Cadillac Ranch, The Other Memphis & A Tornado Shelter!


Today has been one of my best drives of this road trip so far! Probably because very little of it was on the Interstate network and I saw some interesting stuff and met some fascinating people.

My day started late as I had a bit of a lazy lie in bed and did not leave the hotel until 09:50. My first stop was just four miles away at The Cadillac Ranch in Potter County, Texas. This is a public art installation and sculpture in Amarillo, Texas, U.S. It was created in 1974 by Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels, who were a part of the art group Ant Farm, and it consists of what were (when originally installed during 1974) either older running used or junk Cadillac automobiles, representing a number of evolutions of the car line (most notably the birth and death of the defining feature of mid twentieth century Cadillacs; the tail fin) from 1949 to 1963, half-buried nose-first in the ground, at an angle corresponding to that of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. I lifted this information from the font of all knowledge “Wikipedia” and I have my doubts as to the accuracy of the angle that these cars have been buried. However, I took several photographs of this installation and you can see some of them below and others on my Flickr photo stream. Just click on the “More Photos” link in the Flickr panel on the right hand side of this blog. You would really help me dear reader if you would leave your comment on the Flickr site as to which of these Cadillac photos you like as I’m having a tough time picking just one!

Forty minutes later and I’m now on route for Dallas having thoroughly enjoyed walking around the graffiteed Cadillacs and on the slip road at 10:45 I saw a puppy dog standing over a lawn sprinkler cooling off and then nonchalantly walking off with a good shake. Thirty miles later and I have left the I-40 east and joined the US 287 South in the direction of Fort Worth. On either side of this dual split highway lies rolling green pastureland as far as the eye can see with an occasional small herd of cattle doing what comes naturally. Later the pasturelands change to newly planted very well irrigated wheat fields.

I decided to have a walk around a very small town named Claude and spotted a beautiful library building almost opposite which could only be described as a somewhat decrepit city hall. I noticed that discreetly tucked in the corner of the library was a portable barbecue, see if you can spot in the photograph and it made me wonder what the librarian was having for lunch! Leaving Claude the scenery changed as the landscape to my north became dotted with giant rolls of hay and to my south ploughed land planted and irrigated by those long metal structures that remind me of a wing from an ancient biplane.

Ninety miles into my journey I stopped at the Donley County Safety Rest Area to answer the call of nature and afterwards I walked around the information centre which was very well laid out and presented. You can see a couple of pictures of the interior of this information centre on my Flickr photostream.

My next port of call was just down the road at Memphis, Texas not too be confused with the one in Tennessee! I was walking around the red pavered road taking some pictures of this small pretty town and I noticed a bumper sticker “I STOP FOR QUAIL”. Now that’s not the sort of thing you see in England every day and I stopped to photograph it. Just at that moment the lady owner of the vehicle popped out of a shop and spoke with me. This charming lady of indeterminate years invited me in to see her art collection that was being hung in preparation for a sale at the weekend. While viewing this most attractive collection of western paintings (some were better than others) another lady entered the emporium and was introduced to me. This lady became very excited upon meeting me and it’s fair to say that it’s not that often I have that affect upon members of the opposite sex! However, when this lady invited me to come with her next door to sign her visitors book I understood that it was in her capacity as the office manager of the Memphis Chamber of Commerce. We had a pleasant conversation while I duly signed her book and Susan McQueen, for that is her name, told me that she would relay our meeting to the members of the chamber at the next meeting. I don’t think an awful lot goes on in this pretty little town but in listening to Susan’s enthusiasm I’m sure things will change. As an example there is a very pretty historical hotel which is currently being refurbished so perhaps that town in Tennessee may have to rely a little more than just Elvis to remain the one that everybody remembers!

Leaving Memphis I noticed that it was 102F (38.89C) and was soon on my journey with fields of ploughed red earth either side of the highway which soon gives way to fields of golden wheat which is very picturesque. I stopped for lunch at The Dairy Queen in Childress (population 6,109) and suffered a near edible grilled sandwich of the famous rubber chicken variety.

