The storm raged on for hours. As we drove into Amarillo, Texas the lightning was dancing in the distance. Non stop. It must have been miles away as we heard no thunder, just the sky lighting up with streaks of orange. I put my photography and video skills to the test but both our phones ran out of storage so just as the big flashes came out, we watched with the naked eye instead. All of a sudden a distinct smell of manure entered the car. Nathan and I both looked at each other, shook our heads and laughed. Where had it come from? No one admitted to it and it wasn’t until we looked out the window and saw we had passed the biggest cattle ranch we had ever seen, but the air filter button had changed to draw air in from outside instead of recirculating the air con round the car 😂!! It took a while for the smell to go! The temperature remained around 60 degrees, which to us, clearly acclimatised people, felt cold as we got out of the car at La Kiva Hotel. The temperature in the car was warmer than outside!
Nathan did his usual and dropped me off at the front door to go and check in. I exchanged the usual rigmorale of “where you from?” “Where you been so far?” “How you like it here?” And this time it was accompanied by a “I’ve always wanted to go to the United Kingdom.” My response was “just book a ticket and go!” Sound advice I think! Back out to the car I trundled and we headed round to the back where our room was. It was very dated. Nothing to complain about as it only cost £30 for the night but we had a wooden box tv, which was very retro and huge blackout drapes which looked like something our grandparents grandparents would have had! Still, all we needed was a bed and shower.
We had been waking up later than we’d have liked and because we couldn’t leave the drapes open to allow natural sunlight in to wake us, I set an alarm for 8am….
Not that that mattered as it was 10 before we woke and we both slept straight through the alarm. Whoops. A quick get ready, Nathan packing the car and I checking us out and we were on the road. What a difference in the weather! Good job we invested in a polystyrene coolbox yesterday at Walmart, (yes it only took us 45 days of drinking warm drinks to finally purchase one!!) as cold drinks would be needed!!
Today, we drove part of Route 66. That’s the whole point we had driven back in this direction after all! First stop, the VW Slug Bug Ranch.We would have driven straight past it if it wasn’t for the fact we needed gas! Gas stations offering it at under $2 was something we had been missing! Yet here it was. As we pulled into the ranch Nathan thought it would be a great idea to just dump the car, which he did, forgetting we had a storm last night. Needless to say he can clean my shoes later 😂😂!The ranch was pretty cool. There were five old VWs very poorly parked nose first into the ground. The building next to them was old and decrepit and clearly not in use to people except perhaps the homeless. The graffiti art across the buildings (there was also an abandoned gas station) was very artistic indeed. It ranged from a few drawings, to a Route 66 logo, people’s names and then you had the sharpie writings too!There were spray paint cans all over the floor so of course we had to leave our mark here…The doors opened with a bit of a tug so Nathan decided to try and get one out the ground 😂. A very cool place to see just off the main highway!
We drove about another twenty miles along the highway to reach the Leaning Tower of Texas, in Groom.The tower is slanted at 80 degrees to the ground and was used as a marketing ploy by Ralph Britten who wanted to build a truck stop just off of Route 66. A bulldozer was used to elevate the two legs and it attracted visitors driving along the road for many years to come! Some were even terrified it would fall so they would turn off and enter Britten’s truck stop, thus adding to his business! The truck stop eventually burnt down but the tower still remains!
We headed back along the road we’d just driven towards Amarillo. The Big Texan Steak Ranch caught our eye.Here is the home of the 72oz steak challenge. Basically, you have 20 minutes to eat a 72oz steak and then you get it free! It’s like Man vs Food!! They had a postcard in the gift shop that showed a woman had eaten three. She was as thin as a rake too! The whole place was cool and quirky with cowboys/girls serving food and funfair-style games just outside the restaurant! We didn’t eat here instead we went on to Chilis Bar and Grill.
I think that Chilis is the place we’ve eaten at the most but the food is so good, especially the Texas cheese fries! Yuuuum! Today instead of the usual page of Mexican food to choose from, I went for chicken smothered in a honey-chipotle sauce and corn on the cob, which was delicious!! The waitres seemed a little grumpy to begin with and didn’t appear to fully understand our ‘accents.’ Despite not actually eating that much we felt so full that walking back to the car was a struggle 😂!
Job number one when getting in the car is to blast the air con. The good news is our car is due an inspection in 2000 miles so we will take it back in to an enterprise, and hopefully get one that doesn’t have leather seats! They are way to hot to have in this heat! We continued back heading just out of Amarillo when we saw lots of cars parked on the other side of the road. It was only as we passed them that we realised they were parked at the Cadillac ranch.
Taking the next exit, we abruptly turned back and parked up. The cadillacs were a bit further infield than the VWs were.As you walked up to them you, the smell of freshly sprayed paint filled the air. There was a school there on a trip! Definitely didn’t have trips like that when I was at school that’s for sure!! These Cadillacs are the artwork of a group known as Ant Farm. Built in 1974 the group were students at Tulane University. Spray cans filled the muddy floor between the cars. They are at an angle the same as the Great Pyramid of Giza! The graffiti really stands out in the field that has nothing in it for miles around! So bright and colourful and definitely worth the visit just off the highway!!
