Heading Northwest

by PammyMcB

10:40 a.m. on March 3, 2012
DJ was aching to get out of Abilene. He had scarcely left the area since we moved to Texas from Indiana in 2000, so DJ and I headed off for another exploratory excursion. The weather was warm, and the skies were clear. Our destination was not set, but we first headed West on Interstate 20 and then North toward the panhandle area of Texas.

DJ and I passed through the wind farms, and passed up the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Price Daniel’s Unit. As we passed the prison, memories of Dad began to flood my mind. I remembered how Dad being hired as a correctional officer at the prison would forever change my family members’ lives. It was the first time in my life that I had moved out of the Big Country area. It was the first time that I had
moved out of Haskell other than the two years that I lived in Knox City, Texas from half of Kindergarten to half of Second Grade. Snyder is where I lived when I graduated high school, for we had moved there in the middle of my senior year.

12:00 p.m.
DJ and I stopped at Rip Griffin for a quick stretch of the legs and a restroom break. I remembered spending time with my father eating at the cafe in the truck stop. I remembered many days of filling my car up at the pumps while hanging out with my girlfriends. And, I remembered that there was not always a Burger King at the truck stop.

12:20 p.m.
DJ and I saw a historical marker that lead us to the Book Out Cemetery in Dermot, Texas, which was established in 1892. The quaint cemetery is isolated from civilization and was quiet and peaceful. Book Out Cemetery is surrounded by cotton fields, and the terrain is riddled with tarantula dens. The oldest graves are a variety of remembered and forgotten souls. The cemetery is full of the graves of infants all of which passed in the early 1900s. The Lock family lost two children and one adult in 1930, and the Scrivner lost one adult and three infants in 1910 – April, August, and December.

Surprisingly, DJ and I came upon a grave that was marked, “Unknown Soul Found December 3, 2009,” and I wondered if the body was deceased in 2009 or a decomposed body from long ago. I had never seen a grave marked as “Unknown” before, and I found it quite sad. This person had a mother and father that may never know what had become of their child. Did he/she have children and a husband or wife? How did he/she end up here?

Many of the headstones in the cemetery were adorned with Celtic symbols and coats of arms. Two Freemasons are buried here, and many World War II Veterans, one of which is a female, Mary. Mary was in the Navy and her husband a marine.

12:50 p.m.
We came across a auto accident that destroyed two pickups and two motorcycles. No injuries were apparent.

1:10 p.m.
DJ and I have reached the Caprock looking over the Llano Estacado, which is the flat topped mountains that jut up from the caliche covered earth. The first white men to set foot on the Llano was Coranado and his men. The land was found to be too inhospitable for buffalo and Native Americans, but they soon called the land their home due to being driven off of their native lands. The Native Americans and buffalo would eventually be driven from the Llano as well. The Llano Estacado is now mostly ranch land rich in oil. The land produces cotton and sorghum, and most recently, wind energy.

1:25 p.m.
C.W. Post, the famed cereal industrialist, was the founder of the quaint self-contained community, Post, Texas. Post produced cotton and grains on his ranch, and developed a pillow factory, which put the small town on the map. The town is located in Garza County, and contains the Garza Hotel, an old west hotel made into a bed and breakfast. The Tower Theater, Garza Theater, and a plethora of small shops, one of which is dedicated entirely to Christmas, provide any traveler with an abundance of activities.

Post is a town that I had often passed through, and I had never known that the town was the brainchild of the C.W. Post. I remember stopping frequently to look at the handmade quilts and the small quilt shop on the west side of the road. Several times, the children and I would stop to take a short break in Post and fill the car with gas, so we could continue our trips to Damien’s neurologist’s office in Lubbock, Texas. On one occasion, the boys and I were stuck in Post due to a sudden ice storm. Once the blinding snow died down, we were able to continue to head home.

2:45 p.m.
DJ and I arrived in Lubbock, Texas, the place I lived at after graduating high school. We stopped at the Billy Meeks Center to visit my sister. Unfortunately, she was on a hygiene pass and did not return at her designated time. We waited until 3:20 and left. DJ and I decided that we would attempt to stop the next day.

3:30 p.m.
I showed DJ the park that has given me many fond memories. A small creek runs through McKenzie Park, and I remembered taking pictures of the ducks in this creek after a freak snow storm in Lubbock. Since I lived in Lubbock, a sculpture of wild horses has been erected.

Down the road from the park is the windmill and agricultural museums. The other side of the park and under the bridge is the amusement park we plan to take the boys to one weekend.

Along the way to head further north, DJ and I found another park also in Lubbock that I have never seen before. The park is located in the Guadalupe sub-division. This park was quiet, and we had the park to ourselves. This park contained a large railroad trellis under which a creek ran. While taking photographs of the trellis, we noticed an old 1940s-50s model car embedded in the embankment that leads to the creek. The car was unidentifiable. However, the chrome bumper still glistened in the sunlight. As we walked through the small park, we saw buried tires poking up through the ground and wondered if the park now sits where an old scrapyard once sat. The car, though, was fascinating, as the body of the car was wrapped around a large tree. Could it have been that a person drove the car off of the train trellis? Could it have been that the tree had grown through the car becoming one with it so the car could not be removed. It’s secret stands and research would need to be done to find the reason that parts of cars poke up from the ground of this otherwise serene public park.

5:41 p.m.
DJ and I arrived in Amarillo, Texas, where I had only traveled on one other occasion when I was sworn into the U.S. Army. I did not travel into Amarillo in a car at that time, for I flew on a small two propeller airplane.  The trip took the plane through a thunderstorm, which made my first flight feel more like a roller coaster than a flight. I remember a young man teasing me before the flight took off about the flight being my first. He said I was going to get so sick during the flight, but little did he know that I love roller coasters. Needless to say, I was not the one that made use of my barf bag.

