Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Amarillo By Morning

Well, actually, Amarillo by evening...

Yesterday was Day One of my 10 day Wyoming hunting trip. More accurately, it's a 4 day hunt, bookended by three travel days on either side. It's 1400 miles from home to where I'm hunting. I could make it in two days if I pushed it, but I'm retired, so what the hell ... I'll take my time and stretch the trip out to three days.

Day One was Bergheim to Amarillo, about 500 miles. I left home at 10:00 a.m. The plan was to leave by 8:00 a.m., but things happened... It really didn't make too much of a difference, because I made great time on the road. I made it to Amarillo by 6:00 p.m.

Traffic varied between light and non-existent. The weather was good; cloudy in the morning, partly cloudy throughout the day, and cloudy again in the evening. Temperatures were in the mid-80s during the day, but dropped to the low 60s in the evening.

One of the (many) great things about living in Texas is the speed limits - 80 MPH on some stretches of Interstate highways, and 75 on most of the rural state roads. I didn't want to push my truck too much - it is, after all a 1995 model - but I was cruising most of the day around 80 MPH. The sad part is I was getting my doors blown off by West Texas soccer moms in minivans who passed me like I was standing still.

Anyway, zooming along at 80 MPH makes the miles fly by. Plus my bladder behaved for a change, so I only had to make two stops - and I got lunch to go. Distance traveled was 505 miles. Total driving time was around 7 hours. Average speed was 72 MPH. I'll take that on any trip.

Travel Notes:

You don't realize how big Texas is until you drive through it. I drove for a full day and didn't make it out of the state. There's an old saying:" The sun has riz, the sun has set, and here we are in Texas yet."  Very true.

Traveling through Northwest Texas is interesting, to say the least. My route took me through towns named Winters, Eden, and Sweetwater. None of those names are remotely close to describing the actual locales.

I haven't been in this part of the state in decades. Nothing much has changed, with one great big exception. Once I left Winters and climbed the cap rock I hit wind farms. It was mind-boggling. There were hundreds and hundreds of giant wind generators clustered along every available ridge.

Not the best picture, but it should give you some idea of the number and scope of the wind generators in West Texas. Click to embiggen to get the full effect.

It was surreal. The rotors were turning at the same pace, but were at different phases in their rotation. The effect was hypnotic. It was hard to take your eyes away.

It's a great location for them. The wind was humming at around 40-50 MPH - and that's on a relatively calm day. 18 wheelers were being blown all over the road. Fortunately, the wind was behind me, so it boosted my mileage. It was also sort of blasphemous. Pristine vistas were spoiled by either the wind generators, or the large towers supporting the heavy transmissions lines carrying the power from the wind farms to the cities south and east of them. I know it's a green energy, and that's good, but it does come with some costs (including a heavy death toll on migratory and endangered birds). More on that later.

Ironically, I drove past several ranches with wind generators churning away above old pump jacks faithfully extracting oil. To really confuse things, many of those pastures were either planted with cotton, or had cattle grazing in them. Talk about maximizing your resources!

Speaking of cotton fields, between Sweetwater and Lubbock the cotton crop was so abundant it looked like the aftermath of a snow storm.

Slightly further northwest, between Lubbock and Amarillo, the rest areas doubled as tornado shelters. Makes sense, since there's not a damn thing to stop the winds blowing down from Canada but a few barbed wire fences. The topography around here can best be described as "ping pong table."

Wildlife was plentiful, at least as indicated by the roadkill. Plenty of skunks and armadillos, of course, but also lots of deer, raccoons, and porcupines. I also saw the largest feral hog I've ever seen in person. It was the size of one of those large marine ice chests - about 5 feet long by 3 feet around. Thankfully, it was dead in a heap on the side of the road. I feel sorry for whoever hit it.

One of the enjoyable things about a road trip like this is scoping out the local radio stations. Out here in West Texas it's almost all classic country, which takes me back to my roots. One notable exception was Cool 100, which plays rock-n-roll from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Very cool!

I drove through the Panhandle towns of Snyder and Post. That's notable to me because I went through a phase where I dated West Texas gals. The first one, Sheryl S. from Snyder, taught me that there is no understanding women.

We met in Austin, after I got out of the Army. She worked retail, so I would meet her after her shift ended at 9:30 at night. I'd bring a six-pack and we'd sit in the parking lot, talking and listening to the radio. After a while we started fooling around a little. That led to weekend dates - dancing, movies, etc. That led to nights spent with each other. After a while we admitted that we were boy-and-girl-friend.

The week after that admission I met her as usual after work with the usual six-pack. She blew a gasket, reaming me out and saying that I was embarrassing her. I'll freely admit that I've embarrassed my share of ex-girlfriends and ex-wives in my time, but in this case all I did was what I'd always done. Somehow the change in our status changed other things as well. I still don't get it...

The other West Texas babe, Vicki T. from Post, opened my eyes to the ways of the world. I met her after the aforementioned Sheryl. Vicki was outwardly very proper and demure, but behind that facade lurked perhaps the wildest woman I ever dated. The first night we spent together she asked me to get something out of her nightstand drawer. I pulled it open and saw two vibrators and a .38 revolver. I looked at her and lifted a questioning eyebrow. She gave me a wicked grin and said "I like to be prepared for every possibility."

Boy howdy, was she a handful...  

On that note, I'm going to bed. More about Day Two tomorrow.


Old NFO said...

Ah yes, West Texas... BTDT... :-)

CenTexTim said...

It's definitely an acquired taste.