Monday, March 3, 2014

US50 Phase 1: Heading east, I think. . .

Oct 27 Twisted plans, again.

Well today didn’t start out as planned. After making a phone call this morning and confirming that the gallery I located yesterday when I was on foot was the one I was looking for, (The gallery that The Orchid Tree has an affiliation with.) the plan was to break camp, drive downtown, now that I knew where I was going, and stop in for a quick look-see before I headed out of Santa Fe today. . . Turns out knowing where you are going in Santa Fe and getting there are two different things. After spending an hour (Seemed like lots more!) painfully worming my way around down there I gave up and escaped.

Or at least I thought I escaped. I got myself on one of the main roads radiating out from the city center that would get me down to I25 but turns out I picked a freeway interchange was being reconstructed, so there was some more messing around though neighborhoods and roads that ended before getting where I needed them to, (It didn’t help that I25 north, which is what I wanted, is actually going south at this point! Very disorienting.) before I managed to sort out that little hiccup.

After finally working all that out and getting myself onto I25 I climbed back up out of the valley Santa Fe sits in , getting up over 7000 feet again, and then turned south on US285. Initially this road climbs but soon drops down, to about 6400 feet, into the Galisteo Basin which drains into the Rio Grande and is high plains ranchland like that I found in eastern New Mexico.

285 intersects I40 at Cline’s Corners which should really be called Cline’s Corner, since there is only one combination fuel station/store taking up a single corner of the intersection.

Heading east on I40 I slowly started to loose altitude (Got the best fuel mileage of the trip along here.) and noticed an interesting variation in the terrain for the first 15 miles or so out of Cline’s Corners. It was still the same rolling land that makes up this high western edge of the Great Plains, but instead of the Juniper being confined to the mesa tops and the steep slopes below the ridges, they covered everything, including the valleys. But I soon ran out of that and the valleys became treeless again.

Santa Rosa, where I stopped for the night, sits on the Pecos River (Yep, same Pecos River) and was a major stop-over on route 66 before the 1970’s when Interstate 40 was put over top of it, literally, right on top of route 66 through  here. This made the run from Amarillo to Albuquerque do-able in a day’s drive, ending the heyday of towns like Santa Rosa and Tucumcari.
I lost some significant altitude driving in here. Santa Rosa is at 4600 feet and I haven’t been this low since leaving La Junta Colorado.

I’m in a private campground on the east edge of town tonight. There is a state campground 11 miles north of here but being a weekend I thought it might be more prudent to make a day trip out of it tomorrow rather than counting on getting one of the limited campsites. I’m not sure if that was a good call or not but HOLY CRAP! When I pulled in here around 3 in the afternoon I was one of 5 occupied campsites and for the next hour it stayed that way. Since then there has been a steady stream of monster rigs filling the place up, all with two people and maybe a dog or two in 40 feet of triple-slide units jockeying around trying to get themselves parked and then fiddling and fiddling some more as they get themselves sorted out and set up.

Time and again I am so glad I have a compact little rig that fits in the same parking slot as a car, and, with no jacks, blocks, hoses, hitches, slides, etc, it takes me less than two minutes to park and set up, (Put it in park, turn the key off, put the covers in the front windows and unsnap the swing-up counter extension) 4 minutes if I take the time to hook up the electric.
I discovered, too far down the road to go back and return it in person, that the battery I bought yesterday for my camera doesn't seem to want to charge, so there will be no photos until I can find another one. This is not good! I may have to buy a bag full of disposable cameras in the mean time.!
Oct 28 Definitely headed east now

 After talking to a couple of locals who said the lake levels at the state park are way down and many of the trails are closed to protect the stressed environment, I decided to give the Santa Rosa State Park a pass this trip. But before leaving the area today I drove down the Pecos River valley about 10 miles to the remains of a town called Puerto de Luna. Before the railroad made Santa Rosa the place to be Puerto de Luna was that place. Apparently the Spanish built a bridge across the river here some 500 years ago. The valley is very pretty down through here.

Back in Santa Rosa I stopped and watched some scuba divers go down into what they call the Blue Hole. This is a sinkhole about 80 feet across and really deep. The water is pretty clear and fed by a natural spring. There are a half dozen of these natural pools right here in town but this is apparently the deepest.
I also drove a short piece of the pre-1938 route of Route 66 but instead of the turnaround shown on the map the road just kept on going and getting smaller and smaller until I found myself passing a no trespassing sign. So I had to back up and get out of there before I pissed someone off. There is supposed to be a couple of the original bill-boards painted on rock back in there somewhere but I didn’t see them.
Some 50 miles east of Santa Rosa is Tucumcari, another iconic route 66 town. I got off the freeway and cruised through town where I saw some obviously original buildings of that era and some that may or may not be original but have the look. Brochures seem to hint that at night there is a lot of old neon to be seen in town, but it wasn’t dark and I wasn’t stopping for the night so I don’t know.
My target for the day was Amarillo and the further east I went the lower I got (I’m now below 4000 feet.) and I saw a distinct difference in the vegetation. The lower I got the more lush the grasslands without the bare dirt and rock between clumps that you find at the higher elevations. The mesas that break up the horizon further west have also disappeared.
After all the open land I have been driving through for the last three weeks or so it was a bit of a shock passing a huge mall, and all that goes with it, as I got to the west side of Amarillo, such as 6 lane expressways and exits every mile or so. It's only 40 miles to the west of here that ranch driveways come through gates and right out on the expressway with rusty, bullet riddled stop signs and no on/off ramps.
But the good thing about being in a large town (Population 200,000) is that I was able to find another camera battery, in fact they had three and bought them all! The shop-keeper even called the manufacture and got me an RMA number so I could return the faulty battery for a refund.
I'm camped tonight, and for the next few nights, in a campground within spitting distance of I40, but it's a nice place and I'm only going to be using it as a base camp, though I won't be using the shuttle service to run over to The Big Texan Steak House where you can get a 72oz steak with all the fixings for free - if you can eat all of it within an hour. . .


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