Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Oklahoma to Alamosa, Colorado


Driving across Oklahoma, I realized there had been no inclination to take photographs. "There's nothing out here."


"So take a picture."

Here's a picture of nothing in particular. U.S. 270/412 in the Oklahoma "Panhandle".

I saw a semi out here with a bumper sticker that read: "Oklahoma Panhandle Highways Suck." I kind of agree. It shouldn't surprise me that the winds across Western Oklahoma are just like those I encountered in Kansas, just north of here. Strong and out of the south. Tumbleweeds, oilfields, farms. And rather rough pavement.



Another typical view along Oklahoma's Panhandle


I had been tracing U.S. 270 across much of Oklahoma, then in Woodward, picked up U.S. 412 that would take me west through the Panhandle. I stopped for breakfast in Woodward, choosing the restaurant with the most vehicles out front: Westside Restaurant. It's clearly a local hangout, a "greasy spoon". All the cute girls are working here. I watched amused as a heavyset jovial businessman-type senior flirted with them all. It was harmless and even endearing.

I see small town America dying (at least in the center of this country) and it saddens me. (Yet something tells me it's just a temporary phenomena.) The modern interstate, with their monopolistic tendencies, versus the old U.S. highways. Homogenization and mediocrity versus the unique and original.



This scene is by no means unique to Oklahoma. If we were to recycle all the junk littering this great land, we probably wouldn't have to mine metals for decades!


Entering New Mexico, law enforcement is clearly in evidence with abundant posting of speed laws and penalty signs. I just cut across the northeast corner of the state, from Clayton to Raton (much of it a major highway construction project with a ridiculous, and intolerable 45 mph speed limit.) I was constantly on guard, not knowing what the state police cars looked like. Out on these open plains, they can spot me passing cars from many miles away!

Historic Trinidad, Colorado struck me as a border city that could be on any of a number of Southwestern borders. Backing up against rocky buttes, it guards the northern entrance to Raton Pass. "I'm sure there are some good Mexican restaurants down there!"

But today was all about putting miles behind me. No sightseeing stops.

Over the 9,413-foot North La Vita Pass. Beautiful highway, cold but not terribly uncomfortable. My destination, Alamosa in Colorado's San Luis Valley. I had heard a report about development in this valley, and wanted to see it before it becomes like so many other communities across this country.

Found a Holiday Inn Express (some kinds of development are acceptable) on the west end of town (with cookies!) Right next to Wal-Mart. The hotel is new and comfy, and my upper floor room looked out to the sunset and San Juan Mountains.

Went out to a restaurant that was recommended by the desk clerk: Calvillo’s downtown. Cowboy hats stay on in this restaurant. (Just like baseball caps in other parts of the country.) It would be easy enough to leave it outside in the truck, but it is a big part of one's identity in these parts.

Ah! REAL Mexican food again. I ordered chicken fajitas and a Mexican beer, despite the huge buffet being served in the kitchen that was drawing most diners. This place is "the real deal."

Back at the hotel, made calls to Jeff, Drew and Susan. Retired around midnight.

525 miles traveled today.

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