Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Movement and a slam of the cab door shook me awake. Sunlight streamed in the driver’s side window as I peered over my bunk. Through squinty eyes I saw that Jan was gone; that must have been her leaving to go into the rest rooms.

Pretty Boy
Remembering that we had to leave early I climbed down, and dressed. By that time Jan was back to see if I was awake and filled the plug in thermos with water for our coffee. We went and did our morning routines while it heated.

Amarillo, Texas

Now with bright shiny faces and coffee in hand we headed north on Texas Highway 287 towards Amarillo and I-40.

It’s not unusual to think of sand and a dry climate when you think of Amarillo. After all, Amarillo means “yellow” in Spanish. We found instead grassy farmland that was for the most part green. “Verde” better described the scenery than its given name.

Amarillo is also where you find the second largest canyon in the US. Palo Duro Canyon is second in size only to the Grand Canyon.

The crevasse is one hundred twenty miles long and as much as twenty miles wide. It sports cabin rentals, campsites and RV sites, hiking and mountain bike trails, and horse rentals. There is also a gift shop and history, geology, and wildlife exhibits as well.
We passed it on the road.

South of the city I waved in the direction of my friend Bonnie who has a place there. No time to stop this trip. But there are plenty of truck stops she said she could meet us at next time. Cool.

Once we turned on I-40, Texas got really flat right before the New Mexico border. It’s the flattest land we’ll drive for several days.

On To Albuquerque...

The Land of Enchantment greets you with a bright yellow welcome sign that crosses the highway complete with an ancient symbol of the sun called a “Zia” flanking each side.

It doesn’t take long to start seeing mountains and mesas off in the distance. The word, “desert” comes to mind but not the dead, bland and neutral colored type.

Multi-colored hues in various shades and tints of red, pink, green, brown, purple, and even blue paint the landscape.

These desert colors brought to mind words like life, soul, and vitality. My senses were very aware of them. It’s truly an amazing experience that many people won’t find at home.

Albuquerque sits in the bottom of a valley surrounded by mountains. The road becomes more winding as it takes you to a lower elevation. Down, down, down you go to the bottom of the bowl.

A giant metal cactus sculpture greets motorists from the roadside on the outskirts of the city. Jan says at night it is lit up and a sight to see.

Albuquerque/NM tourism
In no time we are at the Swift terminal of Albuquerque, Jan’s home terminal. It’s smaller and newer than in Lancaster. The surroundings are prettier too.

To the east are the Sandia Mountains. North of the terminal are five dormant volcanoes. They look so pre-historic you wouldn’t be surprised to see a stegosaurus or a pterodactyl off in the distance.

sandia mountains/NM tourism
The ancient cinder-cones looked totally lifeless but research says that they are merely asleep.

The main building was much like the one in Lancaster. But it’s bright and laid back atmosphere made for a much more comfortable rest. The staff I met was quite interesting and likeable. All possess a great sense of humor; we laughed quite a bit in the agreeable surroundings.

Jan and her supervisor Steve have a unique relationship. He is a former driver who started supervising when Jan started driving. They learned the ropes together and are friends in addition to their professional relationship.
The others include an affable guy who does stand-up comedy at the local club, a full blooded Navajo Indian who has been married to his high school sweetheart for the last twenty-five years, and a man whose grandmother was a Cherokee Indian forced to participate in “The Trail of Tears.”

This combined with the lower temperatures made Albuquerque a pleasant place to hang our hats for a bit. The goal was to get to Phoenix and it would take a couple of days to get a load going there.
On Thursday Jan and I took some empty trailers to the train yard in Albuquerque since we were waiting anyway. It gave us something to do and I got to see more of the area.

The city and its vicinity are lovely. Native plants encompassed by rocks in desert hues fill the landscaping along the highways. The colors and symmetry are simple yet stunning.

In the older sections near the train yard we saw buildings embellished with art expressing the heritage and beliefs of the local people. The adobes and church architecture did too. Huge old trees at least three feet in diameter graced a clearing just across the railroad tracks as well.

The trailer deliveries filled the day. Once back at the terminal we retired to the truck for the night. Relaxed in our bunks we laughed out loud as we watched several episodes of Fraser before putting out the light.

A mild Friday morning greeted us with a load needing to go to Phoenix. Eager to be on our way we were ready in no time flat.

Soon we were ascending up and out of the desert bowl that encompasses Albuquerque.

 Excitement built in anticipation of seeing the beautiful landscape and scenery that lay between us and the “Valley of the Sun.”

Besides Jan lives in Phoenix with her brother Rob and planned to take a day off while we were there.

Stay tuned for more...
For Claire Hickey, writing is a newly realized passion. Read more of Claire’s work at Feed The Mind, Nourish The Soul in the Communities at the Washington Times as well as her blog Sustenance For The Mind.

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