It was a long day of driving but I wanted to push through into New Mexico. It was about 12 hours up from Dallas into a suburb of Oklahoma City, Yukon. Completely by chance, I found something I was looking for out here: hope.
Leaving Dallas, I needed a destination. I could have just driven straight to New Mexico and shaved a few hours off my trip, but, me being me, I needed to drive through another state. Oklahoma was closest. Randomly, I picked a coffee shop on the iconic Route 66, about three hours away, The Red Bird Coffee House.
I stopped, stretched my tired back, and then went into to grab a cup of coffee and something to eat. I was met by this truly remarkable place. The coffee was good but the feeling was even better. It was inviting and comfortable, a place that just felt different that many of the places I had been.
Absence is what I find most. The absence of people, cars, and energy. I find a lot of fear and desperation as the Covid winter threatens to engulf another winter. Flu season is approaching. People are getting restless and lonely with uncertainty fueling the fear and desperation. The Red Bird was different.
One of my GPS apps led me to Red Bird Coffee Cart. The owner, Rachel Goble, had started renovating a building to move the cart into a coffee house. Construction had been delayed so I arrived right before the official grand opening.
Something new. Building. A hope for a future. A dream perhaps, becoming a reality. It was a nice change of pace from what I had experienced.
Then, it was back to the normal: I got lost. I lost an entire road. On the map, it showed that iconic Route 66 ran west for a distance. Years ago (you can check the history online) Route 66 had been overtaken by Route 40, but a stretches still exist in places. I turned off the GPS and drove west. Somehow or another, I ended up on Route 81 going north. I pulled into a casino, turned the GPS back on, and had to turn around to jump on 40.
As I traveled Route 40, I soon realized that I really could have driven old route 66. It is not Business 40. And yes, I saw a sign for the devil’s trail, route 666. But by that point, I was looking for speed so stayed on 40.
It was a nice stretch of highway through Oklahoma and then back through Texas. With the winds sweeping down through the Great Plains, wind farms stretched for miles. Empty of most traffic besides trucks, the temperature, which had been a chilly 90 in Yukon, ticked back up into the triple digits.
I was determined to make it out of Texas. I like Texas, but it had gotten ridiculous. They take this entire “everything is bigger in Texas” way too far. I entered in Orange, Texas, at exit 880, left Texas, and then had to drive back through Texas to make it to another state. I just activated cruise control and watched the miles pass.
The transition from Texas to New Mexico is dramatic. Even the Welcome Center has a different feel, red stone and gravel. Where the Texas Welcome Center had the sign “watch for snakes,” the NM one could have had one that said simply, “bugs.”
Sitting down on the wall, I was quickly swatting away ants. Big suckers. So, I made the mistake of taking my break in my car with the windows down. In a matter of minutes, I had more flies in my car than first cousins, which is saying something. It took me 20 miles with the windows down to get them all out.
But it was back to a different kind of driving. Texas is long, long straight, flat roads. New Mexico is hilly with twists and turns. Miles of windfarms and cattle ranches transform into scraggly brush and mesas jutting up in the distance. Reds dominate the landscape.
Then, the sun set.
I always enjoyed driving at night but I don’t like to anymore, especially as I do this road trip wanting to watch the scenery of each new state pas by. But you have to do what you have to do. At the welcome center, I made the decision, and the reservation, to go to Santa Fe instead of Albuquerque. It’s the same distance, more northerly, and only an hour between each other.
In the new time zone, I knew I was driving late and would get to my destination well after dark. What did I miss heading NW off of route 40 after the beautiful sunset on the mesas? 10:30, Mountain Time, got me to my destination. A hotel that isn’t quite a hotel. More on that tomorrow.
Aloha from Santa Fe, New Mexico.
(By the way, I need a photo editor. I miss some so just throw everything in here at the bottom. You’re welcome.)