After 166 miles on I stopped at Hardman County Safety Rest Area for a quick break and was comforted to note that this particular rest area boasted a tornado shelter which was about the size of a large utility room in a modern home. I suppose that if one of those frightening phenomena are bearing down upon you it doesn’t matter how cosy it would get in the shelter! Thirty miles later and I drive through a small town called Vernon. This must have been a massive seed producing area as within the town there is a huge factory reminiscent of a Lancashire cotton mill that was called the Crown Seed Company. Massive towers, broken windows, rusting machinery and a general air of dilapidation.

After 238 miles I’m now approaching Wichita Falls and I have joined the I-44 west and the skyline of this sizable town is ahead of me. The Interstate system took me over and through Wichita Falls and I am now traveling along US 82 East. Just over 330 miles into my drive and I have joined TX114 which will take me into Dallas which is about 40 miles away. This last piece of my journey is conducted in rush hour traffic and I’m pleased when I arrive at my hotel and I promise myself a soak in the bath!

For the techies among you the mileage covered today was 371.2 at an average speed of 59.4 mph and achieved 23.9 mpg.

 

Until my next post, Toodleoo!

I’m On My Way To Amarillo da, da.


Wednesday May 2.

Well did you sing the title? Originally recorded by Tony Christi, and then by Sir Tom Jones latterly by Peter Kaye and now you! Now that I’ve planted that seed I bet that tune will be rattling around your head for the rest of the day! I left Gallup just after 9am (Mountain Standard Time) and Gallup is not the sort of place one would wish to stay in for any length of time so I’m pleased to be on my journey. My journey today takes me east along I-40 and fortunately it runs parallel to or near to historic route 66 and I’m able to divert from one to the other as the mood takes me. Route 66 is a simple highway, one lane in each direction and therefore, is a lot slower than the modern Interstate system but on the Interstate you just don’t see as much stuff. Fortunately, route 66 carries very little traffic and that allows you to stop and stare.

My route starts on the I-40 and having left Gallup I’m soon barreling along through the Rockies and the scenery is dramatic. Red sandstone bluffs on either side of me with a prairie in between and its easy to imagine this as cowboy country. Soon I see a sign for The Continental Divide and decide to investigate. I pull off route 66 at the sign and take in the view and if you have a look at the photographs below and also by clicking on “more photos” in the Flickr panel on the right hand side, you will see the divide. I’m facing north so the rain that falls to my right (east) will drain towards the Atlantic and that which falls on my left goes west towards the Pacific. This is a first for me as I don’t think I have ever straddled a continental divide before.

Seventy miles on the landscape has become dominated by limestone rather than sandstone and I’ve passed a number of farmsteads but the land is so poor I have no idea how they make their living. Having travelled about 100 miles on a mixture of both highways I leave the I-40 again for the 66 to investigate a small town called Old Laguna. This tiny ramshackle town is comprised mainly of adobe style dwellings and would appear to be populated by native Americans, have a look at the photograph below and on my Flickr photo stream.

After journeying for 200 miles I stopped at a rest station and look back west and its obvious that I have now left the Rockies and I’m traveling through pastureland of a sort as it appears to be very dry. Later I stopped at the world famous “Clines Corners” although I must admit until now I had never heard of it and having replenished the tank in my Corvette and my inner tank with a 6 inch Subway I had a look around their world famous store full of moccasins, boots and other stuff that I didn’t know that I needed and still don’t!

Shortly after leaving Clines Corners the scenery changed to Pine forrest and 88 miles further on I’m surrounded by red stone bluffs and I’ve seen a sign for Lake Conchas state park. It was 24 miles off my route but I decided to go and have a look and turned on the 66 and was confronted with a derelict filling station (see the picture below) and I’m now heading north on a deserted road. Soon I reach Lake Conchas which must have been made by building a dam and there is no one around but there is signs of boating, marina storage etc. The lake is pretty low and I’m feel that I’m at a fairly decent altitude but the whole place is deserted and very windy. I leave Lake Conchas traveling east on NM 104. I have descended from Lake Concas and reached a village called Tucari which is at an elevation of 4000 feet.

