Thursday, September 3, 2009

On the Road Again! Day One - Mile Zero

"On the road again. And I can't wait to get on the road again. Goin' places that I've never been. Seein' things that I may never see again" Willie Nelson

Yep, as the song says, I am on the road again. I have two eight-day events coming up a week apart and both in the southwestern corner of the US - Santa Fe and Las Vegas and I've decided to drive from here to there and back and feast my eyes on a few places I've yet to see - before, between and beyond my paid assignment dates and locations. All told - it looks like I might be on the road for about six weeks.

I left September 1st with mile Zero starting on I-40 in Oklahoma City - just a few miles from my home. I-40 was designed to roll over and replace the old Mother Road, Route 66, and here and there lovely old remnants can still be seen within the blur of the fast lane. Route 66 - a perfect place to start a journey.

The first 400 miles is nothing but gorgeous, summer-hewn, rolling prairie...and wind turbines; more and more each time I make this journey. The odd thing is that the miles and miles of over-plowed, over-used, nutrient starved crop land has not a single one. But the miles and miles of nearly untouched native prairie habitat rangeland - are choked with the turbines. Go figure. Until we really know if these things are truly green - wouldn't it be nice if they experimented on the land that was already destroyed by inept farming practices? Oh well, prairie chickens - it was nice knowing ya!

I got a late start on the road - funny how that works when there's not a fixed airline departure time to adhere to and had to settle for Amarillo as my final destination for the evening. My car is packed with the strangest bedfellows - pressed suits, ties and shiny dress shoes vie for space among a sleeping bag, a Coleman lantern, a tent and a library fit for a small town.

At mile 156 on the odometer I crossed over the border into Texas. Strange how Texas really does feel like a whole other country. Rest easy though, I am safe here - I graduated from the Other University, the one with the relatively non-threatening football team and the fact that I am not a Sooner fan almost guarantees me safe passage through these ominous foreign lands.

The pic above is the Johnson Ranch Rest Area at mile 201 on the dashboard. Have you ever seen a more picturesque rest stop? I've been stopping here for the last 15 years of plying these roads regularly between Santa Fe and Oklahoma City. It's beyond bedazzling - that is when the wind is not blowing - which is most of the time and usually doing a solid 60. Today was dead calm. Oh the stories that land could tell.

It is here that the rolling prairies of the southern Great Plains start to give way to the high plains of west Texas and eastern New Mexico - a landscape famous for a startling mix of endless, flat llano estecado suddenly ripped apart by ancient canyons. I have been enchanted by these mixed prairie canyon lands since as long as I can remember.

So here is my plan and my wish list for the 20 odd days out here not working or visiting friends. Let me know if there is anything I am missing or must see or, more importantly, should avoid. With two exceptions, I have never been to any of these places:

-Palo Duro Canyon State Park in the Texas panhandle
-A little cabin in the big Rocky Mountain woods outside of Eagle Nest, northern NM (a long standing summer tradition)
-Driving across the Navajo Nation and Canyon De Chelley National Monument in eastern Arizona
-Monument Valley and Antelope Canyon in northern Arizona
-Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park in southwest Utah
-Death Valley National Park - California
-Mojave National Preserve - California
-Joshua Tree National Park - southern California
-Madera Canyon and the birdy parts of Southeast Arizona
-El Paso, Texas
-Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
-Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico
-Home Sweet Home

And of course, along the way, visiting friends and family in Santa Fe, Las Vegas and Palm Springs.

For the days that I am traveling and not working - I will be reporting from the road - when I can find an internet connection, that is. Along the way and weather permitting, I plan to spend quite a few nights under the stars. Wish me luck.

Day One - Oklahoma City to Amarillo - Mile Zero to 241
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