Saturday, July 7, 2012

Day 14: June 27 - Checkered Shirts and Beautiful Cherts

The drive through New Mexico was beautiful, but pretty uneventful. Lunch time found us at The Big Texan in Amarillo. (That would be Texas, by the way, as a restaurant called The Big Texan in Missouri would probably be pretty stupid, huh?) 

Home of the “72-ounce steak for free” (if you can eat in an hour!), this place is everything you would expect Texas to be.  The hats. The checkered shirts.  The drawl.  “Extreme Texasness” as Natalie declared.  All fine and good, but the beer was the best part.  The Honey Blonde Ale, Texas Red Amber Ale, Palo Duro Pale Ale, and Rattlesnake IPA were my samples (#1,279- 1,282).  All were average except for the IPA.  Well above average in my book.  A “5”.  The Buffalo Burger was damned good, too!

After short hop on the road north of town, one can find a rather non-descript looking mesa.  Atop this mesa one finds a stunningly beautiful flint (also known as chert).  If one chunks it into a workable size and then wacks it with a skilled hand, the edge can now be as sharp as a surgical scalpel.  Various Native American cultures, beginning 13,000 years ago, would use this flint on various objects - spears or arrows, for example.  These tools, made from the stone from this mesa, have been found  across the Great Plains and Southwest.  The Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument was created to set aside this amazing landscape. 

The actual quarries still remain.  Once four to eight feet deep, these locations have mostly filled in over time. They are now only feet across but with noticeable depressions.  In those very locations, for a period spanning 10,000 years, various divisions of Native American culture literally mined the flint they eventually used to make some of the most spectacular projectile points on the continent. How cool is that?

Unfortunately for us, we did not have access to the mesa’s top.  Keeping an eye out for the well-being of the visitor, the Park Service does not allow access during episodes of extreme heat. It was near 100 degrees, so we were not allowed to the top.  That sucks, right?

Let’s contrast that with the policy at Fort Bowie in Arizona.  The visitor center, as you might recall, is only reached after you walk 1.5 miles across the desert. In June.   Vehicles with handicapped passes are allowed in via the maintenance road.  So you have two different extremes for the same issue.  In one case (the Fort), if it is hot and you want to see the site, tough it out or forget it.  In the other case (the Quarry), if it is hot, you are not allowed….for your own good.  Can someone explain that to me?

The evening was spent in Shamrock, Texas.  We were lucky to secure lodging.  Yes, in Shamrock, Texas on a weeknight. Apparently, this is the time the oil field operators need the lodging.  They head home for the weekend.  The parking lots were all full of pick-up trucks representing various contractors.

 Mississippi Kites were all over town….

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