Regular Life

Regular Life

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on. – Robert Frost

Amarillo’s Where I’ll Be

(Click here to read about the first day of our trip to Red River, New Mexico.)

A thick stench fills my nose when I open our room to the morning air.

Cattle feed lots and their resulting dung dunes surround Amarillo. For the uninitiated, a feed lot crams all the beef cattle it can into the smallest space possible. All that eating means a lot of crapping, and that leaves locals praying the weather provides favorable winds.

Ben and I navigate the crumbling walkway to the uninspected elevator to check for a Continental breakfast. Downstairs, Ben sees the pool through its chain link fence. “Daddy, I want to go see the pool.”

“That’s as close as we’re getting to the pool. Come on, son. We need to do this fast so we can get back to the room.”


“So we can get back on the road.”


“So we can get to our cabin as soon as possible.”


“Let’s just keep going, Ben.”

We find there is no Continental breakfast. It was a long shot, anyway.

We leave Stinkfest 2007 behind and head north up Hwy 287 to Dumas. That last detail becomes critical in the next sentence.

(click any pic to make it bigger)

After a 42-minute grocery and forgotten toiletry stop at the Dumas Wal-Mart, we keep going north.

Somewhere in Oklahoma’s panhandle, in a section called “No Man’s Land,” we get hungry. I stop in Boise City, fuel up Homer, and then call my folks to touch base with them. They’re already in Red River.

“Well, where are you?” Dad asks.

“Boise City, Oklahoma,” I reply.

“Oh, you went way too far north.”

“I did?”

Apparently I should have turned west at Dumas. Still hungry, but with Dairy Queen the only restaurant we’ve seen, we head on down to find the next restaurant. We reach the town square, which has been converted to a large roundabout with the courthouse as a centerpiece. I go around it until I reach the highway we’re supposed to take.

About a mile later, we realize there are no other restaurants. I turn Homer around to head back to Dairy Queen. It’s a good thing, too, because it allowed me to complete the roundabout.

Ben chimes in, “Why are we just going around and around again? I thought we were going to the cabin.”

You can always count on a kid to say what everybody else is thinking.

Our bellies full of junk food, we get out of town. Finally, we reach New Mexico, and Shannon gets a pic of the sign welcoming us to the Land of Enchantment.

Shannon’s lens cover doesn’t quite retract all the way any more.

More and more mountains become visible to us as we head farther north and west. In Clayton, one of my father’s former haunts, Shannon catches sight of a sign bearing a dinosaur. Ben loves them, so I turn around and follow the sign’s arrow.

There, in a small park with dilapidated swing set, seesaw, and merry-go-round, stands a dinosaur statue inside a chain link fence.


A sign on the lot’s corner announces a 6.3 million dollar wing of the local medical center coming soon. This is a tiny town with tiny homes. Well kept, sure, but small. We posit that Clayton must be a retirement village.

The first mountains we see up close come in Cimarron. We stop at Palisades Sill, where only the Cimarron River and a few trees separate the road from rock cliffs towering hundreds of feet above.


Ben and I kick off our shoes and get our feet wet. The cold mountain water feels good on my feet after their full day of being cooped up in shoes. (Press play and wait a moment.)

When we arrive at our cabin, Mom and Dad are walking through the gravel parking lot from their camper, bearing fresh ground beef, pasta, and red sauce. They whip up a spaghetti supper with Mom’s trademark garlic toast made of regular sandwich bread laid on a cookie sheet.

Easily filling the role of doting grandparents, they celebrate Ben’s fourth birthday. He shovels in the chocolate cake and rips open the gifts like a kid who opened more than 20 presents just the day before. Oh, wait…

[photopress:100_2751_sm_blog.jpg,thumb,centered]     [photopress:DSC_9422_sm_blog.jpg,thumb,centered]
Cabin pic by Shannon.

Out on the front porch that night, we enjoy the babble of the Red River. It runs literally a few feet from the porch.

Click the play button to listen to the river from the porch.

Or download the sound by right-clicking here.

That wraps day 2. Next up: Our first views of snow on mountains in July. What renders the roast beef broth inedible? How far can Ben walk without asking to be carried? When stewing prunes, is three enough, or are four too many? (That last one is a nod to Fletch, so don’t come back here expecting to find the answer.)

12 Responses to Amarillo’s Where I’ll Be

  1. The photos are so surreal. The New Mexico sign almost appears pasted and the one of Shannon and Ben looks like it was taken on a sound stage. (Did you actually go to Hollywood and make this all up?)

