On the road again. Snacks, wind and Big Texan gluttony

posted in: Travel Tales | 1

I love road trip snacks. They sabotage my ongoing attempts at healthy eating, which is not good, but the real problem is that after a few hours driving, my shirt looks like someone threw a supreme pizza at me. Colorful bits of food cling to fabric between coffee, grease and mystery stains. I wear special, old clothes just for driving.

So of course I salivated when I saw the billboards announcing Dwayne’s Fresh Jerky just east of Wilcox, Arizona. Beef jerky? Now that’s a road snack!

Dwayne’s Fresh Jerky was located within Dwayne’s Mt. View RV Park in Bowie, which just so happened to be our first stop for the night as we started our 2018 nomadic journey.  We hadn’t planned to stop there, but it was getting late and it was a great deal at $15 a night. Even in the middle of nowhere.

We like the middle of nowhere, especially in the West, and Bowie, Arizona still retains that frontier feeling. If you can ignore the sound of I-10 traffic and freight trains. The park wasn’t much, but the woman and her daughter at the front desk were wonderfully hospitable and hooked us with jerky samples.

We bought three packages, which killed the savings we had made on the site, and sat and watched the setting sun bathe the Dos Cabezas Mountains in gold. In a week or so, we’ll be saying goodbye to wide-open skies and brown, wrinkled mountains, as we head into a year or more spent in the forests of the East.

I worked for awhile the next morning, then we jumped back on I-10 and drove into New Mexico. Even though our destination for the next month was Oklahoma, we had diverted this far south to avoid dangerous winds along I-40 in northern Arizona. As it turned out, that didn’t matter.

Just past Hatch on I-25, I almost lost control of The Toaster because of fierce crosswinds. I had to slow down to the point of turning on our hazard lights. We stopped in Truth or Consequences  to assess the truth of our situation and the consequences of continuing.  New Mexico was burning and you could see smoke streaming from the Gila Mountains.

The winds weren’t as strong and I plotted a course that would put most of the wind at our tail. So we continued on, and limped into the town of Carrizozo, New Mexico.

I was sore and tired from trying to keep The Toaster steady, and just wanted to drink a beer and go to sleep, but the kind woman at the front desk of the RV park kept talking and talking about dogs and Billy the Kid. I finally edged out the door, nodding and smiling and still holding my receipt. Right across the street from our spot, a man was playing rock music and intensely shuffling stuff between two small, old houses. Lots of stuff. Definitely a hoarder. Possibly insane, or an artist.

We got on the road early to beat the predicted winds, and drove directly north from Carrizozo to I-40, winding through juniper covered mountains. The strong winds were still there, and constant, but nothing like the day before. We lunched and napped in Tucumcari, then continued east on the freeway, climbing the Llano Estacado and crossing the table-flat Texas panhandle to Amarillo.

We drove through heavy construction to the eastside of town and our home site for the next week at the AOK RV Park. This was a Passport America deal at about $13 per night.  It wasn’t much, but by God if there wasn’t a couple  of llamas, an emu and big steer to keep us company.

We stopped for an entire week here so I could work on writing projects. In fact, I was swamped with work, and we barely had to time to explore Amarillo.

The city has a worn look, and maybe that makes sense for a cattle town in the 21st century. We saw a few nice neighborhoods, but perhaps we just picked the wrong places to drive through as we saw one decaying building after another.

Like moths to a flame, we stopped at the famous Big Texan Steak Ranch, where  people can attempt to eat 72 ounces of steak (a roast, really) in one sitting and be rewarded with a free meal. 72 ounces? Holy cow!

We sat upstairs and watched a man take the challenge, sitting alone at a special table below a bank of timers. His wife and kids came up and talked to him, then went back to their table. Other patrons took photos of him, as he picked at his food. He didn’t seem to be in a hurry. Then he gave up and motioned for the waitress to bring him a to-go box and the check.

We ordered much smaller lunch specials and were as disappointed as that guy was satiated. My slice of prime rib was rubbery, and Julie’s rib eye steak was thin and overcooked. That’s what we get for eating at a tourist trap.

Right after, our friend Andrea who had lived in Amarillo, texted us a list of places to eat. The Big Texan was not on the list.

Mostly, we spent the week with me chained to my computer, Julie making yogurt, and keeping me fed with amazing meals. Winds constantly raked the RV park, shaking our home and our wits. A large man, who lived permanently in the trailer next to us, said it was always windy and had been dry for years.  He smoked and flicked his butts all over the ground. One day, he revealed himself as a racist to Julie and she called him out on it. He never spoke with us again.

Which was OK because we preferred sitting in the blowing wind, watching the sun set across the flat, dusty fields of dry grass, rather than talking to a blowhard racist.

On Friday, we headed northeast across the rest of the panhandle and into Oklahoma.