New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma

13th - 16th October 2011

Avoiding the main I-40 interstate corridor across New Mexico meant pretty much avoiding seeing anything at all for long stretches of time and many miles. As we'd found on our previous back roads transit of New Mexico earlier in the year, large areas of the state were empty, completely empty.

Our crossing on highway 60 became tedious fairly quickly, with little for company except the enormously long freight trains paralleling our route. The amount of freight on the move by rail was impressive in such a road-orientated country but made a lot of economic and environmental sense with such huge distances to cover. However, even the thrill of trying to count the number of wagons on passing trains quickly wore off, we seemed to always lose count around 49 when the train was only half past! Several hours in, we started to see signs advising us of an exciting up-coming destination, Pie Town. Understandably enough with so little other stimulation, by the time we'd passed half a dozen signs inviting us to try "the world's best pie", stomachs were rumbling.

Let me at that pie!

New Mexico Apple Pie.

It seemed that demand even for the "world's best pie" died off at 4 pm, when the Pie-oneer Bakery closed it's doors. Luckily we arrived at five to four, so weren't to be disappointed, but which variety of the "world's best pie" to choose. Such a serious decision in only five minutes. Phil opted for the peach and raspberry, Christine bowed to local recommendation and selected the "New Mexico Apple Pie". Apparently New Mexico Apple Pie differed to any other apple pie by the inclusion of green chillies, a curious combination. Anyway, when in New Mexico.........Pie secured in the back of Harvey for that evening's desert, we pushed on back into the wilderness.

Is there anybody out there.....or down here come to that?

The next excitement we spotted approaching on our map was the imaginatively named Very Large Array Telescope. No wonder we later learned that after it's recently completed refurbishment, the observatory was holding a public competition to come up with a more exciting name for the installation. We could only wait with bated breath for the result. Still, despite it's dull name, the Very Large Array was an impressive sight, it's multiple radio telescopes pointed skywards in the middle of a great expanse of nothing.

We spent the night at another free-of-charge National Forest Service Campground close to Magdelena, where we sampled the pie. Phil's selection was delicious, Christine's just a little strange.

Early next morning we found ourself at the Emergency Room in the nearby town of Socorro. Not that there was a medical emergency, but Phil had been suffering some strange symptoms which we felt needed checking out and being strangers, it was difficult to know where else to head for advice. Luckily for us, the only patients at that time of day, the ER staff were bored and eager to jump into action with a barrage of blood tests, examinations and even an ultrasound scan. Three hours later the conclusion was reached that the symptoms were actually a side effect of a new medication he was taking. Hopefully all he needed to do was stop the pills and eat more steak and all would return to normal. A couple of hundred dollars worse off but much reassured, we hit the road again.

Next came a brief stretch on interstate 25, during which we foolishly drove past several petrol stations before turning off back onto highway 60. Here there was a distinct lack of gas stations and, in fact pretty much anything once we ventured beyond the first settlement of Las Nutrias. So, we made a ten mile round trip detour, to fill our fuel tank before heading out beyond the last few trailer homes of the town. These seemed to be inhabited by pack rats, or at least people who never actually threw anything away, judging by the accumulated mounds of junk in their yards alongside the road. We wandered along this new empty highway until we rejoined I-40 and headed to Tucumcari for the night.

New Mexico Highway 60

Blodwyn gets her kicks on Route 66.

We stayed on I-40 through the "small" narrow section at the north of the enormous state of Texas, passing through Amarillo and then on into Oklahoma. I-40 here took the route of the famous Route 66. The impressive rest area on the interstate had a display on the history of the old concrete road which was immortalised in song.

A long day of driving and only one wrong turn took us almost right across the state of Oklahoma. As darkness fell, we pulled into the conveniently located Lake Eufala State Park, just off the interstate. Before heading on to Arkansas next morning, a Sunday, we decided we needed to stop to pick up a bottle of wine to take along to the friends we were visiting.

We stopped at Wal-mart, just before the state line, only to find their selection of wines eclectic, cheap and mostly unheard of brands. We decided to push on into Arkansas to make our purchase. Here we were told that to buy wine on a Sunday, we'd need to head into neighbouring Missouri to the north. Luckily our route took us right along the border, so it wasn't too great a detour. From this point on we joined the hoards of "leaf-peepers" taking a Sunday afternoon drive through the Ozarks, to enjoy the stunning colours of the fall leaves.

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