Posts Tagged With: Amarillo Texas

2017 Trip Two: Tour of Texas April 27

Amarillo, Texas Friday April 27

A view of Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo Texas

The end is near. Today is day 58 of 61. Tomorrow we start the drive home although there are two sight-seeing stops planned. Our primary goal for today was the Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument.

Before Alibates though, we made a quick stop to one of those weird oddities that exist around the country. We have been here before, but thought a quick visit would provide a picture or two for the blog today.

Cadillac Ranch is a piece of land west of Amarillo with 10 Cadillacs buried half way into the ground and allowed to be graffiti painted. It has been around for over 40 years. Cars park along the frontage road of I-40 and people get out to gawk, to take photos, and to add some new graffiti. Frankly Graffiti Hill in Austin was more artistic but this is older. Chris and I don’t approve of graffiti but technically Cadillac Ranch and Graffiti are not illicit, but allowed and even encouraged, so these two pass the moral muster.

Then it was off to Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument. The route took us through some new roads and we visited the town of Borger. Lo and Behold! Another oil town. In 1921 oil was discovered in Borger and Borger underwent a boom period accompanied by major crime that took the Texas Rangers to end. While this Panhandle oil area never reached the level of oil produced by the Permian Basin, it has been sufficient to keep the largest inland petrochemical plant in operation here. Borger has facilities producing carbon black, fertilizer, and plastics. The skyline here is not littered with well heads, we saw some but in a much less obtrusive manner than around Odessa.

Examples of flint pieces and rock; left here because it had some flaw we do not see.

But oil was not our goal. We were researching old practices of Native Americans. Going back as far as 13,000 years ago and as recently as 700 years ago by the Antelope Creek people, mining of flint occurred here. The area around the Canadian River 30 miles north of Amarillo produces an extremely hard flint that can be used for spears, arrows, knives, etc. Due to geologic conditions, ash from eruptions from the Yellowstone Caldera combined with dolomite rock to produce this flint that is rated as 7.5 on a scale of 10. (Quartz is ranked at 7, glass at 5.5.). The Indians here not only used the flint for themselves, but traded it to other Indians as far as 1,000 miles away.

A view from the top of the mesa at Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument where the flint is found

We had a 90 minute walk with a Park Ranger who discussed the history of this area and the amazing knowledges the natives brought to bear on their life. The plants here were like the bison, almost all parts of the plant had a use for their lives. They figured it out without computers. The flint “quarries” are just areas where the flint material appears close to the surface or at the edge of a cliff. When the dolomite erodes, which it does more slowly than the other rock in the area, it tumbles down the hill, revealing the flint inside the dolomite rock.

A volunteer was here demonstrating how flints produced knives, spear points, etc. Given the rules of leaving everything natural in place, he has to obtain his flint from other private sources. There are other flint “quarries” on private land in the area. As we left for our hike with the Ranger, a bus of 45 people traveling around to National Park sites was arriving.

Lake Meredith Reservoir at today’s water level, about 60% of its capacity.

The Canadian River that flows through the area has been dammed and produces Lake Meredith. Lake Meredith provides recreational use but also drinking water for Amarillo and Lubbock. The water depth at the dam crest could be as high as 111 feet. It currently is in the high 60s; in recent years it has been as low as 26 feet. The reservoir was designed to provide drinking water for Texas panhandle cities but due to recent droughts, those cities have begun digging their own wells and drawing down the aquifer in the area.

After the talk-walk, it was back to Amarillo for dinner and the hot tub. It will be interesting to see if Oklahoma will have as many donut stores as we have seen in Texas. I don’t mean Krispy Kreme or Dunkin’ Donut but homegrown, small stores selling donuts-and staying in business.

Ed and Chris

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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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