Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Joy of Texas

Texan water tower in the town of Plains.
More abandoned farm houses.
Trucks stopped outside George's diner.
As we left New Mexico's Pecos Plains and hit the border with Texas, the road surface improved as state funding changed, but some of the dusty and crumbling abandoned shacks remained. Though here they were slightly bigger, proper farmhouses, but the people were still gone and forgotten. The landscape was fairly unremarkable, mostly flat farmland, not as flat as the fens but not dissimilar. The remains of cotton harvests were clumped in the fields; either huge bales of picked cotton which looked like enormous bricks of chalk, or the discarded buds on scraggy stalks in dusty fields. The occasional tumbleweed crossed the road, and those small prairie windmills lazily turned in the warm autumn breeze. Occasionally a smell of oil hung in the air, and those pendulous oil drills worked the ground, like giant mechanical hens pecking for black corn. It was pretty sparse, but it seemed slightly wealthier than New Mexico had been. We passed through the small towns of Plains, Brownfield, Tahoka, before stopping in Post to find some food. We parked up on an eerily quiet main street, which looked like something from a Western, with old style shop fronts and covered promenades. There was no sign of food, we weren't tempted by the McDonalds we'd passed a minute before, and asked for directions to a diner. We got sent to George's Diner, a place for truckers and the obese, and were served our oily and unappetising food by an attractive waitress, hampered by her greasy surroundings. I ordered a Philly cheese steak sandwich, but even the bread was coated in grease and oil and I couldn't finish it all. 

Typical Texans ordering food. 
The sun was setting as we left Post and branched southeast towards the town of Snyder. Darkness descended and we were met with a thousand blinking red eyes lining the night horizon. These were the lights on the top of countless wind turbines, harvesting power from the moonlit air. These turbines stretched for as far as we could see, and I was surprised to see such a concentration of renewable energy in Texas, a state famed for oil and not pandering to green politics. After Snyder, we hit Roscoe and Sweetwater, before pulling off the road in Abilene for the night. After checking into a hotel, we walked to find a local bar. It was located in a retail park which was a little odd, but nowhere we had been did we find a drinking culture we were quite familiar with. On the short walk to the bar, I threw up that greasy dinner from the Post diner. It's not often you throw up on the way to the pub. Still, my stomach felt a bit better and I had more room for weak lagers, which we drank from the bottle whilst listening to a local rock covers band, called Money Shot. The singer worked the room and came and gave us a fist bump with his swollen meaty hands. In the room every male was heavy set, we stuck out for the weaklings we are, as most of the arms were bigger than my thighs. They weren't fat, it just seemed everyone worked out, a lot. There must be little else to do here.

In the morning we had to visit Abilene airport to find the car rental office. We'd got a cracked windscreen. It's been hit by a stone back in New Mexico, and the cars vibrations had rattled a short crack across it. The night time change in temperatures and contraction of the glass had doubled the size of the split, and so we went to see what they wanted to do it about it. We simply swapped car. It was easy and pain free, the guy on the desk was particularly friendly and we now had an even bigger Nissan Pathfinder, which we loaded with our luggage and got back on our way after a slight delay. 

We reached our destination of Fort Worth by mid afternoon, and went to find a ticket office for the rodeo. We'd gone to the wrong ticket office for the wrong rodeo, which wasn't open as it was out of season, but a local gave us the location of the correct one, so drove for ten minutes to find it. The area of town was like a proper Western, with old buildings and century old painted advertisements on the top of them. Though the buildings were old, it still had a bit of a Disney vibe to it, as it was clearly left for tourists, but still, finding something untainted by commercialism in 2013 in America must be close to impossible. After driving twenty minutes to find a motel, we had a brief rest before heading back out to old cowboy town, for food and a general explore. I wanted to buy a genuine Texan hat, and so searched some of the shops for one. The first store had plenty in, but prices started at over $200 and reached up to $2000, I didn't want to spend this much. I found another clothes store with them for $60, much better, so got myself a souvenir perfect for future fancy dress, or persevering with being a Peterborough dandy. 

Stock Yard, Fort Worth.
Draw: a coke bottle in my back pocket made a shadow revolver.
The entrance to the rodeo.
Shoe shiners on the street.
A cool junk shop we visited.
Local cowboys outside the rodeo.
The street at night.
The rodeo began at 8pm, we'd already taken our seats and beers before then, and had to stand for a cheesy, palm-on-the-heart, American national anthem, and some other patriotic song. The first event on the bill was bull riding, which was great entertainment as hopeful cowboys sat atop the beast and tried to cling on as the beast bucked and jerked to shake off the flailing and unwelcome rider. The show then moved on to calf lassoing and tying, which though not as exciting, was impressive for the speed and accuracy. The show lulled in the middle with some horse events, some female events which weren't as involved and some clown stuff. It dragged a little bit, but nothing could really compare to the drama of the bulls. Entertainment was raised briefly with two events for children to take part in. A ribbon was stuck to a calf for the under 10s, and then a mutton for the under 7s, and then the children chased the animal around the arena like a pack of crazed zombie infants, until one winner grabbed the ribbon off the scared animal's back. The rodeo finished with bull riding once more, which I'd been waiting for as it made much better pictures; though the light was too dark to do much with in there anyway. After the show, we stopped and had a beer in a busy bar on the street, before driving back to the motel. 

The national anthem.
They love the flag.
Bull riding.
The white hatted cleanshirts in the posh box.
Cowboys waiting to take part.
Hanging on to the horse.

I was cheering on the bulls.

I love chaos.

The next day, Mark wasn't feeling too good, he'd been suffering some chronic headaches, and so we went to get him some medical attention. We ended up at a hospital, as registering for a doctor in America on Sunday would be close to impossible for us. We sat around and waited for his assessment and diagnosis, but it was nice to have some quiet time I could assign away to nothingness. After a few hours, we were off to pick up his subscription, and I got some syrup for my own chesty cough, and we continued on our way to Dallas, only an hours drive away. 

The drive through Dallas was the most intense so far. Six lane highways were loaded with traffic and spaghetti slip roads looped around and overhead. We didn't have a destination to drive to, so I just drove. We stopped at a fairly central motel around dusk, and then walked 5 minutes to a nearby street packed with busy bars. The bar we drank in was the most European we'd been to so far, or at least most familiar; as Indie music played on the stereo and people in checkered shirts and dark beards sat around at tables. After the pub I didn't do much that night, except relax in the room. 

The next morning we got up and drove downtown to the scene were JFK was assassinated. That week was the 50th anniversary of the event, and so there were a few TV crews at the scene filming pieces. The only shooting going on today. The museum didn't open until the afternoon so we didn't make it inside, but we walked the streets around, took some photos from the Grassy Knoll, and stood behind the fence where the other CIA shooters were stood. Does anyone believe the official Lee Harvey Oswald story? I don't. Downtown Dallas seemed nice though, it felt clean and safe and the buildings were a mix of stylish older warehouses and more modern glass and chrome temples to administration.

Downtown Dallas.
Where Kennedy was shot. The book depository on the top left.
Messages behind the fence. 
Downtown Dallas was a nice mix of buildings.
After leaving Dallas, we headed east along the highway to Shreveport and the border with Louisiana. The road was lined with autumnal trees with muted burning colours. There was little else to see all the way to the state border. 


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