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Amarillo

Decline Arrested?

sunny 84 °F
View USA 2009 on Johnash's travel map.

Room 229, Holiday Inn Express, Socorro, New Mexico

Thank you so much for your kind comments and emails. Much appurreesiayted!

Our flights from Chicago to Dallas and on to Amarillo were fine. We generally enjoy American airports (unless we're in line to go through Immigration, which we haven't had to do for years now). Other passengers are there to get from A to B; to make a meeting or pay a visit. Their aim is not to drink as much lager as possible before the flight and to generally behave like idiots. What a difference. And not every inch of airports is covered by portakabins!

In his comment, Paul asked for a daily question. Can't promise Paul but how about this one puzzling us. Why do airports not have clocks? We can understand casinos but not airports. Thought it would be in the airlines' interests to ensure people knew what time it was??

(PS US TV full of the Susan Boyle story). Oh my!

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Anyway. At Dallas airport there was a moving moment. Troops were boarding a flight to who knows where. Some dignitary was shaking each of their hands as they went to board then everyone in the terminal applauded as the last one went through. John shed a tear. Some were quite cute too! There must a base here.
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Star of our flight on Canadair Regional Jet was David the purser (head FA of 2). (He's having a go at some guy who left an oversized bag hanging out of one of the small overhead lockers).

Picked up our rental car and yes, hooray it's a decent sized Ford Explorer with satellite radio and Hertz's own navigator system "NeverLost". Never lost? Pah ! See below*
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Actually we only got mildy lost finding out hotel. We dumped our stuff and went to find some dinner. It was getting late as we'd had to change rooms due to the safe not working (Bob having unpacked everything). But a safe is important given what we have been carrying around (cameras etc).

We went next door to the Texas Roadhouse. "Have you eaten at a Texas Roadhouse before?" "Nope". All very daunting. "Would you like to chose your steak now", points to cool cabinet full of giant slabs of beef. "Can we do that later please?". "Surething".

Then a lovely guy called Arron takes over. He guides us through the whole complicated procedure down to the 3 metal buckets left on our table, one of which is full of whole peanuts.

The bottom line is that we both ate Rib-eye steaks of the most delicious kind. Cannot remember better steaks. And portions were very manageable. We even managed to share a cheesecake (as it used to be) for dessert. Arron earned his tip. Bet he looks like his Mum!

  • Well, when we were driving round Amarillo the following day, we were "AlwaysLost". The victims of the stupid Hertz system and a street naming system devised by a maniacal and sadistic planner. Most streets have names like S East Street which then becomes North East Street. West East Street becomes East East Street. And South North Street can become North North Street or Even East North Street. The map we had only had a few street names mainly of the S. East Street variety. There was a vague area marked "Route 66 Historic District" which was what we were looking for. The "NeverLost" System kept telling us we had reached our destination without ever getting there. Eventually we just stumbled up on it. Well worth it as quite a few businesses are trying to revive a down at heel district.

Previously we tried to find another human being in the civic center area of Downtown. For those readers who have not visited a typical American city, most are now like donuts, with all the activity of malls and strip malls round the outside where virtually all business is done, and the centre, where nothing happens apart from city government and sending criminals to jail. All the old businesses have closed and buildings converted to parking lots. Not that anyone wants to park there.

We are pleased to report that Downtown Amarillo is reviving itself with signs of growth, old buildings being restored and restaurants and businesses moving in. We had a smashing breakfast at a restored restaurant called Marizon. Arthur gave it **** (no Lumberjack Slam) else it would have got five stars.

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Before that we had found another human being in the Civic Center. A wonderful lady from Chicago in their Tourist Information Office. She was desperate for some tourists to visit her and she unloaded a huge amount of her stock on us! (Who wants an Amarillo, Texas pin?).

We then went on to, not that far from, well, on the other side of the Interstate from, Cavenders. Incredible value for shirts, jeans, boots and hats. We both bought shirts and jeans and Bob bought boots and John a hat which he has not taken off since. (You see, no one laughs at you here for wearing a stupid hat). All set for our Western party then guys!

The bonus is the place is full of "cowboys" checking out the latest fashions and lariats.

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After that, we spent most of the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon getting lost trying to find Palo Duro Canyon. Eventually we did and it was well worth it.

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Today, Thursday, after a wonderful drive down Route 66 (now Interstate 40) across the rest of the Texas panhandle and New Mexico, we are safely ensconced in Socorro, New Mexico, more of which soon. Spanish is useful here!

Night night. Time for a Tex-Mex. Mmmmm!!

PS. Paul asked for a quiz for you all to enter. Prize of a Dollar placed on a number at a Las Vegas table (possibly Arthur's dinner table. Who's funding this, Paul?)

Here is today's quiz. Name this steer.
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Posted by Johnash 18:20 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (2)

New Mexico

We Like It!

79 °F
View USA 2009 on Johnash's travel map.

Room 209, HIX, Silver City, NM

We came to New Mexico a while back, 1990 actually, and enjoyed it. Have seen more of it this time and like it quite a lot. Albuquerque looked very much on the up and our port of call last night, Sorocco, had a working town centre for a change and our stop for tonight, Silver City. has a remarkably preserved downtown with lots of apparently working businesses. This is some achievement pitched against the massive Walmarts that every town now has on its outskirts. These are massive and sell everything, cheaply. Absolutely everything.