Back on the I-40 east and having journeyed for 399 miles I have left New Mexico and entered Texas and changed time zones from Mountain Standard Time to Central Time. Finally I reach my hotel in Amarillo feeling a little weary but pleased with the experiences of the day!

For the techies out there. Mileage covered today was 458.3 at an average speed of 64.4 mph and achieved 24.3 mpg.

Las Vegas to Gallup, New Mexico via The South Rim at The Grand Canyon, Arizona


Tuesday May 1.

This will be one of those days that will be inevitably etched in my mind. After bidding a fond farewell to my lovely wife, Diana a.k.a. She Who Must Be Obeyed. I took my leave of the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas and set forth for Gallup in New Mexico via The South Rim of The Grand Canyon in Arizona. My journey started eastwards on the I-215 under bright overcast conditions and having reached Boulder City and turning right onto the I-93 near The Hoover Dam I observed spectacular red rock scenery. Suddenly having gone around a fairly decent bend in the road an impressive vista of Lake Mead hove into view (for pictures please see my previous post “A Dam’ Fine Excursion) and having covered just over 34 miles I have left Nevada and entered Arizona. After a total of 46 miles I stopped at a scenic overview on the Nevada Highway and enjoyed a wondrous view of the Colorado River (see picture below). I stopped to fill the Corvette up at Kingman just before turning east on the I-40 at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and opposite the filling station stood a rather rickety gaming establishment which I was reliably informed by the filling station cashier “Wuz where all them big guns hung aat”.

After about 150 miles I’m on a high plateau in the Rockies and the excellent scenery that is rolling by the window is a mixture of pasture land, forested areas, scrub and some horse country. The plateau descends into a tiny town on route 66 called Ashfork and I decided to visit the museum. The museum is free and I am encouraged by a member of staff who outnumber the visitor (me) by 4 to 1 and I peruse the exhibits which were of interest. I particularly enjoyed the fire engine and for this and other photographs please click on “More Photos” in the Flickr panel on the right hand side of this blog and then navigate to day 14. After leaving Ashfork and nearing the turn off for the road which will lead me to the South Rim of The Grand Canyon the scenery changes and becomes reminiscent of the Alpine scenery one would find in the Austrian Tyrol on a summers day. At 221 miles I have turned north onto AZ 64 and am headed up to The Grand Canyon. The road steadily climbs and the road runs through a pine forest and the aroma is gorgeous. I’m beginning to hum snatches from Elgar’s Variations, it’s just that sort of road.

Finally I arrive at the entrance to the park and I notice that the entry fee is $25. So, I reach for my wallet and get out the plastic and my Florida driving license for photo ID. The very nice park ranger makes the assumption that I’m a 63 year old Floridian and therefore I just pay $10 entry fee and receive a pass that now entitles me to free entry to all the national parks in the USA for life and that also covers anyone (up to three people) in my car! What a bargain! I commence my 13 mile journey along the South Rim and to say that it’s spectacular is an understatement. It takes me more than two hours to cover this paltry distance and I wish that I had much more time to spend in this beautiful place.It is indeed, one of the wonders of the world and if you can’t get there soon, then please have a look at all the photographs that I have taken on Day 14 of my Flickr photo stream. I have to say that I think my photographs are pretty good and please leave some comments on them and be sure to tell me which one you think is the best one. I’m having a very tough time trying to make the choice!

All too soon I leave The Grand Canyon and at mile 309 I’m driving south-east on my way to Flagstaff and then onto Gallup. At mile 343 I’m on the US 89 and I’m skirting The Painted Desert and once more I wish I had time to stop and stare. I reach Flagstaff after a total of 389 miles and pick up the I-40 east towards Gallup and I’m at an elevation of 6000 feet and that’s after I have descended from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon! I continue my downward journey and after another 35 miles I’ve dropped a further 1000 feet and I’m in Geronimo country. I’m about 80 miles west of Gallup and the scenery puts me straight into a cowboy movie. You expect to see teeming herds of Buffalo and hordes of native Americans between the flat topped eroded mesa’s on either side of the roadway and that big band theme tune from “The Big Country” is rattling around in my head followed by the whistling “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly”. I’m now off the I-40 and on historic route 66 as the sun is setting behind my left shoulder and I begin to feel like a High Plains Drifter. Oh! very cherooted Clint Eastwood indeed, as I leave Arizona and enter New Mexico. At long last I arrive at my hotel in Gallup which is a town that you would just spend one night in because you’re too tired to travel any further. Tomorrow I’m going to get my kicks on route 66!

