When I booked our hire car the web page implied I’d be getting a Dodge Challenger. If you are not American or a petrolhead this won’t mean much to you but it is one of the States 3 main muscle cars. They all come with a big engine, two doors and rear wheel drive. The Dodge has all three plus a mean look.
So as our airport shuttle pulls into the hire company there sits an all black Challanger. Mat black paint and black chrome wheels. My smile is a big one as I’ve been looking forward to this. We quickly sort our paperwork and the girl at the desk hands me our key.
It says Ford on it.
We got a Mustang. It is the iconic muscle car. Car mags say it is the best of the 3 but I admit I was disappointed. We stroll through the car park but finding out car is not difficult. It’s orange. Ford call this paint Orange Fury and that is an apt description.
My first impressions are not good. We pop the hood to find just a 3.7 ltr V6 not the 5.0 V8 it could be. I don’t thing I’ve ever been disappointed by a 320hp engine before! Too late now as we have the keys and a long drive south to get started.
A week has passed and my lack of love for our Ford pony has changed. OK it is cheap, plasticy, has no sat nav and a user screen the size of a fag packet. It does have comfy seats, good air con and an ability to go from 65 to 110 in a few seconds. Many long US roads are single lane. When you want to get past 2 or 3 large, slow semi trucks the Mustang suddenly makes sence. Check you have a bit of space. Pull out then floor it. WOW! You hit warp drive with a huge grin and an urge to find something else to overtake.
It was time to head West along what turned out to be part of the northern route of the Santa Fe trail. We would be leaving Kansas and heading to Colorado and our final nights stop. The scenery remain as flat as the past couple of days, however, the roads were mostly single lane. This meant we could experience the true grunt of the Mustang. The ease of overtaking in a car that instantly responds made for an fun drive.
One thing we have noticed each day are the giant watering systems for the crops that stretch for many metres.
Seems these are fixed and water in arcs and circles which provides some great satellite images.
You also got a sense of waves in the fields as we sped past.
We continued West and soon we were back in Colorado – the state we arrived in and will leave from.
As we continued West the Rockies started to rise up in front of us and we finally had something to look at other than endless horizon.
They certainly made for an impressive view from our last hotel room, on the 12th floor.
So it was time to head north on a route that would start in Texas, cross Oklahoma and finish up in Kansas.
The weather was hot and sunny as we headed out of Amarillo on the US87 and it soon became clear we were in for a day of straight roads and flat terrain. Every town we passed was a mix of farmland, dotted with nodding donkeys and grain processing plants.
It wasn’t long before we hit the first state line and the aptly named Texhoma – a town half in Texas and half in Oklahoma.
Our route took us across the “panhandle” meaning our time in Oklahoma would be brief – just over an hour (or around 60 miles). There was no real change in the scenery to speak of.
The weather continued to heat up and the scenery remained the same – you can see why it’s called the great plains. It’s quite incredible to be in a place that you can see the horizon stretch out in all directions. You get the illusion that the road is running into the sky due to the heat haze.
Being in the right part of Kanasa meant we had the opportunity to stop of in Liberal, park on the yellow brick road and visit the Dorothy museum – seemed rude not to.
A quick check of the sky for tornados – all clear so onto Dodge City and Boot Hill. There was time for a quick stop in Minneola and the Dalton Gang hideout. It seems there was plenty of outlaw activity across Kansas.
Our journey of observation and discovery took us away yesterday. Away from the bigger towns, big mountains and rolling hills and out across the western end of the Great Planes. From Amarillo in Texas we were heading north.
It did not take long to find ourselves out on the low expance of these flat lands. I’ve traveled through the flat regions of Europe but Norfolk or The Netherlands are nothing like this. In Europe our flat areas are populated with trees and vegetation the break up your view and eye line. The planes do not have that. You find your sight drawn to the distant horizon. Then, as you pan around, that horizon is a constant. It is everywhere you look. A single flat line the fills 360° of your world. I have seen horizons like this out at sea but never on land before.
This leads to the second visual observation. The Big Sky. With the line between land and sky being so low and far from where you you are it give the heavens above you a new feeling too. With so little to see on the ground the sky comes to dominate your vision. The clear blue sky is huge. It’s everywhere. We spend little of our regular world looking up to the sky. On the planes you don’t need to look up to see the sky as it is everywhere you look. It’s directly in front, to the side and behind you. It is an odd feeling for a city boy like myself and one that continued all day. Through Taxas, Oklahoma and into Kansas the sky and horizon gave us an amazing visual panorama.
Santa Fe was an absolute joy – what a fantastic town. A very cool mix of galleries, art shops and native American sellers. Oh and the odd craft beer bar.
After another wander around town we headed south to carry out the the task this road trip was put together for.
The scenery continued in the same way as yesterday with a little less in the way of mountains. Within an hour we hit the outskirts of Albuquerque and the hunt for the perfect left turn started. It didn’t take long we found one that took us onto Route 66 – what could be better.
