Monday, April 16, 2012

Dodging and Dashing Across the Plains

I don’t know how the snowbird RVers from years ago did it—dodging snowstorms in the winter to get to their warmer roost, and then dashing between rounds of thunderstorms in the springtime to return home.  Yes, we modern-day snowbirds still have to contend with those same challenges, but thankfully, some of us now have iPads and smart phones with near-realtime weather maps to help us better navigate around such calamities.

My Weather Channel app predicted a cold front and rain would be arriving to Arizona on Friday so I knew that’d be the day to leave.  But driving too far would put me into thunderstorms and tornados in Oklahoma and Texas.  In between, in New Mexico, extreme winds were predicted to start Friday afternoon and through Saturday.  So, I decided to leave by 4 a.m. to make it to New Mexico before the winds arrived, and then hunker down there for the weekend and make a mad dash across the Plains once a window of clear calm weather was available.

I must be inching closer to becoming a full-fledged Senior as I actually liked getting up in the middle of the night and on the road by 4 am!  It allowed me to finish my day’s driving by early afternoon before winds started blowing too hard.  What a nice change to arrive to the campground without racing to set up before darkness sets in!

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I found a nice pull-thru site that would allow the RV to face west (towards where the strong winds would be coming from so I’d avoid the RV being rocked side to side all night long!).  I could see the lake in the distance from my site—well, what little water was still in the lake.  It looked to be at least 30-50 feet below normal levels and in severe drought.  Seems like many lakes in New Mexico are in a same predicament these days.
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While some of the cacti and junipers in the campground had shriveled up and died from the drought, a few flowers still managed to thrive like these desert primrose:
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Saturday started out so calm and peaceful that I nearly thought the Weather.com forecasters had got it all wrong!  I decided to head into Santa Rosa to do some grocery shopping and explore the town a bit more.

Santa Rosa looked like it was probably quite a nice stop back in the Route 66 heydays.  Evidence of lots of old neon signs and “drive your car up to the door” motels along the old Route 66 route through town, although now, nearly all were closed and abandoned.  But there was still a friendly little mom and pop grocery store (T & D Food Mart), and a couple of restaurants around the town square that seemed to be doing a good business.  There were also a few parks with “sinkhole” lakes around town—one called Blue Hole, even deep enough for scuba diving!  Driving along Route 91 south of town revealed a lush green valley along the Pecos river:
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And just how do those residents get from the highway down to their ranches on the other side of the river?  Across concrete berms that let the water flow beneath (and sometimes over) them!
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By the time Millie and I arrived back to camp around lunchtime, the winds had really picked up. All we could do for the next 24 hours was stay inside the View with the slide-out in and ride out the storm.  New Mexico is notorious for high winds, and this wind storm certainly was that!  Winds averaged over 35 mph with gusts up to 60 mph.  Glad I was not out trying to drive in it!  Instead, I spent most of the day busy on the computer finally getting my income taxes filed Smile

By Sunday morning, the winds finally began to calm a bit, and weather along I-40 was clear, so we left Santa Rosa to head east.  The plateaus of New Mexico began to recede and soon we were driving the vast “flat as a pancake” open plains of the Texas panhandle.  I decided to stop at a popular Route 66 photo spot just west of Amarillo to break up the monotony of the drive—the “Cadillac Ranch”!

I first stopped here back in 2007, when I did my first Route 66 drive with my T@B trailer, but today, the late afternoon sun and abundant clouds made photo conditions much more appealing.  No cattle were out grazing the field today, only a tiny little field mouse who cheerfully posed for my wide angle lens just inches away from him!  A few empty cans of spray paint were scattered about—could this little guy have done all the fancy paintwork on these cars?!!!
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Double-click this one to open it larger—that little mouse appears to be smiling at his handiwork!
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Soon the sun popped out from behind the clouds, and I got busy snapping a few photos!

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As I continued my drive through the eastern Texas panhandle, I watched a small thundershower cell ahead of me on the highway.  With the sun setting behind me, I knew there’d have to be a rainbow popping up soon….and there was!  It was fun to get to watch it for the next 10 minutes or so.
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Before leaving Texas, since I had so much fun at the Cadillac Ranch, I decided to drive through downtown Shamrock, Texas to take a quick pic of their beautifully restored Conoco gas station.  Now hanging your point and shoot camera out the window as you slowly drive your motorhome down Main street doesn’t always get the greatest images, and this un-edited one was certainly the case
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But with a little bit of editing in Adobe Photoshop Elements to remove the light pole and electric wires, and then a fun pass through a filter in Nik Color Efex Pro software, and the little gas station now looked the way I had imagined it!
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We arrived at our familiar El Reno, Oklahoma Wal-Mart parking lot a few hours later to end a long but very fun day of dashing across the Plains.

8 comments:

  1. wow! awesome photos and fearsome storms! glad you and millie are home and can get some RnR time after all that driving! this is a wonderful blog, tho' you'll notice i never know what to pick so i do 'anonymous' because it shows up!

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  2. Great post processing on the Conoco Station shot.

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  3. Beautiful work on the photographs, but the next time you stop in El Reno, why not stay at the Lucky Star casino campground for free? Full hook up back in 30/50 amp sites--just tell the folks at the security desk that you're there.

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    1. Thanks for the great tip! I'll be sure to give them a try next time I'm in Oklahoma!

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  4. Hi Lynne, I have recently found your blog and look forward to your post. I am trying to glean information about traveling around like you do as my husband and I are planning an extended trip for our 40th wedding anniversary in two years.

    I was wondering why you left AZ when the cold front was moving in. Were you ready to go or is the cold what you were avoiding? Also why was the wind a better choice over cold. Like you I would not have chosen thunderstorms and tornadoes either but I was wondering about the other.

    BTW the pictures are lovely. I can't wait for mine and my husband trip because Route 66 is our destination, one end to the other.

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    1. Welcome Sue! Guess I should have explained better in the post, but I was wanting to spend a few days in the Ozarks on my way home to Chicago and that area of the country is notorious for tornadoes. So when I saw a string of clear sunny days I knew I wanted to plan my trip home to take advantage of them. However, that then meant I had to carefully dodge all the storms, winds, and cold/wet weather systems in the travel days beforehand to get there!

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  5. Enjoy you blog very much. I know what you meant on Saturdays winds: I was in Carlsbad, NM, and it was ferocious!

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