For the techies amongst you the mileage covered was 559.5 at an average speed of 61.2 mph and I achieved 23.7 mpg.

Until my next post, Toodleoo!

A Dam’ Fine Excursion


Friday 27 of April

We’re off with the group to a tour of The Hoover Dam. A monumental project that was finished in 1938 two years ahead of time and beneath budget!! Where have we gone wrong?

The coach ride out was through pleasant scenery and then upon arrival the coach and the assembled company was subjected to security which has only to be expected in today’s age. In a few minutes we were whisked down into the depths of The Hoover Dam where we were treated to an overview by the dam’ tour guide, Eric. While in this chamber we could feel the floor vibrate from the flow of water through one of the tunnels beneath, at an impressive speed likened to the emptying of 144 Olympic size swimming pools every minute! One side of the dam is in Nebraska and the other in Arizona and on each side, buried in the structure of the dam, lies nine monstrous turbines which generates electricity for well over a million homes in the area.

Having regained the surface and with the sun beating down upon collective bodies it was time for a stroll across the top of the dam. It was a pleasure to see a number of Morgan Sports cars roll by in convoy particularly as they are one of the last British hand made sports cars still in production!

Now it was time for lunch aboard a paddle steamer, The Dessert Princess, while we cruised Lake Mead which is the largest man made lake in the USA with a coast line of over 550 miles!

All too soon it was back on the coach and back to Vegas stopping at a chocolate factory that manufactured M&M’s. Having whizzed through the factory and dutifully munched my free sample I was able to spend some happy minutes in the Cactus Garden photographing some of the more unusual species.

On the way to our hotel we stopped at the famous Las Vegas sign and were able to get a group photograph underneath this illustrious structure. Back at the hotel there was just time for a quick shower and change and then we attended our gala dinner where a good time was had by all.

To see all the photographs that were taken on this day and some of them are really cool, just click on the Flickr link in the right hand side of this blog.

Until my next post, Toodleloo!

TV Stars, Fancy Cars & Showgirls


Dear Reader,

Many apologies for not posting my travel blog, in the last few days but it’s been so busy here in Las Vegas. So, let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

I awoke reasonably early on Thursday morning and decided that I needed to take advantage of this superb hotel’s (The Bellagio) gymnasium. On the way to the gym I had to walk through the Casino and I quickly found out that wherever you went in this hotel you had to walk through the Casino! To see folk playing cards, slot machines etc before seven o’clock in the morning was surreal but each to his (or her) own! Having pounded the treadmill for the regulatory forty-five minutes I was on my way back to our room through the Casino, of course, and I saw a gentleman playing cards wearing his gym kit. I couldn’t decide whether he was on the way to, or returning from, the gym or perhaps he was conducting a subterfuge in an attempt to fool his wife!

On retuning to the room my good lady wife, Diana, a.k.a. She Who Must Be Obeyed, was awake and ready for breakfast so a quick shower and being dutifully clothed by She Who Must Be Obeyed we broke bread.

Our first adventure was to visit a pawn shop. Not just any pawn shop but a very famous one. In case you have missed it there’s a TV show broadcast on the History Channel in the USA and in the UK that Diana and I have enjoyed entitled “Pawn Stars”. It’s a bit like The Antique’s Road Show but the valuers have the physique and dress sense of ex wrestlers but nonetheless we found the show to be fascinating & hugely entertaining. After carefully parking the Corvette in the shops car park we found ourselves standing in line awaiting to gain admission to the holy shrine of second hand bric a brac which was duly patrolled by a “doorman” who had the size and physique of a mature silver back orangutan. We were shocked when the said orangutan pulled us out of the line and with great deference and in soft spoken tones enquired whether we would like to enter the emporium immediately. We, of course, responded in the most positive and enthusiastic way, after all it’s not often that a giant of a man asks us to do his bidding! Entering the store came as a surprise and we were a little disappointed by the interior of the emporium as it was somewhat smaller than we expected and the articles on display could have done with a flick over with a feather duster but then we reminded ourselves that after all we were in a pawn shop!

