Tuesday, October 13, 2015
Almost out of the Great Plains
Miss D. and I arrived in Wichita Falls this afternoon after a pleasant drive from Amarillo. We were warned about the speed-trapping proclivities of various towns along the route, some of which appear to balance their budgets by means of tickets issued to those passing through. For that reason we kept our cruise control locked on to the speed limit, and took care to observe the progressively lower limits every time we entered a town.
This seemed to cause some . . . concern . . . to other motorists. You see, our rented car is a model used by a large number of police forces, and it's painted black, and we were driving exactly at the speed limit. Almost every vehicle that came steaming up behind us (and there were many) slowed down and matched our speed for a while, drifting closer very carefully. It was clear the drivers thought we were an unmarked cop car. As soon as they got close enough to identify our Tennessee license plate, one could almost hear the exasperated exclamation from inside the cab as they put the pedal to the metal once more and rolled past us. It was rather amusing (at least from our perspective).
I was fascinated to be driving through a part of the Great Plains steeped in Old West history. The Palo Duro Canyon is just south of Amarillo. I haven't managed to tour it yet, but it's high on my priority list. The road from Amarillo to Wichita Falls took us through part of the area once occupied by Charles Goodnight. He was an almost unbelievably larger-than-life figure, and his history is well worth researching for those who like that sort of thing. (I certainly do.) In Larry McMurtry's famous novel 'Lonesome Dove', the character of Captain Woodrow F. Call is said to be based on Charles Goodnight's life and exploits. The JA Ranch he co-founded is still in existence, one of the largest private ranches in the USA, although a lot smaller than it was at its peak.
As one drives down the top edge of Texas towards Wichita Falls, one passes through many small towns. Some of the civic and business buildings still in use date back to the founding of these settlements in the 1870's and 1880's, and it shows. A few residential houses from the same period still remain as well. Unfortunately, more and more of these old buildings are in a state of disrepair or even collapse. The population of this part of Texas appears to be shrinking, too, so there's little incentive and even less money to repair them and keep them in good condition as historical landmarks. That's a great pity . . . but that's life, too.
We've booked a room at the same hotel in which Old NFO is staying. Miss D.'s protestations to our friends that this is purely coincidental, and we aren't planning any shenanigans in his company, have been met with loud snorts of disbelief. (They know us too well by now, it seems.) This evening the three of us had supper with Phlegmmy and Lawdog, to everyone's enjoyment. We'll be spending another day or two here with them all before heading for home.
Thanks to everyone who said a prayer or two for traveling mercies. Our trip today was uneventful, unlike yesterday's. Let's hope the rest of the journey home is the same!