We truddled the mother road out of downtown and made our way to the I40 which runs the route of old 66. It was great to be driving along the route of folklore, and in a Mustang to boot.
As we headed East towards Texas it was time to think about lunch. In very much a needle in a map we pulled of the highway at Santa Rosa and landed ourselves at Joseph’s Bar and Grill. They have the coolest menus…
Lunch and route 66 lime soda consumed it was time to run to Texas and our next stop of Amarillo. As gas is cheaper in Texas we decided to fill up at the first town over the boarder Glenrio – there should be no problem we had 10 miles to spare????
Turns out Glenrio doesn’t have a petrol station or a town as it goes. So back to the I40 to find another stop and also frantically googling how far you can drive a Mustang on empty – flat empty. Turns out all the forums under cooked it – we made 21 miles.
Car filled again it was an uneventful cruise to Amarillo and the next over night stop.
So an early start saw us heading back to the airport to pick up, what as you know, turned out to be an orange Mustang. The hotel getting struck by lightening and setting off the fire alarm around midnight wasn’t helpful.
Avoiding the toll road we crawled with the commuters until we reached south Denver and I225 before being able to see what the Mustang could do. It didn’t disappoint.
It happily cruises the not so busy highways as we made our way towards New Mexico.
To the right was the Rockies and they pretty much accompanied us all the way. To left was more grasslands, but the scenery changed on a regular basis. It certainly made for a stunning drive.
Lunch saw us stop in Trinidad and Tony’s Diner. A great little small town diner where Tony seemed to know everyone. Home cooked chilli burgers with fries certainly made for a great choice.
We decided to take a wander along the main street of what turned out to be a charming town. There’s a tribute to the town’s mining history and an array of great looking thrift stores, galleries and local stores. Not a single corporate logo in sight.
The miners canary.
Vibeke and Shannon at Purgatoire River Trading Company (113 East Main Street, Trinidad, Colorado, 81082) where very welcoming and offered lots of advice on places to visit. Also offered a wide variety of native American art and jewellery.
We continued our route south on the I25 to Santa Fe. The scenery kept changing and the sky cleared and the temperature started to rise. As the landscape flattened the sky seemed to grow – big sky country indeed.
Our route did take us past Las Vegas…
No not that one as you can see 0 casinos.
We arrived at our destination, checked into The Sage Inn and headed out to explore the town.
We have all heard that America sees itself as the land of the free. Well after a few days here I see it as the land of the pick up truck.
In urban city US you sure see more than a few pick ups driving around. They have a V8 rumble that us Europeans connect with sports cars. It is when you get out into the country this all changes. They are everywhere. From small, rear wheel drive models scooting around on skinny road tires up to huge 4×4 monster trucks.
I really do mean monster truckss. Some the units you see on the road would not be out of place in a Monster Truck arena show. I’ve stood next to ones where they are on such huge tires attached to jacked up suspension that the drivers head must be at 3m when seated in the cab. How do they even get in the door? Is there a lillte step ladder that pops out to assist? I’m tempted to hang around a car park to see how the manages to scale into these metal mountains. Probably not a good idea though. These motors also seem to come with gun racks, NRA signs and bumper stickers pledging support for Trump. I don’t need an armed redneck eyeing me wondering why I’m hanging around his pride and joy.
The waiting is over the roadtrip begins in…..
Subtle isn’t it?
Having driven it for a couple of hundred miles it is now going by the name “The Flying Tangerine”
Milwaukee Brewers 7 v Colorado Rockies 3
Seems that we haven’t bought any luck to the home teams this weekend, but my first baseball game was enjoyable none the less. All the traditions were rolled out, local kids singing the national anthem, God bless America played on a trumpet and given it was mothers day a lot of pink was worn by the players.
Coors Field is quite and impressive stadium raising high in downtown Denver and includes a roof top bar and a garden complete with fountains. Turns out the put on a display should a home run be hit into it.
One of the home players managed it, but was not enough to win the game.
As millions of Americans get up and prepare to go to church I find myself worshipping at a very different alter. This congregation is only a few dozen strong but it is just as passionate in its faith and following. We come in many colours and worship diffent Gods but the one true faith we have is for football.
The Bulldog bar opened at 6am on a Sunday to cater for a mixed bunch of expat Brits and a few locals who we have managed to convert to follow real football. Not the local variety where the ball is not round and the last thing you want to do it kick it with a foot. I’m loathed to call our game soccer but you have to in the US. Their league, the MLS, is improving year on year but it’s still a mile behind the Premier. I don’t imagine too many American expats gather in bars around the world to watch MLS games. Mostly because no one shows it because too few want to watch it.
My Church may be full of sinners, money, greed and excess but it is one wel all still flock to, no matter where in the world we may be.