It was time to leave Austin, which was depressing as I love the city so much. I was heading for Santa Fe, New Mexico for a few nights and to get there a few stops offs, first being Amarillo in Texas and then Albuquerque. Until now Id been driving through some populous areas and Interstates, by the looks of it on the map Id now be heading through the desert and a much quieter drive.
The drive to Amarillo through the state of Texas was interesting, well sort of… There was very little traffic on the Highway and the towns I went through appeared mostly boarded up and very few people about so I was surprised when I was pulled over by a local police officer (or Sherriff) for driving 10 miles over the speed limit. I thought this was harsh as I had frequently been driving 20 miles over the limit. The “County Mounty” strolled up to my window, looked at my license, his eyes rolled asking me what was this, evidently not familiar with an Australian driving licence. Instead of issuing a ticket, he wrote me a citation to slow down. I asked what was the point of this to which he indicated best not to find out. As I’d seen plenty of “Dukes of Hazard” as a kid I knew that in America once I left the “Flatfoots” jurisdiction he wouldn’t be able to book me. I left the county and went back to 20 miles an hour over. America has many police services, Federal, State, County, Sherriff, Municipal, Parks, Transit blah blah blah the list goes on. It’s amazing, so many police in America must the safest place in the world 😉.
It was around 500 miles or about 7 hours between Austin and Amarillo and except for deserted towns and occasional speeding infractions there wasn’t much to see. I checked into my hotel, had a shower and headed out for the evening. First up was a local restaurant where I had a delicious meatloaf. The restaurant was busy as Amarillo is along the old Route 66 and there were plenty of Road Tripping tourists about doing the same thing I was, driving cross-country. I finished up and then headed to a local bar. Sitting at the bar were what I assume were Texan cowboys, wearing checkered shirts and wide brim hats. After taking a seat it was easy enough to engage in conversation, mainly consisting at their surprise meeting with an Aussie. We talked about guns which apparently a lot of Americans appear to have a great love for and how “Austin isn’t the true Texas”. I also found out about a local Cadillac Ranch and other attractions in Amarillo. They invited me to go out but after the lengthy drive and another drive tomorrow I headed back to the hotel and would check out these attractions tomorrow.
I was up early in the morning and my first stop was the Palo Duro Canyon. According to the State Park entry sign Palo Duro is the second largest canyon in North America (the first being the Grand Canyon) forming part of the Texas Panhandle. It is 190km long and averages at about 10km wide meaning its impressive but also much smaller than the Grand Canyon. The canyon itself contained interesting rock formations and a lot of wildlife, because of size it did not take long to drive around it. So that completed next was the Panhandle Museum, the largest historical museum in Texas. There were many displays and was very informative on the American Civil war, Cowboys and Comanche Indians. It also has an impressive collection of guns which reminded me of the cowboy’s Id met the night before, like I say Texans love guns. After finishing up at the museum, I then headed out of town towards Alburquerque.
The Cowboys had advised me to buy some cans of spray paint I so I pulled up to a Dollar store on the edge of the city. I kept driving until I could see cars that were planted upright in the ground. I had found the Cadillac Ranch. The Ranch was a large flat field and consists of 10 half-buried cars upright that have rusted away over time. I later found out the attraction was created in 1974 by a group of hippies that referred to themselves as the “Ant Farm” as an anti-corporate architectural message which must have resonated in the 1970s. Nowadays it’s where you can take some interesting pictures and spray paint your name onto a car which over time had been sprayed over again and again. It was truly bizarre and one of the most amazingly cool things Id done on my road trip so far. The ranch is one of the iconic stop-off points along Route 66.
After tagging a Caddy It was then onto Alburquerque, a 5-hour drive along an Interstate, more traffic about and not as isolated as the drive yesterday up through Texas. After a few hours it was goodbye Texas and hello New Mexico. The drive was uneventful and after the check in at the hotel I headed to a local bar. This time I picked an Irish bar and ended up in a conversation with Americans about the game of rugby union. I’d found myself in Alburquerque’s local rugby bar. Australia is a “World Force“ in rugby union and the game is very popular in Australia where is in America the game is not popular (actually America sucks at Rugby) which is why I find myself surprised talking about the game. Being an Aussie was a good enough reason to be invited out on a celebratory bar crawl by the locals and they invited me to play with the team on the weekend. Unfortunately I wouldn’t be around to show them a thing or two (that and I don’t play rugby).