Our last stop along Route 66 today was to be the Midpoint sign and Cafe. It was another fifty or so miles along the road. I believe it is the I-40. These iconic buildings are easy to miss if you are looking away and again we nearly missed the turn off. The sign is the exact middle of Route 66, 1139 miles to Chicago and 1139 miles to Los Angeles. There is a cafe and gift shop as well as a handy perch in front of the sign, clearly designated for cameras on a timer!!We enjoyed seeing those historical markers! As usual, we poked our heads into the gift shop to purchase a mandatory Route 66 souvenir! Trying to get a photo of us with the road marker in proved difficult, made more difficult because my selfie stick got broken yesterday 😢 and apparently I’m not very good at getting the correct angle to capture everything! Didn’t realise I was away with a professional photographer 🙄!We left and began heading towards Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. Just shy of three hundred miles to get there with the hope of securing a campsite. Judging by our past form at these main sites, we weren’t holding out much hope! Still, hunting for somewhere to stay in the middle of nowhere with no internet seems to have become our forté!
The drive took us back through New Mexico and then up into Colorado. We stopped at a post office to get me some stamps and then again for fuel. All the while singing along to the radio 96.9 until we lost signal and had to plug in our phones. Even then it was like a party in the car, singing and dancing to the tunes blaring out the speakers. Nathan had enforced new rules because my music is ‘crap’ and they ‘must get sore throats with all that screaming.’ Oh and he doesn’t like long intros so they have to start singing within fifteen seconds. We must have only listened to three songs in half an hour 😔!
The journey seemed to go on and on today despite it being relatively short mileage! We drove through the snow capped mountains of Spanish Peak and Blanca Peak before we finally arrived at Great Sand Dunes National Park. It was about 7:30pm and we didn’t have to pay/use our pass to get in. These sand dunes you could see from the road and it just seemed like such an odd place for them. I mean you had snow capped mountains towering behind them, then you had the sand dunes then in front of those forested land! It looked pretty though! Sadly our suspicions were proven right when as we drove in the entrance, the sign read ‘campsite full.’ Our hearts sank and we turned 180 degrees and exited. We were driving along with everything crossed that the bedrock-style campsite about 5 miles outside the park, still had vacancies. We pulled into the parking lot and Nathan went in to ask. Thirty seconds later he returned to say he needed $25….
My hopes were rising. Another couple of minutes later he returned filling out a form with the car details…YES!!!!! We finally had somewhere to stay! 🎉🎉🎉
Another two dollars later we had our campsite pass and drove in along the dirt rocky track. The campsites weren’t marked or anything and it seemed like a bit of a free for all. The wind was picking up so we moved from one open air campsite to one sheltered between trees. Putting the tent up proved to be a mission as it kept blowing inwards! After using the big rocks of the fire pit to help secure the tent as well as tying it to a tree for extra support, I began setting up the inside.
Beds set up, clothes for the morning, all I needed Nathan to grab me was my pjs. “Babe, your pjs are soaked. And I mean soaked through.” “How? What has leaked? The water is in the back not the boot!”
I fumbled my way out of the tent to take a look. “It is the coolbox. The ice has all melted and leaked through the polystyrene into the boot.”
We found the culprit. What we thought was a good idea turned out to be the total opposite. We had filled the coolbox with ice, packed it with drinks, refilled it with ice once the top layer had melted and didn’t even think about where the water was going! 😂 It certainly didn’t evaporate! My mind flashed back to a gas station where I saw a guy emptying his before repacking it with ice.
As we checked the rest of the boot, it became apparent that everything was soaked. Paper bags from Jim Beam were soaked through as was the personalised label on Nathan’s bottle of Knob Creek. Stickers were slightly wet as were our shoeboxes housing souvenirs. Today was the day we also found out that our big bags aren’t waterproof. The bottoms of them aren’t the same material as the sides and top so the water had even managed to enter our bags and soak some clothes.
We took everything out the boot and put it in the car hoping the dry heat would help dry it out. Turns out I also had a pair of walking trousers and a top not in any bag that were also soaked through! 😂. Once we had semi got everything sorted and I realised I had no pjs to sleep in (which meant I was in for an uncomfortable night sticking to the inside of my sleeping bag), we headed into the tent for a game of phase ten and a well deserved drink after that calamity! A short while later and I would be getting lost in the campsite after trying to locate the toilets. After finding my way back after a ten minute detour to every campsite other than ours, I took a moment to take it the view.
My prediction was right as I tossed and turned in my sleeping bag all night sticking to it then peeling myself off to roll over, eventually I woke properly at 4am after being bitten by something on my leg. I don’t think it was a mosquito as it has a ring round it and our mosquito bits hadn’t had that! I wasn’t getting out of bed at 4am for anything so I tried to get back to sleep. Now when we pitched the tent I don’t think we realised how much of a slant it was on. As you rolled over you ended up siding down in the bed too which just added to the camping experience. We may as well have slept perpendicular to the ground it was so steep 😂. The generators of neighbouring RVs kicked in about 6am which meant it was the slow beginning of getting out of bed.The photo isn’t wonky it is actually how much of a slope we were on! Dressed, I walked to the toilets only to then burst in on someone already in a cubical! Whoops! Turns out none of the locks work 😂! Walking back to the campsite (without getting lost this time) I passed Nathan who had dragged himself out the tent. The woman from the toilet turned out to be our neighbour…she didn’t smile at me as I walked past. The next task was to check everything was dry and repack the car. Thankfully it was…