Sunday, August 21, 2011

Road Trip: It's Bigger in Texas!

When we woke up this morning, the hotel decor reminded us we were in the southwest.  We changed it up a bit last night and stayed at La Quinta Inn in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Mike rated the coffee here B+ whereas the coffee at Holiday Inn Express was a C!  He is in search of the A coffee!!  We haven't seen a Starbucks for about 600 miles!! The fireplace in the hotel lobby was like you'd find in a pueblo somewhere.  My mother-in-law is building a house and wants a fireplace similar to this so I had to take a picture.  
 Back in the room, the vanity lights had cut-outs of kokopelli, coyotes, lizards and other Native American icons.  
 We started loading the car back up and once outside noticed the landscaping had definitely changed!  Cacti, joshua trees and lots of huge red rocks were the landscape designers tools of the trade here!
Back on the road again, we planned our stopover points. We told ourselves no stopping until Amarillo but we took a detour to drive the old stretch of Route 66 through a small town named Tucumcari.  It was once a thriving pit stop on Route 66 and lots of old hotels dotted the sides of the road.  It was a little disheartening when we saw hotel after hotel look like the one in this picture. 
When the new highway 40 was built, these hotels slowly lost business and eventually fell into disrepair.  We started to wonder why we had chosen to veer off the main highway and just before the road hooked back up with Highway 40 we passed this building.
The sign on the building said "Trade Days". I told Mike - don't bother - let's just keep driving and he told me no - stopping to check out these little venues was why I wanted to come along.  We turned around and headed back to the barn.  A small group of people were inside with tables and tables of antiques, collectibles, and other items!  A nice surprise since the rest of Tucumcari looked like a ghost town!  
I bought this distressed wood shelf with a mirror - handmade by these wonderful people - Shirley and Buck Evans.  Shirley and Buck had run a grocery store for years in Southern California.  They bought a sheep ranch in Tucumcari for their retirement and they were the organizers of Tucumcari Trade Days - the sale we just happened upon!  They hold the sale the third weekend of every month and dealers can rent a space for $35.  I bought a boxful of aqua blue vintage glass ornaments in various sizes from a dealer.  I also bought several things from a third dealer:   a small cupboard that held plates, three canning jars of vintage buttons, some enamelware burner covers that I am going to convert into magnet message boards, a vintage set of four card games, and he threw in a piece of raw turquoise he had found in Kingman, Arizona for a bonus!  Mike even found some vintage hardware he plans on using when he builds his bar and a sand painting, a gift for his mother.  We said goodbye to our new friends, packed the 'treasure box' and hit the road again.

We quickly passed into Texas and talked about how that side trip turned out so well.  
The Texas landscapes was a bit greener than we had seen and we started looking for cattle. A short while later, we took another one of our side trips we planned and stopped on the side of the road.
We started walking out about 200 yards to the 'Cadillac Farm'.  I remember reading about the farm back at Cal Poly in my Contemporary Art class and had always wanted to see it in real life.
A Texas man who made millions when he discovered helium on his property, commissioned an artist to half bury the Cadillacs creating a striking repetitive sculpture on the Texas landscape in 1974.
The Cadillacs originally had all their hubcaps, fenders, and other loose parts welded to the frame to prevent looters from taking parts of them away. Some of these pieces remain but the Cadillacs have  sort of evolved into a form of interactive art. Spray paint cans lay beside the graveyard of cars and artists of all ages have left their mark on the vehicles.  Mike found a can with some white paint still in it and left this message.

A couple was there with us and they wrote 'Happy Anniversary' to themselves then handed us the can of bright pink paint. 
 'Cherish Art' is a message I want to spread - I think it is a crime that so many art programs are cut due to budgets deficits!  Art is our culture and without it, we would not know so much about previous cultures, societies and our own history!
As we turned to leave the kaleidoscope of cars, another young family approached.  I would have loved to seen the Cadillac Farm when first installed and all the cars were intact.  The cars got fixed up a few times when various rock bands used the Cadillac Farm as a back drop for their music videos but none recently.
Driving away from the farm, I wondered why the public can't pick up after themselves and also about how visitors had visited the site since it was installed.  There is no lock on the gate and visitors are allowed to go in day or night so you'd think they would respect the free exhibit and pick up their cans!  