The following day I went to the Albuquerque Museum, this focused on various time periods of New Mexican history, art and also had several Mayan pieces. It was really impressiveand the building was new. I may have appreciated it more if I was not so hungover thanks to my rugby friends the evening before. I then headed to the Nuclear Museum, which details the evolution of nuclear technology from 1939 to what goes on today. There were exhibits about World War 2, Cuban Missile crisis and Cold War periods which were all covered in depth. There was also an Intercontinental Ballistic missile on display ,other missiles and planes such as a B52 bomber. There were also signs in display detailing how to survive the nuclear fallout during the 1950s. That evening I spent the night in as wanted an early start to Santa Fe the next day and Id been out every night since I’d arrived in Austin 7 nights previously (for Austin see previous blog).
I drove along the Turquoise Trail, which is regarded as one of the most scenic drives in the USA, a half day drive between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. I started with a hill climb drive of around 3000m up Sandia Crest for some expansive views of Albuquerque and the desert beyond. I then ascended and headed to one trail of famous attractions, the Tinkertown Museum. This was a unique experience, the displays full of carved wooden miniature figurines inhabiting carved houses with mechanical parts moving figurines around. The museum is full of handcrafted doll houses explaining the American West. There was also a yacht from when the owner sailed around the world and also carnival machines that read fortunes, played music and stamped quarters, I really enjoyed the tour.
The drive to Amarillo through the state of Texas was interesting, well sort of… There was very little traffic on the Highway I was driving along and the towns I went through appeared mostly boarded up and very few people about so I was surprised when I was pulled over by a local police officer (or Sherriff) for driving 10 miles over the speed limit. I thought this was harsh as I had frequently been driving 20 miles over the limit. The “County Mounty” strolled up to my window, looked at my license, his eyes rolled asking me what was this, evidently not familiar with an Australian driving licence. Instead of issuing a ticket, he wrote me a citation to slow down. I asked what was the point of this to which he indicated best not to find out. As I’d seen plenty of “Dukes of Hazard” as a kid I knew that in America once I left the “Flatfoots” jurisdiction he wouldn’t be able to book me so once I left the Country I went back to 20 miles an hour over. America has many police services, Federal, State, County, Sherriff, Municipal, Parks, Transit blah blah blah the list goes on. It’s amazing, so many police in America must the safest place in the world ;).
Next I stopped off in the town of Madrid for some lunch at the Old Coal Town Museum. Madrid is a re-energised former coal mining and ghost town, there are approximately 40 retail shops selling various artistic pieces and is quite a quirky little place. The Museum which is also part roadhouse so after finishing a tasty steak I looked around the displays. There were historic pictures of the town, some old vehicles, steam engines and a cinema is still in use today. I left the museum and looked at a few retail stores selling various forms of New Mexican art. For a ghost town Madrid seemed very popular.
After a few more stop offs, I arrived in Santa Fe and was taken by the stunning architecture. Most American cities have some uniqueness to them, typically with the Downtown area locals have changed over time with new buildings and renovations if the old. Downtown Santa Fe however was unique and very distinctive like no other, the city’s buildings were all rendered and tan in colour designed to match the desert colours. The style is referred to as Pueblo Revival. The roof’s of the buildings were flat and the walls rounded instead of typical sharp corners. The city reminded me of the cartoon The Flintstones. There were many art museums and Native American shopping available. It made me feel like I was in the middle of a country like Turkey rather the middle of the USA.
That night I ended up hanging out with a barmaid I met at the local punk bar who took me on another pub crawl around the town where I met many locals, mainly punks. It was a hilarious evening. It seemed to me each time I went out in the USA I experienced something unique and friendly. The following day involved visiting a local Flea Market which contained Indian arts and crafts, I purchased two rugs which I threw in the back of the Mustang (my rental car) and then ate lots of tacos from a caravan near the hotel I was staying at. I then ended up in a bar watching the Euro Cup final with the barmaid from the night before. It was good to watch sport on TV, which wasn’t basketball or NFL.
After more beers and tacos, I said goodbye to my friend and took a free cab back to the hotel. New Mexico provides free taxis for anyone out for the evening who gets a little tipsy and shouldn’t drive home. This is an initiative to stop drink driving, whilst America has many police forces, few of them have random breathalyser technology which means the police resort to tests like walking a line or word trickery. This means a lot of drink driving so good on New Mexico for the taxi service, don’t forget to tip. Well, anyway, that’s about it, next Ill be heading up to Colorada and Denver for July 4, hope you enjoyed the read.