I woke up and texted her that I was planning to leave a little early. She asked if I wanted to come have breakfast with her and her mother. She’d always prepare everything she cooked so it looked perfect and professional. She offered me a list of options like she was reading a menu to me, but I settled on the simplest one as I didn’t want to ask too much of her. She made oatmeal with almonds, honey, and fresh fruit, and it looked like something you would see in a commercial. I scarfed it down while talking with her about my trip and things we did in New York together. After breakfast I hugged her and her mom and sped off. This would probably be the last time I see her again.
Today was a 9 or 10 hour drive to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Leaving Fort Worth, the trees became smaller and smaller until they disappeared. The land became flat and bushes popped up over farmland and brush.
A big sign for “authentic” Texas beef jerky gave me a sudden craving, and I almost crashed my car getting off the highway to skid into their driveway. I could only imagine what the shopkeeper thought of me when I walked into her store after skidding out in front of her storefront. I think she expected me to buy more than just beef jerky to make up for it, so I bought a large chunk of fudge and a little Texas flag as well.
There were so many times I wanted to stop to explore and photograph every detail of the landscape, but kept on going. I saw an old dilapidated house on the side of the road that reminded me of the R.E.M. music video “It’s The End Of the World”. As a hoodlum kid, my friends and I used to explore abandoned houses like this one. We’d break windows, bust up the walls and find hidden treasures or oddities that we didn’t really understand at the time. We’d make up stories about who lived here and what happened to them. I wish I had the time to really linger in places like this. As an adult, I’m somehow just as fascinated. Or maybe its just nostalgia.
I drove through three or four small towns on the way to Amarillo. The main highway ran right through the middle of the towns and two or three miles later the town would be in my rear view mirror. Every small town had a similar layout. There was a Dairy Queen, a small sheriff’s station, a few gas stations, one bank, a diner, a souvenir shop, and possibly a gun store.
In Amarillo I stopped at a kitchy, touristy Texas steak restaurant. Their big draw was a 72oz steak on the menu. The building was huge and painted bright yellow. It looked like an oversized western saloon. Inside, it felt like a theme park. There were slot machines, a carnival-style target shooting game, a gift shop, fudge shop, and a huge dining hall with a stage next to it. There was a mechanical bull in there somewhere, but I didn’t find it. For the whole 5 hour drive from Fort Worth to Amarillo, there were billboards for this place screaming, “FREE 72oz STEAK IN AMARILLO.” I’m guessing it was only free if you actually finished the entire steak, but they didn’t mention that part. I didn’t order the 72oz steak, but I did get a pretty decent 20oz rib-eye with fried shrimp, hot bread, steak fries, and mac and cheese. I was pretty proud of myself for finishing everything. I didn’t eat the rest of the day, since there was over a pound of meat in me.
After the meal I drank two red bulls so I wouldn’t pass out from a food coma, then headed off to Santa Fe. The sun was making it’s way to the horizon and the New Mexico landscape was beautiful. I had to skid off the road at every rest stop along the way to take pictures. At one point when the sun was halfway down, I saw an area next to the train tracks that was so incredibly beautiful, I yelled, “OH SHIT!”. I jerked the wheels over to the off-ramp just in time, rushed to the side of the road, and slammed on the brakes with dirt and dust flying everywhere. I grabbed my camera, jumped out of the car, left the door wide open and ran over to the tracks with glee. Right before I got there a train started coming down the tracks. He must have seen me running towards the tracks, because he kept blowing the train whistle at me. I hovered near the edge of the tracks awaiting his arrival, then waved at him and took a bunch of pictures. Then I jumped back in my car and sped off, hoping I’d have time for a few more moments like that before the sun completely faded below the horizon.