Suddenly, a young man, artistically dressed in jeans, shirt, a small hat and sporting a careless cravat around his neck enquired of us whether we would like to appear on the TV show? She Who Must Be Obeyed immediately grasped the opportunity as en exercise in self promotion and agreed with alacrity. We were duly ushered to the back of the shop and the store was cleared of lesser mortals who were not required for this most important episode of this venerable artistic entertainment. The cravatted artistic young man then briefed the willing future international TV stars as to their duties and asked if there were any questions. Silence reigned and then She Who Must Be Obeyed arose to her full and not inconsiderable height and enquired in a stentorian voice  “What are the rates of pay?” The now flustered young man being unsure how to handle such a formidable negotiator quickly capitulated under the withering stare of S.W.M.B.O. Filming commenced and afterwards we were informed that the episode will be broadcast sometime during the next two months in the USA and at some point in time the UK! So, dear reader, my advice would be to set your DVR to record the entire series of this illustrious episode. We retuned to our hotel bathed in the light of our new found international stardom.

After morning coffee we were strolling around the beautiful swimming pool when we were hailed by our good friends Stephan and Georgia Longworth. The four of us have a love of classic cars and we had learned that there was an exhibition of them at The Imperial Hotel just down the “strip” and we gathered ourselves and took a short taxi ride to the said establishment. On our way to the exhibition, the largest in the world, housed on the fifth floor, and through the Casino we encountered and were entertained by legendary stars Tina Turner, Rod Stewart, and somebody called Prince who when not performing acted as croupiers! You can see their photographs and pictures of the day by clicking on “More Photos” in the Flickr panel on the right hand side of this blithering blog. Finally we gained access to this astonishing collection of machinery and stared in awe at a variety of vehicles some of them with impressive histories. Among them vehicles that had been owned, driven or used by President Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby and other notables. Most of the assembled vehicles on display were for sale and the total value exceeded two and a half million dollars! I took some photographs of the ones that caught my eye and you van view them together with a brief description on my Flickr site by clicking on “More Photos” in the panel on the right hand side.

Later that day we enjoyed a delightful dinner with our group at the renowned Strip House Steak Restaurant in the Planet Hollywood resort. After dinner Dr. Couchman and I were enjoying an excellent cup of coffee while Diana, encouraged by Katie Ostro enjoyed a free makeover and then on to an excellent variety show “Vegas” where we were treated to some fabulous dancing, singing and magic. This was not a show that would have ordinarily appealed to me but I really enjoyed it!

On the way back to our hotel I had a brief encounter with a lovely showgirl but I did remember the advice that I received from my son Matthew, “Dad, if a girl talks to you in Vegas, she’s working!”. At the end of our first day in Vegas, Diana and I retired to bed happy and knackered!

Until my next post, Toodleloo!

Viva Las Vegas!


I was up early this morning and out running just after 6 am and did my 3.2 miles. While I was out pounding the pavement I observed a youth of school age meandering along and when he reached the stop light he pushed the button in order to change the lights so that he could cross the road. However, on this long straight road there was no traffic in sight and the youth waited patiently for the light to change. Obviously, this young man has been so well trained that his decision powers will not stand in him good stead in later life!

By 8.45 am I was on the road having had an enjoyable evening at The Papago Inn, Scottsdale, AZ. It’s already 74F and overcast. My journey took me on US93 through Joshua Tree Parkway. A very enjoyable twisty, mountainous road with very unusual boulder formations and after 185 miles I joined  the I 40. At 276 miles I had crossed the border from Arizona into Nevada. This whole stretch of the I 40 in both states was besieged with radar speed traps awaiting the unsuspecting motorist.

