Last night we returned from the longest road trip I’ve undertaken in awhile. 22 days. From here to Okemah, Oklahoma, and on to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Independence Kansas, and back again.
We started with WoodyFest in Okemah, Oklahoma, our annual pilgrimage. It was the 20th anniversary of the festival, and did not disappoint. I met a young muralist there, George Alexander, who painted a wonderful mural in Okemah (this post won’t be for pictures — I have so much to unpack, those will be coming later), and captured the spirit of the community wonderfully in his visual display. If you’re driving through on I-40, it is worth the slight detour.
From then we went up to Santa Fe. We spent the night on the way out in San Jon, New Mexico, a small town east of Tucumcari on I-40 that has a free overnight camping site. I met a young family who also travelled through the free sites, and took a short walkabout of the town, snapping pictures of this old Route 66 standard.
From there we headed west. I stopped in Cline’s Corners, and picked a nice busking spot. I played for about 1/2 hours, and made a few bucks before a fellow traveller came through and alerted me to the fact that my presence had upset a patron so badly she was calling the cops and demanding my arrest. I honestly didn’t know old Johnny Horton tunes were considered that controversial!
But I didn’t want to poison the pitch, so I decided it would be wisest to clear the area before any authorities made their presence known, and I exited, giving the traveller a bottle of ice cold water for his troubles.
I made it up to Santa Fe in time to play the plaza in the afternoon, and returned that night to play a bit more. Up by our campground, we saw another camper who had stacked some rocks at his campsite, but he seemed content with his solitude, so I let it be.
A few days later, I was talking with some young folks from Austin who were travelling through to Austin, and they mentioned him. They call him the Mudman, and he is a local artist who spends a good deal of time up in the mountains. We trekked with him to a labyrinth he had helped construct, and spent some time enjoying the company of our small, ragtag group of free campsite campers.
You will be hearing more about the Mudman. It’s one of the items I must get unpacked. That is one reason this is specifically noted as a part 1.
The one thing we were admittedly ill prepared to face was the 40 something nighttime lows there at 9500 feet. We hiked and crossed the 10,000 foot mark once, and intend to do it again, but time for such things is always less than we hope, and eventually we had o move on.
I will spend Part 2 talking a bit more about the path home.