Wednesday, March 19, 2003                       Clovis, NM to Texarkana, TX

This day started out bad, got better, then worse,  and ended up being very long. It all started when the motel clerk recommended a truck stop on the east end of Clovis for breakfast. I ordered my usual ham & cheese omelette, which was tasty. Halfway through my meal, however, a man struck up a conversation with me. After many days alone, I didn't mind a little company anyway. Soon things turned political.  I suppose it was only natural since the imminent war with Iraq was on everyone's mind. While we didn't agree entirely, we both expressed skepticism about what was about to happen and whether it was warranted. The trouble started when a belligerent trucker three booths away decided he didn't like what we were saying. He protested because, of all things, we were referring to " Bush" rather than " President  Bush." Things snowballed from there, and soon he and the man who had joined me were yelling at each other. With my omelette finished, I waited nervously for the waitress to bring me the check. When she did, I scurried to the register, paid my bill and made a beeline for Texas.

I had a bit of bad luck in choosing my route through the Texas panhandle today. The ranch road that looked perfect on the map was under construction, unpaved and muddy from the night's rain. Between the cloudy skies and the Clovis tussle, I felt down all morning. I was getting a little tired from the cumulative effect of all the miles over the past two weeks. There comes a point in every journey when it is time to go home, and I had reached it.

A highlight for me on every trip through the Texas panhandle is climbing onto or dropping down from the Llano Estacado.

This area near Caprock Canyons State Park was especially scenic.

Not long after leaving the high plains behind, I stumbled upon a monument to one of the all-time greats of Texas music, Bob Wills.

Turkey, Texas had one claim to fame.

This monument to Wills stood in a city park.

Here is a close-up of two panels from the monument.

On the east side of town, the welcome sign honored Wills and the town's namesake.

Since I had never been to southwestern Oklahoma, I criss-crossed the Red River for much of the day, alternating between Texas and Oklahoma. Somewhere in Oklahoma, I stopped for a great bacon cheeseburger at Braum's, a regional dairy  and burger chain.

This Conoco in Burkburnett, TX was easily the best old gas station where I refueled my rental Grand Prix on this trip.

I drove through the afternoon and into the night. Somewhere northeast of Dallas, the music on the radio was interrupted to announce that the U.S. offensive against Iraq had begun. This event would dominate the radio and my thoughts for the rest of the way home to Chicago. I continued my roundabout county-collecting route toward Texarkana, finally reaching the Motel 6 long after midnight. With another 800 miles to drive to Chicago, I asked for a 6 AM wake-up call.

Artist of the Day: Buddy Holly - I drove near his hometown of Lubbock yesterday, and I awoke this morning in the town where Holly recorded his most famous songs at Norman Petty's studio. One would be hard-pressed to name another performer who had such a  great influence on rock and roll in such a brief career. Holly only recorded rock & roll for two years before he was killed in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa on February 3, 1959.

Honorable Mention: The Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) - Richardson died with Holly and Ritchie Valens. He was a Beaumont disc jockey with  one big hit, " Chantilly Lace." Johnny Preston, another  Texan, had  even more success with a song written by Richardson, " Running Bear" (#1 for three weeks on the Billboard pop charts).

Honorable Mention: Bob Wills And His Texas Playboys - This Western swing band is credited with introducing horns, drums and electric guitars to country music, changing its course forever.

Honorable Mention: Jerry Reed - I can't think of Texarkana without getting " Eastbound And Down" from the movie Smokey And The Bandit stuck in my head: " The boys are thirsty in Atlanta and there's beer in Texarkana..." When I ended up approaching Texarkana from the south on US 59, I came through Atlanta. I chuckled that it was pretty silly to make a whole movie about driving a truck from Texarkana to Atlanta when it was less than twenty-five miles from one to the other. Of course, in the movie it was Atlanta, Georgia.


Thursday, March 20, 2003                       Texarkana, TX to Chicago, IL

I practically rolled out of bed and into the car this morning. With 800 miles to go and uncertain weather, I had to get moving. After several thousand miles, I finally bade farewell to Texas, at least for this trip. I paused only for gas along the way until I reached Illinois. I was suffering from that 21st century affliction, information overload, as constant updates on the war came over the airwaves. Occasionally, I played a CD just to maintain my sanity. I stopped at a Wendy's for a chicken BLT salad in southern Illinois. As I came within radio range of Chicago, I heard about the war protests. I guessed (correctly) that as  a Chicago police officer, my wife was stuck in the middle of it. Typically, the media made a big deal out of it, but surely nothing on the level of the1968 Democratic National Convention protests happened that night. It seemed so petty to hear people complain later about their wrist restraints being too tight when compared with  the way their parents got beaten up in Grant Park decades earlier.

The trip from Texarkana didn't take as long as I expected, and I made it home before 11 PM. I could return the car in the morning.

Artist of the Day: Doug Sahm, Sir Douglas Quintet, Texas Tornados - San Antonian Doug Sahm incorporated a variety of musical styles  into his music and helped integrate Tex-Mex into rock and roll. With keyboardist Augie Meyers, Sahm formed the Sir Douglas Quintet  in California. His only popular success was with the Quintet in the sixties (" She's About A Mover," " Mendocino" ), but he remained a force in Texas music and ultimately became a living legend. In the 1990's, Sahm joined up with Meyers, Freddy Fender and Flaco Jimenez to form a Tex-Mex supergroup, the Texas Tornados. Sahm died in 1999.

Honorable Mention: Bottle Rockets - I passed through their home state of Missouri today, and a few years ago they did an excellent album of Doug Sahm covers, appropriately titled Songs Of Sahm. For anyone who thinks Sir Douglas Quintet sounds dated, this album is an ideal substitute with solid modern rock arrangements. My favorite Bottle Rockets album is 24 Hours A Day.

Return to Texas 2003: Day By Day

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