|God Bless Texas! Part 9: Pecos to Odessa|
Pecos, TX to Odessa, TX (Map) - 433mi/697km
One could drive from Pecos to Odessa in an hour, but since I wanted to see Lubbock as well, it would take all day.
I noticed this abandoned building while looking for a place to eat the night before.
The internet tells me that this building was used for train repairs.
The large doors on the western side have "Great Southwestern Railroad & Mechanical" in painted script - and I parked at the train station - so I suppose the train repair building story checks out.
I noticed a pickup truck that had an awful lot of interest in me poking around the old building, so I decided to skip town & get out of Pecos (and Reeves County).
Breakfast was a sausage n' egg sandwich at the Allsup's Gas Station in Barstow. Afterwards, I moved on to Pyote & scoped the ruins of their old air force base. I decided to pass on the ruins, after seeing the numerous posted gates & knowing that it was called the Rattlesnake Bomber Base for a reason (the soldiers were shocked at how many rattlesnakes they'd find whenever they'd dig anywhere, or check any kind of moist cellar).
I was amused as I passed through Monahans next, since I have a friend by the same name. I was listening to the local call-in swap radio show, so I heard plenty of folks calling about "having 3 cattle for sale in Monahans" or "an old Ford pickup for swap in Monahans".
I went north from Monahans as I wanted to go to Lubbock, not Odessa.
Moving right along the sprawling highway into Kermit, I came close to squealing the tires, after I read the above sign - Kermit Roller Rink!
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to see an abandoned roller skating rink.
It was high noon & the Texan sun was blazing through a hole in the roof. I was a little underwhelmed with the interior, so I never went back to the car for my tripod, to try & take an interior without such a ridiculous bright spot0.
Kermit's Poplar Street brought me directly alongside their centrally located Winkler County Courthouse.
Leaving Kermit, I noticed that the ground was somewhat sandy, before suddenly growing into full-on dunes. I didn't have any idea that this land cover was coming, so I wasn't sure how long it was going to last.
I quickly parked the car at the junction with Farm Road 874, before walking around for a little bit, snapping pictures & examining the sand below foot. I always imagined West Texas as this arid, scorched Earth with rough, cracked dirt. The dunes didn't last for very long, but I was happy to see the tiny, isolated ecosystem.
Another 45 minutes of driving brought me to Andrews, where I stepped on pecans outside their Andrews County Courthouse. 30 minutes north of Andrews I found myself in Seminole, taking pictures of their Gaines County Courthouse.
This one might not fit into the mould of what you think I look for in county courthouses, but I surprisingly sort of liked it. This 1950s style of building can be alright sometimes; with symmetry, odd entrance levels & peculiar colours.
Circling the building, there was a courthouse sign which informed me that Seminole was the #1 oil producer, #1 cotton producer, #1 peanut producer & the home of the #1 people anywhere!
I don't remember talking to anyone in Seminole to verify said claim.
I wasn't trying to go on a courthouse tour, but simply by following highways and typing in Lubbock on the GPS, you end up going through county seats, since some of these counties don't have any other settlements.
Anyway, after another 45 minutes of driving, I found myself in Brownfield, Texas. Their Terry County Courthouse was similar to others I had seen on this trip. It was memorable after I reached over the fence for a picture & a groundskeeper came over to help me out, by telling me that the courthouse had temporarily moved across the street (he thought I was on actual courthouse business).
I was laughing as I informed the groundskeeper that I was only taking pictures.
5th Street in downtown Brownfield.
I had to be in Odessa by 7 o'clock, so I was actually happy that the road after Brownfield eventually turned into an interstate. I was taking the exit for downtown Lubbock before I knew it.
For me there are few things better than exploring new cities by bicycle, hitting curb cuts & cutting through alleys as I weave through the tall buildings. I hadn't been doing this enough on this trip & I was overjoyed to find myself doing it in a place like Lubbock; one of those mid-sized American cities that I've wanted to explore for years.
There was extra motivation for me to go to Lubbock in that I wanted to ride this amazing, natural brick quarterpipe they have. So as I cruised around & checked the city out, I was also keeping an eye out for a church, where this quarterpipe was supposed to be.
Unfortunately, the only thing I found were these brick banks outside their Civic Center. They were fun enough in their own right, but seemingly not as much fun as I imagined this brick quarterpipe would be.
...aaaaaand I just found the brick quarterpipe on Google Streetview. I was one block away. Son of a!
Another reason I went to Lubbock was its proximity to Crosbyton, Texas. In my mind, I thought driving 90 minutes round trip to Crosbyton would be worth it, because I could take a picture of the Crosby County Courthouse to make fun of Steve since he loves Sydney Crosby.
Steve barely reacted & I kicked myself for deciding to spend my 1 open day doing such a silly thing.
At least driving over to Crosbyton meant that I didn't have to backtrack at all. I went south on Farm to Market Road 651, arriving in Post after 40 minutes. I briefly stopped at their backlit, average, Garza County Courthouse, but more importantly, I stopped outside of town to take a picture as I left the high tableland of the Llano Estacado, moving down into the breaks of the lower plains.
