When last I wrote I was in the desert. Since then a lot of road has hit the rear view mirror so let me bring things up-to-date. After a suprisingly pleasant stay in Gallup, NM my next stop was Amarillo, TX. It was a matter of necessity more than anything else but I had a passing acquaintance with the place from a trip taken many years by bus from Idaho to Mexico — Guadalajara to be precise. Oh the stories I could tell … but I’ll spare you the details. So I chose Amarillo after Gallup because I didn’t want to drive any farther and my memories of it didn’t warn me off. It turned out to be just fine. The thing about US cities is that they’re now all so much the same it doesn’t really matter where you stay if all you’re doing is hanging out in a hotel room until you fire up the car and take off again in the morning. Some might find that a lamentable instance of standardization at the cost of regional individuality, but I’m all for it. It’s a great advantage to have some idea of what you’ll find at the end of a long day’s drive. So I’m not complaining — precisely the opposite.
I had, however, forgotten the vastness of the flatlands in the Texas Panhandle. Coming from a mountainous area as I do, the sight of an endless horizon lying flat against the sky like the line on an EKG monitor of somebody who’s in cardiac arrest gives me a sinking feeling. But it’s just temporary, I told myself. As I discovered to my unease, it’s a LONG temporary.
The stretch from the NM/TX border to Amarillo brought all the operative elements quickly into clear awareness. Flat land — still some mesas off in the distance as a tip of the hat to the western neighbor, but everything nearby flat as a pancake — roaring wind and in any direction you please the sight of Siemens wind turbines. The wind turbine has now become the predominant landscape feature of northern Texas: it’s all about wind farms. Nothing could make better sense. Wind is free, abundant (and how!) and turns the blades of those turbines like nobody’s business. The best thing to my eye was the green grass. It was nice to be back in a place where something will grow.
After Amarillo my goal was a northern suburb of Dallas where I planned to stay a few days to give myself a travel break and rest up. From Amarillo to the Dallas/Fort Worth area the route of choice is Highway 287. I had no idea what it would be like and imagined a patched-up two-laner with stop signs in every burg. Not a bit of it. It’s predominantly four-lane divided and in top nick. It does pass through several burgs, that’s true, and some of them have stop lights, but through the larger places Hwy 287 acts just like a freeway and has exits. So I made good time on excellent road as I wended my way southeast. Every once in a while there were a few hillocks to break the flatness, but flat was definitely the main item on the menu.
I could have stopped and taken pics but how many pics do you need of the Plains? If you see one pic haven’t you just about seen them all? So instead I have something to offer you’re not likely to find in any other travel post: rest area art. And not just any old rest area art, oh no — RESTROOM art. Yes siree. Here’s the story.
A bit past the halfway point between Amarillo and McKinney I sighed with relief to come across a real rest area, with toities and picnic tables and everything else a self-respecting rest area has. When I went into the restroom I was immediately struck by ceramic plaques set into the wall. Not only had I never seen a rest area restroom adorned in such a fashion, the plaques showed handsome designs ostensibly representative in one way or another of Texas. In the main area of the visitor’s center were some displays of Native American handicrafts, as well. All this for free, such a deal! The pics: