X-Country Road Trip Day 5 – Santa Fe to Amarillo

Today was a short driving day of 4 hours. We spent the morning exploring Santa Fe. This is definitely a city I will visit again when I can spend more time. The weather was gorgeous and because it is a holiday for many, there were a fair number of people out and about.

Our first stop was the Loretto Chapel. This small church has a great story. A group of Loretto nuns made the trek out west to start a new order and this was their chapel. A church was built in the territory of New Mexico, in fact the first gothic structure built west of the Mississippi; but, there was no room to build access to the choir loft. In those days the choir loft was often accessed via ladders but the choir members were usually men. Ladders were not going to work for the sisters.

A stranger appeared with a hammer, saw, and a carpenter’s square and over 6 months built the nuns a staircase. He would soak the wood in hot water and bend and shape it. The staircase appears to have no visual support. There’s no center column, no wall brackets, and yet it has endured for 150 years! When it was finished, the stranger is said to have disappeared without asking for payment.

From there we got breakfast outdoors at the Famous Plaza Cafe. I knew I could get a great Mexican breakfast and they delivered the best Huevos Rancheros! As we ate, we watched city employees covering up an obelisk in the center of the town square. It had been vandalized the previous morning in the predawn hours. I read about this controversial monument it appeared to be an equal opportunity offender. It praised the confederate dead of New Mexico, it disparaged the “savage indians”, and both indigenous and Mexican Americans have found the monument offensive since it was built in 1868. As city workers put plywood around the statue, a group of native Americans began to form a protest claiming these were native lands.

Driving out of Santa Fe, you see the landscape turn to mountain pine forests that could have been in New Hampshire. By the time we got to I-40 things were flattening out and becoming more open and greener. At the Texas state line we lost another hour! Now we are on Central Time. We passed a massive cattle feed lot. There were thousands of cows packed in tightly for what seemed an endless pungent mile! We were now beginning to see agriculture where we had previously only seen desert wilderness and rock formations.

We left Santa Fe and headed east on I40. This interstate has largely subsumed the old Route 66. We drove a stretch of the remains of the old 66. This once vibrant epicenter of kitsch is now in grave disrepair. There are a few properties that are still in operation, but most are being left to decay and fade. We stopped at a souvenir shop called Tee Pee Curios. This and other locations had names that have not aged well. The PowWow hotel, The Wigwam, etc. It has the feel of old Las Vegas, but to drive through this stretch, it appears its time has passed.

Ten miles short of Amarillo we stopped at the Cadillac Ranch. This is an art installation of 10 old Cadillacs half-buried in the ground, tail lights up. Over the years they have been spray-painted with graffiti (by design) and thus the art continues to evolve. There are cans of paint lying everywhere and you are encouraged to make your mark.

From the Cadillac Ranch we headed into downtown Amarillo. We sought out a highly recommended BBQ joint and they graciously allowed GusGus to join us at our table. There was no outdoor dining, but we were given a table in a cavernous bar room many yards away from anyone else. Now things got interesting!

Of course the awning in Amarillo would be yellow!

I was wearing a “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt. While I believe strongly in the cause, I would be lying if I didn’t admit to also being a bit provocative in wearing it across the Texas panhandle. I’m not sure what I was looking for, but when we walked into this maskless bar room, those at the bar, a couple groups of what appeared to be regulars fell to a hush. You’d have thought we walked in naked. There was a lot of whispering to the staff and looking over at us. i would later realize that our wearing masks bothered them as much as my t-shirt.

The food was indeed superb. We had some ribs and some brisket and both were phenomenal and all of the many sides that came with it were fabulous. Our server, Angela was also fabulous! She was deeply infatuated with Gus, and seeming to let whatever was going on at the bar just roll off. We polished off a couple Lone Star beers and were leaving when a guy at the bar yelled, “Bitch, if you’re so seriously afraid of catching the virus just get the fuck out of here! All lives matter!” And there it was, America becoming great again.

To be fair, I knew how a BLM shirt would be received down here, and I know there are deniers out there, and I was visiting their turf; but, I had to see it for myself and I refer you back to my recent post on Appomattox on the sentiment that you can’t change what is in people’s hearts.

Scene of the Day

Picture two nearly 60 year old men about to check out of the hotel room after a lot of coffee using Rock Paper Scissors to determine who gets to use the bathroom first.

Tonight our lodging is a Marriott TownePlace Suite, a really lovely one! We passed the halfway mark today, and we’ve traveled about 1700 miles so far. We have entered 6 of what will likely be 10 states (for me–Tim will pass through 8 more from VA to Boston). Tomorrow will be spent almost entirely in Oklahoma.



      1. Hi Tony and Tom:

        Sounds like a great trip. Although I would have probably gotten in to a bar fight there. Good thing I’m not with you and that you got out of there safely. RE: masks. I’m stunned that so many will do so little for the greater good.

  1. TonMan, great part of the US, have traveled that road, loved the Cadillac Ranch. Martha and I were there at sun rise in November several years ago and it was amazing. Having a great time reading your posts, keep them up

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