In planning this trip, I was really excited to explore the great American tablelands of the Llano Estacado, so even though I decided to drive to Crosbyton instead, there was some solace in taking a few minutes here to appreciate the view outside of Post.
As an aside, I wish I would have known the history of Post at the time, as apparently it was a planned community representing that C.W. Post guy's idea of a utopian society. The same man who had that Postum factory in Windsor which I explored 2 Christmas' ago.
I didn't spend any more time in Post as I was cutting it close for time. I couldn't help myself in Gail though.
The 4th smallest county in Texas & the 10th smallest in America, Gail has a population of 236. I remembered stark pictures from here during my pre-trip research & I also remember first hearing about six-man football in Gail (it's a different style of football designed for places like Texas, Nebraska & Eastern Colorado; places where schools often don't have 11 players to field a team).
Their small courthouse spoke volumes to their size. Gail's size was also spoken to in the view from the courthouse lawn.
I wanted to have dinner in the small convenience store across the street, I wanted to explore the nearby farm roads and I wanted to drive the streets in Gail - but I had to keep moving! My ETA in Odessa wouldn't stop climbing!
It was nearly 5 o'clock and my GPS said I could be in Odessa by 7. Too much time spent in Lubbock & Gail I suppose.
Stopping only in Big Spring at the sight of a mental hospital, I sped the rest of the way, unfortunately flying past intriguing towns & the turnoff for Lamesa. (Lamesa was another Texan town I really wanted to see - I did a perfect circle around it on this day).
Arriving in Odessa, I raced around town in search of accommodations, but found nothing near my destination & nothing at a reasonable price. It was growing closer & closer to 7, as these factors boiled my anger until it spilled out of my mouth & eyes.
Passing the courthouse & marveling at the number of grackles in the trees, I had had enough of this rushing.
I parked the car and grackles flew away, squawking loud & violently, as they blocked out the sky above passing cars before moving on to another tree. It was an amazing thing to witness in terms of the numbers and the (audio) volume.
A plague of grackles is a completely appropriate term.
I gave up on finding a cheap motel in a good location, simply settling on the Odessa Motor-Inn.
The motel clerk asked why in God's green Earth would I ever come to Odessa, insisting that the only way you could enjoy Odessa, was if you enjoyed "trashy dance bars filled with sluts."
She also let me know that she couldn't leave the country because of "some things...some shit I maybe shouldn't have done."
The Odessa Motor-Inn wasn't that bad & I had checked the prices at a couple of motels in far worse condition. I wondered about Odessa for a minute or two...but that quickly went away because...
The reason I had to be in Odessa by 7 o'clock was for some good ole' hockey!!
Sure, I had already went to a Texan hockey game in Corpus Christi, Odessa was closer to what I envisioned. I've previously mentioned how West Texas is every Texas stereotype...and it was on display at the Odessa Jackalopes game. I'd never seen so many cowboy hats, tucked in western shirts & giant belt buckles at a hockey game in my life. Then again, I couldn't remember ever seeing a cowboy hat at a hockey game before Odessa.
The Ector County Coliseum was built in 1954 and it also hosts rodeos & football. 1950s arenas have a certain bland, sterile environment to them, mixed with quirkiness. This is the 2nd oldest arena in the North American Hockey League & I was very excited to experience it. The capacity of the barn is 5131 and apparently 3051 people attended the same game as me. It seemed like there were a lot of empty seats & nowhere near 3000 people, but I suppose there had to be 2000 empty seats if my math is correct.
I only bought one beer since I had to drive from the Odessa Motor-Inn to the coliseum. There aren't any motels within reasonable walking distance of the arena. The beer was some boring generic brew like Budweiser. I had deep fried pickles as well, but somehow they weren't very good! I imagine all they did was throw them in the deep-fryer, so I was confused as to why they were so sub par.
The food & drinks couldn't ruin my experience though. I loved the people watching, I loved the antiquated barn, I loved the empty seats around my close-to-the-ice seat. There was a family in front of me & it was hilarious how angry the father got at the referees and the Corpus Christi Ice Rays. Odessa has a tradition of throwing foam pucks onto the ice after a goal, a tradition said father very much enjoyed.
Whereas I didn't enjoy myself very much at the hockey game in Corpus Christi, I would go back to Odessa in a heartbeat.
I returned to the Odessa Motor-Inn and fell asleep within a couple hours, after having a beer at the table and watching the outside comings and goings of the shabby motel.
In the morning, I actually smartened up and bought local breakfast at a fantastic-looking, random donut place that I came across on my way back to the arena.
Up early since I had to drive over 1/2 of Texas today, I was rewarded with some early morning light, illuminating the Ector County Coliseum in spectacular fashion.
Unfortunately it was time to leave Odessa & go east...
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1 - Gail, Texas - Wikipedia
2 - Ector County Coliseum - Wikipedia