Southwest Express

We were pretty happy to leave Monument Valley, which is magnificent and interesting – for about a day. Admittedly we have short attention spans, but in our defense, we were in a hurrry to see legendary Taos, New Mexico. It’s a mecca for artists, art lovers, spiritual crystal people, American Indian history enthusiasts, pottery collectors, foodies, hippies and drifters, both young and aged.

My handsome spouse, tour director and travel agent extraordinaire,  booked a charming-looking authentic Taos adobe casita, which was newly renovated, offered a good location, and, best of all, a washer/dryer, which we had anticipated needing.  Great plan, cute house.  A few problems.  It was hot as hell, due to an unseasonable heat wave which pushed the gauge to almost 100, complicated by dreadful fires in New Mexico, the residual smoke and ash of which drifted over the town, piling on the misery.  The adorable authentic adobe was without air conditioning and didn’t have much in the way of screens, so a breeze wasn’t available.  It was also just a tad grubby.  This points to one of the conundrums of travel:  after a certain point does quaintness trump comfort?  We came to the conclusion that it’s situational and has a lot to do with weather and cleanliness, both of which are uncontrollable most of the time.  The lesson is:  man up or get out.

Howdy and Adios to New Mexico

We tried.  We really did. We dutifully panted through a couple of earnest museums and spent an afternoon in the local mountains seeking relief.  A picnic beside a wonderfully noisy stream was the highlight of our Taos experience.  Even so, we were still hot, smokey, and tired of spiderwebs.  We did not man up.  We fled a day early.

We needed air conditioning, a good bed,  and a clean room.  We picked a brand new nondescript motel in Santa Rosa, New Mexico.  It suited us, but the town so weary and hopeless that even the chirpy waitress at the “authentic” Route 66 restaurant couldn’t make us believe that living there was okay.

Santa Rosa, New Mexico

We beat it the next day for Amarillo.  AMARILLO, TEXAS?  ON PURPOSE?  WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?

I went under protest.   A little-known fact of my life is that I graduated from Amarillo High School. I didn’t really have a great time there and when my dad was transferred by his company to Oklahoma City I graduated a semester early, and enrolled in Oklahoma City University.  I declined an invitation to the graduation and have never returned.  I would have kept that up, but  my husband, who has roots back to forever and a cemetery full of relatives in Ohio to prove it, insisted that we stop there and at least take a look at my alma mater.

I have no memory of Amarillo’s layout, so I used the internet to locate the high school.  A brief internet search yielded directions and a photo of a  beige, non-descript building I had never seen.  MY high school was was an early 20th century red brick affair trimmed in yellow stones (as I remembered it). MY  Amarillo High School also burned down in 1970.  How out of touch can you be?

Diane’s Grandmother’s House

Stephen F. Austin Jr. High was next.   It has survived the eons since I attended.  I lived nearby but, but I had no idea how to find my house.  Then, poring over the map I noticed a street name which rang a bell.  Tim obligingly nosed around, turning as I felt my way up the street.  Suddenly, there it was – my friend Diane’s house, where my happiest memories of Amarillo live.  We had giggling slumber parties featuring Beanie Weanies, hot chocolate, Elvis and crank calls there and the house had one of the few private swimming pools in Amarillo in the day.   Diane’s grandmother, who owned several Texas-size cattle ranches,  had come to Amarillo with her husband in a buckboard (I may be making this up, but I swear that’s what I remember).  She put up with our teenage silliness in an indulgent but dignified way and was the only person I had ever met who had an actual buzzer at her foot to ring the cook to ask for the next course!  The house is so special that it boasts an historical marker.  I do not think it was awarded because I spent so much time there.

Following the trail of my youth, we drove to Oklahoma City, where we visited my lifelong bff Fran Morris.  We showed Tim the highlights of that beautiful city which, for me, included a visit to the University campus, and a drive-by at Johnnie’s hamburger joint, which no longer features car-hops and is way too snazzy for my liking.

The memorial to the victims of the Oklahoma City Bombings is dignified, touching and accessible.  Its quiet testimony to the horror of hatred is breathtaking.

We saw old friends and enjoyed Oklahoma hospitality for several days.  It was a great respite from the road and a treat to be with my darling Fran, as always.

We were closing the gap to our Mexican destination and spent the night in Dallas, where we enjoyed an evening with dear friends Margie and Ted Debosier. Next stop AUSTIN, a place so colorful that it deserves its own chapter.  Stay tuned, highlights coming right up.