"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding watercolor, metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My kind of roads

I hate lines of traffic, and stop lights, and Interstates, and straight, narrow subdivision streets and all city streets jammed with cars and trucks, and commuting. You almost can't breathe in Edmond and big cities. You forget nature and your senses and life, ruled by time and trivia.
     So my journey to the tip of the Oklahoma Panhandle this spring break was a journey to being alone, to hearing wind and meadowlarks, to hiking to the top of Black Mesa, to  open spaces and stories and imagination. It's a 350 + mile trip to Cimarron County, and the farther west you get, the better--fewer people, less traffic, wider skies, dryer landscapes and wider skies. County seat Boise City is closer to Santa Fe and Denver than OKC and Black Mesa and Kenton is another 40 miles. Some road signs out there made me realize I have some favorite kinds of roads. They match my personality, my temperament, my spirit.
     Probably the best are those with lots of curvy warning signs. They hint at adventure, something undiscovered, perhaps danger, and make you slow down to wonder what's ahead. And there's something around every bend, just like in life..something new, something interesting, something exciting, or boring or disappointing or who knows....
But there are straight roads I like too. Like those that remind me of the old song, "Look down, look down that lonesome road...." There are a lot of those out there, and I most like the dirt and gravel ones undulating over the hills. "What's ahead, what's ahead," I hear the whispers in my mind.
   What will I find, what will I see, who was here first, why is there a road here? Questions galore...and finally, my citified mind takes control and I think, "Turn around, you're wasting time." Such an obscenity, and affront to creativity, to discovery, to exploration, to change that breaks the rules of modern society.
   But it takes over, and I do, seeking other roads, other possibilities, rather than what is over the next hill. Wouldn't you really want to know?
   But I also like straight, paved roads--other than the one from Fort Sumpter to Vaughn, N.M., which is 70 plus mind-numbing straight miles that you dare not speed on, and which can hypnotize you. Instead, I like the ones where there is no traffic, no cops, no population--the "Blue Highways" of William Least Heat Moon. There are those out here in the Oklahoma Panhandle aptly named "No Man's Land." A car, or more likely, a pickup truck, in 40 miles is heavy traffic. The roads, like the one at the top of this blog title, or others, are where you look down in the early morning and for some reason the speedometer shows 80 or 90 or 100 mph--or slow down and stop in the middle of the road to take a photo of an old windmill, gate or abandoned house--and nobody cares or knows, as you speed along with your thoughts.
There are others, roads not taken. And you wonder where they lead.
But there's another road out here that fires my imagination also. This is where the Santa Fe Trail's (the 1800 international interstate from Missouri to Santa Fe) Cimarron Cutoff bypassed the Rocky Mountains at Raton Pass, and followed the mostly dry Cimarron River southwest, across what is now the tip end of the Oklahoma Panhandle, and entered what was then the Republic of Mexico, heading for the landmark Rabbit Ear Peak north of where Clayton N.M.is now.  It avoided the mountains but risked drought and the Comanches, from the 1830s for almost 50 years.   
A D.A. R. and historical marker marks the spot where it crossed  the current north-south pavement  showing the landscape heading southwest. I couldn't help but wonder if 150 years from now some historical marker would point out where our Interstates once were. No wonder I like the back roads.

1 comment:

  1. Well said,
    When I built andoperated pipelines in Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi I always took the blue roads.