2017 Trip Two: Tour of Texas April 26

Amarillo Texas Wednesday April 26

Palo Duro Canyon from the canyon floor

It was a day of contrasts as we journeyed from Odessa 260 miles north to Amarillo in the panhandle of Texas. The day was much cooler and windier, jackets were necessary as early morning temperatures labored to be in the mid-50s. Leaving Odessa-Midland, the dust was blowing everywhere. Somewhere north of Odessa, at a point lost in memory, the oil fields disappeared and agriculture and ranching operations dominated the horizon. This area of Texas is cotton farming area but the fields were generally plowed without any obvious crops yet growing. Flat horizon, I might add. Reminded us of Kansas and Nebraska with the endless flatness.

Driving from Odessa to Lubbock Texas

Some of the windmills outside at the American Wind Power Museum in Lubbock Texas

The journey was broken up three times, twice in Lubbock TX. Lubbock has a population of 240,000 people and several museums. We stopped at two of them. The American Wind Power museum was a pleasant surprise. It has a large facility and is dedicated to windmills.

The model train layout at American Wind Power Museum

Inside the museum, the first section has a few windmills but the focus is on a model train layout. The old-time trains ran on steam and without water those trains were going nowhere. The history of Teas has a strong component tied to the railroads’ ability to find a plentiful source of water. Windmills were the major power in bringing water up from underground wells so the tie-in between windmills and trains is realistic. The model layout had numerous model windmills along its path, including one that, in real-life, was over 125 feet tall in order to catch winds blowing across the canyon bluffs above the train tracks.

The miniature house display

Another exhibit was a tack-on, a series of miniature houses built by a local wife and husband couple. Interesting but not really central to the theme of the museum, although a few were incorporated into the train layout.

The next two exhibits were unexpected. One display case, from people in Wheaton Minnesota, was devoted to the weights used to balance and control the windmills. A second display consisted of millstones. Yes, those stones used in mills to grind flour, animal feed, etc. Did you now that the stones were “dressed” or cut in varying ways in order to facilitate the grinding of different types of materials? Neither did we, even though we have seen numerous mills in operation.

The inside display of windmills

Then we got to the exhibit of windmills. There were dozens of them, some complete with towers, some just with the windmill. Windmills from foreign countries and windmills from companies in America still making them, such as Aeromotor. If you were really in to them, you could read the history of the various models and companies. We just marveled at the variety and beauty on display. Many were working, even indoors.

Legacy of the Wind mural at American wind Power Museum in Lubbock Texas

The final indoor display was their event room where meetings, balls, weddings, etc. could be held. On the wall of the room was a humongous mural, the “Legacy of the Wind”. It is 200 feet long and 34 feet high. The theme is the history of wind power in America. It starts with the Dutch style windmills and moves on through the evolution of windmills that could survive the power of the American prairies.

The mural depicts authentic types of windmills incorporated into farm and town settings, as well as gradually moving into current times. Some of the settings include a Harvey House restaurant, a cotton farm, railroad sidings with the mill and water tank, dug-out sod house, and a modern farm with a John Deere tractor.

The replica 1621 windmill

Outside the building are arranged several dozen windmills in operation, including a replica of a 1621 windmill built near Jamestown VA. That windmill was believed to be the first constructed in America. The American Wind Power museum was a very pleasant and unusual surprise.

After lunch we visited the Buddy Holly museum. Buddy Holly was born in Lubbock and became an early pioneer in rock and roll music. The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and Elton John all publicly stated that his style and innovations influenced their music. His death in a plane crash in Iowa when he was only 22 cemented his name into music history. The museum displays personal artifacts and the history of his career. I had not remembered that he had gotten married just several months before his death. He proposed to the woman on their first meeting and were married two months later.

Amarillo is another 120 miles from Lubbock but we made a third stop just outside of Amarillo. We have driven through Amarillo several times in past years but never before had we stopped at Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Palo Duro is considered the second largest canyon system in the United States after the Grand Canyon.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Texas

Palo Duro is 120 miles long and 800 feet deep. You are driving along the flat prairie land wondering where is this supposed canyon? Then you come upon it and it presents a great vista. We drove a loop road in the western section of the canyon and took several short hikes. There had been rain earlier in the day and some of the trails were still muddy. The canyon was formed by a fork of the Red River of the South. The state appears to have constructed all new bridges over the creek so while portions of the road had dried mud from today’s rain, the drive was still easy-going.

Looking toward the “Lighthouse” formation at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas

Palo Duro was home to several Native American tribes. When the U.S. Cavalry was forcibly moving the Indians from here to reservations in Oklahoma, one battle was fought here in which the cavalry captured over 1,000 Indian horses and slaughtered the horses to remove the Indian’s means of transportation. They had to surrender. An American rancher later opened up his ranch here and raised over 100,000 cattle.

Our home in Amarillo is at the Home2 Suites by Hilton. This is our first time in this specific brand of Hilton. It strikes us as themed for the millennial trade in its sleek lines. We will be staying at one in Oklahoma City also. It is spacious and well-laid out.

Ed and Chris.

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