Our drive across New Mexico on Interstate 40 (also Route 66 for most of the way) was probably like what most would think driving across America was like. Lots of space and straight, pretty empty roads, except around the cities. Then down I-16 to Sorocco.

Dennys.jpgMaurice:please show these to Linda

DennysFord.jpgOutside Dennys (for breakfast) Santa Rosa, Route 66

Bob.jpgBob takes on I-40)

I40R66.jpgThis is what we love

Lisa.jpgSpecially for Lisa, our "Miss BA"!

There was a nasty moment in the dark after a great dinner at a restaurant next to our HIX (Holiday Inn Express, which we are getting a bit fed up with!) in Sorocco. I was about to do a U-Turn to get into the gas station when, before I knew it, we were on the Interstate. Now, often there are 40 or 50 miles gaps between turn-offs and then there is no guarantee there is a way back on. I managed to turn on "Neverlost" and luckily there was an exit in a mile or so. Under the freeway and then where? It was totally dark. No signs and roads going in all directions. Would we ever make it back? It would not seem possible to be virtually under a freeway and yet not find the slip road. I took a blind guess, with no help from Miss "Neverfound" and, luckily it was the right one. So we were soon back in town, shaken but not stirred.

The name of the cow, by the way, was "Texas Longhorn".

I forgot to tell you about the guy and his breakfast and my suitcase as we got on the subway to the airport in Chicago. Please remind me to tell you!

Night night. The wind is howling outside and there are giant storms swirling round the mountains. We are driving through them thar hills tomorrow!

Posted by Johnash 21:59 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Arizona

Great Drive from Silver City, spoilt by a lunchtime crunch

sunny 79 °F

Room 117, Best Western Sunrise Inn, Eagar, Arizona

More From Yesterday:
VLA.jpgOn the way from Socorro, we popped in to the Visitor Center at the romantically named "Very Large Array". These huge dishes are moved about on giant railroad tracks. They form the biggest virtual radio telescope in the world. See VLA if your really want more on this. Actually it's fascinating.

StopforLunch.jpgStop to buy some lunch in Reserve, NM. "Sandwiches? We only have a limited range". Of one, ie Pimento Spread. Actually quite tasty.

BigBonnet.jpgWho has the bigger bonnet?

Today: A fabulous drive down Mule Creek Road and over the mountains into Arizona where we gain an hour as they don't employ daylight saving time. But then, tomorrow, we move into Navajo Territory (within Arizona) so we lose it again.
CoffeeStop.jpgStop to buy coffee in Buckhorn, NM

Into_Arizona.jpgHalfway down to Guthrie, Arizona

Down from the New Mexico road, we drive through one of the biggest open cast mines in the world. They seem to be removing most of the mountains here in the quest for copper and gold. They are big enough to do what ever they want.

We then drive the bendiest road in the world or USA or Arizona (chose one from three) anyway it has 460 bends over about 120 miles and it's called the Coronado Trail after the Spanish explorer and fortune hunter of that name.

We had the trail mostly to ourselves even though Saturday is the weekend for most Americans which means getting out into the wilderness to kill something.

While I think of it we wanted to pass on our general observations of this visit.

1. No graffiti anywhere. Not Chicago. Not the Chicago subway. Not the wall along the line. Nowhere. They seem to be on top of it. Out here, still no graffiti.

2. No litter. They really do take it home (and dump it in the garden, see below) or put it in the bin.

3. No gardens. They call their "gardens" backyards and that ¡s what they are. Bits of scrubby grass at best, often full of old cars, huge trailers, horses, more cars, barbecues and general rubbish. There are plenty of neat backyards too but nope, no gardens.

4. Until today, no food supermarkets. Americans seem to have given up food shopping and eat out instead. Except, here in Eager, there are two food-only supermarkets and no Walmart (there's a clue there somewhere).

The day had a damper on it, (well, two counting tonight's thunderstorm). We stopped half way up the Coronado Trail in the forest for our packed lunch (consisting of leftovers from our "free motel breakfast"). Then, on the way out, John manages to reverse into a half-felled tree he had not spotted. Crunch clatter. Sounded nasty. One of our rear lights was shattered and there was a nasty-looking dent above it. But since then, we've cleaned the wood out of the dent and it does not look much now, and have glued and taped up the light cluster. We think it will survive until we return the car in just over a week's time in Durango, Colorado. Fingers crossed.

Tonight's dinner was another winner and Arthur gave it **** (no desserts. What?). And we got 10% off by telling them we were staying at the Best Western. And the waiter was very polite too: see this.

We had breaded shrimp platter (John) and pork chops (Bob). Excellent!
Night night. Shall be dreaming of krunching kars and krispy kreem desserts.

