Palo Duro Canyon, Amarillo Quirk Spots & Hola New Mexico

October 3, 2012 — Wednesday

We drove into Palo Duro Canyon State Park in early, full sun.  Palo Duro is Texas’ natural version of the Grand Canyon.  At the visitor center, we heard two park employees say they thought PDC was better than the Grand Canyon.  After driving it end to end and gazing into its canyon floor, we beg to differ, and not just because we’re Arizonans. Nope, the Grand Canyon is longer, deeper, way more diverse, and has more spectacular color. Indeed, the Sedona “Red Rock Country” is more beautiful.  PDC is great in its own right and certainly does Texas proud, but I would beeline for Sedona and Grand Canyon in a snap.

Maybe you’ve seen or heard about the crazy Cadillac Ranch just west of Amarillo–Caddys stuck in the ground nose down.  This nutso art installation was commissioned by wealthy, eccentric Stanley Marsh 3, known around as Amarillo as “that rich guy who puts up weird sayings around town and even weirder art crap.”  The Cadillac Ranch is a huge empty field off the freeway frontage road.  From the highway it looks interesting with its six monster Cadillacs buried in the earth, but as you get closer, you see the graffiti on each car and lots of trash, countless spray cans and their tops pitched willynilly.  In this case, the long view from afar is better.

Stanley also commissioned the Floating Mesa, a huge mountain in the middle of farmland northwest of town.  A local county road worker snickered when I asked for directions.  We understood why after finding it.  The mountain was wrapped with a pale blue fence which was supposed to make its flat mesa top appear to float.  Apparently the original sky blue color worked, but sorry Stanley, the floating has flown.  That said, still fun to see both artworks.

We hit the 66 Halfway Point at lunchtime.  Both Vega and Adrian, TX claim they’re the midway point, but we settled at Adrian’s Midpoint Cafe for some great diner food.  I was primed to order one of their acclaimed homemade pies, but an earlier 66 biker group wiped out the pie supply.

The last Texas 66 town is Glenrio, where chunks of “The Grapes of Wrath” were filmed in 1938, but today it’s mostly a ghost town.


The landscape changed gradually from the Texas Panhandle’s alternating low, rolling rock and flat prairies to New Mexico’s chaparral grasses, then bunchy junipers and soaring, quaking cottonwood trees.  First up, the fun-to-say Tucumcari (too-come-Carey) with its main drag full of old-time motels and curio shops. “Tucumcari tonight” was a well- known 66 catchphrase back then–and still is.  Standouts were the Teepee Curios in a big white wooden teepee, the Blue Swallow Motel with its classic neon sign, and the colorful La Cita Mexican restaurant shaped like a sombrero.  Heading north, the scenery became more mountainous, more mesas, and green everywhere.  We pulled into the vintage El Rey Inn with its cottages and gorgeous gardens.  Charm in capitals.  The manager upgraded us to a distinctive suite with two patios, fireplace and full kitchen when I said I was the Donna, 66, doing 66 end to end.  Wonderful room, wonderful staff, wonderful mix of past and present.  El Rey Inn is a true 66 treasure.

To sleep after great New Mexican green chile cuisine, all right and happy in our world.

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