DJ gassed up his truck for $3.35 per gallon, which was cheaper than the $3.65 per gallon we were paying in Abilene. At this time, we chose to eat dinner at Cattle Call. Cattle Call is a magnificent barbecue restaurant. For an appetizer, we had the best queso dip that I have ever had the pleasure to try. DJ said the pulled pork was delicious and melted in his mouth. The onion rings were made from sweet Vidalia Onions and battered in an old school thick batter, wonderful! My brisket was moist, and the smokey flavor and
signature sauce were the perfect compliment to the meat. Also provided was a delicious peach sauce to use for dipping as well. The prices at Cattle Call are reasonable, and trust me, a meal for one is enough for two.

7:27 p.m.
DJ and I traveled west once again on Interstate 40, also known as Route 66. We crossed the Texas/New Mexico state line. Just as we crossed the border, there was a welcome center on the north side of the road with modern and clean facilities.

8:00 p.m.
Our final destination for the night is Tucumcari, New Mexico. Neither DJ nor I had ever been to Tucumcari. We lodged at the Econoline Hotel for $45 dollars per night. The rooms were clean and modern. The Econoline offers a free continental breakfast with each nights’ stay.

DJ and I dropped off our bags and headed out to explore the scenic Route 66 at night. The lights were not lit up as the articles in the New Mexico state guide had promised. However, I did get a good picture of the Tails and Fins sculpture in fromt of the convention center of the tiny town. The sculpture juts out from a sandstone adobe platform carved with symbols. The oversized Bel-Air fin was appropriately adorned with chrome and three red tail lights. Atop the fins sits an ethereal 66 paying homage to the road.

9:15 a.m. on March 4, 2012
After eating our biscuits and gravy, DJ and I had departed the Econoline. We made a quick detour to photograph Tucumcari Mountain. The site is amazing, and the colors on the mountain are breathtaking.

We departed Tucumcari, New Mexico and headed back east. The stay at the Econoline was pleasant. For someone on a tight budget, it was well worth the $45 that we spent for our king sized bed. I was well rested, and for the first time since 2004, DJ woke up without a sore back. I decided that we need to get a more firm mattress for home.

9:50 a.m.
DJ and I re-entered, Texas, the state of my birth. Janis Joplin was singing about taking pieces of her heart on the radio. The view of the mesa land around us was awe inspiring, and I realize that a piece of my heart will always belong to Texas.

11:00 a.m.
Just west of Amarillo heading east, DJ and I found the Cadillac Ranch. The Cadillacs are buried midway into the firm caliche ground. The overly gratified tails of the cars jut up from the rich farmland. The monolithic sculpture is open and free for the public to explore. The ranch is a work of art that will never be finished, as the public is allowed to continue the graffiti tradition, thus preserving the vehicles for years to come. The bright colors and mishmash of names and ideas make the detour off of Route 66 (I-40) well worth the stop. Be prepared to walk and bring your spray can. Please do not leave your litter behind for your gracious host to clean up. After all, it is a free attraction on someone’s land. Please, show some respect.

1:25 p.m.
On Interstate 27 South between Amarillo and Lubbock lies a vast expanse of plains, which was mostly empty. The prairie lands lay host to towns such as Happy, Tulia, and Plainview, where farming is the major way of life for the members of these small communities. I had seen more old fashioned wooden windmills in this area than any other area I have visited inside the borders of the State of Texas. I have seen no historical markers relating the histories of those who live and thrive in this area. However, there are many grain elevators and cotton gins that do provide me with a sense of history of these towns. They must be a lot like my hometown, Haskell.

2:20 p.m.
DJ and I stopped once again at the Billy Meeks Center in Lubbock, Texas to visit my sister. She looks well and is doing very well. I am so proud of her and have very high hopes for her future. I am glad that we were able to spend some time together.

South of Lubbock, DJ and I stopped allowing me to photograph pumpjacks. I love taking pictures of pumpjacks because they  hold a special place in my heart. Daddy worked in the oilfield for the largest part of his life. He worked his way up through the ranks until he became an owner of Wilcox and Sons in Rule, Texas. I spent the larger part of my childhood on drilling rigs and checking the pumpjacks with my father.

5:00 p.m.
DJ and I stopped past Inadale to get close up pictures of the windmills on the windfarms. You cannot imagine the immensity of these things unless you have been lucky enough to get up close and personal to one. The light hum from the windmill is truly a tolerable sound for the
energy we require to support our technologically based life styles.

I also took pictures of an old cotton shack where I imagine the foreman kept track of the cotton gathered by his employees.

5:30 p.m.
I spotted a hot air balloon ahead of DJ and I just east of Merkel, Texas. DJ pulled off of the Interstate, so I could photograph the balloon. The balloon gently drifted toward the setting sun. The pilot did several burn bursts to keep the balloon afloat before he drifted down close to the earth allowing me a closer shot. Magnificent!

5:45 p.m.
DJ and I arrived home where we were welcomed by our children.  I enjoyed spending the time alone with my husband of fifteen years. We did something on this trip that we had not done before in our relationship. We talked about everything that we had not shared with one another up until this time. I feel this trip has allowed DJ and I to become closer to one another. This trip will be one that DJ and I remember for a long time, as it is the trip that marks a change in our relationship with one another. We are far more close and devoted to one another than we were
when we left.

All Photographs in This Post Are Original Photos by
©Pamela N. Brown

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