Road Trip XVI-11

In our prior episode, I drove out of Arizona and through New Mexico where I still didn’t find my drivers’ license.


Oil Well

Texas has the most farms and the highest acreage in the United States. The state is ranked #1 for revenue generated from total livestock and livestock products and #2 for total agricultural revenue. Beef cattle represent the largest single segment of Texas agriculture bringing $7.4 billion or 56.7% of the state’s annual agricultural cash receipts. Texas leads the nation in the production of cattle, horses, sheep, goats, wool, mohair, hay and cotton. Cotton earns $1.9 billion and dairy products make “only” $947 million.
Ever since the discovery of oil at Spindletop, Texas has grown to be the sixth largest oil producer in the world. The state has known petroleum deposits of about 5 billion barrels, which makes up about one-fourth of the known U.S. reserves. The state’s refineries can process 4.6 million barrels of oil a day. Texas also leads in natural gas production, producing one-fourth of the nation’s supply. Petroleum companies based in include Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Conoco-Phillips, Exxon-Mobil, Halliburton, Marathon Oil, Tesoro, Valero, and Western Refining.
Despite the extraordinary mileage many Texans drive, they consume, on average, only the fifth most energy (of all types) in the nation per capita and as a whole, following behind Wyoming, Alaska, Louisiana, North Dakota, and Iowa.

I chatted with a gentleman in Amarillo who had driven across the state. He had a trailer-load furniture coming from his home in Houston to his “summer house” near Amarillo.

“I’ve already driven halfway to California,” he said. That was a Texas exaggeration but only by about 100 miles. Since I opted against El Paso and San Antonio for this trip, I’ll drive only 700 miles across Texas instead of 1,000.

My first view of the Lone Star State was a cotton field with oil derricks and there were almost uncountable horsehead pumps/nodding donkeys filling the fields the rest of the way in. The drive to Midland was mostly pretty desolate so I was surprised to see an orchard as I left one small town.

I made it to Midland in time to spend a couple of hours at the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum. Natch, I started at the Chaparral wing where I “test drove” the 2E and had my picture taken and drooled over all the other cars. Every one except the model I sat in is in running shape and kept that way purposefully.

Test Driving the Chaparral 2E

Mr. Hall was a founder and charter member of the West Texas Region of the SCCA in the 1950s. He raced the cars he built in Midland and competed in Formula One from 1960 to 1963 but his place in motor sports history came because he was the engineer and driver and part owner, with Hap Sharp, of Chaparral Cars.

Business End of the Chaparral 2J, the Famed 'Goer-Blower'

Chaparral built the most innovative racecars in the United States Road Racing Championship and in the Can-Am of the ’60s most obviously because his aerodynamics shaped the coming generations of racing. He drove in SCCA Trans-Am Series and won the 12-Hour at Sebring in the ’70s, then took over as a team owner in CART and Champ Car Racing.

Rutherford's Chaparral_2K

His cars won the Indianapolis 500 with Al Unser driving in 1978 and Johnny Rutherford in 1980 in the radical new Chaparral 2K, the first ground effect car to be raced at Indy.
Chaparral 2K Ground Effects TunnelsAfter reading Zuckerman’s The Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters, the museum’s “this is how it works” exhibits showed me the actual iron used from the earliest oil fields on. Many of the exhibits were created to teach kids how great oil and oil exploration is. Mythcrackers is one, with an introductory film that dispelling common petroleum myths in a Family Feud-style game show because “it’s what you think you know that just ain’t so.” They have a large display of paintings by artist Tom Lovell.

FlareThe industry museum shares the energy story and its impact on our daily lives with a journey through millions of years of history starting with the vast sea that covered the Permian Basin 230 million years ago.

Lightning chased me from the outdoor drilling and pump exhibits, though.
Early Mobile Drilling RigI had reserved a room in America’s Best Value Inn because when I called ahead to make sure I could check in with my passport, the desk clerk reminded me to book online because it was cheaper. I was quite pleased to have the real frig which froze my ices solid in the room. I left just three in the coolers overnight to keep them reasonable, so I had only a little ice to get. On the other hand, I The tub had no obvious diverter on the spout and no valve. I went to the front desk.

“This would have been a better night if you had a shower that worked or even a plug for the tub.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. You just have to pull on the thingie,” the desk clerk said.

Uh huh.

We eventually figured out that she meant to pull down on the aerator on the spigot. Like that’s intuitive.

It was going to rain so I had a waffle and headed for Shreveport.

