The Trump-Pence and Make America Great campaign signs so evident throughout the Hill Country and points to the west just a few months ago have mostly disappeared now. This in no way suggests a change in the political landscape, but the visual respite from the controversial and ultimately violent post-election period is welcome.
Travelers along West Texas freeways and highways have other political distractions, like looming road signs warning of the eternal damnation of Democrats, Socialists and others who support legal abortion. The signs are a jarring goodbye to small towns near the New Mexico border.
No face masks were visible at stops west of San Antonio until my family and I reached Lubbock, where service workers were everywhere going about their business in masks.
If there is something must-see for road travelers in Texas this summer, it’s the endless landscape of wind turbines stretching as far as the eye can see, their blades spinning endlessly, 50 meters in length. Here and there, small rusty pump jacks operate in the shadow of turbines, a contrast to 20th and 21st century power generation, their rocking horse arms lifting oil from the depths of West Texas.
Neither power source suggested the state was in the throes of an energy delivery crisis in February and likely remains at risk as Texas struggles to adapt to increasingly extreme weather events. more frequent.
Highways and secondary roads are very busy this summer. People move after more than a year of reduced mobility. The cost of gasoline, about $ 2.80 a gallon in San Antonio, averaged over $ 2.92 in the small town west of San Angelo. As we drove through New Mexico the lowest price we found was $ 3.09.
It’s a long, monotonous drive to Lubbock, with fence posts, sagebrush and clouds floating on the long horizon as far as the eye can see. A night in Lubbock is a welcome break, a growing city of 255,000 that is home to Texas Tech University offers the traveler attractive options.
This is the third road trip in the west in recent years where I stop to recharge my batteries in Lubbock. MacKenzie Park is an ideal destination for travelers with a dog, with its large grassy parks for small and large dogs, an 18-hole golf course, Frisbee golf course, and plenty of rolling green spaces for joggers and walkers.
And then there is The town of prairie dogs inside the park. If the words “adorable” and “rodent” can go together, it’s here. The colony of burrowing and semi-domestic prairie dogs are naturally herbivorous, so it is disheartening to see tourists giving them Cheetos and other junk food snacks. We did not see any signs discouraging the practice.
We stayed in the new 165 room Cotton Court Hotel in downtown Lubbock, about a mile from Texas Tech on Broadway, next to the Depot District. Our rooms opened onto a large landscaped public courtyard with outdoor fireplaces, plenty of hammocks and rocking chairs, as well as a large swimming pool and terrace. The square turns passing strangers into momentary friends. The retro design and well-crafted buildings provide a hotel experience that would cost three or four times local rates if located in Austin or Dallas.
We had dinner at La Sirena Cocina, a Spanish tapas bar with a dog-friendly patio and a welcoming staff with entrees and cocktails that could hold up with the Pearl or Southtown restaurants. A son traveling separately from us gave great reviews of the Manara Cafe and its Middle Eastern cuisine.
The next morning we headed west to Taos, happy in the afternoon to leave behind the small towns of West Texas, the flat landscapes and the vast void of eastern Texas. New Mexico with its occasional ruined dwellings in small ghost settlements. Our excitement grew as we began to ascend in Mora County, once a vast grant of Spanish land, on the road from Las Vegas, New Mexico to Taos. Fences and desert plains have given way to craggy rock faces, tall conifers, and streams winding along the roads. Temperatures dropped nearly 30 degrees as we crossed the mountain pass at 9,000 feet and began our descent towards Taos.
Along the way, we researched information on wildfires and air quality, knowing that at least one fire had burned near Albuquerque. A fireballing sunset in the west suggested a view obscured by smoke, and we quickly felt its itchy presence in our eyes and throats.
A winding night walk to Taos Square helped us and our rescue dog, Cacteye, recover from two days in a vehicle. A crowd filled the place for live music, some couples were dancing to easy rock harmonies, others were just hanging out as the temperatures hit the 50s and we donned long sleeves.
Being away from home, in a place very different from home, in a cooler mountain climate, is a sublime escape from the torpor induced by the pandemic. Perhaps the removal of the heat from Texas politics mattered as much.