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10/12/2007: Day 3: Amarillo to Albuquerque and Karens Cactus Adventure
The La Kiva Inn in Amarillo was once very nice, and still has the architectural elegance. But it needs some serious maintenance. Rusty pipes and dirty rugs and
such detract from it's essential elegance. But, for $40 I can't complain.
Courtyard and dining area at the La Kiva Inn in Amarillo.
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We got out of Amarillo, TX at 10:45 and drove across flat Texas for a couple of hours. I'd noticed a big wind farm at Texas I-40 mile 46 +/- 10 or so. The last time we drove through here, there were no windmills. Now, they have discovered wind.
Overview from St. Louis to Albuquerque from Google (http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&hl=en&geocode=16064895691556081489,35.460280,-97.583230%3B10308078875527023214,35.232300,-101.712960%3B3168807215556402800,35.105590,-106.643050&time=&date=&ttype=&saddr=63104&daddr=I-40+W+%4035.460280,+-97.583230+to:35.191767,-101.843262+to:I-40+W+%4035.105590,+-106.643050&mrcr=1,2&mrsp=2&sz=6&mra=dme&sll=36.315125,-101.865234&sspn=9.484849,14.941406&ie=UTF8&z=6&om=1)
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Map from Amarillo to Albuquerque showing San Jon and Santa Rosa, a couple of stops of the day.
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In the western few dozen miles of the Texas panhandle, erosion finally cut through the hard top rock stratum, called cap rock. This huge, flat stratum underlying much of this latitude in the U.S. is so called because it is what tops all those mesas and pinnacles and such that we see across the rest of the west (and in Kentucky and Indiana).
The New Mexico Welcome Center rest area was closed, so we stopped in the first town, San Jon, NM to pick up hotel coupons. Just south of San Jon there is a ridge covered in 1,000 Kilowatt Mitsubishi wind turbines. We drove up to the old Amphitheater on the cap rock to see. The old Amphitheater is a natural sink hole on the mesa containing the ruins of a once-nice open air theater. It was very nice in the early 80's. The problem was that they built it, and "they" didn't come. So it is now but a thespian ghost town.
San Jon, New Mexico sign by the temporary NM welcome center and permanent storm shelter.
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View down the road toward the cap rock ridge south of San Jon.
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Wind power by Mitsubishi against a New Mexico sky
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The road up to the top of the ridge showing some of the underlying strata.
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We spent hours there getting wind blown and sun burned, and Karen picked up some prickly pear fruit to eat, and some cactus spines in her backside.
I couldn't get enough of these windmills. I've spared you dozens of shots.
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Defunct theater in natural ampitheater
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This once had some nice sets, and seats.
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Karen decided that she wasn't that desperate.
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Behind the theater there was this very nice concessions area. Each table was wired for lights, and there were drinking fountains everywhere.
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Karen's Cactus Adventure: I didn't see it happen, but Karen wanted to get a close-up picture of the yellow fruit on a Cholla that was only 2 feet away, as the crow proverbially flies. But it was also about 20 feet down as the sheep plummets. She carefully avoided stepping on plants, and planted her foot firmly on loose gravel. She slid and grabbed, and finally stopped backed up against the Cholla. When I went to find her (I'd been taking windmill pix about a half mile away), she was back up top pulling spines from her behind. Karen says that the gravelly slide felt like being the coyote in a Road Runner cartoon.
It didn't stop her from picking a large batch of prickly pear fruits on the same steep slopes.
Karen shows some of her scrapes from the run-up to her cactus encounter. I have more vivid pictures, but don't want to gross anyone out.
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This is the sort of cholla fruit that Karen wanted a picture of, and the weapons with which it fundamentally stopped her.
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Karen went back to pick fruit near where she slipped earlier
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Prickly pear fruit at the peak of ripeness. It tastes like something tropical, guava-pear or some such.
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We finally went back to the visitor's center, got Karen some gauze and bandages, and maps.
Then we found out that we'd better book ahead if we want a room in Albuquerque, because the Balloon Fiesta is going on! 750 hot air balloons glowing each night, and launching each dawn. So, as I drove into the afternoon sun, Karen booked a room. Cell phones are a major boon to travelers! We stopped for bandages in Santa Rosa, a surviving Route 66 town. Then drove on until we stopped an hour from Albuquerque at the Flying C Ranch tourist stop. We'd stopped at Cline's Corners the last time, and Flying C had amusing billboards. Karen spent an hour browsing. This is at 7,500 feet, well up the foothills.
So, driving into the last traces of sunset into Albuquerque. We missed seeing the mountain pass scenery, but it was a peaceful drive.
Shiny patched cracks and invisible lines late in the sunset cycle. Taken by the driver, but don't tell the cops.
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Pretty mellow New Mexico sunset.
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We got in at 8:30, and Karen wanted a swim. I checked email (and am still having trouble with the MrTitanium outbox in Outlook 2007).
Then Richard from Seattle (whom we met in St. Louis) came over to our room chat. After he left, Karen came back from her swim. By midnight I was asleep.
Next: Day 4: Early day in Albuquerque to short drive to Acoma

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