    You think the hospital will keep the dinosaur?

    Inedible au jus? Impossible!

  2. BK – I love question marks in comments, because then I don’t feel like I’m writing just to feel myself type (I tend toward Tourette’s, and typing’s a lot like twitching, so it feels really good.)

    The New Mexico sign looks like that because I suggested Shannon turn on her camera’s flash. I leave out details like this in an effort to keep my posts from being ridiculously long (I know, failed on that count this time).

    You know, now that I look at that one of Ben and Shannon, I can see that. Maybe it’s the lighting. She and Ben are on a hill at the top of the riverbank, so they’re getting sunlight that the trunks of those trees right behind them are not.

    The easy answer, of course, would be, “Yes, it’s all made up.” Unfortunately, I have receipts showing $3.45/gallon for gas that say otherwise (it was $2.80/gallon when we left home and still was when we returned).

  3. “Dumas” makes me giggle. All I can think about is that scene in The Shawshank Redemption where they’re sorting books for the library and the one guy sees The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas, but he pronounces it Dumb-Ass. That word is forever ruined for me. But it makes me laugh, so that’s OK. Especially when I read “dumb ass Wal-Mart”… my heart soars!

    And Mark, when you say, “Shannon’s lens cover doesn’t quite retract all the way any more,” it sounds sort of like you’re saying she’s one sandwich short of a picnic. Or one brick short of a load. Or her elevator doesn’t go to the top floor any more. Are you dissing your wife?

    Good thing that dinosaur was behind the fence, or else you would have been forced to kick its ass! (Oh wait… it’s a herbivore. Never mind.)

    That cabin is just about the coziest looking thing ever. You ended here like a old-style serial, creating a cliff-hanger for tomorrow. Oh! the anxiety and the waiting!

  4. What a great cabin. When I first glanced at Amy’s picture, I missed the fact that the river was RIGHT there. I went back and looked at the details after you mentioned it. I would have spent quite a bit of time right in that chair.

    And perhaps this says more about me than your post…but my first thought when looking at the New Mexico sign was “What’s that red pepper doing to that green pepper?” Hot peppers, indeed.

  5. What a great cabin! And Shannon looks so cozy in that swing…I would have a hard time leaving there Mark. It is so great that you got time away….I imagine that you are refreshed and rejuvenated now? :) Hope so. Hope that you are having a good week…

  6. When you first glanced at whose picture, Moksha??? Ahem, just because you gave your wife a fancy name like Moonshot doesn’t mean you can get the rest of us confused – “Oh, Amy, Shannon – what’s the difference? Well, I’ve heard that Shannon’s lens cover doesn’t retract all the way anymore. You know what I’m sayin’? (wink, wink)” I know, I know, you were too busy thinking about those chili peppers to collect your thoughts – I understand.

  7. Shannon – oops [in my cutest, sorriest voice]. I actually had no idea what you were talking about…had to scroll back up to realize the extent of my stupidity. And I wish I could say the chilli pepper thing wasn’t partially on my mind…but the fact is that I was disproportionatly proud of that comment and was saying all that fluffy sentimental stuff just so’s I woulnd’t seem overly perverted. I clearly shoudl have been paying more attention.

  8. Shannon, the weird thing is that I didn’t even notice Moksha’s little [cute] slip-up. I read ‘Amy’, interpreted it immediately as ‘wife’, and kept on reading. Weird. Now whose lens cover is only partially retracted?

    I’m also chagrined that I didn’t notice the peppers doing the hot thing. Because I don’t really have any qualms about seeming overly perverted.

  9. “A think stench fills my nose when I open the room door to the morning air.”

    First of all, with your amazing sense of smell, I’m sure it was particularly pungent (sp?).

    Secondly, of course there was a stench in the air…you said earlier that Shannon fired off a wallpaper peeler in the room downstairs!

  10. Only day 2 and I’m already jealous.

  11. I’m envious myself…. sounds like everyone’s having a ball!

    Have fun all….

  12. Simon, Moksha, and Shannon – Thanks for the entertaining exchange.

    That red pepper is totally hittin’ it.

    Anna – Rejuvenated begins to explain it. We didn’t want to leave. It was the most relaxing vacation we’ve ever had.

    Charles – I forget about my super sniffer when I write about smells. Oops.

    Jay – We’ve barely scratched the surface. It gets way better.

    Dave – A great time was had by all.


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