Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Day Fourteen

Start: Elk City OK (22735)
End: Gallup NM (23311)
576 miles

Oh, EWWW. Want to know the reason NOT to stay in a no-name cheapo hotel? The BUGS.

I dress and clear out of that waterbug-infested mess at sunup. Good riddance. The icky crawly feelings get blown away by the good clean wind of the highway. An hour into my day, I've crossed over into the Texas panhandle, and I am feeling good once more. Next stop, Amarillo, where I think I'll have breakfast. I've been seeing billboards for The Big Texan, a famous restaurant in Amarillo, Home Of The Free 72 Oz Steak! No, I'm not gonna attempt to eat four and a half pounds of beef for breakfast, but hey! I feel the need to do some silly touristy sightseeing around now. Since Oklahoma City I've been on the highway that replaced Route 66, and I've been seeing lots and lots of billboards for touristy stuff and 66 nostalgia spots and things like that.

It's a funny thing about billboards, ya know. I used to consider them eyesores, urban blight, and wished someone would tear 'em all down. But once you get out of the cities and into the wide open spaces, they sort of become your friends. Most days, I've been riding places where there is a whole lot of nothing, just farmlands or empty space. You can go for many miles without seeing any signs; then, when you spot one, you know you are coming up to something. The good signs will tell you you're ten miles away from a truck stop with a Subway shop, or the best pork chops in Tennessee, or the LIVE! Two-Headed Rattlesnake, or whatever! And then you know you'll have the opportunity to get gas and have a little stretch, or a bite to eat, or just a look-see at roadside America weirdness, if it strikes your fancy. The signs give you something to look at and to think about besides the stripe on the road. Billboards are an inherant part of a road trip. I have grown to welcome them during my days of travel.

There's my bike, dwarfed by the Big TexanThe Big Texan certainly does not disappoint. It's gaudy, hysterically funny in its unabashed touristy excess. It's still early, and I am one of only five customers in their immense dining hall. I get a (normal-sized) steak and eggs for breakfast, along with biscuits and gravy which are absolutely delicious. Pleasantly stuffed, I figure to make this my big meal for the day. In the parking lot, I watch a cowboy guy unload a horse from a trailer and walk him around, much as you'd walk a dog who's been cooped up in the back seat of a car. The horse obediently poops in an out-of-the-way corner of the lot. Heh. Texas.

Entering New MexicoIt's only about 175 miles across the Texas panhandle, so I am in New Mexico before I know it. Road time. I sail along, back in territory that is starting to look familiar to me. I am passing through rangeland and open desert, instead of forests and river valleys and endless greenery. Now that I've left the South and Texas behind me, the people I talk to are starting to sound more like I do, as well. ;) I climb mountains and pass through Clines Corner NM, the elevation above 7,000 ft making the weather unexpectedly chilly for this first day of September, and roll through Albuquerque around midday. It's a fairly large city, but otherwise New Mexico is empty empty empty. Riding these highways is a kind of meditation. Thank the Goddess I learned to ride a motorcycle last year. It's not an exaggeration to say it's saved my sanity. I went through some hard times last spring, an ugly breakup with a woman who I still love deeply, and it took me a long while to reach my peace with it. Learning to ride has been part of that healing. Riding is something that I had always wanted to do, and more importantly, something that called to me in some deep, unknown part of my soul. Riding is when I feel most in harmony. These days & weeks on the road, I feel better than I have felt in a long time.

Gorgeous scenery in New Mexico, near the Continental DivideStorm clouds do little more than weakly threaten by late afternoon, but never get serious about it, so I keep on riding until close to sunset. I stop for the night in Gallup, humming the Route 66 song. A lot of people ask me if I am in town for the Four Corners rally, which is this weekend. Wish I could stay for it, but I've got no time and a yearning to get my butt home, and I'm only two days out now.

Next: Day Fifteen

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