We have set a new record. We departed the house at 10:25 am. Three minutes later, at 10:28 am, Mallory announced she had forgotten something. Congratulations Mallory! It didn’t matter what it was (she forgot to pack a pencil), we weren’t turning back. This Road Trip had officially started!
Ho Ho Ho! Last night we sprinkled Reindeer Food in the yard and set out milk & cookies, and this had the desired effect. Santa left a Guitar Hero World Tour under the tree for Miles (age 11), Mallory ( age 8 ) & Marissa (age 5). I would say they did pretty good, since I reckoned it was touch & go if they were going to get a lump of coal, or a real present.
Even though we are going to be gone for 10 days, we fit all of our clothes, shoes, and hair accessories into three suitcases. This made the process of loading the van a fairly easy exercise.
The first stop of the day was Chandler, OK. We met up with the rest of the traveling party at Erin’s Grandparents house. We exchanged Christmas Greetings with Mom & Dad (a.k.a. PK and KK), as well as Scott & Erin, and Erin’s family. I warmed right up to Erin’s Grandpa, who told me I was better looking than Scott. Of course, this came with the honor of coming back to Chandler in a few weeks to help him paint his living room, as Scott quickly claimed that he “had plans” and couldn’t make it down. Hmmmm, I am beginning to think that I was set up.
We pulled out of Chandler shortly after Noon, and our sights were set on the Big Texan Steakhouse in Amarillo, Texas! Driving west on I-40 from OKC to Amarillo, the road is peppered with Big Texan billboards, advertising their Free 72 ounce steak (if eaten in one hour). Mallory took it upon herself to keep a counter on how many of these billboards we could see. Much to our surprise, we only counted 10 Big Texan billboards between Chandler and Amarillo. I know that in years past when we have made this drive, we would definitely see 3 or 4 times that many signs. At least that is how I remember it.
The kids passed the time in the car by reading, playing the Leapster, and playing the Nintendo DS. Marissa even took a nap that lasted several hours. We have packed several plastic crates full of electronics and books, to keep the kiddos occupied. We only made a couple of stops, and we were making such great time, we decided to adjust our lodging arrangements for this evening. We had reservations in Santa Rosa, NM, but since we were about 90 minutes ahead of schedule, we cancelled them, and made new reservations in Albuquerque. Erin was able to coordinate all of this via her iPhone. With the wonders of her fancy phone, she was able to look up Albuquerque hotels on TripAdvisor, and the top-rated hotel was a place called the Monterey Non-Smokers Motel. It got great reviews and the price was right. Erin called them and asked if they had any rooms available for tonight. The hotel clerk’s response was, “Only if you’re a non-smoker!”
Dinner at the Big Texan was a mixed bag. All of us that got steak were extremely pleased. PK was not impressed with her meal. Miles ordered something called “Six Flags Over Texas” and ate the whole thing. It included spare ribs, catfish, chicken strips, and fried shrimp. He was very proud of this accomplishment. Unfortunately, we could all agree that our service left a lot to be desired. To put it in perspective, we spent a good two hours at our table, and nobody got appetizers or dessert. The restaurant was quite full of cusomters, and by the time we left about 7:00, there was a wait to be seated.
No trip to the Big Texan is complete without a visit to the adjoining Big Texan Gift Shoppe. If it can be stamped with the words, “Big Texan”, then they sell it there. All three of the kids made a purchase, highlighted by Mallory buying a bag of rocks. The Big Texan has got to love it when the Okies come to town.
After we topped off the tank down the street (where it smelled like we were at the stockyards), we were ready to chew up some highway and get to Albuquerque. Once the sun went down, the volume in the van went up. The kids had been basically quietly entertaining themselves all the way to Amarillo, but there was no such luck on the second leg of the journey. We allowed the noise level to get much louder than we ever would in a normal situation, because obviously they have some steam to blow off, and we’ve been spending the entire day since about 10:30 in the car. Mallory wanted to read in the back row, so she turned her overhead light on. This led to a lengthy and stimulating conversation such as:
Miles: “Would you please turn your light off?”.
Miles: “Would you please turn your light off?”
You get the idea…
We definitely had the Interstate to ourselves today, and most of the gas stations we passed today were closed, of course, since it is Christmas Day. As we were closing in on Albuquerque, we were making one last pit stop, and KK suggested the Travel Center at Clines Corner. He said they had an amazing amount of memorabilia, and he knows that his grandkids love to buy memorabilia. I had seen a billboard for this Travel Center about 100 miles away that said it was “World Famous” and “worth the wait”. I was getting excited about seeing the Cadillac of Travel Centers. However, we were met with disappointment as it was also closed for Christmas. I will just have to wait to see that another day.
We pulled into Albuquerque around 11:00 local Mountain time. We located our motel, which is in Old Town. We were quickly checked in by the owner, and everybody unloaded their gear from the vehicles. We will have a short turnaround tonight, as we are meeting Stephanie’s Aunt Mary at a nearby resturaunt for breakfast at 7:00 in the morning.
Day 1 of the journey was all about getting some miles under our belt, and eating Christmas Dinner at the Big Texan. Mission Accomplished!
Tomorrow’s plans include breakfast with Aunt Mary, and stops at the Petrified Forest National Park and Meteor Crater. KK informed us that he expects we will travel through some snow tomorrow. We’ll take it easy and make sure that we get to our destination in one piece.