Crossing the rest of Texas was a mostly boring, wet, ride. The rain started in earnest shortly after I left Midland, hammering down so hard some of the time that I used the fastest wiper speed and slowest truck speed, and continued until I was 50 miles from Louisiana. Traffic flowed at about 50 mph several times.

The highest speed limit I saw was just 75 and I don’t think anyone drove by at faster than 80 or 85. The rain meant I didn’t see all that much and wasn’t particularly enticed by any side trips. The rain also meant the NASCAR Cup race in Fort Worth turned into a night race, finally getting underway after a rain delay of nearly six hours Sunday. Reed Sorenson drove the #55 Trump-Pence Toyota which may have clinched the election although he finished the race in 35th.

Speaking of speed, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is still driving fast, even though he has been sidelined from NASCAR because of a concussion. Junior was pulled over for speeding while driving to Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday morning. His fiancee who was in the car with him tweeted a picture of a police officer writing out a warning for NASCAR’s most popular driver. According to her tweet, Junior didn’t get ticketed. She didn’t say how fast he was going.

Sweetwater Wind FarmI passed the huge Sweetwater wind farm in Nolan County but just one turbine out of 346 was turning. Sweetwater was built in five phases with GE 1.5 megawatt S turbines, SLE turbines, and XLE turbines plus Mitsubishi 1.0 megawatt turbines and Siemens 2.3 megawatt turbines.

I also passed an LA Fitness right next to a Golden Buffet.

Gas was consistently above $2/gallon across the state and seemed to average between $2.09 and $2.19. I filled the tank with Sunoco in Midland for $1.999.

Next stop the J Bennett Johnston Waterway, Dave Robicheaux’s house on the Teche, and a po’ boy.


Road Trip XVI-10

In our prior episode, I took some days off in Paradise Valley, then fired up the (new)(white) truck for the trip back up to 6,500 feet elevation.

It takes a lot longer to head over the mountain than I remembered. I went around the Mogollon Rim (elev 7,500) in northeastern Arizona on the way.

Mogollon Rim

It’s 331 miles and should take 5 hours 25 minutes but I stopped to pee and to take a picture or two and then lost an hour to the time zone difference.

And, of course, it was good to get back on the Mother Road. Remember to slow down for the Notel Motel.

Slow Down for the Notel Motel

The truck ate up the elevation change again and I avoided staying in the Notel. Still, I took a couple more days off to visit once I got back in New Mexico, of course.

The radar showed serious, heavy rain over Texas from Amarillo down to the Alamo and east all the way to Louisiana, all following a Front that had bowed and stopped from Roswell to southeastern KS where it turned and headed for Buffalo. The slow moving low pressure system riding that Front will brought increasing chances for rain over much of NM and TX for my entire tour there.

I reloaded the truck in the rain in Grants but I figured out a way to prop the bumbershoot up over the back window of the cap. Unfortunately, I thought of that after I had filled the coolers with rainwater. I got everything in and battened down and left about on schedule. It rained hard enough along I40 that I slowed down to 55 in a couple of spots when I started hydroplaning just a little.

The Albuquerque motel that was holding my driver’s license hostage wasn’t where their address says it was but I found it by asking at all the other motels along the strip. Finally recognized it. They hadn’t “refound” my license so I continued on my way on to Roswell to find the little green men. I had high hopes they would accept my latest colonoscopy results.

I drove through the mysterious, desolate village of Encino, pop 94, the city of dusty oaks on US 60 where I took some photos of Encino Motel Management. I’m thinking Encino doesn’t need a whole lot of motel management.

Encino Motel Management

The highway going into Roswell has a lot of irrigation running and a number of green fields that stand out from the surrounding scrub.

I read here in Roswell that they’re going to launch some weasels up in a rocket.
“So where are they headed?” I asked.
Otter space, of course!

UFO Museum

In 1947, something happened during a severe thunderstorm northwest of Roswell, New Mexico. Was it a flying saucer? Was it a weather balloon? What happened? The Roswell UFO Museum has a lot of documentation and a lot of detail but I couldn’t get past the humanoid appearance. It’s just too easy and too science fictiony. The 1990 sighting in Doylestown, PA, did catch my eye, though. And my colonoscopy results did get me a reduced admission price.

I Saw These U.F.O.s As I Was Looking Out My Bedroom Window...

The Budget Motel had my reservation and was ready for me. The desk clerk told me I could plug my truck into my room, but the door seal was too tight for the cord. She gave me another parking space right next to the office and let me plug in there. And if I had had a mini-port-to-HDMI cable, I could have used their 32″ wall mounted Samsung for a computer monitor. The room a/c-heater fan was too loud, though.

The motel backed onto the Emergency Room landing pad for the local hospital. Two deliveries came in while I was jockeying the truck around.

