Quest in the Southwest: Day One

Jimmy McGill, aka Saul Goodman, planning our trip for us.

Last weekend was B.’s birthday, so we took a little road trip to see friends in Colorado and New Mexico. I got my toes painted Grand Canyon Sunset, stocked up on Barrow beer and HEB fajita meat, and off we went.

We left at 5:30 a.m. on Friday, September 29, stopping at Flo(rence) Do(nuts) for breakfast. The rain came down hard all the way through Lampasas and on and off for the rest of the day. We stopped to see the Great White Buffalo on the square in Snyder and each got a taco from Laredo Taco Company (located inside Stripes convenience stores, for the uninitiated). The windmills outside Lubbock were buried in fog, and we stopped at a coffee shop called Sugar Browns, where I bought a shirt with a buffalo on it for my high school friend, K. Our mascot had been the buffalo, and she had attended law school in Lubbock, though I don’t think the coffee shop was around at the time. I got a Sugar Brown latte and ordered B. a London Fog, which I ended up drinking.

Due to a hankering for chicken fried steak, we stopped at the Big Texan in Amarillo, which is actually famous for the 72-ounce, finish-in-under-an-hour-and-it’s-free steak, but neither of us were interested. We both agreed the Big Texan is “what the whole hep world would be doing Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war…” or if Texas ever wins independence. The motel next to the restaurant features a wild west facade, creating a small town with four rooms per establishment. I did not see a house of ill repute, nor a saloon.

After a disagreement over whether the mashed potatoes were powdered or not, we bellied up to the bar to sample the house brews. We learned the Whoop Your Donkey Double IPA mixed with the Texas Red Amber Ale is called a Red Ass. I was quite taken with the Bomb City Bock, but as I was driving, had to limit my intake.

I got my traditional pressed penny, Zoltar told my fortune, and the two of us took on the shooting gallery. While I was waiting outside for my gentleman companion, I saw a man dressed as Mario, but, doubting it was intentional, decided it was very rude of me to take his photo. Still, this shot features the Route 66 sign and gets the point across without embarrassing anyone.img_5960.jpg

Leaving Amarillo, a picturesque hay pasture off the highway caught my eye. The round bales stretched for a mile on either side. I realized there were several vehicles parked along the access road and finally saw the graffitied cars planted diagonally in the ground. It was my first time to see the Cadillac Ranch.

cadillac-ranch-754878_960_720
Free image from Pixabay. Honestly, the round bales are what really made the scene.

We were listening to The Shining on Audible in preparation for the Stanley Hotel, and I’d also convinced B. to listen to a few selections from my backlog of podcasts. Still, we were about ten hours into the trip and I’d driven nearly 500 miles, so when I started to drift off, I finally had to ask to tap out. B. took over driving duties in what turned out to be Texline, and I missed driving the entire way through Texas by about a hundred yards. I drifted in and out of sleep through that corner of New Mexico, hazily catching the dragon on this building in Clayton, which is one of the coolest facades I’ve ever seen.

DragonClayton
This is not my photo. It is from the Six-M Concrete and Metal Art website. They are the ones who created the dragon and a bunch of other cool stuff. Visit them at sixmconcreteandmetalart.com.

I woke up for real in Raton, when we stopped at a gas station and B. had to go inspect an impressive pair of antlers looming out of a truck bed at the neighboring gas pump. It was an elk.

img_6413We climbed up in elevation and came back down into Colorado. On the descent, B. taught me to use my gears to decelerate, instead of riding the brake all the way down the mountain. Feather the throttle, he said.

Our first stop was in Trinidad, where the couple behind us in line saw B.’s I SURVIVED THAI HOT shirt from the late, great Thai Kitchen and started talking about Killeen, where they had been stationed before moving to Colorado, aka Free America.

We made it to Colorado Springs without incident, and B. surprised me with an Alice-in-Wonderland-themed restaurant for dinner. I felt under-dressed and scrubby as we descended into the Rabbit Hole, but we didn’t have to wait for a table and the waitstaff was hospitable. I had a Tweedle Bee spicy cocktail and B. had a Beehive from Bristol Brewing Company, I think. He did order the rabbit, while I went with rabbit food: carrot-ginger-lavender soup and cauliflower mac-and-cheese with tofu. On the way back to the hotel, our Uber driver broke the tie and convinced me not to attempt to drive the road to the top of Pike’s Peak.

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