubbock that celebrates the windmills used to irrigate the fields, drawing from the Ogallala Aquifer. And we have seen the farms with their irrigation systems that allow the crops to grow.

We have been to Salt Flat, Texas where we were told the wells were drying up, and there is no more water to be had. And we have heard the farmers from Nebraska to Texas talking about the current droughts. It is like the whispers of another dust bowl on the horizon. But it is just a whisper right now.

For a more pleasant ending to this blog post I will leave you with a photo of a Cushman trailer we saw in the parking lot. The fellow does not own a motorcycle but said he gets an awful lot of motorcycle people stopping and taking photos of his trailer, just like Ward did.
Here is an old building in a field on the highway between Seminole and Lamesa in Texas.
We have been seeing these odd round objects along the side of the road every now and then, never knowing what the heck they are. Well, we stopped to see one time. They are melons. It seems they are grown in patches along the side of the road or at the edge of fields. After harvesting, I guess the smaller ones stay behind.


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