I went to the Roswell Museum and Art Center the next morning. It’s home to the largest public collection of works by Peter Hurd and Henriette Wyeth, painters whom I knew of but had never met. I found both have become synonymous with the landscape and culture of southeastern New Mexico. Hurd was raised in Roswell where his father worked a small ranch southwest of town. His father hoped he would pursue a military career, but after NMMI and two years at West Point, Hurd dropped out of West Point to study with N. C. Wyeth in Chadds Ford in the 1920s. During the summers at Wyeth’s home, Hurd met Henriette, Andy’s sister and the eldest of the Wyeth kids. They were married in 1929 and moved permanently to their Sentinel Ranch in San Patricio, New Mexico a few years later.

I had thought of him as one of the multitude of Brandywine artists and never twigged that he might be from somewhere else. I really enjoyed that collection.

The New Mexico Military Institute is the only state-supported military high school and two-year college in the western United States. NMMI also has a “notable” collection of art and historical objects in the Roswell Museum. Their Duty, Honor, Art was a mix of portraits of officers and more traditional landscapes. Art of the Book was fascinating as was Artists by Artists (portraits of artists by others) but I didn’t think much of the Bravo/Grande project. That “interdisciplinary project that examines the relationship between regional communities and the river” but it was all pretty two-faced to me.

An Interdisciplinary Project That Examines the Relationship Between Regional Communities and the River

I didn’t visit the Goddard Planetarium because their shows are on Wednesdays and one Saturday each month and, unfortunately, I missed the Robert H. Goddard Collection of scientific equipment and rocket parts.

Next stop Midland, TX, for race cars and oil wells with maybe the rain coming right along with me.


Road Trip XVI-9

In our prior episode, I was headed almost a mile downhill — that’s a mile of elevation — toward Paradise Valley and some days off from traveling.

Not so much days off, though. I was in the 48th state (the last of the lower 48) to be admitted to the Union) for the last week of October and into November so there were yard sales, parties, decorations, electioneering, road construction, and it all lead to an excitement-filled day at the Arizona State Fair where, of course, I ate something on a stick. I took very few photos, though.

The freezer didn’t like the desert heat so my first job was to experimented with a big floor fan. That worked a treat so I bought two 12v fans. They didn’t move enough air, so I put a 110 volt fan and an inverter on the shopping list.

On the other hand, I got to watch the street get torn up. SWMBO likes to point out that it is impossible to drive anywhere without hitting road construction. I’m pretty sure that, for example, the Florida Department of Transportation is bidding a four-lane highway with a 40-foot median across Puffin Island.


I went to a great yard sale the other day. There was sports memorabilia, lots of electronics, and tools, guy stuff. A huge 60 inch flat screen TV caught my eye with a price tag on $50 on it!
“You only want $50 for this big TV? It must have something wrong with it,” I said.
“It works great,” Livvy said, “except when you turn it on the volume goes up stays all the way up.”
“Man, I sure can’t turn that deal down!”

Our friend Livvy came into town to join some high school buddies for a road trip of their own. Sadly, her husband had passed away before she arrived — she found him in the living room surrounded by quail — and she ended up having to deal with his collections of collections.

Note to self: start your own inventory now.

Homer had bought stuff. Lots of stuff. He had amplitudes of amplifiers, cartons of clothing, loads of light bulbs, a mountain of microwaves, piles of ‘puters, stacks of speakers, volumes of VCRs, a DeWalt 12″ sliding compound miter saw that I would have loved to own, a 9″ electric fan that I do, and too much more to list. The quail weren’t for sale.

Livvy invited a bunch of friends over to help her identify and organize the goods and get ready for a yard sale to end all yard sales. As an incentive, we got first crack at the goodies. Fortunately, I had enough room in the truck for a computer monitor, brand new in the box, two VCRs, a tile cutter, a dozen rolls of ScotTissue, and the great find, a power inverter and the 9″ electric fan that I needed for the freezer.

That didn’t make a dent in the inventory, though, so Livvy is still having sales.

We went to a party where I got spend the evening catching up with Mardelle, a Burner friend.

She wants to come back as a weatherman in her next life. OK, weatherperson. I spend a bit of time every day reading the radar and moisture charts and tracking Fronts and pressure gradients. “Where else can you be wrong all the time and still keep your job?” Mardelle asked. I think I actually do better than 60-40.

Halloween decorations took center stage as well. I wonder how one finds enough time between seasons to switch from ghosts and goblins to Yule logs and mangers?

