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Westward Ho: Day Two

Current time: 12:43pm (Mountain Time) Current song: “Paper Wings” by Gillian Welch Current snack: a bag of unusually fresh and crunchy CornNuts, Spicy Hot V8 Current state: New Mexico

Current mile marker: 308 Current landscape: sagebrush and scrubby shrubs, the occasional tumbleweed

This morning mom and I compared overnight notes and came to the agreement that we each slept really well. I’m pretty sure I didn’t budge — woke up in the same position as when I fell asleep. I suppose that is owed partly to the fact that I was on a tight top bunk in the cabin and partly to the fact that we woke at 5am yesterday and I was quite sleepy. While we were loading the car we were listening to Robinella and the CC String Band. She sings a song called “Morning Dove” and in the chorus she imitates the sound of a turtle dove’s cooing with her warbly voice. At the very same time as she did this in the song, a real dove in the tree outside our cabin was doing the same. The real bird must have felt upstaged and I’m guessing she thought she needed to show that human broad how it’s really done. It was pretty sweet. Sweet and hilarious. We cleaned up, packed up, had thick coffee with cream and English muffins with sliced tomato (eggs and all other accoutrements went out the window when we woke a bit later than we ought’ve) and hit the road. I took the morning shift because I like early driving best. Fresh-faced, wide-eyed, and lead-footed.

We’re now a few miles east of Newkirk, New Mexico. Just crossed into Guadalupe County. It’s hot, dry, dusty, wide open and beautiful. We’ve been driving West on 40 all day, with Historic Route 66 running right alongside, just a few yards away, like a sad puppy who’s gotten left far behind. Either a sad puppy or a sad little brother who can’t keep up, spinning his wheels on his tiny, outdated bike. The contrast of the super-speed, “modern” interstate against a narrow, crackly, badly patched two-lane highway that used to be a symbol of freedom and wide abandon, well, it just made me a little nostalgic for days and times that I really never knew. Then there are the countless, and I mean countless, dumpy, rusty small towns that have been thrown to the wolves of progress. The scattered water towers, grain elevators, co-ops and and gas stations all bear the marks of time and have sustained a healthy beating from harsh elements.

These, however, are the landmarks that make me scramble to get out my camera as quickly as possible (even if I’m behind the wheel) to try to capture something of them. The peeling, rusting, curling, and aging of these slabs of concrete, trucks on blocks, abandoned houses and boarded-up convenience stores make them endlessly intriguing to me. One of these days, when I’ve either garnered a hefty disposable income or a hefty art grant, I’m going to have the luxury of taking this trip with no end in mind so that I don’t feel urgency to get to any certain spot. Then I’ll get to make all of those photographing/snooping/junk-harvesting stops that I’m always inclined to make, but then again I’ll also never get anywhere fast. But then again, might I remind you, Self, that’s the whole point.

We just passed a billboard for a truck stop that boasted “Lotsa Rocks!” Really? People get off the interstate to buy rocks? Well now, this next billboard for the same place is also touting the fact that they have a “Flame Thrower!” and “Peanut Brittle!” there, so I suppose there are many unexplored virtues at the Flying C Ranch. Add “Agate Bookends!” to that growing list of goods. They’ve also got “Ample Parking For Your Big Rig!” Whew, that’s great news, because my big rig usually presents a problem.

There is a long train snaking east to our right at the present. From where I sit, it looks like it’s going the wrong way, and fast. I think it’s carrying coal and oil, if I had to guess. Maybe some bananas and some immigrants. The bright yellow Union Pacific engine, painted with an undulating, ragged American flag, is making quick work of these red mesas and green valleys. Just one more snapshot of Americana. There are so many reasons why it’s called the Heartland, and I’ll add that mental image to my list.

Signing off for now. I am itching to get to the end of the line, get out of this car and off my sore rear, and have a good long mind bending stretch. I can almost taste the pool. It tastes like a freshly laundered towel, sunscreen, the pages of my book and maybe a little nap. Oh, and a lot of chlorine. Yum.

ADDENDUM: SUPPER #1. making the black bean ‘stew’ #2. frying four, count ’em, four, perfect eggs #3. ahhhh, sweet perfection: black bean, green chile ‘stew’ with leftover flank steak, cheddar cheese, fried eggs, tomatoes, and of course, the universal utensil, the chip


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