Before getting back on the road, we had to stop off at this authentic local shop called Target. After perusing the aisles of their unique threads I walked away with 4 shirts and a pair of pants for only $50. Wow, every city needs a place like this!
Stocked with some new gear we jumped back on the road in Abilene, Texas, and started heading due west toward Hobbs, New Mexico. The scenery was exactly what we are accustomed to from our hometown of Rochester, NY minus the trees, hills, lakes, people, animals, stores…basically it’s flat with NOTHING!
A while back my brother Ryan gave me a book called Road Trip USA which outlines some great routes across the country and details some of the highlights of the route. Today we followed a short portion of one of those routes. The first recommendation was a small town called Sweetwater in Texas, famous for their annual rattlesnake round-up where awards are given for the largest, smallest, and most accumulated. The book mentions the rattlesnake paraphernalia at the local shops, but we had a hard time finding any shops. It was a true ghost town where most businesses appeared to be boarded up and their were no cars in front of houses. As we drove around for a while we finally found civilization at a place called The Coliseum. Curious as to what would draw the entire town, we passed through the barbed wire fence with a “No Concealed Weapons” sign to find ourselves at a livestock show. Unfortunately we showed up too late, so the only livestock we saw was a small puppy; the answer is still no Shannon.
By driving around town aimlessly, we finally found the heart of town relocated along the highway; Walmart, McDonalds, Taco Bell, etc. The historic town center was another casualty of corporate America. We found our rattlesnake paraphernalia at a nearby truck stop, but first we stopped in at a country clothing store. We all had expectations of buying some fun country gear, but after trying it on it just didn’t feel right. At the TA truck stop we found rattlesnake canes, wallets, pins, and more. Again, fun to look, but I didn’t even want to touch.
Looking for a snack to hold us over until lunch, I came across a whole dill pickle in a bag called the Big Papa Portly Pickle. Ha, I guess I still occasionally enjoy some seventh grade humor…must be sleep deprived. How can anyone take this thing for real…only at a truck stop? I bought one, but wasn’t about to have my picture taken with it, sorry Shan.
Starving, we finally pulled off the highway at another small little Texas town for some lunch. The Shack came highly recommended by the local gas station teller. After perusing the newspaper menu, we agreed we had to try their house specialty, chicken fried steak, which is actually a cubed beef steak beaten, battered, and deep fried. Not sure why they call it chicken?? Sick of unhealthy food, we each got the salad bar and split one steak. Interesting flavor and texture, but I’ll probably stick to fried chicken.
As we continued through west Texas we marveled at two recurring themes; the first was windmills. I’m from the finger lakes area where the recent addition of a number of windmills has been huge controversy. I’m not knowledgeable enough about the issue to take a stand. I appreciate that it is waste free power generation, but at the same time I’m not crazy about the way it has detracted from the landscape as I ride my motorcycle through towns like Naples, NY. However, we have nothing on Texas, where the endless landscape is covered with hundreds of windmills.
The second recurring theme was cotton. The windmills were lined between thousands of acres of cotton fields. As we passed a large factory with tons of large bails of cotton, we decided we had to know what was being done there. It turned out to be a cotton gin, and they were more than happy to give us our own personal tour with no advance notice. We learned about each stage in the cleaning process and were given our own little bail as a souvenir.