Trip Date: July 10, 2013
This year Wendy Kemp joined me for my traditional vacation from the hot and sweltering Oklahoma summer. We’ve taken “trips” together before, but she said this was our first “vacation” since we vacated the state for cooler climes for an extended period. We spent nine days out west in the Texas panhandle, northern New Mexico, southwestern Colorado, and across southern Kansas. The weather cooperated, with us often enjoying rain and temperatures which were sometimes 30 degrees or more cooler than back home.
DAY 1: OKC & PALO DURO CANYON
I planned the vacation to focus on some of my familiar haunts in southwestern Colorado, but I knew better than to ask my companion to endure a 10-hour drive, plus pit stops, to reach Santa Fe in one day. Plus, I’d been advised by Facebook friends to visit Palo Duro Canyon, located just south of Amarillo, Texas in the middle of the fairly desolate Texas panhandle.
Tech Support in OKC and the Death of Latitude
So we first drove down to Tulsa and took the Turner Turnpike to Oklahoma City to drop in for lunch with my parents. My visits usually include some parental tech support, and this time I had to set up their secure WiFi network again after a power glitch wiped out the router settings. I also spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get their Google Latitude account working again, since they use it to track my movements during my trips. It never seemed to sync right, so we abandoned that effort for a nice lunch at El Chico, and then Wendy and I headed west on I-40 towards Amarillo, Texas.
That evening my mother reported her Latitude service was syncing again so she could track us easily, but Google announced it was killing the free service in a month. I must hope that someone will develop a suitable replacement at a reasonable price; I am not at all pleased with how Google deploys a free service, destroying the competitive market, and then abandons loyal and frequent users of that service. It makes me distrust other Google services I rely upon, such as Google Sites and Google Drive. I hope I can find a better alternative than Google’s suggestion of using location tracking via Google+; Facebook and my blog are enough social services for me, so I have refused to develop my Google+ account beyond the bare essentials. I will see what develops in the next few weeks.
All that is left is dirt and tears…and arroyos
The drive to Amarillo was long and hot, with the temperature spiking above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. We made a pit stop in poor little McLean, Texas. The town is dying out, with a single filthy convenience store and a symbolic lean dog roaming the streets. As we drove out of town, I commented to Wendy, “All that is left is dirt and tears.”
She liked that turn of phrase, but was far less appreciative of my frequent references to the arroyos as we drove westward. As “arroyo” rolled off my tongue for the umpteenth time, she spat, “Don’t you dare say that again! Don’t you dare!”
Wendy noticed and shot a photo of stacked clouds as we drove south from Amarillo towards Canyon, Texas. We checked into the Best Western at Canyon, from which it was a short drive east to Palo Duro Canyon. There we had a “chuck wagon supper” and enjoyed the “Texas!” musical at the canyon’s Pioneer Amphitheatre. (Doesn’t it seem strange that a Texas park would spell it amphitheatre?)
The canyon was impressive, more so than the $14 dinner of brisket, beans, and cobbler; I’d have appreciated an actual bun for my barbecue sandwich rather than plain white bread, for one thing. But the scenery was nice, and a bust of Quanah Parker set the stage for his awkward inclusion in the musical to come.
Wendy and I enjoyed looking over a large stone relief map of the surrounding area and then took our assigned seats for the musical, down near the front of the amphitheatre. “Texas!” was in its 48th season, a musical staged over the years with help from students and faculty at West Texas State College (now West Texas A&M) and updated in 2001 to be more historically accurate. The story is simple, with some awkward dialog and a few oddball numbers, but the musical hangs together fairly well.
Spectacles included folks on horseback in the background behind the stage and up on the canyon wall and a tree dramatically split by lightning. The musical was followed, however, by a blend of Branson-style jingoism with Vegas-style effects. There was a close-up fireworks show, blasts of flame which made us flinch from the warmth, dancing waters, and more. None of it blended with the musical and, while it was spectacular, if I wanted to see something from Branson or Vegas, then I would travel there.
I can’t offer up any photos of the show, since photographs were firmly banned. But I did shoot some video of some of the musical actors entertaining the crowd in the courtyard before the show:
After the show, we returned to our hotel to rest up, since the next morning we would be returning to enjoy the scenery of Palo Duro Canyon before heading northwest to Santa Fe, New Mexico.