Halloween Decorations

State fairs are usually an annual recreational and competitive get together to promote state agriculture and they continue to exhibit livestock. The first U.S. state fair was held in Syracuse, NY, in 1841; the New York State Fair has been held annually ever since.

The Arizona State Fair was a territory fair before Arizona was a state. Early on, the entertainment was horse, pony and mule races, with exhibits of farming, home economics, and cattle filled the grounds. With over one million visitors in the month of October, it is now one of the top five state fairs in the world.

I had a rabbit as a kid, so the rabbit warren drew me in. I never knew there were so many different types of the family Leporidae. More even than chickens. There were American, American Fuzzy Lop, American Polish, Argent Brun, Champagne, Cinnamon, Dutch, Dwarf Hotot, English Lop, Flemish Giant, Florida White, French Lop, Harlequin, Havana, Himalayan, Holland Lop, Jersey Woolley, Lion Head, Mini Satin, Mini Rex, Mini Lop, Netherland Dwarf, New Zealand, Rex, Satin, and Tan bunnies. Some divisions like “Rex” have as many as 18 classes, divided by color and fur. And we saw chickens. Lots of chickens. Transylvanian Naked Neck There are 12 divisions of chickens with as many as 53 classes including the famed Transylvanian Naked Neck.

I had to come back to South Puffin, though, before I met a turkey inseminator.

We rode the 130-foot tall La Grande Wheel, the largest transportable Ferris Wheel in the world but skipped the dinosaur adventure of Jurassic Trail. Purdue put on The Edible Journey, an K-4 interactive exhibit to identify what a farm is and what farmers do and to understand the role of science in food production. Stage of the Arts hosted demonstrations by working artists and photographers. We skipped Rock U, the Institute of Rock ‘N’ Roll, because we have been to the M.I.M. The ladies wanted to visit the Shopping Pavilion (formerly the “Commercial Building”) so we saw everything from boots to books, cookware to collectibles, mops to mattresses and pillows to purses.

And, of course, we had $8 ice cream and food on a stick. I’m still surprised by the dairy industry in the desert.

United Dairymen of Arizona Ford Milk Truck

In bad news, I lost my driver’s license in Albuquerque. In good news, I made that amazing discovery in the comfort of a private home, not while a sworn officer was waiting for me to produce ID.

I spent a while tracing my steps and determined it could be in only two or three establishments. I Googled their phone numbers and called. Not at the gas station. Not at the restaurant. Not at the motel.

Oh, wait. The motel called back. “We found it!” the daytime desk clerk said. She promised to mail it to me.

In more bad news, my absentee ballot wasn’t waiting for me when I arrived in Arizona.

My voicemail includes a transcription service. This is what they sent me. “Hi this is Blazing Goalie-at(?) chairman of the [Mumble-something] Political Party of Florida with a friendly reminder to please return your vote by mail ballot as soon as possible. This election May be the most important erection of our lifetime and we need all [Mumble-something] vote is counted. Again please return your (?) male ballot as soon as possible. If you have any questions about your ballot please contact your local [Mumble-something] party or your County supervisor of elections. Paid for by the [Mumble-something] Party of Florida. Not authorized by any candidate or candidates committee.

That’s easier to figure out than many messages have been and was a great reminder to look for the darned ballot.

I did find out why my ballot hadn’t arrived. The Monroe County Supervisor of Elections tracker website says “Ballot 1 was sent Thursday, October 13,” to my South Puffin post office box. Apparently writing the address where I was visiting in my fine engineering hand wasn’t enough. OK, it was in Microsoft Technical typeface. Anyway, it defaulted to my home address. I called them, resent the ballot request, and then called again. I waited and waited and it did get here before I had to leave.

I can’t believe the USPS has a substation in an Ace Hardware but the clerk said her magic mystery screen promised delivery by Friday, November 4, so I paid her $1.15 and left my ballot with her.

I never did talk to any of the robo calling candidates and, while my ballot made it to Florida on time, my drivers’ license never arrived in Arizona.


The inverter didn’t seem to be working but I figured it out in daylight. It has not only a switch on the inverter but also a black one on the black 12V “cigarette lighter” plug. Hard to see in the dark. I attached the inverter to the battery box and tested it; it’s noisy but it runs the 110V fan perfectly and that keeps the freezer cold.

Veterans MemorialIn the usual story of this trip, I packed up to leave before Veteran’s Day. Once each year, at 11:11 a.m. on 11-11, the sun shines perfectly on this memorial. I left Arizona behind before it happened. Here‘s the story.

On the next leg, I’ll retrace some of my steps to stop at the Mogollon Rim, look for my license, and make sure I have my colonoscopy results handy.