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Following the Dotted Line

Author's Note: Some of you who are reading this know that I am by profession a journalist. I sought to share the story of my Road Trip mainly through photos and a few words. Today I've written more. My head was so filled with ideas as I drove, I decided to share some of those albeit a bit randomly. Experts say blogs can wander. Hmmm.... I'm to sure but ramble I have here. Read what interests you and leave the rest.

Thanks for traveling with me these past 21 days. Tomorrow I will arrive home. Can't wait to see my pups!

— Dana

Texas Highway 207. Photo open stock from Internet.

Texas Highway 207 is amazing! Heading out of Caprock Canyons State Park this morning, it looked the quickest way northwest into New Mexico and Colorado was to drive Highway 207 from Silverton, Texas, to Claude, Texas. My road atlas showed a dotted line along this 50-mile stretch. I heard my mother saying, "Now Ralph (that was my dad), do you think it's a good idea to get off the beaten path? You know what happened last time we did that."

Sorry Mom. I'm taking the dotted line. That meant turning north on 207. The first sign I saw let me know I was on the Texas Plains Trail. The terrain was flat, the road straight, the traffic nonexistent, the road surface smooth. Moving along at good clip considering I was pulling Emma, my 18-foot camper, I saw the first of what would be many windmills.

I thought: "They nailed that logo!" As someone who has been asked to create logos from time to time, I know nailing one is genius and rare. Maybe I'll be so lucky some day.

What I didn't know was what lay ahead of me on this trail. I figured it was 50 miles of cruise-control big open spaces. It was for a while but then a sign suggested I go into lower gear for the 10 percent grade ahead. I'm used to signs cautioning care on mountain roads. The state park near my home has a section of switchbacks that are a 19 percent grade. Yet I was in the middle of the plains, or so I thought.

I came around a few curves then over a rise only to find myself in the middle of a Georgia O'Keefe painting — one of the ones she did near Abiquiu of gold and red striped hills dotted with green clumps of shrubs. I was in awe of the beauty before me. Later I learned I was looking at a portion of Palo Duro Canyon. I've stayed at Palo Duro Canyon State Park on several occasions. It's gorgeous. Today's view was perhaps even more stunning than the park's vistas.

As I approached Claude, I noticed a field filled with wind turbines capturing the wind even as the smaller farm windmills have been doing for years. Making the most of the plains' winds isn't new. I thought about one of the books I listened to while driving last week. It was about a Texas family dealing with the Dust Bowl. I realized I was driving through the very part of Texas that became so inhospitable to all living things during those years.

When I'm pulling Emma, I find driving the interstates stressful. When possible, I stick with state and county highways. When towing, I rarely drive over 65 mph so I don't need the higher speed limits on the interstates. While driving off-interstate means slowing down for towns, I find out here in the West, those can be some distance apart. I enjoy seeing how folks live beyond the cities and suburbs. When going east on this road trip, I drove I-10 from south of Phoenix all the way to Florida thinking I would make more miles faster. I had to do the trip quick within the time between QuiltCon and the AQS show in Daytona Beach. It was quicker but I didn't see much.

I've taken more time for the return trip, overnighting at state parks and a national seashore. These usually require driving away from the interstate, adding some miles. I planned two-day stays at several parks. This pace has been so much more enjoyable. When I'm not clutching the steering wheel as tight as possible because interstates are often wind tunnels and passing semis, like the wind, can push my car and camper sideways, I have more time to think. I see things you don't see on the interstates.

Driving through the plains reminded me of the Illinois prairie. I lived for a few years in Mascoutah, Illinois, which sits across the Mississippi River west of St. Louis in a region of rich farmland that was once prairie for miles and miles. Having read about the tall grasses that covered the land, Charles Dickens in the mid-1800s traveled to Lebanon, a town close to Mascoutah, to see the then-famous Looking Glass Prairie. He was not impressed. He came in April when the grass was not yet tall and the wildflowers not blooming. He and his companions had to travel through low-lying swampy areas. Had he come in the late summer, he would have seen the tall grasses but he also would have encountered mosquitoes galore in those swampy areas. Remember, I lived there. I know the terrain, and I know the swampy areas of which he wrote. They have been drained some but the wetlands remain as an important part of the environment. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes also remain.

The plains of Texas are different from the prairie yet similar in their vastness and flatness except of course when a canyon suddenly appears.

Today I was struck by how many folks live impoverished. I drove through several county seats that at one time had been at the center of town squares with thriving businesses. Most of these buildings are now empty. They are often boarded up. They need of major repair or demolition. I stopped at a gas station that had hung old plastic shower curtains in place of doors to the toilet stalls. It appeared there hard once been doors but the hinges were rusted or missing.

Between Claude, Texas, and Amarillo, a sign identified the road as the Ports to Plains Corridor. Not knowing what this meant, I googled and learned the following:

The Ports-To-Plains Corridor, also known as National Highway System High Priority Corridor 38, is a highway corridor between the U.S./Mexico border at Laredo, Texas, and Denver. The reason for proposed improvements to this corridor is to expedite the transportation of goods and services from Mexico to the United States and vice versa. The corridor passes through Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma before ending in Denver.

I wonder how this corridor has functioned during the pandemic and if it is in line for federal funding under the recently passed infrastructure bill. I hope Texas will use money to repair I-10. The 800+ miles through Texas was the worst road surface I drove on this road trip.

Talking Turkey

As I said, a lot of random thoughts. A final one is yet another word on turkeys. Between South Llano River State Park and Caprock Canyons State Park is the town of Turkey. I asked the gas-station clerk the source of the town's name. She didn't know. I'm guessing it's because so many wild turkeys roost there. I suggested this. She shook her head. "I don't know much about turkeys."

The temperature had dropped from high 70s when I arrived at South Llano Stare Park on Saturday to below freezing when I headed out the next morning. It was 34 degrees when I stopped in Turkey early Sunday afternoon. I was close to Caprock Canyons State Park where I was to camp but I was getting cold feet — quite literally — and wondered if I should perhaps get a hotel room instead.

That's when I saw the sign for the Hotel Turkey. I decided to check it out. What I saw was a boarded up building so drove on to Caprock where the heater in my camper kept it nice and cozy.

Turns out the hotel has a website and Facebook page and appears to be a thriving business, which is definitely a head scratcher. I'll have to check out their chile rellenos on a future trip.

Tonight I'm in Colorado Springs at the Garden of the Gods RV Resort. I've stayed here before. It's a tad pricey for a campground though not for the Springs. And James who works the reservation and front desk is super nice. It was snowing lighting when I arrived but has stopped. Sun is projected for tomorrow between here and my mountain home four hours north and west of here so it should be smooth sailing.

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