Was it the way to Amarillo?

Turns out it was! Growing up in the 70’s pop songs like ‘Is this the way to Amarillo?’ sung by Tony Christie & Albuquerque by Neil Young would be blaring away on the radio at home leaving me to wondering where on earth these places were as they seemed so exotic. Little did i know that many years later I would be planning a road trip that took me to those very locations.

Trundling along Interstate 40 we passed many a place some with the most odd sounding names that must all have some sort of story attached as to how they came by them but we had miles to cover so mostly they are recorded just as a nod to the route we took.

Keen to establish the full capacity of the gas tank we let the miles go by & the level sink until we really had to stop for a comfort break & a top up. Seems that capacity was about 25 gallons & this cost about $100. It was interesting to see that the price of gas actually started to decrease as we headed East but we were heading to “JR Ewing” territory & home of the oil barons so may be not such a surprise. The mural on the garage wall was interesting as it seemed to signal the fact that the station had originally been part of the old route that we had to leave the interstate to find.

As the miles rolled by so did the places but we stopped for a break at Santa Rosa & came across this historical marker. These seem to crop up all over the place & impart some interesting information about the location. House was curious as we didn’t see any as we went by & it also seemed popular for places to be known simply as a first name. Adrian was perhaps the larger of such settlements & was also the home to a large wind farm. The wind did whistle & driving at times was slower because the open plains around gave no protection from the gusts.

Living in a rural area surrounded by farms it came as no surprise to see similar as we drove by but what was surprising was the sheer scale. This was only a snapshot of what seemed like thousands of cattle & its probably as well that the image didn’t capture the pungent smell that followed us for miles after.

The next day would bring the long track to Texas & the first taste of fear while negotiating the traffic system as we headed to the RV park near Fort Worth.

Pizza in Phoenix

Its probably not most peoples idea of normal to arrange to meet someone for a pizza that requires a drive of nearly 300miles but it was worth it for Bryony to catch up with her friend. The drive was about 4.5 hours long despite the various pit stops. Arriving 15 minutes early ironically we got lost on foot in the carpark trying to find Barros so were almost late. A quick call was all it took to soon be consuming delicious pizza & catching up with all the news.

The winking warning light was still bothering me despite our detour to a garage near Boulder City, the purchase of a manual tyre gauge & reporting the problem to the Van company. So we were really grateful to Jess who arranged for her husband to take a looks as he works for an auto parts company & had a number of testing gadgets that he could use to check the system out.

KOA campsites are great in as much as they are usually pretty consistent in what they offer but I like to change it up a bit & stay at some of the state park or recreational government sites. Whilst these sites are a little more basic they are usually in places of outstanding natural beauty & way cheaper than an RV park. Whilst only a half hour drive it was a little hairy trying to navigate in the dark as the headlights were shockingly dim but we made it & were rewarded the next day with a beautiful view over Lake Pleasant. The large outdoor recreational area lies on the county border lines of Maricopia & Yavapai, northwest of Pheonix, Arizona. It is about 1700 feet above sea level and covers 7,500 acres with a depth that ranges from 70 – 170 foot. Small boats were evident & while I was taking photos a mass of hot air balloons could be seen & the cactus were really fascinating shapes & varieties.

Camp Verde provided a great place to stop for coffee & I treated myself to a bag of ‘Cowboy Coffee’ in a great cafe we found. The lady in the tourist information office was really lovely & we found a garage where the mechanics checked our tyres for free. Just showing there really are still some kind people in the world as although the light was still on I had now concluded there was little to be done about it in just about every way possible.

Travelling towards Grants, New Mexico we realised we had skipped from PacificTime to Mountain time & hence why the previous day our journey seemed to be taking longer with every mile we drove forward. To be staying in the same time zone was definitely a blessing as we faced the longest drive of the trip at nearly 400 miles which was going to take at least 6.5 hours not counting stops. 

It was hoped that we would be able to incorporate the scenic drive via the Petrified Forest near Holbrook but having to had made so many unscheduled pit stops the previous few days this was sadly no longer an option. Still we did manage to catch a small section the Joshua Tree National Forest & that sort of compensated as the landscape was really unlike any other forest we had ever seen.

Grants KOA was a great place to break the journey overnight before heading towards Albuquerque then consulting google maps to ask the all important question ‘is this the way to Amarillo?’  There are not many occasions to screen shot the sat nav instructions but when it tells you drive on the Interstate 40 East for 348 miles before making a right turn this was definitely one. I normally try to avoid this type of road as inevitably whilst undoubtably quicker they are infinitely more boring to drive. However from this a great new driving game was invented. Think of variation of ‘eye spy’ in which every time a particular advert or nominated thing was spotted the passenger had to insert a suitably cheesy song into the days playlist. To qualify the song ideally had to have a place or state name that we were likely to visit or have a suitable country & western vibe although not sure the algorithms of my Spotify account have completely recovered from some of the gems we found. 

Arriving at Fort Amarillo, Texas minus another hour as we had left mountain time for central time we were glad to take a rest & do some laundry before heading across country to Dallas.

Flying High in Freemantle

Not sure what kind of nutcase plans a post pandemic road trip amidst a fuel crisis & general world chaos but when you get the travel itch all i can say in my defence is that it needed scratching. 

When it came to transport it was definitely a ‘Goldilocks’ decision as I determined we needed a van that was neither too big nor too small but one that was ‘just right’. Copious googling turned up the Kuga Hi-top from Travellers Autobarn that seemed at least on paper to meet all the requirements. The only snag was that all their depots were located on the West Coast & we wanted to catch up with people one of whom lived on the West Coast. 

Some of you may have picked up on the fact that route planning for me is actually part of the journey so it was that I set about mapping out the shape of the ‘trip of two halves’ as the first section would be with my daughter & the return with my husband. It would be quite a circular journey with a van pick up / drop off in Las Vegas.

On the evening we checked in to the Hotel Excalibur (think Disney like castle with a magical lift system that seemed to deliver you to different places each time) the most we managed was a quick walk to the Hello Kitty Cafe & the M&M shop before sinking into a comatose state. 

M&M ‘pick n mix’

Next day we arrived at the depot to pick up the van which was a much longer and slower process than previously experienced but eventually Morrison was ours to drive away. The delay stemmed from the fact the van was undergoing ‘routine service’ which included the fitting of a complete set of new tyres. Sams Town is now possibly my favourite KOA site I’ve been there so many times it feels like a second home & its so undeniably convenient for wagon provisioning with a supermarket across the road. 

As neither of us had been to the ‘old downtown’ we headed for the Freemantle area to compare it to the more modern ‘Vegas strip’. On a whim we decided to go on the zip wire that whizzes yo over the heads of the hordes of people that are busy visiting the shops & bars below it. The Fremantle Experience at 40mph was for me a little on the tame side compared to Velocity II in Wales but it still was fun & afterwards we rounded the evening off with a beer in a local bar.

Next morning with the fridge full of white claw & salad plus a tyre warning light winking at us we set off the next day for Phoenix.

Getting older but not giving up fight against agism in its many forms

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