Posted by Johnash 19:52 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (2)

Navajo Nation

Canyon de Chelly, Arizona

semi-overcast 74 °F

Room 116, Holiday Inn, Chinle, Navajo Nation Reservation

What a dump! Literally. I'm afraid the Navajo are not the tidiest of people and we have noted on previous visits that, where there are Native Americans, there tends to be a lot of mess. Sorry but them's the facts. We have probably seen more back yards and fields full of old car wrecks than almost anywhere else in the last few days!

Though a proud nation, the Navajo, or Din'é as they call themselves, don't seem to be too houseproud. But the Navajo we have met have been charming, friendly and very interesting to talk to.
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But, having said we had not seen any, I am sorry to report we have now seen quite a bit of graffiti as well as litter today. Ho hum.

But then the white people took away the homelands of these people and forceably moved the ones they did not slaughter into the desert; so they do have something to be upset about. There are few jobs and no prospects for the kids, so there are many problems, not least drugs and crime.

(It gets worse. Just read an article in the local paper telling the story of two old ladies who families were moved in the Long March then, in the 60s, they were moved on again as they had no legal right to be where they were. They were moved next to an old uranium mine!)

Canyon de Chelly, pronounced "shay", is a special place for them and you can read all about it here.

After a stunning drive from Eagar this morning, we stopped off at several viewing points on the North Rim of the canyon. There were several Navajo selling pottery they had made and we got talking to one, Albert Bia, and his sister-in-law, Audrey Joey. They were great to talk to and we learned all about their art and a little about their Nation. We also bought a pottery bear made by Audrey. Poor Albert seemed quite upset we'd not bought one of his but Bob preferred the colour. The bear, however, is now known as Albert Din'é and he represents strength and courage. Twenty bucks, he cost.
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It is not possible to enter the Canyon without a Navajo guide. They do trips on trucks carrying about 20 people. They look real bone shakers so we have booked our own guide, Oscar, who will take just us in his jeep on a 3 hour tour tomorrow morning. The cost of his tour was only $20 more that the cost of two of us on a bone- shaker. So seem quite a good deal.

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City of Two Tails

It's been stormy this afternoon without rain. But hope the skies clear for the morning, which is what has happened each morning so far. So fingers crossed. No rain dances PLEASE!

Arthur say he has learned some Navajo: "Me scalpum, you fryum".

By the way, here's our repair to the tail-light.
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Night night.

Posted by Johnash 18:52 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Fond Farewell to our Navajo Friends

On to Ute-Land

sunny 80 °F

Room 314, Best Western Turquoise Inn & Suites, Cortez, Colorado: for next two nights!

This morning was one that will stay in our memories for a long, long time.

We'd packed and got breakfast by 8am. We were able to keep our room at the Holiday Inn until 2pm by virtue of being members of their Priority Club (always worth joining ANY loyalty programme, Ian!) so we could leave our stuff in the room until our return from the Canyon.

We'd arranged our jeep tour at 9 but our driver (not Oscar, but Kenneth) was early and having coffee in the hotel. So we were away and on our tour by 8.30. Which meant we were ahead of virtually everyone else and for most of the time had the canyon to ourselves.

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Magical is all I can say. From 1,000 year old dwellings under the cliffs and overhangs to petroglyphs (wall art, not Walmart, Arthur) from Anasazi and latterly Navajo Indians, who lived, worked and prayed (and still do) in this remarkable place.

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We learned so much from Kenneth about his nation and his clan; about what he'd learned from his 101 year old grandmother before she died and from his 81 old mother who only speaks Navajo or Din'é and his sons and daughters who prefer to learn Spanish to Navajo, and his brother's son who two weeks ago shot his own brains out once he had become addicted to meth and how gangsters run the alcohol and drugs trade in Chinle and its schools.

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At one point we stopped under towering cliffs and Kenneth rummaged in the back of the jeep. He produced a Navajo flute and started to play a haunting tune, pausing to allow the notes to echo & echo & echo... around the canyon walls.

The drive was rough and wet in places as we followed the wash, or seasonal stream up the twin canyons. Words cannot describe this experience. We only hope you can get there one day too.

The drive into South Western Colorado was also revelation. Although we were passing within about 50 miles of Monument Valley we did not expect to be passing mini versions of that Marlborough advert. But these we had to ourselves.

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We have now stopped over for 2 nights in a Best Western in Cortez, SW Colorado. We are glad we have booked two nights as it looks like a proper town with shops and cafes in the town center, as they say. It is in a Ute Indian reservation but they don't seem to dominate so much as Navajos did in Navajo Nation. And they do seem to be a much tidier tribe!! We are adjacent to Mesa Verde National Park which we shall visit tomorrow.

We must also apologise to Chinle & surroundings and its inhabitants. OK it is a dump. But there is so much poverty and so many problems it is hardly surprising it's not all spick and span. We had some great Navajo food in an ordinary diner (mutton sandwich in frybread and mutton stew) where many Navajo families were having their Sunday night out. With the exception of a couple of agressive kids in the carpark, everyone we came across were extremely friendly, helpful and, above all, positive.

Thanks to Paul, as ever, for his comments (Arthur does read them) and to Brien, I have stopped wearing those shorts (they kept falling down).. and those shoes were Mazarron market, actually!

Night night (can't remember my Navajo)

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Posted by Johnash 20:39 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (3)

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