Not too long ago, I woke up in Corinth, where I was going to catch the bus for my much awaited trip out West.
At 3 a.m., the bus was aboutto go off and leave me. This âkind ofâ set the tone for my trip, as all my friends know I am not a morning person. But for 12 days, that is just what âtheyâ tried to do.
Every morning on the trip, we would have a prayer, and as Martha Stewart would say: âthis is a good thing,â because after traveling over 4,000 miles, over mountains, into canyons, around cacti, under mesquite, through the forests, and across flooded roads in the aforementioned canyons, we needed all the prayers we could get.
Our bus driver, none other than Mabenâs own, Wayne Elmore, who sat up front cool as the proverbial cucumber, never batted an eye, and plunged up and down mountain sides like they were flat ground.
I remember one day as we were coming down a mountain, and where most of the women either were yelping in fright or had their eyes closed, he announces: âI canât believe the speed limit is only 50 MPH.â
If you have ever been on a commercial bus line, most of the seats have little foot props attached to the bottom of the seat in front of you.
For this I also said a little prayer: âGod, please let the brakes hold.â Wayne didnât know it, but I secretly put on the brakes (shoving on the foot prop) for him at almost every turn down those mountain sides. Those props were also good braces to help keep us in our seat. It is a wonder I didnât break mine off as I was putting so much pressure on them. Unless we were on flat land, which we were a lot of the time, we got our daily exercise trying to stay in the seats.
It was good that my fellow travelers could not read my thoughts; especially when were traveling down into the Palo Duro Canyon (nearly as big as the Grand Canyon).
Not only were the turns hair-raising, you could not see the ground on the side of the bus where the wheels were.
One time, Wayne calmly announced that the outside wheels were not making contact with the pavement. What this means is they were hanging off the side of the mountain. YIKES!!!
Big Texan Steak House
The days started early, the bus rides were long, the potty breaks were quick, but we slept royally; we slept on some of the finest mattresses made. The only problem with them is we did not get to use them for any length of time.
We also ate well. I probably ate more steak on my 12 day trip than I have eaten in the past 12 months.
One night we stopped at the Big Texan Steak House, where we all had steak or chicken.
During our meal, we were entertained by a trio of musicians, who would play whatever you wanted to hear.
At our tables, we all requested âRocky Top Tennessee,â which we all sang along with gusto.
One of our group, Vernon Evitts, was invited to play and sing with them. We were all impressed.
The Big Texan Steak House also sponsors a contest: anyone who can eat a 72 ounce steak in one hour gets it free or pays $72 if he or she goes over the time limit without finishing. The guy that was competing lost, but at least he was well fed.
That night we stayed in the Horse Hotel; out back, they had Black Angus bulls roaming around and bellowing, which woke me up. I think they (the bulls) knew they were up next on the menu.
On the Road again
Speaking of singing, every morning, right after our morning prayer, over the PA system-loud and clear, they played âOn the Road Againâ which fit us to a âtee.â We were going places that we had never been and seeing things that we may never see again. We saw the bats fly out of Carlsbad Caverns, craned our neck looking up at the Carlsbad Cavern caves, viewed in awe the depth and breadth of the Grand Canyon and the lesser known Palo Duro Canyon, photographed the beauty of the Painted Desert, gazed in amazement at the Saguaro Cactus Forest, âoohed and aahedâ at the mountains majesty and the purple sage, shopped in Sedona, a fabulously expensive place, clapped our hands and laughed at the âshoot-outs,â refused to look or moaned in prayer at the sheer mountain roads, shouted when we spotted elk in the fields, walked and walked in the Biosphere II, wondered at the size of the wind turbines in the fields in Texas, learned what the Ponderosa Pine was, nodded okay when we were told we had crossed the Continental Divide, occasionally got the Hwy. 40 Blues, rode through the hometowns of Garth Brooks and Carrie Underwood, ate in the hometown of Rex Allen in Willcox, Ariz., passed through Oil Trough, Bald Knob, and Marked Tree, Ark., and looked and looked until we could look no more.
Sandia Peak Tram
I think the reason we felt the sun was because of the altitude. We were a mile and a half above sea level in several places, so it would be reasonable to believe we were closer to the sun. Speaking of high places, one night while we were in Albuquerque, N.M., we rode in the tram to the top of Sandia Peak for supper. The city lights, as we looked down, were absolutely beautiful, but my camera could not project enough light to do it justice. We really were up high. The trees below us looked like match sticks. We were able to see over 11,000 square miles from the peak. They told us if we missed the last tram ride down, we would have to walk down or sleep on the couch. Needless to say, none of us missed the tram.
