My trip got off to an auspicious start Friday, as I headed out of town after work and found myself driving into OKC under the most gorgeous sunset imaginable. My friend Brad called me just as I noticed the pink mackerel clouds off to my left. Five minutes into our conversation, the light had changed colors three times, there were enormous bands of gold streaking across a dazzling blue sky, and wispy pink clouds danced along the edges like the fringe on some giant falsa blanket. I finally interrupted him to ask if he could get to a west-facing window.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have a fisheye lens or a place to pull over (I was on the turnpike just then), so I couldn’t shoot it for him. But I felt like a bit of a tease, telling him about that gorgeous sunset while he was stuck in a downtown skyscraper, so I made a mental note to bring back a New Mexico sunset for him.
These next three shots are for Brad. Notice Tucumcari Mountain in the background of the first two images:
I spent two nights at the incomparable Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari. The weather was a little chilly, and it was too overcast to go out and shoot dazzling vistas on Saturday morning, so aside from brief visits to each of my usual haunts (Tepee Curios, Lowe’s grocery store, Coyote Moon, and La Cita), I spent most of the day at the Swallow, reading and napping and taking it easy. Which was fine with me … I’ve made so many manic trips out that direction, it was good to have a little time to slow down and catch my breath.
Inflation forced this bit of neon work off the Swallow’s marquee, but the owner keeps it hanging in a garage to amuse nostalgia buffs:
I slept in a little on Sunday morning, read some more, and then hit the road around 11 a.m. Tucumcari time (which would be noon Tulsa time).
Instead of taking Route 66 back home, as I’ve done a dozen times before, I decided to try something new: I took U.S. 54 to Guymon, then picked up U.S. 412 from Guymon to Sand Springs, which is about 5 miles from where I live. I found a few interesting things on the road.
This great-looking old motel is in Nara Visa, N.M., about five miles from the Texas border:
As I was shooting this theater in Dalhart, Texas, a guy jogging down the otherwise deserted street said, “The inside is even prettier.” I can well imagine. Too bad it wasn’t open.
This monument to the XIT Ranch is also in Dalhart:
This guy is standing outside an abandoned steakhouse between Dalhart and Stratford:
This abandoned house east of Guymon looks like something out of The Grapes of Wrath. There are a lot of abandoned houses like this in western Oklahoma:
I think this next image is from Woodward, but I didn’t take notes, so I could have shot it somewhere else:
I didn’t know this was possible, but I think Oklahoma has actually one-upped New Mexico for gorgeous scenery. Look at the striations in these mesas. They look like something out of the Painted Desert, but they’re actually on U.S. 412 west of Enid:
And finally, just to cap the trip, here’s a sunset west of Enid: