Nice full morning in the city, fueled by cheap gas and a Waffle House breakfast (the menu in the motel room worked). First stop on the “abandoned buildings and urban decay” itinerary (again courtesy of Grant, as were most of today’s highlights) was the abandoned Belle Isle Power Plant. Couldn’t get within a mile of it.
After Belle Isle, I found a veritable treasure trove of abandoned buildings in an area just north of downtown. OKC is an amazing place to witness the way cheap land and wide open spaces causes a city to develop (and decay). Particularly depressing (disturbing?) was the old Mercy Hospital, a huge streamilne building which sits empty and exposed just a few blocks from its replacement. Much like in Detroit, I kept wondering “how does this happen?”
Then I went downtown for a pilgrimage I missed last time through. I experienced the bomb site, where the Federal Building stood until a nutcase destroyed it (and most of its occupants) on 19 April 1995. It was much creepier than I expected: a fence covered with memorials surrounding a collection of stairs leading to nowhere. Underneath, a parking garage, which is astonishingly still in use. A memorial is under construction, but for now, the whole site is little more than a really eerie vacant lot.
It was time to hit the road.
Oklahoma City is a crossroads between the south and the west…a place which looks western but where you can still get fried okra. The “southern touch” continues through the Texas panhandle to Amarillo and ends shortly afterward.
More cheap gas before leaving downtown Oil Country and I headed west. Didn’t make many stops as I’d covered this ground pretty thoroughly on last year’s trip. Once in Texas, I hit some of the densest fog I’d ever driven through, which lasted for most of the 90 miles from Shamrock to Amarillo. I grabbed more fried okra at another Luby’s and shed no tears about skipping the rest of the town.
I didn’t spend the night in any of Tucumcari’s 2000 (or however many) rooms, but I did a drive-through, accompanies by “Born to Be Alive” on some queen’s “retro disco” college radio show. Seemed a strange enough way to experience Tucumcari, I thought.
Thanks to the end of Daylight Savings Time, I was finding myself doing more night driving that I really wanted on the return trip. A big disadvantage is that I was really beat every time I rolled into town. the one advantage was that I could scan AM stations from all over the place: news/talk from Salt Lake City, hillbilly music from Tulsa, and even traffic reports from LA. I purposely avoided any SF stations.
My time in Albuquerque was pretty uneventful. I hit a few bars, but was never able to figure out which was “the cowboy bar” of Albuquerque legend. There was way too much bad country music (which pretty much covers all country music of the past 25 years or so) and the one dive bar with “potential” smelled too bad to keep my attention. I went to a dance club and saw only one boy worth watching. He looked like a heroin dealer. He turned out to be one of the bouncers.
To top it off, most of the Central Avenue motels had their neon turned off. I was disappointed.
About the only excitement came when I was pulled by an Albuquerque cop. I’d only had one beer (being really anal, as I was, about not driving drunk), but I was still nervous. I pulled out my license as the cop called in my tag info. When he came to the window, he told me the license was unnecessary. Seems he’d pulled me because the glare from his headlights had made my validation sticker look blank. One he saw everything was OK, he APOLOGIZED for pulling me over.
I was stunned.