If you have "no place to go," come here!

So last Thursday we saddled up for a three days' ride ...

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leaving Lubbock for El Paso to do some work for my SO's institutional infrastructure.

Got to go through my old home stomping grounds -- Wellman, Seagraves, Hobbs ...

yeah, I learned to drive out here. From about midsummer '73 to the fall of '88, this was what I thought of when I talked about "home": a sky from edge to edge, 180 degrees of it, spiked with pumpjacks, tractors, telephone poles ... the odd tank farm and occasional house, and not a lot else. That particular one is somewhere in Yoakum County.

This sign is in Lea County, New Mexico. There are, I think, six of these at various "ports of entry" for the oilpatch community that bills itself as "Hobbs, America."
including the one above, on the road in from Lovington, NM. That's the home of the NFL's Brian Urlacher. Instead of leaving Hobbs en route to Lovington, we took the westerly road towards Carlsbad:

and there'll be more about Carlsbad after awhile.

But first I want to talk about a couple places in Texas I bet you weren't expecting to see:Guadalupe Mountains National Park

That's Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The photo below, of Ranger Jorge Marrufo, by Rick Lewis for the Los Angeles Times, is from Hueco Tanks State Historical Park.

and then of course the road took us into El Paso, by way of Hueco Village, where there is no gasoline or diesel on the highway (US 62-180). Since Carlsbad we'd passed through some very empty country.

West of Dell City, north of Sierra Blanca, the road in Texas isn't interrupted.

Maps say Salt Flat, and Cornudas. Those are ghost towns -- two, maybe three empty buildings, an abandoned cafe, a shuttered curio store.

It's pretty well downhill from Hueco Village (which isn't on any maps) into El Paso, but it's a long enough trip to make you regret not buying gas back in Carlsbad.

El Paso is surrounded by the Franklin Mountains to the west, the Rio Grande Valley (the river, also known as the Rio Bravo, cut the pass known as El Paso del Norte, for which the city is named) to the south, Ciudad Juarez to the south and southeast, and the Hueco Mountains, which flow north into the Guadalupes, to the east. The metro area is home to about 2 1/2 million people (the 2007 census data suggests 2.4 million); El Paso itself has somewhere between 750,000 and 800,000 residents. The visitors' guide available at most lodgings references the Marty Robbins ballad of 1959, and you can still find cantinas y bailes con las senoritas y los vaqueros en las noches. But you do have to look.

And then there's the lights. It's like the ocean, made of fire, at night. It washes up onto the lower slopes of the mountains like a tide of shining ivory stars, foaming along the riverbed. Edd Natividad's photograph gives a taste:

and then you see this from up on the scenic drive:

Y'all let me know if you want to see some more pictures of this part of Texas.
I had forgotten how much I love the Valley -- I've been away since the spring of '04.

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Submitted by Sarah on

on the Web, lambert. It really is. But go listen to the Maines Brothers' Band sing "Break the Fall" at their MySpace page. I'll have to see if I can scrounge up "Amarillo Highway" or "Panhandle Dancer" for you (this band includes the dad and uncles of the Dixie Chicks' lead vocalist, and there are people right here in Lubbock who still think "her daddy needed to turn her over his knee for being disrespectful to the President") so, yeah, *something* out here makes people crazy.

The music comes out of that same something.

Might be the wind. Might be the flat. Might be all that sky with nothin' in it (it's a way yonder emptier without the planes from Reese) except sunshine, when what you (desperately) need is rain / shade.

ah ha: Amarillo Highway, by Terry Allen (who wrote it). I wore out the tape I had of the Maines' boys (cover) of this song in the 1980s.

Better yet, The Flatlanders have a new album out.

Submitted by hipparchia on

more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more! more!

i do love that part of the state, though now that i look back on my childhood [mostly in south texas], i think we actually spent more time in juarez than in el paso.

one branch of the family tree is from carlsbad and environs. i look forward to your upcoming post.

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Submitted by Sarah on

along the same road was far more leisurely.

This is NOT the week (heck, not the month) to go into Carlsbad from the south, hipparchia. They've got the road torn up from the Texas line to White's City. It looks like the plan is to turn it into a divided four-lane through there. (por que?) Oh, and White's City is looking for a store manager.

Submitted by hipparchia on

so *that's* where the funding for our hurricane evacuation route went to!

por que? indeed; i dunno, they need workers to harvest the bat guano from the caverns? i do hate to think of hordes of people, for whatever reason, invading that region.

on the trip to the grand canyon a couple of christmases ago, we flew into phoenix and then drove the rest of the way. all that open, empty space that went on forever; it was a real tonic. when i first moved east, ending up in the piney woods [which i now love, btw] it took me about 3 years to get over the feeling of claustrophobia. if it hadn't been for the beach with all that open water [still my favorite], i'm not sure i'd have stuck it out.

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Submitted by Sarah on

I'm with you on that claustrophobia thing.

Beach, eh? Yes. My first trip to Padre sent me into tears.

But this is the newest public art (specifically, the windmill) in my hometown (and it's still growing a steer or two at a time).

This is on the way in to the National Ranching Heritage Center museum.

The steers are a little over-size but the horns are just about to scale. Amarillo has a wonderful little zoo (about the same size as El Paso's, where there's an actual Amur leopard pair, and a couple of Mexican Gray Wolves, which I saw Sunday, along with the sand cats. In the approach to the Caverns I saw a skunk going about whatever his/her business was -- they're doing a big revegetation project there) which actually stars a big white Longhorn steer, and it's close to six foot tall at the shoulder.

Submitted by hipparchia on

all in one place. how cool is that?

i've bookmarked that site. and the wikipedia on amur leopards [a species i hadn't heard of].

The steers are a little over-size but the horns are just about to scale.

heh, i'm in favor of art being a little larger than life myself.

Submitted by hipparchia on

when i win the lottery the top item on my agenda is to get in my car and start driving. mega-roadtrip. i know, very un-green of me, but i can't tell you how low my carbon footprint has been for lo these many years [even with cats to feed].