Amarillo was not far way now, so I checked my Romantic Homes magazine to see if any Antique shops were listed for the town.  There was one: Whispering Pines Antiques.  I quickly put the address into our GPS to see how far off Highway 40 it may be - only a few blocks so I stopped in and met Angie Mitchell, the owner.  Her shop was gorgeous!  Two fully dressed Twin beds anchor the floor displays which reflect a vintage prairie theme.
Whispering Pines Antiques is located in a historic district on 6th street in Amarillo.  There are numerous antique shops and cafes so it is a great place for a day trip.  Angie was lots of help and suggested a few other places I may like to visit.  During our conversation, I learned that Angie was a blogger, too!  We exchanged cards and promised to keep it touch through blogging!  I will feature Angie and her shop on a future post but thought I'd tease you with a few pictures I took.  
 There were so many things in her shop I wanted to buy, but decided to limit my purchases to a few gifts for friends.  I can't tell you what they are yet, since my friends read this blog!!

Two doors down from Whispering Pines was another antique store so Mike and I decided to go in and enjoy the air conditioning for a while longer!  This was a store with lots of vendors who had their own spaces so there was tons to look over.  Pink milk glass is hard to find in our area and there was lots of it here!  I almost bought a vase but then my sense came over me and I stuck to looking for things some of the customers, of the shop I am in, were looking for.  Meanwhile, Mike was looking around and spotted a cabinet filled with player piano rolls, but it really was a wine cabinet.  He had been looking for something to store his wine collection in and decided he had to have it.  I left with a frame of a vintage cabinet door, a small decorative frame and a turquoise blue candy dish, but he was the big spender!  We loaded the truck since we had spent too much time there and were on our way when I said, "I forgot to take pictures!!" - It was too hot and we were too hungry to unload!
Our stomachs were growling and we were really happy to learn "The Big Texan" was not far down the road!  At 'The Big Texan' restaurant, if you can eat a whole 72 ounce steak you get it for free - if you can't it costs you $55!!  Since we were in Texas, we felt we couldn't leave without a steak!
The outside of the restaurant has so much kitsch it attracts loads of travelers off the road. This huge bull advertises the 72 oz steak challenge!
We went in and expected a wait and were just about to sit down on this bench made from hide and horns, when the hostess said 'follow me'!
 The inside was full of trophy mounts and the tables were covered with oil cloth that looked like Holstein hides.  All the wait staff was dressed in jeans, belts and big buckles and cowboy hats.  The place was like a well oiled machine with lots of staff buzzing around filling orders, refilling drinks, busing tables, and there was even a strolling guitarist who came around to each table.
Mike decided on an 18 oz. prime rib and I ordered a 9 oz fillet.  Within seconds of our order, this basket of fresh baked soft rolls arrived at our table.  They were the perfect solution to our hunger pains - light enough not to fill us up!
Here is Mike's dinner!  Dinners came with your choice of two sides - he chose cole law and Texas home fries and I chose coleslaw and ranch beans.  There was also five things you could order as 'toppers' for your steaks so both Mike and I ordered our steaks accompanied by blue cheese crumbles.

My fillet was so delicious I ate the whole thing and only had a bite or two of my sides.  The coleslaw was ok and my ranch beans had a great flavor, but I decided to spend my calories on the juicy steak!Mike said his was wonderful, too!  I had a bite of his Texas home fries just to taste them and they had a nice spice coating and were cooked to perfection - but Mike couldn't eat them all!  The waiter, (who resembled Brad Paisley!) asked if we would like to order dessert - Was he kidding?!  They say things are bigger in Texas and this meal certainly supported that statement!

It was harder to climb up into the truck after that meal but we had to continue down the road.  The small town of Groom in East Texas has two claims to fame: the first, the world's largest barbed wire pile, and the world's largest cross.  They call the barbed wire the 'Devil's rope' and Mike said he has seen enough barbed wire in his life he didn't need to see any more - and it was a ways off the highway.  
The cross was so big we could see it miles away on the highway, and it was on my side of the road so we didn't have to stop to get these pictures!  In the picture above, you can get the scale of this cross!
 But I love this picture that I snapped from the passenger side with my iphone! The Texas clouds add an ethereal touch to the clouds!

Driving down the highway for another hour we enjoyed seeing the first tractors since we left home and they were working up some dust.  
 We left Texas, where everything is bigger, and entered Oklahoma, were the rolling hills were definitely greener!
 The sun was getting low and we entered another time zone, losing another hour, so we decided to stop in Weatherford, a small town just west of Oklahoma City.  My new blogging friend Angie, from Whispering Pines Antiques, recommended stopping here for lots of shopping opportunities! Our goal was to reach Oklahoma City by tonight, but neither of us wanted to face city traffic and we had to think about parking our 'rig' for the night so the suburb of Weatherford was a perfect choice for our stay overnight.  I am excited for tomorrow! We pass through Shawnee, Oklahoma - Brad Pitt's hometown and also Checotah, Oklahoma - Carrie Underwood's hometown, on the way to St. Louis, Missouri.

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