Acoma Pueblo in N.M.
Another place that we toured that was up high was the Acoma Pueblo, âThe Sky Cityâ in N. M. âThis pueblo is built atop a sheer-walled, 370-foot sandstone bluff in a valley studded with sacred, towering monoliths and is known as the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the USA. Acoma Pueblo (Sky City) was built upon this sheer mesa as a defensive position against raiders (other Indian tribes).â We also observed the âouthouses,â which our guide told us were called âpeace treaty houses.â
Throughout the trip we were entertained. We had to travel to Williams, Ariz., where we caught the train to visit the Grand Canyon.
Before we left on our journey, we saw two shoot-outs performed by the Cataract Creek Gang: one shoot-out was up town, the other was at the train station. We had the opportunity to meet these âgunfightersâ as they would interact with the crowds, having their pictures made with the tourists and encouraging the families to return for the night time shows.
During our train ride, we were over taken by robbers, who stopped the train and collected âlootâ from the passengers. This is all in great fun as passengers had pictures made with the crooks.
Seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time will always be a most memorable sight for me. I will also remember what the bus driver said as we were touring the South Rim in a tour bus. If you are not aware of it, the canyon is a mile deep-thatâs 5280 feet down. If the bus runs off the rim, thatâs 5280 feet down.
If you ever get to Williams, Ariz., go by the Pine Country Restaurant for a humongous slice of delicious homemade pie. This is a must!! While there, be sure to go to the Route 66 CafĂ© for more entertainment. They play 50s and 60s music.
Another tourist town that has rebuilt itself is Tombstone, Ariz. We did get to see the famous Big Cage Theatre: âIn 1882, The New York Times reported, âthe Bird Cage Theatre is the wildest, wickedest night spot between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast.â Evidence of this can still be seen in the 140 supposed bullet holes that have been found in the walls and ceiling.â
The most famous event in Tombstone's history was the famed Gunfight at the OK Corral, which didn't actually happen at the corral, but in a vacant lot on Fremont Street. On October 26, 1881, members of the "Cowboys" had a run-in with Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp with help from Wyatt's friend Doc Holliday. Twenty-four seconds and 30 shots later, Billy Clanton, Tom and Frank McLaury were mortally wounded. In many peoplesâ opinion, it was this one event that has kept Tombstone alive for all these years.â
San Miguel Mission in N.M.
There are some things that one must take time to see and this is the San Miguel Mission in Santa Fe, N.M. This mission is the oldest church in the USA; it was built in 1610, when Santa Fe was founded. Archaeologists have found that the Native Americans have occupied this site since 1300 AD. Mass is still held there weekly.
Whereas some things were historically interesting, some things are just interesting things to know; such as, âthe Cadillac Ranch, which is located along the tatters of historic Route 66 near Amarillo, Texas, was built in 1974, the brainchild of Stanley Marsh 3, the helium millionaire who owns the dusty wheat field where it stands. Marsh and The Ant Farm, a San Francisco art collective, assembled used Cadillacs representing the "Golden Age" of American Automobiles (1949 through 1963). The ten graffiti-covered cars are half-buried, nose-down, facing west "at the same angle as the Cheops' pyramids." As we were traveling at a rather fast pace, we only had a quick look, but we did see it, and some of us got a picture.
One day as we were traveling our allotted 500-600 miles, we spotted a sign that said âHome of Roger Miller,â which was in Erick, Okla.
âDang Meâ is we didnât have to stop and take a tour and buy some souvenirs. Thisis also the home of Sheb Wooley, who played in the âRawhideâ television show.
Dale Chihuly Art
One day as we were traveling down the streets in Oklahoma City, I spotted âsomething glowingâ in a glass tower attached to the side of a building. It was a Dale Chihuly blown glass sculptures.
Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial
The Memorial for the Oklahoma City Bombing was an impressive and emotional site to see. They have guides that explain the memorial features, which certainly make it more meaningful and emotional.
Mountain View, Arkansas
At Mountain View, Ark., where we were once again entertained. As we were leaving town, we had the opportunity to stop at Mellon Country Store and shop for a few minutes.
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Then Wayne Elmore took us on a real scenic route back to Memphis, Tenn., and then on home to Scotts Hill Travel, located in Scotts Hill, Tenn., where a number of our group departed. Then home to Maben. What a trip!