us 60 road trip
Smiles Horses thudding along the old Pony Express from Socorro. Northward I roll to happy honking horns and wide Kansas smiles. Inching my velocity up to the speed limit, a Man Of Purpose, intent on beating dusk. To the joy of traffic backed up behind me. But there was so much to see! Miles and miles of prairie, cattle, wheat, everything!
Monarch Highway Motoring southward, I recall grasslands preserved for butterflies and the generous Kansas rest stop welcome, “Camping Permitted”. This would be a rare planned stop amid our freewheeling northward meander in search of “what was”. Road & wind are our only influences. Stretching out for sleep fits in there as well.
The horizon has yanked itself up above the sun but the birds don’t know it yet. With plenty of light, we roll to a far spot, change into night duds (jeans, fleece top, bandana), and off to a soft spot under the trees. Only a couple of rough blankets and a cushion, but it is heaven! Dozing off to darkening skies, birds chirping … fading … fading … And wake up at first light, a solid unbroken eight hours of sleep! Far better than any motel room, and 100% cheaper! Where’s the tip jar? We owe nature a fat one for lulling us with her perfect Kansas breezes!
The sun rises faster Barely an hour into our morning I notice the Missouri sun seems awfully high in the sky. Time zones aside, surrounded by farmland, I can see why a farmer gets up so early. It is work from sun-up until sun-down; gotta leverage every minute.
The sun also reminds me of another issue: hunger and thirst. Sweet Springs is the first exit after I think of caffeine, so we take it. Eschewing service station coffee, we delve southward and find Downtown. Wow! Jackpot! Sweet Springs, platted in 1838. We park by the Old City Hall c.1891 and smell food. Right up the block, a business for all occasions. The de facto City Hall, maybe? 🙂
Sausage, milk, flour, butter Sausage gravy on biscuits made from scratch every day is a favorite, Parrish tells me. A perfect start. Last Chance Saloon is regular stop from here on out!
Individual Time Grudgingly we re-enter the Interstate. Missouri rolls by. Windows down, crops and soil smell familiar. Long walks amid barns and fields as a kid. Driving Down The Highway. Without radio, plenty of time to think. New ideas. Hmmmmm Individual time: I decide when I want it to be 5am, Noon, 9pm, whatever. My clock is my own and computers figure out how to mesh my life with the world. New songs. New plans for new trips. Missouri farmland smells like childhood. Innocence. Imagination.
An hour later, the sky is nearly as black as when we start. Directly overhead, dominating the heavens is one huge bright planet. Later I learn it was probably Jupiter. Thus protected by the God of Travel, we set our destination to Amarillo, with a pit stop in Socorro NM.
US 60 is the right road to see the Southwest. Through multiple National Forest – Tonto, Apache, Sitgreaves, Gila, Cibola, through Reservations, we travel some of the last undeveloped land in America.
Resting in a cavernous, bare coffee and sandwich shop, I notice no radio, CDs, or TV. The exhaust fan hummed along with muted voices. Excellent coffee. A piano and guitar in the corner. Balancing my mug on a couch arm, I retrieve the guitar and tried a few chords. Wow, these folks are easy to please! A few start dancing to the New Orleans funky butt strut I strum. Hey, this is nice!
After a bit Foxcatcher is rescued from the truck, allowed to thaw, then given a try. And who’d a thunk it! A fiddle, penny whistle, and accordion join my mandolin within the hour. I was in the thick of it, all right! This is living in Socorro. The road, however, beckons. Celtic music follows me out the door, back to a 25˚ New Mexico winter.
East of Socorro, enormous views continue. Near zero traffic. A great place to reflect while enjoying beautiful country. On one pull-over along a 15 mile straight-away, its absolute silence was profound. Be sure to carry whatever you may need for 24 hours in case of break-down!
We fold our map and succumb to I-40E as the sun nestles her head among pillows of distant hill. We didn’t make it quite to Amarillo, despite an early start. Slowed by slush in Arizona, music in New Mexico. Next time we’ll do the trip in two days, and overnight in Socorro. Right on the Old Town Square!