Meteoric beginning, red light finish

Off I go again.  And not a moment too soon!  Aside from a lovely trip to Terlingua New Years weekend, I've been entirely too cooped up the last three months, busy recuperating from my second knee replacement surgery.  Happily, I'm all better now and rarin' to go.  As such, I recently jumped at an opportunity to attend this year's Western Pyrotechnics gathering in Lake Havasu, Arizona, knowing not only would I be able to soothe my hankering for a roadtrip but I'd be able to get some serious satisfaction of my pyro urges in too.

I headed out of town Friday morning in time to roll into Fort Worth around 1:00, just as the doors of the Monnig Meteorite Gallery at Texas Christian University were opening.  Now honestly, I ask you, who doesn't love a meteorite?  They're probably the closest any of us will ever get to outer space, not to mention
 most of them are around 4 1/2 billion years old and deserve a little respect due to their age alone!  Oscar Monnig loved meteorites so well he spent a good bit of his lifetime amassing a world class collection which he left then left to TCU, who has them displayed in a great little gallery space on their main campus in Fort Worth. 

First let me say in summary, the collection thoroughly exceeded all of my expectations.  Several of the specimens literally made my jaw drop open when I encountered them.  I was thrilled and amazed. I also have to compliment the curator of the collection - not only were the specimens incredible and beautifully presented, but the didactic labels and displays were so well put together that I ended up leaving with an arsenal of cool new meteorite facts to boot. The museum has a nice online image gallery (that's their photo of a slice of  a pallasite meteorite found in Brenham, KS above) so you can enjoy some of the wonders that can be seen at the gallery yourself: http://www.monnigmusuem.tcu.edu/photos.htm   See in the photo how there are pockets of glittering crystal that have melted and reformed within the matrix?  Care to guess what the matrix is?  Imagine that's the surface of your stainless steel sink.  That is METAL, my friends!  A mixture of iron and nickle, the main ingredients in stainless steel.   I'll try not to geek out on you here, but if you're interested at all in meteorites and you happen to find yourself in Fort Worth, do not miss this exhibit!  Very cool.

After touching back down to earth and walking back to my car, I eased the Caddie onto a westerly route, toward the Lubbock vicinity where I planned to overnight. 

As part of my knee rehab, I've been walking for about an hour almost every day and before I left on my roadtrip, I resolved that I would continue that excellent habit with the added benefit of  having my promenade be in a different beautiful locale each and every day.  As I passed through the outskirts of Fort Worth, I began looking for a place to stop, deciding to have fun with it and just let the destination fall in my lap. And I'll be damned if it didn't take less than five minutes for an excellent opportunity to present itself!  Just as I approached the Weatherford area, I spotted a small hand painted sign for a placed called Clark Botanical Gardens.  Perfect!    

I spent an extremely pleasant hour criss-crossing the shady gravel paths that meander through the gardens, walking past tiny lakes, over dainty bridges and underneath verdant arches and gazebos.  I seemed to be the sole visitor to the garden that afternoon, but enjoyed the company of myriad ducks, Canadian geese and a swan big enough for a two-year-old to ride with a saddle. As I strolled beneath a long classic arbor topped with a nest of ancient vines, I heard a faint sound that made me think Dr. Who must be lurking about.  It was an echoing ping, metallic sounding even, that seemed to dart about over my head.  I finally realized it was the tiny birds that were nesting in the tangle of branches above me and stopped for a moment to drink in the beauty of that otherworldly sound, ringing in that otherwise silent space.

When I got back in the car after my walk, not only did I feel invigorated and happy from the exercise, but  I had the deep satisfaction of sticking with my commitment and having it be exceedingly pleasant.

I spent the next five hours meandering through tiny towns along a smallish highway headed toward Lubbock.  Besides a giant cow skull, the only other remarkable sight was a huge spooky old  abandoned hotel in the city of Mineral Wells.  The giant corpse of a 1920s luxury hotel predominates the city center there, broken windows and decaying facades giving the whole town the feeling of a Tobe Hooper movie set.

As the sun began to set, I found a nice serene spot to pull over and enjoy the spectacle of particolored fading light, as wide as the open plains it softly illuminates.

Because by then I was out in some pretty remote territory, when the sun went down it was deep dark black and when the stars came out they were dazzling.  As I topped a rise on the dark stretch of highway I followed toward Lubbock, I suddenly came upon a wonderland of flashing red lights, more than I've ever seen in a single place.   It was as if giant red fireflies had perched on poles all around me.  What the dark had obscured was the fact that I had come into an area that was literally covered with enormous wind turbines, each beaming its red warning light in intermittant flashes.  Once I realized what I was seeing, I pulled over several times when the lights got close enough to the road that I knew I could stand near one of the quiet giants.  One that I stood beneath must have been 10 stories tall.  Awesome. There is something about seeing an enormous machine work that really lights me up.

I swooped on into Lubbock as it started to get late and got me a room at the Motel 6.  Tomorrow I'll plan to make Albuquerque and just see what I can find along the way. 


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