Jan. 5-6 From Gainesville, TX to Tucumcari, NM
All the sinners from the Bible Belt must have migrated to Texas. As we arrived at our Gainesville B&B at dinner time, John discovered that this town was the site of the largest mass hanging in US history. Forty-two citizens were hanged or shot after a kangaroo court in 1862, for being sympathizers to the Union side. Today Gainesville is adjacent to the largest gambling casino in the US, which is just over the Oklahoma border.
Our earnest young hosts at the empty Denton Historical House confessed that they were new to the B&B business, having just bought and restored the place a year ago, hoping to capture the gamblers. They steered us to dinner down the street at a former whorehouse, where our waitress wondered why we weren’t staying there. Its history was more delicious than its food.
The next day we had another big drive, aiming for Tucumcari, NM, a town I picked off the map because I loved Lowell George’s lyrics to the Linda Ronstadt song “Willin’.”***
Because our B&B hosts didn’t offer the fancy hot breakfast we expected, we stopped early for lunch off Rte 287 in Childress, and stumbled into the Top Notch Texas BBQ. Here we enjoyed fabulous slabs of BBQ meats, pecan pie and peach cobbler! I casually asked the young waitress, “What happens in Childress?” She shrugged, “Nothing.” But then she added: “The state prison is nearby. It’s the big business here.” She gestured at the booth behind us, where two prison deputies, with guns in their holsters, were eating lunch.
We escaped without further incident to Amarillo, where we discovered Cadillac Ranch on a side road. This was once just a muddy field, but some hippie artist in the mid-1970s decided to plant a bunch of real full-sized Cadillacs, face down, into the ground. For forty years, folks have been decorating them will all kinds of colorful graffiti. The gift shop nearby was overshadowed by a huge cowboy statue honoring the Second Amendment. An RV park out back apparently offered permanent housing to folks down on their luck. Amarillo once flourished as the helium capitol of the world. We found it a friendly-enough place, but we couldn’t linger, because we wanted to get to Tucumcari by dinnertime.
Well after dark, we pulled into our Tucumcari truck stop, the Garden Court hotel. We walked across the parking lot to discover the joys of KB Steak House, where the menu offered—yes—“Chicken-Fried Chicken” as well as all the permutations of beef that are native to this region.
John was valiantly working through a head cold that first found him in Natchez, and I was chugging Airborne and zinc tablets to avoid catching it too. Alas, as we set out the next morning to join our waiting friends in Santa Fe, the virus exploded in my head and chest. What a bedraggled set of travelers we were, as we presented ourselves, sneezing and coughing, at the front door of our friends’ Spanish hacienda!
**** And I’ve been from Tucson to Tucumcari
Tehachapi to Tonopah
Driven every kind of rig that’s ever been made
Driven the backroads so I wouldn’t get weighed
And if you give me weed, whites and wine
And you show me a sign
And I’ll be willin’ to be movin’