Ostensibly, I was going out to NM to be there for my adopted grandfather's 83rd birthday on the 10th. But like the snake constantly shedding it's skin as it grows, this vacation was about the effects of change. I left on a Wednesday morning from our farm near Rushville, IL. I took the US Highways across IL and MO and only briefly got on the Interstate down through Kansas City and to Emporia, Kansas. Then back on US Route 50 to Strong City, Kansas. There I stayed the night with chimerae and we talked into the night and did some planning for our upcoming Stone Soup gathering in KC, MO. I had the feeling at the time that absolutely anything could happen in the intervening 8 days while I was gone to NM. Everyone we invited could decide not to show up, or a ton more people could come, or someone would get sick and the whole thing would get canceled with no way of getting hold of me. But I figured if it was meant to be then everything would be alright.
So the next day in 104 degree temperatures, I was off for the drive across KS to NM on the backroads. Before I left Strong City though, I stopped to get some pics of the old Opera House. You can see more pictures and history here:http://community.livejournal.com/rural_ruin/695679.html#cutid1.
I hated having to run my AC in the car but even at 75 mph, the wind was stiflingly hot so I just told my sinuses to hang on for the ride and off we went. The place i really wanted to get to in the daylight was Greensburg, KS. You'll remember it was the little town that was virtually destroyed earlier this year by a tornado. It's been out of the news for a couple months now but like any other major disaster, lack of notoriety doesn't mean the problem has gone away.
I've stopped in Greensburg several times to walk down into the World's Largest Hand Dug Well. and see the largest Palasite Meteorite. So when I saw it on the news, it really hit home. Parts of the city look much like the shots from the news reports. Empty houses line all the streets. All the trees in town look like a giant hand grabbed them and tried to strip off all the leaves. FEMA is set up on the front lawn of the courthouse. The Red Cross has quanset-like tents set up on the edge of town and the Farm Bureau and various insurance companies share a couple mobile trailers just beyond that. A big revival tent had a sign up for a volunteer recognition dinner. And while the streets were reasonably clear of debris. Life there was pretty much still at a standstill.
This had been the main branch of Centura Bank. A sign on the door indicated it had moved into a trailer parked on an intersection downtown. The building beside it that had house a drug and department store had been completely obliterated. Bricks a broken glass littered the whole site. A solitary standing wall was all that was left.
In the midst of all the destruction, a single sign indicated to the outside world, the resolve of the people living there.
I left Greensburg feeling humbled. I drove on towards the border. The route I take has me going through about 50 miles of Oklahoma before I hit the NM line and it's always so interesting to me to see the relatively flat plains of wheat and milo give way to semi arid desert.
I did get pulled over in Oklahoma by one of Oklahoma's finest in a shiny new black car. He got out and the sun shone off his bullet head. By the time head took the 15 steps to my car, sweat was rolling down his forehead. He leaned down, greeted me and asked for my license but not my insurance. He looked my license over, asked me if I had any recent speeding convictions and I sort of fibbed and told him no(at the time I was serving out the last 10 days of a 90 day Court Supervision for speeding. When it was over the ticket would drop off my record.)Then he said something that surprised me. "Boy, you were going 76 mph. The posted speed limit is 65. Normally you being out of state, I'd feel compelled to write you a ticket. But it's too damned hot and I don't want to be standing here any more than you want to be pulled over without you AC on. So I'm going to give you a written warning and tell you to get the hell out of my state. NM is only 20 miles further." He stood there and scratched out the bare minimum of information on the warning ticket, tore it off, handed it to me and said, "Drive safe and get on down the road!"
Pretty nice of him I thought. So less than half an hour later, I was in NM. The sun was going down and there was a big thunderstorm on the far horizon. Eventually, just before Clayton, the temperature cooled drastically and I was able to ride with the windows down again. But I just had to stop and get a shot of the awesome skies ahead of me.
The rain had started to fall ahead and I could smell the sage, juniper and pinion on the wind. I was home again.
My first view of the Sangre de Cristo mountains was of the sun setting behind them and it made for an awesome sight.
I drove on through Clayton and the lonely 85 miles beyond to Cimarron, arriving about 8:30. I could have stayed in a hotel but I knew if I got to Buddy and Irma's before they went to bed, I could have a nice soft couch to sleep on. Sure enough, they were up and surprised and happy to see me. We sat and talked for a couple hours until it was time for them to go to bed. I arranged the sheets on the couch that would become my bed for the next week, stretched out and read my book, "Secrets of the Tsil Cafe (I recommend it highly) until I fell asleep my own self.
Tomorrow - NM, Ghost towns, roadside bars and beyond.