A Great Day on the Great Plains

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Sunrise in Groom, Texas, 3255′ (992 meters) above sea level.  We ended the day 81 miles later in Vega, Texas, elevation 4029′ (1228 meters).

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We cast a weird shadow as we hit the road.

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A huge cross outside Groom as seen from I-40.  We rode the I-40 shoulder most of the 40 miles to Amarillo.

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Irrigation equipment with wind turbines on the distant horizon.  We passed hundreds (!) of wind turbines today.  Modern wind power generates electricity; the turbines’ locus gives you an idea of the headwinds we face in this region.  Wind power made settlement of the Great Plains possible.  There is little natural surface water here.  Without wind-powered pumps, farmers could not have obtained ground water for cattle and crops.

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More roadside wildflowers, new to us.

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Deer and cattle ignore noisy vehicles but notice us.  When we passed some fenced cattle this afternoon, a bull fled, the herd followed, then all stopped to watch us from a distance.

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Big Texas talk.  The fine print says the whole dinner (not just the steak) weights 72 oz (2 kg) and is free if consumed in 1 hour.

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I-40 got stressful at Amarillo, seen here from a highway bridge.  There were too many trucks and cars whizzing off too many exit ramps.  We got off onto city streets where it was slow going.  Eventually we returned to I-40, noted construction on the shoulder, and stayed on parallel Route 66 to get past it.  After a few bumpy miles, the pavement smoothed and we stuck with Route 66 the rest of the way to Vega.

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A Texas version of the city slickers’ doggy spas.

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With the temperature at 88F (31C), Jeffrey stopped in Bushland (pop 130) for a $2 “icy”, a pint (half liter) of shaved ice with black cherry syrup.  Mmm!  We met Stephanie, the counselor at the local elementary school, who had a carload of at-risk kids who participate in her church’s summer program.  She asked about the Ride and said that although we address different populations, our goal is the same.  Stephanie and Human Rights First help people who need help.  That’s what it’s all about.

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Erick raises horses on land that’s too rough for crops, or for close neighbors.  He’s a musician, a philosopher, a student of history, politics, and human nature, and has a delightful sense of humor.  He told Jeffrey that many people in the area, including his wife and himself, have combinations of First Nations, African, and European ancestry, and that the local culture seems mysterious to outsiders.  He sees the world changing and says the way to deal with it is to accept it.  Helping refugees is part of his worldview.  Erick and Jeffrey talked a long time, and would have talked longer, but Erick’s groceries were at risk in the heat.

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One of many ranch gates we passed.

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This was painted on the pavement at Wildorado and at other points along the way.  The pavement here was good asphalt, not that bumpy-jumpy stuff.

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Blake and Ricky said they’d seen us “way way back” today.  They’re doing “dirt work” for schools being built in Vega.  Ricky is holding his beer can in a salute to Nancy (he had asked whether Jeffrey is married); Blake did not want to be pictured with beer, but if you look carefully at what he’s holding behind his back . . .  Ricky says he’ll vote for the presidential candidate he hates less, and wishes Willie Nelson were running.  Jeffrey cheerfully acknowledged that there’s no arguing with Ricky’s honest feelings, explained why we are on the Ride, and asked him to remember the truth when politicians characterize refugees as lawbreakers or invaders.  Ricky and Jeffrey quickly became friends; Ricky invited Jeffrey to hang outside to talk (alas, Jeffrey had to eat, drink, and write instead).  More of that common ground!  Ricky said we have a visual treat in store in New Mexico.

We continue to get respect from almost everyone in motor vehicles.  Horn blasts are rare.  Toots, waves, thumbs-ups, kind words are common.  Michiganders in a red Camaro convertible were among those who talked to us from their car, having seen us more than once on the road.  A woman in Tulsa took our photo from her truck, saying her father, a veteran, would enjoy it.  Some people respond to the geographic references in our signs.  Some give a thumbs up for human rights.  Many honk and wave from such a distance that they can only be cheering the fact that we dare to be in an unusual vehicle, that we dare to be on the road.

 

One thought on “A Great Day on the Great Plains

  1. So glad you are continuing to find kind strangers, Jeffrey–and helping them understand who refugees are. I have been revisiting The Americans, Robert Frank’s book of moving and iconic photographs painting a portrait of our country in the late 1950s. He took them on a cross country trip. It is reminding me of you. Stay safe.

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