“Hey sweetie, it’s time,” the receptionist woke me up on the phone.
Though I could have used a few more hours of sleep, I was out of my room in less than ten minutes; I really did not want to get my guardian angel in trouble. Checking out took only about a minute, and by 8:30 I was already on the road, heading toward Palo Duro Canyon State Park. About thirty miles south of Amarillo, the park was going to be the first major natural attraction on my Route 66 trip.9:45 a.m.
It took me a little longer to reach the canyon than I anticipated. I missed my exit, forcing me to take a longer route, and the many road constructions along the way did not help me either. But when I finally made it to the park, it exceeded all my expectations; a breathtaking panorama welcomed me. The canyon spread several miles into the distance, and descended hundreds of yards deep, truly making me feel awestruck.
A couple of outlooks surrounded the rim, but the majority of the state park was located at the bottom of the gorge. After taking a few pictures at one of the viewpoints, I slowly made my way down to the valley, enjoying my descent on the narrow mountain roads.
Since I chose to leave the motel in a hurry, I did not have time to take a shower this morning. Therefore, as soon as I found a campground, I sneaked in to take a shower, after which I felt like a brand new person. Fresh and clean, I set out to explore Palo Duro Canyon.
Just before eleven o’clock, I set out to hike the Lighthouse Trail, a six mile walk leading to the park’s main attraction: the Lighthouse rock formation. Despite all the warning signs saying that one gallon of water was absolutely essential, I began my trip with only about sixteen ounces, a bold decision I soon regretted dearly. Under the scorching sun and the harsh desert conditions, it did not take me long to realize that I made a huge mistake as, only after about a mile, my water supply went into a speedy decline. On top of that, my misery was further intensified by the myriad of mosquitoes infesting the canyon after last night’s rain. As a result, I had to be in constant motion otherwise the tiny bloodsuckers came at me in clouds.
Soon, I had to make a decision: 1) either turn back and start over the hike with adequate water supply or 2) tough it out and try to make it with the water I had on me (by then, less than ten ounces). I chose the second one, thinking I was fit enough to make it.
Well, I was more or less right. With strict control—I only allowed myself one gulp of water every half a mile—I made it very close to the Lighthouse, at which point I took a few pictures and quickly turned back. Although I did not make it to the actual site, since I already had good pictures I did not feel the urge to climb the remaining few hundred yards. Altogether, the entire hike was around five and a half miles and by the time I arrived back to my car, I felt absolutely dead. I sat down in the shade and just drank and drank…Further pictures: #1, #2, #3.
I drove around for another ten to fifteen minutes in the park but soon decided it was time to leave—after my desert adventure, I did not feel like hiking any more. I set the A/C at maximum strength, drank a little more water, and headed back to Amarillo.
Just outside of Amarillo, I stumbled upon one of the Mother Road’s more famous attractions: the Cadillac Ranch. On an open field, ten Cadillacs lay buried halfway into the dirt, their tails sticking out like miniature skyscrapers. Looking at the buried cars was part comical part exciting; only in America one can see this kind of stuff! :)
As I got closer, I noticed the ground was littered with spray cans, many of them still half full. Apparently, part of the appeal of this place was that visitors could freely paint the cars, leaving their initials or whatever they pleased on the ever-growing coat of paint. Going with the vibe, I grabbed a white can and scribbled “G.K. ’10 - Hungary” on the back of the last car; though I knew it would not last long, someone surely spraying over it soon.
After taking enough pictures of the famous pop culture phenomenon, I returned to my truck and continued westward.Further pictures: #1, #2.
6:19 p.m. (7:19 central)
I had just crossed the New Mexico border. Aside from the customary yellow sign, a graffiti saying: “Slow down! My Mommy works here,” I was also greeted by the new speed limit: 75 mph, which was a welcoming change after the strict roads of Texas.
I hit the 1.000 mile mark just outside of Tucumcari. Hard to believe I had been on the road for this long.
I arrived to Tucumcari, New Mexico. Like many others before it, the entire town seemed to center around the Mother Road. A long line of motels bore the name of the famous highway and an attractive Route 66 mural was painted on one of the local stores. Even though, the most interesting “attraction” of the town—at least to me—was a wrecked truck next to an old Mexican restaurant sign. The vehicle was converted to look like a gypsy wagon, although probably been abandoned for decades.
Further pictures: #1, #2.
By the time I arrived to Santa Rosa, it was already dark; I could not see much of the town. I went into a local hotel to look at brochures and to determine whether it was worth staying for the night or not, but decided that I was better off on the road. With a little luck I could reach Santa Fe before midnight.
On my way to Santa Fe, I drove through absolute darkness. Only the moon glanced through the thick cloud cover every once in a while, surrounded by a strange reddish glow. Sometimes, I could see the silhouettes of hills (maybe mountains) in the distance, but I could not be sure. Perhaps I was already hitting the southernmost slopes of the Rocky Mountains. Who knows?
Soon, I reached a gas station at the intersection of I-25 and 85, and decided to spend the night in the parking lot. This was my first night sleeping in the “wild,” the way it should have been from the beginning. At first, I wondered whether to set up my tent or not, but quickly discarded the idea. The gas station attendants might tolerate me if I slept in my car but actually setting up a tent probably would have crossed the line. Plus, I heard coyotes in the distance and that convinced me that I was better off in my car.
Falling asleep was not a problem—I was dead tired after the long day—the cabin of my truck, however, was still extremely uncomfortable. So much so, that half way into the night I grabbed my sleeping bag and moved to the bed of my truck where I could stretch my legs. Though it was kind of cold and the rows of the cargo bay hurt my back, I actually ended up having a good night sleep.
Fortunately it did not rain that night…
|Distance covered on the fourth day|