I arrived at The Bellagio Hotel in Las vegas and was duly greeted by my good lady wife, Diana, a.k.a. She Who Must Be Obeyed and my car was emptied of luggage and duly whisked away before I could note today’s running statistics.

Having unpacked my bags in our very nice room Diana and I had a leisurely stroll and did a little light shopping! Light, in so far as the purchases did not weigh very much but quite heavy in other respects but when She Who Must Be Obeyed decides upon an article then my wallet seems to lose all sense of reason!

Tomorrow we have plans to visit somewhere famous but very unique!

Until my next post, Toodloo!

Time zones and unexpected meetings!


I awoke this morning refreshed after a very good nights’ sleep at the Hampton Inn in Las Cruces, so much so that I did not start my journey until 9.20. The sun was up, the sky was blue and the traffic was light but all of a sudden, 20 miles on and I’m in a slow moving line of vehicles and to my amazement we are all being inspected by the US border patrol. Somehow, I was able to convince the very nice officer that I was not an illegal immigrant but an honest, legal alien with a B1/B2 Visa in good order. Somewhat ironic as in today’s newspaper (USA Today) one of the lead stories on the front page is that more Mexicans are leaving the USA than are entering it!

The landscape is becoming more and more arid as I travel west on this high plateaux ringed by majestic but near barren mountains. I pass several large bright yellow signs warning me to be aware of possible dust storms and not to stop in travels lanes and that visibility could be reduced to zero!

Sixty-seven miles into my journey and I have just gone past a stationary Union Pacific locomotive looking like its been abandoned by the side of the road and just six miles later I overtake a person on a push bike! I have to say person because the human figure was shrouded in a voluminous yellow garment and the head was similarly covered with a helmet while the face of the mystery rider was obscured by a mask. I suspect this protective clothing may have been in place not just for protection from the sun that by now is beating down fiercely upon the highway but perhaps as a precaution agains a sudden dust storm! This human form was certainly a change from the more usual figure clad in Spandex which can, upon occasion, be quite revolting and surely should only be worn at private parties but I digress.

I shifted time zones yet again and I’m now in Mountain Standard Time which means as I write this it’s 10:30 pm here in Scottsdale, Arizona; 12:30 am in Huston Texas, 01:30 am in Florida and 6.30 am in the UK. If I’m feeling evil enough when I have finished this post I might just start telephoning a few people in the UK to make sure they are up and working!

Meanwhile, 140 miles into today’s journey and I have crossed the state line into Arizona. This is the centennial year of Arizona. On February 14, 1912, after nearly 49 years as a U.S. territory and thousands of years as a sacred home to indigenous peoples, Arizona became the 48th and last of the contiguous states to enter the Union of the United States of America.

The landscape becomes increasingly arid and large cacti are now a prominent feature of the roadside vegetation.

I decided to take a break and do a little shopping in Tucson (I needed some clean socks before I meet my dear wife, Diana, a.k.a. She Who Must Be Obeyed tomorrow in Las Vegas) and while in the mall I met a lady that I haven’t seen for eighteen years! Bonnie Allen and her husband Rod were part of a business that Diana (S.W.M.B.O.) and I pioneered in the UK. We had a ten minute catch up and went our separate ways, Bonnie back to her retail managerial position and me back to the Corvette!

Three hundred and forty six miles into my journey and I espy traveling in the opposite direction on the railway track adjacent to the highway a colossus of a freight train. This behemoth was double stacked with containers and seemed to slither like a serpent for a considerable period of time. It was interesting to note that each container had painted on its side the words “China Shipping” which may be indicative of some of our western economic challenges.

Finally I have arrived at my hotel in Scottsdale and I’m looking forward to my journey tomorrow to Las Vegas and willingly subjecting myself to She Who Must Be Obeyed.

For the techies out there the mileage covered today was 414 miles at an average speed of 68.4 mph and achieved 18.5 mpg.

Until my next post, Toodleloo!